US Student Loans and the search for a scholarship

US student loans

More students have loans in the United States of America than the entire populations of Poland, Canada, and Iraq. It’s a massive industry – totaling $1.4 trillion and more than 7% of the US Gross Domestic Product.

Two-thirds of the 20 million students who start college every year take out some form of a loan. While interest rates and repayment terms may be preferable to standard bank loans, being in debt, often enormous debt, has become the norm for young graduates as they hunt for their first job.

Scholarships in the US

Students graduating in New Hampshire had the highest average debt, on leaving a four-year course with over $36,000 owing. This compared with Utah-based students who owe just under $20,000 on degree completion. Checking each institution (through the TICAS website) for average debt and course costs is a useful indicator.

The first port of call should be to look at the financial assistance each university offers (colleges usually have net price calculators on their websites). Check for eligibility for Pell Grants and look into what scholarships are on offer.

The website We Make Scholars has published a list of 100 of the most popular scholarships here for both US and foreign students. One that caught my eye was the Amelia Earhart Fellowship. It offers $10,000 to 35 female students each year to study for a doctorate in aerospace-related sciences.

Even at Harvard, more than 50% of students have some form of financial assistance. And 20% of their students’ families have to pay nothing towards their education.

The objective, of course, is to reduce the amount of a student loan and burden of repayment. Ideally without diminishing the joy, prestige, and value that stems from studying at an American university. The benefits of being given a scholarship are not just financial, just the award alone should boost a student’s career prospects.

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With twenty years’ experience as an international journalist and travel writer, Jon Bryant has written for The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Observer and The Times. He also teaches journalism at the EDJ in Nice, France. He is the co-author of the Financial literacy book for children ‘It Doesn’t Grow On Trees’.