Online tool now available to help college students manage loans

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Last week, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein created an online tool to help students manage their loans.

ECU financial aid officers said they see common mistakes all too often when it comes to student aid.

“One of the biggest things we see are people waiting until the last minute to start looking into decisions,” said Bettie Westbrook, Assistant Director of Financial Aid at ECU.

How you pay for college can impact the rest of your life.

“So the thing about it is start planning in advance,” Westbrook said, “Look at the colleges and universities that you’re thinking about going to, know what the financial aid requirements are and deadlines for getting those done and get an idea of how much it costs to go to school there.”

Westbrook said honesty is key, “Families need to have a conversation about what they can afford as a family. This needs to be a frank conversation and it’s something that’s difficult.”

Westbrook has two children in college and admits the talk is tough.

“As a parent, you don’t want to let your children down but you’ve protected your children most of the time through high school,” said Westbrook. “It comes to the point they have to have those adult conversations.”

One of the things they see students mess up the most is student loan borrowing.

“Students borrow more than they need to borrow,” said Westbrook. “So we try to help students find what those costs are. Understand what the costs are upfront, what you’re receiving from financial aid, and what you actually need to borrow.”

She added that students often struggle living dependently after school because they take out too much.

“The amount of money you take out in college in a student loan can affect your ability to live independently, on your own, when you get out of college is a serious issue, and I don’t think students understand the impact that those student loan payments can have,” she said.

Westbrook recommends getting your financial aid application done as soon as possible. She said budget upfront for your monthly costs and, most importantly, have an honest conversation about what your family can and cannot afford.

Click Here for a link to the Attorney General’s online tool.

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