According to a report conducted earlier this year by the Institute for College Access and Success, the average student walks away from four years of college with almost $27,000 in debt. That’s nearly equal to the price of a new car or small SUV.
Seeing the need to help students manage their debt load, Central Christian College recently announced the start of the Loan Repayment Assistance Program for its current and incoming students. Through a partnership with the Loan Repayment Assistance Foundation, Central has become the only college in the state of Kansas to offer the unique loan repayment program to its students.
“Central is the only college in Kansas offering the program and we feel this not only puts a stamp of value on our education but also allows our students to pursue the careers they want without the worry of repaying their student loan debt,” said Central Christian College Director of Admissions, Patrick Masar.
The LRAP program had been used at Central on very selective basis but starting with the fall 2013 class, all students will be eligible for the loan repayment program, at no cost or risk to the student.
The program uses a sliding income scale to determine how much repayment assistance a student receives. Students making anywhere from $20,000 a year to $37,000 per year are eligible for some level of repayment assistance. If a graduate’s income is $20,000 or less, LRAP will reimburse their entire debt amount and will until their income meets or exceeds the $37,000 threshold or until the debt is completely repaid. As a graduate earns more pay, the reimbursement amount deceases. Accommodations can also be made for students that elect to pursue mission work or graduate school.
The more enticing aspect of the program, Masar said, is that Central can offer it to any student that graduates from the college and has completed at least two years of education through Central. Enrollment in the program is simple. Students with both federal student loans and PLUS loans to parents are eligible for participation in the program.
“This is a great tool and safety net that we can offer to our students at no cost to them,” Masar said. “This is also removes a large piece of the financial burden that often causes students to not continue their education.”
Having worked several years in higher education, Masar understands the impact student loan debt can have on a student’s education and long-term career decisions. When finances become an issue, students either do not finish college because they fall too far in debt or stray from their original career plans because they feel the field does not pay well enough to cover their living expenses and debt.
For those that complete their education, a degree does not always lead to financial stability. Student debt, mixed with lower starting salaries and the underemployment status of many recent graduates, means thousands of students struggle to pay their bills and repay their college loans. With nearly 97 percent of students at Central using some type of financial aid to pay for their education, Masar said the issue hits home for most on campus.
“We have a lot of students that pursue degrees in lower-paying fields such as ministry,” Masar said. “Even if they find a job, it doesn’t mean they are able to cover all of their debt. We are excited to offer this program to help students cover their loan debt and pursue the career of their dreams.”