Hannah Stein, For The Miami Student

For many students, the troubles and confusion that come with taking out college loans can be stressful. Questions such as “how much?” or “how long will I be in debt” will arise.

Cleveland State University professor Steve Talbott wrote a five-page e-pamphlet that answers those questions titled “The For-Profit College Reality Check” which teaches students how to calculate the amount they can borrow in loans and comfortably be able to pay off once they have entered their profession.

The average Miami University student will be in about $26,500 of debt when they graduate, Interim Director of Student Financial Assistance Brent Shock said. Due to the amount of debt the average Miami student will be in after graduation, Talbott’s pamphlet could greatly benefit those who still have time left at Miami.

The first thing the pamphlet does is tell students to visit www.careeronestop.org and search their occupation to find out the starting rate and average salary for any given profession in any given state.

“(This) shows students how to quickly find out what real jobs pay new grads, so they can compare that to what they’re being promised by recruiters,” Talbott said. “The recruiter will exaggerate so you will pay more for their high priced school. And the question is, ‘is it worth it?’ and in many cases it may not be.”

On the last page of Talbott’s pamphlet, he has a chart called the “Borrowing Limit Chart,” which tells students, “how much they’d have to earn to support a particular level of debt,” he said. “That way, they can see if they’ll be able to afford to borrow. It also shows you if you make below a certain amount, the financial specialists will say you’re going to have financial difficulty.”

If a student exceeds 15 percent or more of their monthly income once paying back the loans, this is considered the danger zone.

“Ideally you want to get 10 percent of your monthly income or less,” Talbott said.

For Miami students, the amount of debt any given student is in can vary depending on how much they borrow each year. This money is federal money that is granted through the Free Application for Federal Student aid, or FAFSA.

“First year students can borrow $5,500 a year, and sophomores $6,500, and juniors and seniors can borrow $7,500,” Shock said.

He said the U.S. Department of Education decides the amount of money available for loans by year.

“I think they just want to make sure that as students borrow they persist on graduation,” he said. “I think they’re trying to protect the federal tax payers.”

Even though students are in debt, the average Miami student is able to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time.

“Nearly all Miami students are paying off their loans,” Shock said. “They can take up to 10 years to pay them off and then based on other plans you can have longer.”

Many students believe that the amount of money to take out in loans is a big decision that sometimes is neglected by advisors and leaves students and parents confused.

“I think that many students starting college don’t realize just how much it is going to cost when you add up all four years,” first-year Gabi Jellison said. “I found a majority of the information that I used to make decisions about paying for college online and … I am definitely considering seeing what the author has to say.”

Other students who are graduating soon feel they would have benefited from something like this earlier in their education.

“I feel like since I’m looking into grad schools I’ve become a lot more aware of my loans and if I had a little more guidance I would be in a better financial position for a graduate degree,” junior Torri Huebner said. “Now I don’t know if it’s financially possible.”

“The For-Profit College Reality Check” is available online for $1.99 along with Talbott’s e-book How Much Should I Borrow for College for $7.99 on his website www.howmuchshouldiborrow.com.

UPDATED (4/21/11): This version has been updated to correct a previous edition in which “The For-Profit College Reality Check” was misprinted as “The For-Profit Reality Check.”