Education

11 tips to help keep your college debt from taking over your life

FILE: Heavy college debt can hold back students when they graduate. Experts say students can learn to keep their indebtedness in check — and those lessons can start as early as in middle school.
FILE: Heavy college debt can hold back students when they graduate. Experts say students can learn to keep their indebtedness in check — and those lessons can start as early as in middle school.
Ann Powell Groner

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A rising number of students graduating from college with large student loans are finding they can't buy cars and homes, move up the financial ladder or otherwise improve their lives.

Communities are also hurt when graduates are unable to build a better life, as their parents and grandparents could do when college debt was not as burdensome as it is today.

Such are some of the takeaways from a recent KPCC and Milken Institute event, “The indentured class: The social costs of student debt,” held recently at Occidental College. 

“You can never know too much about the financial implications of attending higher education,” said Devon Graves, a UCLA graduate student and student member of the California Student Aid Commission.

“As we think in California, we have students who know their A through G requirements to get into the UC, CSU, but do they really understand the financial burden that comes with that?” he asked.

Nationwide, students graduate with an average of about $28,000 in college loans; in California, students leave college owing an average of about $20,000 — lower than the countrywide average, but still a heavy burden for anyone just starting out.

Here are some do's and don’ts for students and parents on paying for college. We've gathered them from the experts who spoke at the forum and during the reporting leading up to the event: 

To help students learn about what it takes to get into and pay for college, researchers at USC have created a suite of role-playing games. The games also encourage the players to share knowledge about college admission and financing.