Among Arkansans who graduated in 2018, 53% have student-loan debt.
State officials say it's important to read the fine print, and be cautious of scammers trying to take advantage of unsuspecting victims as college students gear up for the start of the school year.
Leslie Rutledge, Arkansas Attorney General, said most borrowers in the state owe an average of more than $30,000. She pointed out resources such as the National Student Loan Data System can help individuals understand the loans.
"Making sure you understand the repayment terms and the obligations of the loan, what the interest rates are, and where you can find your balance," Rutledge outlined.
Rutledge noted every loan is different and some offer the chance to change payment options based on your income rather than a set monthly amount. She also explained in some cases, there may be the option to temporarily defer payments. She explained grace periods before loan repayment, often a few months immediately after graduation, can be helpful, but warned it is important to know how long the grace period is, and if you'll be charged interest.
Rutledge emphasized student loans should be short-term obligations to give students an opportunity to be successful, yet many are carried over for decades and end up preventing students from reaching their financial goals. "Too often, college students take out loans for all sorts of living expenses, not understanding the gravity of the terms that they're going to have to repay this loan," Rutledge observed.
She added there are scammers who will pretend to be a loan-forgiveness or government agency to help with the complicated federal student loan programs. "Be wary of those. If you have any questions, call us at the Attorney General's office or find us on arkansasag.gov, so we can help you with that."
Rutledge urged graduates to be cautious of loan-consolidations and refinance offers, and stressed many companies offer loan-refinance options, but may not provide the promised service or might provide services that consumers can access at a cost.
Consumers should learn all details about any loan-refinance offer before signing up, she concluded.
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