Managing student loans: GV students weigh in

Jamie Wilson, Staff Writer

GVL / Max Ritchie

Student loans are a weight that many students carry through both undergraduate and graduate school. Students have individual approaches to their loans, but Grand Valley State University offers advice and guidance to help students manage their financial situation. 

Some students, like Joshua Maynards, carry this weight independently. Maynards is an advertisement and public relations major at GVSU. While in college, Maynards said he puts any money he isn’t using for basics like food and housing towards paying off his loans. His goal is to pay them off within five years.

“I pay and keep track of payments on my own,” Maynards said. “I’m confident that in the future I’ll be able to pay them off.”

Other students do not feel as confident. Lindsay Marcil, a junior studying social work, plans to get her master’s degree through GVSU. Marcil said that student loans have already impacted her life and she worries about the debt that will come following her bachelor’s degree. 

“It’s difficult because I’m trying not to worry about it now, but at the same time I’m going for my master’s, so I’m going to have a lot of debt and that stresses me out,” Marcil said. “Student loans help me, but they also hurt my future because it is going to get harder and harder to pay them off sooner.”

Marcil said her mom helps manage her student loans by organizing her money into different accounts, which helps Marcil keep her daily expenses separate from her tuition and school spending. 

“I’m going to pay off anything I can now and not use loans when I don’t have to because I’ve heard debt after college is horrible and it can follow you until death,” Marcil said.

While organizing her money helps keep track of where and how it is being spent, Marcil said that sometimes she cannot afford to pay for rent or groceries on her own and has to use her designated student loan account to stay afloat. While some students, like Maynards, find loans easier to manage and stay hopeful that it won’t hinder their future success, many other students find Marcil’s experiences relatable.

“I hate how expensive universities are,” Marcil said. “Sometimes it feels impossible to (imagine living) a happy and successful life because I am constantly worried about money.” 

For those who are worried about money or looking for more information and support as they navigate student loans, GVSU has programs to help students feel secure and organized in their financial situations. MoneySmart Lakers is a program that runs through the financial aid office to help students become independently aware of their own financial situations. 

“You don’t have to take a class on budgeting and investing,” Ben Rhodes, the Associate Director of MoneySmart Lakers said. “MoneySmart Lakers is an independent, free program to help students become aware of these topics.” 

Rhodes said that the most common topic MoneySmart Lakers covers with students is “exit counseling.” Through exit counseling, students are taught methods on how to repay their student loans post-graduation. Another resource this program provides is budget counseling. Students can sit down one-on-one with one of the program counselors and create an excel sheet to come up with a weekly or monthly budgeting plan. MoneySmart Lakers hosts events throughout the school year, offering students general advice on budgeting and loan management. 

“The number one thing I tell students is to get in the habit of tracking expenses,” Rhodes said. “It’s a great step to becoming financially independent because you realize how much you spend on small (or unnecessary) things, like fast food, per month.” 

Students can find more information about MoneySmart Lakers, as well as future events they will put on, on the MoneySmart Lakers Facebook page.

Taking out and managing student loans can be scary and draining, but GVSU is here to support students on their journey to financial independence and success.