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As graduation season comes to a close many Americans, both students and parents alike, are now faced with the reality of huge student loan bills that will be arriving in the mail shortly.

Robert Smith’s recent announcement that he intends to pay off the student loans of the entire Morehouse class of 2019 was a life-changer for those students, but we know that most new graduates and adults, after graduating many years ago, will most likely not receive such an amazing gift.

With student loans becoming an ever-increasing burden for many Americans, how can we be smarter managing our student debt? Here are my tips:

Rob, there are many parents out there who still have student loans of their own, yet they’re also going to have to start paying back loans they’ve taken out for their children’s education. What should they be doing?

Well, I know many parents will be uncomfortable with me saying this, but I don’t advise parents to consider paying for their child’s education unless and until they are already on track to fund their own retirement.

The reality is, students can always get grants, scholarships, part-time jobs and loans to fund their own education, there are no loans that parents can get for retirement. You are largely on your own. Sure, there’s Social Security and Medicare, but those programs are in trouble.

Parents need to ensure that their own financial house is in order before they make a move towards funding educational expenses for their children.

Parents need to make sure that their own financial house is in order.

Parents who have already taken out loans for their child’s education should consider refinancing their loans in an attempt to lower their interest rates, or consolidating their loans so they can apply for Federal income-based repayment plans or loan forgiveness programs.

What should recent graduates do to start tackling their student loan debt?

Well, students have some of the same options as parents such as income-based repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

If you’re in a really trying financial situation you can also apply for deferment or forbearance, which are programs that allow you to temporarily stop making payments on your loans.

However, I’ve seen people make a tough financial situation much worse by using these programs because they can dramatically increase the amount that you owe.

See, the income-based repayments programs can decrease the amount that you have to pay on a monthly basis, but you’ll end up paying more in interest in the long run.

Deferral allows you to stop your payments for a certain amount of time, but depending on the type of loan you have, interest may continue to accrue while you’re not making payments. Interest always continues to accrue on a loan in forbearance

I’ve talked with people who have deferred their loans so much that they end up with a considerably higher amount of debt than they started with.

These programs are more of a band-aid than a cure.

My best advice for recent grads would be to:

  • Relentlessly focus on maximizing your income
    • The reason you went to college was to acquire skills that would allow you to make enough money to love the type of life you want to love, not to get stuck paying off loans for the next 40 years.
    • Don’t settle! Seek out the highest-paying, highest-potential careers that you possibly can, especially early in your career so that you set your trajectory on the right path.
    • Consider starting a business or a side hustle to bring in extra income while you look for that job with the big paycheck.
  • Keep your expenses low, forget what the Instagram influencers say
    • Look, you just finished college so you’re used to living on a smaller budget. No need to start popping bottles at the club just yet.
    • Feel free to live at home for a while or get a roommate while you get things in order. There’s nothing wrong with being smart with your finances while you get on your feet.

Rob, what advice would you give to high school students who will soon have to make the decision about what school to go to and how much debt to take on?

  • Decide if college is the right move – Well, first I think they should decide whether “college” is the right thing for them or not. What’s most critical for success in America is having skills that are of value in the marketplace. College is not the only way to acquire those skills. Trade schools, community college, online programs, and apprenticeships are all other ways to create success that can be obtained much more cheaply than a traditional 4-year college degree.
  • Consider college as a business decision – However, if college does seem like the right move, young people really need to treat it like the huge business decision that it is.
    • They should sit down with their parents, and possibly a financial advisor, to discuss how much college actually costs, how much they can potentially make after graduation based on their major, how long it will take them to pay those loans back, and how those loan payments might affect other things they can do in life.
    • So many people are in tough financial positions today because they never had this important conversation.

Where can we find more information?

I know so many people are struggling under the weight of their student loans and all of these options can be confusing and hard to find, so I’ve created a free e-book on my website with a list of all of these programs and more.Want more information?

Visit Rob’s website: or follow him on Twitter at @RobWilsonTV.

PHOTO: Rob Wilson Courtesy