“Student debt” has become a conversational cliché that unless you or your college graduate have loans to repay — it’s probably not discussed.

A college education is a financial investment. When a student or their parents borrow money to fund higher education it is mainly through federal student loans. As with all loans, repayment is required.

That’s where the financial reward of investing in a college degree with strong earning potential starts showing a return. It’s when — degree in hand — a young graduate lands a well-paying job. Now they must begin paying off their loans, which have become “student debt.” The terms of the loan dictate the repayment, just like any other loan. And, just like any other loan, if the borrower doesn’t make payments, the loan goes into default. The difference with student loans is there is no unemployment or bankruptcy safety net. Except for short-term deferments and in cases so rare it should hardly be mentioned — forgiveness —this loan never goes away.

There is good news from the University of Louisiana Monroe about student loans and student debt. ULM undergraduates leave in less student debt than both the state and national average.

For the ULM Class of 2017, the average undergraduate student loan total was $24,536. The state average was $26,808 and the national average was $26,900 (College Board).

Also, the ULM percentage of student loan default in the first three years is the lowest in the University of Louisiana System and below the national average.

The National Center for Education Statistics monitors student loan default using the “3-year Cohort Default Rates.” This measurement tracks student loan repayment for three years by students who left school — for any reason, including graduation, — in a fiscal year.

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