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With student loan debt sky high, how can you manage?

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MACON, Ga. -- Recent analysis by the Brookings Institution shows more people owe more and are having trouble paying off student loans.

Of the more than 40 million Americans who have student debt, 5.9 million -- about 14 percent of the total group -- owe more than $50,000. That’s nearly triple the percentage who owed that amount in 2000.

Freshman Aliyah Dorsey at Mercer University knew she wanted to be a Bear since her first visit. But she and her mom both had financial concerns.

Fortunately, she looked to see what Mercer University had to offer. She says the university worked with her to make sure she could come and stay.

Dorsey currently has a scholarship with the journalism program, which has helped the burden a lot. She encourages students to actively look online and ask admissions advisers about financial opportunities.

She also wishes she spent more time looking at these opportunities.

Financial Adviser Colleen Giffin with Beall Financial in Macon believes the reason we're seeing this increase in student loan debt is because more people are going to college. Therefore, the cost of education is going up.

As a result of the economy, which is fortunately turning around, there aren't a lot of jobs once people graduate.

So how can you work toward paying back that debt?

  • Think outside of the box. When looking for a job, see if there are jobs that will help you pay down your school debt. Some include teachers in the lower education sector, first responders like a police officer and even an EMT. Some of these have programs are in place to help pay your student debt.
  • Break it down into something that is manageable. Make sure your payment is enough and pays off interest and the principle.
  • Use an online snowball calculator. It's as easy as googling it. It will help you manage your debt. Use that to budget.
  • Make as many extra payments as you can. You will see a difference within a year or two. For example, you could do a yearly extra contribution or use some of your money you get from your tax return and put that toward your loan payments.
  • Always look to see what grants are available. Ask college financial advisers about what there is to offer and ask questions. Try to get as much as you can so that you don't have to pay back, then look at loans.
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