As much as we avoid talking seriously about our own loans, we also ravenously consume content about how people deal with their debt. There’s no faster way to get my Twitter timeline riled up than with a money diary from someone explaining how they paid off their debt in two years by working really hard and having their parents pay their rent and all their bills. I confess to consuming that content myself, but not enough of it gets at the real fear and confusion so many of us feel about our loans.
I can’t emphasize enough how little most people know about student loans when they take them on. Whether they’re first-generation or not, students of all backgrounds feel ill-equipped to handle student loans responsibly, according to a study
in the Journal of College Student Development, but first-gens are borrowing more and have fewer support systems in place to pay it back. Nearly 74 percent of first-generation students in the class of 2015-16 borrowed money for undergrad, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, compared to 64 percent of their non-first gen peers.
There’s a lot of discussion about financial literacy for first-generation students but the conversation always seems to start and end with FAFSA. The fact is that we need better resources at every step of the higher education journey for first-gen college students with loans. It’s not enough to do one 20-minute virtual loan counseling session when you start college and another when you end. While it is confusing to navigate financial aid on your own, I don’t think you can make the argument that it’s any more important than loan counseling.
I know I could’ve benefitted from regular, personalized counseling throughout my college career. Maybe then I wouldn’t be left to figure it out with a mix of Youtube videos, personal finance blogs, and Excel budget templates. Here’s hoping this won’t be me: