Student loan debt and how you can lower it

President Barack Obama extended the student loan repayment program to include an additional five million borrowers.

There are 37 million student loan borrowers with outstanding loans. In fact, this Fall students at Frank Phillips College in Borger may lose access to loans and even grants because of the high loan default rate there. With facts like this, President Barack Obama extended the student loan repayment program to include an additional five million borrowers.

Pronews 7 spoke to several professionals who directly work with students and their financial options. They say after four years, the average debt load for most students in the nation is about $29,000. It's a number that has politicians taking notice.

President Obama Monday signed an executive order that allows borrowers to pay no more than 10 percent of their monthly income in student loan payments. The measure expands on a 2010 law that covered those who started borrowing after October 2007. For West Texas A&M University Sophomore Tommie Zook, she said she's on the fast track to racking up massive debt. In fact, she's already $8,000 in, then add in her everyday bills.

"Knowing I have to pay that along with my student loans is, it's really scary," said Zook.

But she said she finds hope in knowing politicians are taking notice. Zook is the youngest of 10, which is why she said she's relying on student loans to pay for her education.

"It's really encouraging that he's looking out for our best interest, that he's looking out for students and that he's trying to make it easier on us so we can get an education," said Zook.

But Keith Brown with The Opportunity Plan in Canyon said the President's actions to extend the payment plan is not enough. He said students should consider debt before those loans are taken out.

"That's something you really need to be thinking about early on in your education process and not getting so far into debt that, oh my gosh, all of a sudden you're trying to figure out how am I going to get this to work," said Brown.

A reality that Vice President of Enrollment Management at West Texas A&M University Dan Garcia said is a harsh one.

"For most students, they can receive about $5,500 a year at our institution for loans to go to college," said Garcia.

But knowledge of what those loans will be compared to your starting out salary, officials said is key.

"Take only the loan amount you need. If you're offered $5,000 a year, but you only need $2,000, only take $2,000," said Garcia.

"Education debt is also an investment, but it can be a smart investment if you make the right decision on the front side of it, at the beginning," said Brown.

President Obama is also encouraging Congress to pass more sweeping Legislation that would let college graduates with heavy debts refinance their loans. The Senate is expected to take up the issue next week.