Investing in the Future
Graduating college comes with a flurry of excitement. Think of all the opportunities, the exploring and the adventures out there, including taking a new job, moving across the country, or pursuing further education. One of the not-so-exciting realities of graduation, however, is the sudden reality of repaying those student loans.
According to Financial Services Dean Jim White, around 60% of Gonzaga students graduate with debt, slightly fewer than the national average of around 70%, according to most sources. Some loans are through the university, others through FAFSA or a bank, but all require a payment within six months of graduation. On average, it takes today’s students 10 years to pay off college debt in America.
The reality of the situation hit close to home when White’s own son, a ’16 grad, came home for a holiday visit. Discussing the value and risk of loans became a topic White wanted to talk about on a personal level: “They are a good investment in an education and can be paid relatively easily, if students plan accordingly,” White recalls from the conversation. “The benefits of paying off loans quickly are huge. Your credit score goes up, you can begin planning for retirement, and you have the freedom to spend money how you want – or save it for something exciting.”
Proactive planning is key in making sure loans don’t become unmanageable. Isabella Verdugo (’19) worked hard through high school and into college to keep her loans at a reasonable level. “I kept everything in a spreadsheet and lived on a budget,” she says. “I wanted to attend Gonzaga but I also didn’t want to spend the rest of my life paying off student loans, so as I am getting ready to graduate, I made a spreadsheet of month by month of how much I need to pay off each loan to completely pay all the loans off with interest in three years.”
She has an incredible – and attainable – goal of being debt-free by age 25.
For many, the benefit of a Jesuit education makes the loan payments worth it. “Although student loans often have a negative connotation, they have given me the gift of my Gonzaga education. My life would be immensely different without taking out student loans. I met my husband at Gonzaga, learned about the Jesuit volunteer corps through Gonzaga, discovered my career at Gonzaga and, most importantly, became a woman grounded in faith,” says Megan Newman (’15).
After graduation, Newman joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) for a year of post-grad service in blue-collar Pennsylvania. “JVC taught me the value of a dollar,” she says. “Many of my co-workers never had the option of a higher education. JVC was a blessing that gave me a healthy perspective toward my student loans and further gratitude toward my Gonzaga education and how it has shaped my life.”
Newman now lives in Chicago and works as a nurse. “Paying off my student loans has taught me so much about finances and loans as a part of life. Now that I have conquered the fear I had built up around paying off my student debt, I feel more confident making bigger financial decisions like taking out a loan to buy a house.”
White understands why that fear is real. “Borrowing creates fear, but when students actually sit down and commit to making a plan, it helps alleviate that stress.”
He recommends resources such as Verdugo’s spreadsheets or the staff in Student Financial Services for students who want to make smart plans for the future to ensure loans are a worthy investment for the future.
Contact Gonzaga's Student Financial Services at (509) 313-6582 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.