Half-clothed beachgoers give some very serious answers about their thoughts on federal student loans and they debt they cause.

[Miss Money Michelle] Hey, guys. Miss Money Michelle here with Debt.com. Did you know less than 20 percent of all graduates have an action plan in place for their finances after graduation? We’re down here at Fort Lauderdale Beach interviewing people on the street about what they think about student loan debt in America today.

[Miss Money Michelle] What is your opinion on the student loan debt situation in the United States?

[Respondent 1] I, myself, came out with about $20,000 and that was on top of scholarships. So, I was able to secure a lot of my tuition with scholarships. But even with that, I came out with about $20,000 in debts.

[Miss Money Michelle] What school did you graduate from?

[Respondent 1] Western Michigan University. Row the boat!

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[Miss Money Michelle] Yay! All right!

[Respondent 2] I know there’s a lot of students and there’s a lot of students in debt. And a lot of parents can’t afford to pay off their debts. That’s why they [students] have to get a job or, like, part-time job.

[Respondent 3] Well, there is the debt, but there’s always other options. You know, military is always an option; for some people, maybe it’s a trade school.

[Respondent 4] I think it’s sad that interest rates for education, that should be basic, are that high.

[Respondent 5] I think student loans should be available to everybody, if they’re going to continue their education and make this a smarter country. Education and a job go hand in hand.


Note: This is Part 2 of our Money on the Street segment that focuses on student loans. You can find more fun answers in Part 1: The Student Debt Crisis.

So, once again, let’s answer some of the ideas our beachgoers mentioned when it comes to student loan debt in America…

How easy is it to offset student loan costs with scholarships?

Easy is a relative term here. Depending on who you are, what you do and what you want to study, scholarships can be readily available. However, you often have to hunt them down and then spend time filling out each application. In many cases, you have a series of hoops to jump through before you qualify.

For instance, Debt.com offers a scholarship where you tell us all the work you did to get other scholarships. We basically reward people who do the right thing by obsessively applying for any scholarship they find.

Big scholarships are great if you can get them. Getting a full ride for an athletic talent or three quarters for academics offers the easiest way to finance your education. However, even if you don’t get those big deals, you can apply for little scholarships online instead. Small awards can add up if you get enough of them. And the weirdest things can get you qualified.

What about other things, like military service?

As one respondent put it, you can join the military and pay for school that way. This is true. The GI Bill is still one of the best financing alternatives available today. You serve your country, they pay for your education.

The nice thing about funding your education through military service is it’s fairly safe from changing government regulations. The GI Bill and military loan forgiveness both fall under the Department of Defense. So, they’re less prone to changes, like programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The Department of Education isn’t sure what they’re doing with it yet, but it’s not looking good for public servants.

That being said, the current administration recently proposed changes to the GI Bill. The Veterans First Act includes $3.4 billion in cuts to the post-9/11 GI Bill. In the new system, the government would essentially charge troops to use the GI Bill. You’d pay $100 per month, but any enlistee can tell you, that’s roughly 10 percent of their E1 income. This is why groups like the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) oppose the changes.

#DefendTheGIBill

Outside of military service, volunteer service is also a way to get part of your student loan debt forgiven. If you join Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or work in a VISTA-approved organization then you may qualify for a limited amount of loan forgiveness. Again, these volunteer forgiveness options fall outside the contested PSLF program.

Does everyone have access to federal student loans?

Yes. Federal student loans are not all hardship or need-based. You can apply for financial aid and don’t have to meet certain income requirements. In fact, need only comes into play for subsidized federal student loans. If you apply for financial aid and don’t qualify for subsidized loans, then you can get unsubsidized loans.

The difference between the two is who pays interest charges during schooling and deferment. With subsidized loans, the government pays the interest charges during these periods. With unsubsidized loans, you are responsible for interest charges while you attend school and during deferment. You can choose to add them to your debt so you pay it off once you graduate or pay interest only while you attend school.

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Article last modified on August 8, 2017. Published by Debt.com, LLC .