Some required reading before borrowing for college

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Vermont students will be heading off to college in a few weeks and that means the first-semester payment is due as well. For most students and families, they will be borrowing to cover part of their education expenses.

Education and training after high school is the single-most important investment a person can make in his or her future. Proof in point: of the 11.6 million jobs created since the Great Recession, all but 100,000 went to workers who had at least some college education, according to a new study, "America's Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots," from Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Nearly seven out of 10 Vermont students will take loans to finance some of their education expenses; knowing how to compare loans and costs is essential to making college more affordable.

To make students loan-smart, Vermont Student Assistance Corp. has published "My Education Loans," a concise, no-nonsense handbook that walks students and families through the financial aid process and how to avoid taking on too much debt.

No one should have to face college loans on their own. The online guide is written with Vermonters in mind and with input from financial aid administrators at Vermont universities and colleges. It should be considered "required reading" for Vermonters who plan to borrow for college.

Beginning with understanding financial aid awards, VSAC's guidebook shows Vermonters how to apply for grants and scholarships, compare college costs and how to navigate the complex variety of available loans and repayment plans.

For most families, loans are an important part of their investment in education and training. At VSAC, we have over 50 years of working with families to reduce the cost of financing education. We've developed time-tested strategies and insights to maximize their financial resources and manage debt successfully.

Among the topics covered in the guide:

• Who gets financial aid

• Minimizing how much to borrow

• Which loans to accept and which loans to "shop"

• How repayment works

• What is "loan forgiveness"

• Personalized loan counseling with an Advantage Loan Coach at VSAC

While higher education is an increasingly expensive investment, there are plenty of resources available to help pay for it.

Before Vermonters take loans, it's important they know how much debt they can afford. The guide helps Vermonters be better informed and prepared to make the right college financing choices that best suit their personal situation and needs.

Too many Vermonters don't have the education and training they need now and in the future for the new workplace. Research from the Vermont Department of Labor and the J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation has found that all but nine of the top 65 jobs in Vermont require some education or training after high school.

In other words, for Vermonters, continuing their education after high school isn't a luxury; it's a necessity.

— Scott Giles is president and CEO of Vermont Student Assistance Corp.


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