By the end of the day, it will be official: about 5,900 University of Colorado students will become alumni.
With the toss of a cap, seniors will go from homework and finals to jobs and bills.
While some students may find ways to prolong paying rent and buying groceries — like couch surfing or moving home — but there’s one debt they can’t avoid too long: student loans.
That six-month grace period passes quickly, and for some CU students a hefty monthly payment approaches.
“Every once in a while I get that sinking feeling about the loans,” said Brian Stone, who is graduating with is master’s degree. “I try not to think about it much right now.”
Since Stone went straight into his master’s program after he got his bachelor’s degree, his payments were deferred and he continued to rack up more debt. Stone said he probably has about $100,000 in loans that he will have to start paying back sometime in 2012.
“It just can’t be in my frame of reference right now,” Stone said. “I’ll have plenty of time to worry about them later.”
Like many graduates, Stone is trying to put the thought of student loans out of his head so he can enjoy the time he has left before monthly payments begin.
Graduating senior Elleni Cladis combined help from her parents and about $15,000 in student loans to get her bachelor’s degrees in journalism and film from CU. But even her dad, Tom Cladis, is encouraging her to enjoy graduation before the stress of debt sets in.
“We’re on the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants plan,” Tom Cladis said. “We told her we would cover her payments until she got a job and was able to take them over herself.”
“Right now I’m just trying to enjoy the moment,” Elleni Cladis said. “I’ll worry about the loans later.”
But not all graduates are able to defer their loans until they have the proper funds to make payments.
Travis Fawcett, a 2005 CU alumnus, moved to San Diego with no place to live, no job and $38,000 in debt.
“I had this idea of my dream job and that’s what I was looking for,” Fawcett said. “Eventually, I realized I couldn’t keep searching. I needed to make some money and get some job experience.”
Fawcett took a sales job and supported his living expenses on solely commission.
Five years later, Fawcett said he’s down to about $28,000 in debt and has a separate bank account for his student loan payments. He is running his own software development company, where he makes enough to pay off his $150 monthly payment.
“I got some of the lowest interest rates ever available, so my payment is pretty reasonable,” Fawcett said. “I’d guess students coming out now with $30,000 could expect to pay around $250 a month.”
After five years of payments and about $10,000 down, Fawcett said the best advice he could give to new graduates is to do research.
“Get online and research interest rates and companies,” Fawcett said. “Shop around for the best rates. It will save you on the monthly payments.”
As for students who will come out of college with a mound of debt and a presumably lower salary, Fawcett said education is worth the investment.
“I wouldn’t say I have any regrets,” Fawcett said. “It’s what I needed to do to get my degree.”