COLUMBIA (WACH)-College graduation day is filled with the pomp and circumstance and hopes of a promising future but are students crossing into a threshold of success or spiraling downhill into a debt crisis?
Danielle Brown is a college sophmore and expects a pretty big bill when she graduates from Virginia College.
"By the time I graduate, probably 15 or 18 thousand and I still have to go back to school for sonography," says Brown.
When Brown does go back to school, her tab for an education will increase.
Brown says, "another 3,500, per semester"
Federal student loans have a grace period after graduation, giving students a chance to get financially settled and into a payment plan, but it doesn't last long and interest does accrue.
"I'll probably have close to $30,000 in student loans," says Brown, "not including interest"
According to the U.S. Department of Education , the current interest rate for a subsidized loan is 3.4% and for unsubsidized 6.8%.
So how does that translate for students like Brown, when its time to pay up?
Here's a breakdown, for instance, take a $15,000 subsidized loan, with an interest rate of 3.4%, standard repayment would cost her about $148 per month.
Compare that to a $15,000 unsubsidized loan, with an interest rate of 6.8%, standard repayment would cost her about $170 per month.
Brown says she's banking on landing a job in an already unstable economy to help build her future.
"I've looked into some of the programs, I think they have a loan forgiveness program where if you work for like the state or government facility they'll forgive your loans, so i'm trying to look into state and government hospital jobs or nursing jobs, so I can do that."
Just this month, Sallie Mae, the biggest player in the private student loan market, reported an 11% increase in loan applications in the third quarter compared to last year.
The company stating, "The cost of education continues to increase at a pace that exceeds income and savings growth and the availability of federal funds does not significantly increase, we expect more students and families to borrow privately."
So is post-college survival possible?
"Yeah there is definitely, there's a lot of opportunities in this country for you to work hard and succeed in whatever it is you put your mind to, says Liberty University graduate Jonathan Stone.
Jonathan stone, now a husband and dad recently paid off his $50,000 in student loans.
Stone says, "I felt really guilt and really bad bringing that much debt into our marriage."
So how did he dot it?
"We started tackling our lowest debt first, which was a couple smaller credit card debts," says Stone. "Once we knocked those out, we continued to pay our minimum on everything else and then paid everything we could towards those smallest debts and after that we took the ones that were just eliminated and all the money that was going towards that to the next highest and the next highest until we got to the monster, the biggest ones which was student loans.
Jonathan says even though he wiped away his student loan debt in three years, looking back, he would've taken another route.
"If i had to do it over again I wish I had gone to community college for the first two years, get a lot of those general education courses out of the way whereas I wouldn't have had to take out any student loans for those first two years.
As for Brown, its just the price she has to pay.
"Student loans are rediculous," says Brown, "everyone has to get them to go to school but in order to better your life, you have to go to school."