Mapping student debt in the East: How does your area stack up?

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – With tuition at colleges in the East on the rise, it is not uncommon for students to leave with more than $20,000 in debt before graduation.

debt mapBut thanks to researchers, you can now see how much student debt is present where you live. A new interactive map allows you to see delinquency rates, median income, and amount of debt on average based on your zip code.

At local colleges, keeping tuition affordable and manageable is important.

“72 percent of our students receive some form of financial aid that may be scholarships, or it may be student loans,” said Julie Poorman, Director of Financial Aid at ECU.

During the 2013-2014 school year, 21,508 ECU students received financial aid, and 10,899 received grants.

When comparing ECU to NC State and UNC Charlotte, both of which are close in population size, ECU had the highest average of Pell grants handed out. On average, eligible students received $4,190 each year. Pell grants are generally given to students coming from low income families.

Poorman also said ECU has purchased software called Salt Money to help students better manage their finances.

“Lessons about budgeting. They can learn how to use credit, how to create your budget score,” she said.

Thomas Gould, Pitt Community College’s VP of Academic Affairs, said they do whatever they can to make sure all students, regardless of their financial background, can attend school. On average, PCC students earn $2.50 more in income over their lifetime for every $1 spent at school.

Gould said for their student population, that is huge.

“You’re dealing with first generation. You’re dealing with low income students,” he said.

On top of that, they have turned to the PCC Foundation to help second and third year students pay for school. While tuition has increased from $56.50 per credit hour in 2011 to $72 per credit hour in 2015, PCC did give away $291,904 in grants and scholarships through their foundation.

But for some students, the idea of debt is still scary.

“I don’t want to put that stress on my mom, and it’s stressful for me too because we’re going to have to pay that off, and I don’t want to mess up my credit either,” said ECU student Rubie Medina.

At ECU, Poorman said delinquency rates for their student loans is relative low, with only around 4 percent of students failing to make payments.

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