By Patty Moore
Americans owe more in student loans than they owe on credit cards. In 2014, Americans owed over $1 trillion dollars in student loans and only $659 billion in credit card debt, and the student debt numbers continue to go up.
This has left graduates with huge amounts of debt. In fact, the Class of 2016 has an average of $27,975 in debt to pay.
New Jersey hasn’t been immune to the student loan crisis. Check out how graduates at some of the state’s schools stack up.
How New Jersey Students Stack Up
New Jersey is right in the middle when it comes to student debt for the Class of 2016. The state ranks 25 among the 50 states with an average debt of $28,233 per student. That’s not as high as the national average, but it is still a cause for concern.
The debt differs greatly from one institution to the next. Students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology carry the most debt of all of the state’s public colleges. The average student debt is $40,967, and the average private student debt is $32,095.
The students at Georgian Court University carry more debt than students at any other private college in the state. They owe an average debt of $40,267. The average private student debt per borrower at this school is $38,910.
Rutgers University-New Brunswick ranks 17 out of 17 for public colleges in New Jersey. The average student debt per borrower is $25,974 and the average private student debt is $14,041.
Princeton University ranks 20 out of 20 for the private colleges. Students in the Class of 2016 have an average debt of $8,908 and an average private student debt of $14,463.
Paying off Student Debt
Those who find themselves saddled with student debt do have options. They can reduce their monthly payments or take measures to pay the debt off faster.
Let’s look at the various options.
Income-Driven Repayment Plans
Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans allow people to reduce their monthly payments. There are four IDR plans available. Choose from:
- Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan
- Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan
- Income-Based Repayment Plan
- Income-Contingent Repayment Plan
Loans that are in default aren’t eligible for these plans. Also, people who only have Parent PLUS loans cannot apply for IDR plans.
Refinancing is another option. This allows people to take out a new loan with a lower interest rate. The new loan pays off the old loan and the borrower benefits from the lower interest rate. People can find loans that are several points lower in interest, allowing them to save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the loan.
Graduates often think refinancing and consolidation are the same thing, but they aren’t in all cases. Though you can consolidate your loans while refinancing with a private lender, federal student loan consolidation lumps all of the student loans together so the graduate only makes one payment. The interest rate is determined by calculating the weighted average of all of the loans’ interest rates.
Consolidation can lower the monthly payment amount, but it is typically because the terms are extended. That means borrowers pay more in interest over the lifetime of the loan.
Those who want to pay off their loans quickly can use the debt avalanche method. Borrowers order their loans by interest rate. They attack the loan with the highest interest rate first while making the minimum payment on all other loans.
Once the loan with the highest interest rate is paid off, they move on to the next loan. They continue this process until all of the loans are paid in full.
This is the best option for paying off debt quickly, but people who require instant gratification might have some issues with it. It can take a long time to pay off the high interest loans.
Those people might benefit from the debt snowball method.
Borrowers begin by ordering their debt from the smallest to the largest. They throw all of their extra money toward the smallest debt, while making the minimum payments on all other debts. They continue up the ladder until all debts are paid off.
They get to celebrate several victories along the way. It’s easy to feel happy each time a debt is paid in full.
New Jersey Residents Have Options
New Jersey residents might feel overwhelmed by their student debt, but they have options. Whether they want to lower their payments or pay down their debt quickly, there are choices available. After they come up with a plan, they can tackle their debt and finally pay everything off.