Nightly News | May 17, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Time now for tonight's look at EDUCATION NATION , and a topic here that's
growing more urgent by the day: massive student loan debt that can ruin the lives of young college graduates just trying to get started. A student loan is one of the few types of debt you can't get rid of by declaring bankruptcy. You're stuck with it for life. Now soaring tuition, huge loan burdens have many in our education nation wondering if college is even worth the try. The story from our chief education correspondent Rehema Ellis .
REHEMA ELLIS reporting: College commencement, a time of great expectations and, for many students great debt. Federal student loans now add up to $800 billion, exceeding credit card debt.
Mr. DANIEL PARK: It's not cheap.
ELLIS: Daniel Park and six other seniors at Burbank High School in California are thinking about managing future expenses now. Raise your hand if you'll be taking out a loan to pay for the cost of college . They all got accepted to colleges costing on average $50,000 a year. But anxious about debt, Isabel Navarro decided not to go to her dream school. She will attend a community college instead.
Ms. ISABEL NAVARRO: I don't want to graduate with a bachelor's degree with $80,000 worth of debt.
ELLIS: A choice Kelli Space wishes she had made. She graduated with $200,000 in student loans .
Ms. KELLI SPACE: That's, you know, $1,000 payments for the next 25 years, possibly more if my interest rates increase.
ELLIS: Students are borrowing more because college tuition and fees jumped 24 percent while family incomes dropped nearly 2 percent. Huge student debt, experts say, affects decisions long after graduation.
Ms. LAUREN ASHER (Institute for College Access and Success): Whether you buy a house, when you get married, whether you're saving, how much you're saving, and if you can afford to put your kids through school.
ELLIS: Helping students avoid staggering loan debt, Tidewater Community College in Virginia now requires students applying for loans to create a detailed repayment plan.
Ms. DEBORAH DiCROCE (Tidewater Community College President): It's the same thing all of us do when we take out a loan for any major purchase or investment.
ELLIS: College debt was something you thought about?
Ms. NAVARRO: Yes. Absolutely. I made the choice to avoid loans.
ELLIS: These students are taking stock of college expenses now so they can enjoy graduation later. Rehema Ellis, NBC News, Los Angeles .