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How Much Student Loan Debt Should I Take On

by Nathan Zachary

For most people, college can be expensive. Most people can’t afford to pay for every credit hour for four years without some help. Students may take jobs while studying, but it’s usually not enough to help them pay for classes. Student loans are a necessity for most Americans. Some may use them to pay for all of their education, while others may only need them for a few years. Whatever the case, many of us would be without our degrees if it weren’t for student loans. Still, student loans make it difficult to accomplish financial goals in the future. When you graduate, you’re expected to start paying back your loans after a grace period of a few months.

Depending on how much you owe and your repayment terms, your student loans can take hundreds of dollars from you every month, and with jobs being increasingly more difficult to find for college graduates, student loans can become quite a burden. Your student loans can affect every aspect of your post-college life, including getting a home loan, buying a car, and starting a family.

Unfortunately, depending on your circumstances, how much student loan debt you should take on depends on your circumstances. You’ll need to take out as much as you truly need to pay for school. However, there are still some ways to help you determine how much debt you should accept when going to college. If you take out too much, you’ll have more debt for no reason, which can make it difficult to pay back. Meanwhile, if you take out too little, you won’t be able to afford the necessary credit hours and college courses to graduate. Luckily, there are a few ways to determine how much debt you should take on to minimize its impact on your post-college life. Here are a few things to consider:

Salaries for Potential Careers

In college, you’ll choose a major based on your interest and the types of jobs you want to pursue once you’ve finished your studies. Some paths are clearer than others. For example, someone who wants to be an engineer will have an engineering major. However, someone can enter a career field that doesn’t have anything to do with their major. For example, someone studying computer science may end up with a career either as a website developer or assistant, depending on the job market and their credentials.

Still, knowing the starting salaries for potential careers can help you determine whether you’ll have the ability to repay the loan. Of course, depending on the type of loan, you may have different repayment options, which we’ll discuss soon. Still, you should know what to expect salary-wise from any job you might take. Unfortunately, finding the salary for your first job can be difficult since the job market is so competitive you might not end up with a job that pertains to your major.

Repayment Plan

Most student loans have several repayment plans to choose from, making it easier to pay back your debt, depending on your specific circumstances. A standard repayment plan is the most popular because you’ll pay the same amount monthly for a period of ten years. However, lenders may have other repayment plans that allow you to pay based on your earnings. For example, if you take any job you can and only make minimum wage for a few years after graduating, your student loan repayments will reflect your salary so you won’t over-burden yourself with payments. Unfortunately, while this plan may seem like it’s helpful, it means racking up more debt in the form of interest.

Go for Federal Loans

When researching student loans, you’ll come across two options: federal and private loans. Federal student loans have lower interest rates and better terms than private student loans. The government also offers better protections for borrowers, including the potential for income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs. Private lenders don’t offer these, so federal student loans are always the better option. Unfortunately, federal loans have a limit, so you may have to take out private loans if you require more money.

Loan Forgiveness & Assistance Careers

Believe it or not, government loans may provide forgiveness or assistance programs for certain career fields. For example, doctors, nurses, and teachers can qualify for some forgiveness or assistance programs in their states or through federal loan programs, but to qualify, you may need to work in a high-need area. You can research the guidelines for these careers through federal and state government loan programs.


If you want to reduce your student loan burden, you can work throughout your college career. Making some money will allow you to cover your living expenses, but it’s unlikely to cover all of your college classes. Still, it could help in the future and allow you to start saving money as soon as possible to pay your student loans as soon as you graduate and interest starts building up.

Unfortunately, working part-time while going to school full-time can be draining for many, so you can talk to your advisor at school to learn about potential work-study opportunities that allow you to work around your class schedule in a field you’re interested in.

Only Spend Loans on School

You should never spend your loan money on monthly bills or entertainment because it could cause your debt to balloon out of control. Instead, only use your loans for school supplies and credit hours. You can create a budget for your expenses to ensure you’re not spending more than you can afford and prevent the need to borrow more money. Of course, depending on your job situation while in college, you may have to use some of your loans to pay for rent if you don’t live on campus, but limiting yourself to using your loans primarily for college-related expenses can prevent more debt from piling up.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately for most, there’s no way to avoid student loan debt and how much you take on dependents on your unique situation. If you don’t have any money saved up for college, you’ll need to take on more debt than someone who has been saving up since they were young. Since student loan debt can affect your financial health once you graduate, it’s important to understand the loans you use and their implications on your life after college.

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