More than half of Florida Gulf Coast University’s students graduate with no student debt, and those who do borrow much less than the national average of almost $10,000 annually in loans.
For instance, according to the latest numbers available, the average annual loan amount for Florida resident undergraduates at FGCU is $2,220, which also is $150 less than the State University System average.
“We have been able to decrease the amount borrowed,” said Jorge Lopez, assistant vice president of Student Enrollment & Financial Services, who also noted that 52 percent of FGCU students graduate debt-free. “We encourage students to find and apply for scholarships via targeted emails, social media and our dedicated website for scholarships.”
Still, many students need financial help along the way. One way students can decrease their need for loans is through gift aid such as scholarships and grants that don’t need to be repaid. As of 2021, FGCU students have received a collective $116 million in such assistance, along with $21 million in federal Pell grants. “We receive over 4,000 foundation scholarship applications every year,” Lopez said.
Barbara Dietter, advisor in Financial Aid and Scholarships, feels that FGCU does a good job of providing information and details about various types of aid to students before they come to campus, whether they are in high school, on a visitation tour or attending orientation.
Such clarity is important because the financial-aid process can be confusing.
“Many students just aren’t informed about student loans from the get-go,” Dietter said. She believes that if students had tangible information about financial literacy as early as middle school, a lot of future education debt could be avoided. She said it’s imperative to borrow only what is necessary.
All FGCU students must complete entrance counseling before they are awarded any loans. The purpose is for students to go through the process of finalizing their loans from start to finish, after which they are asked to sign a promise to repay the debt.
“It is very easy to take out loans and forget about them, because it doesn’t affect your credit,” Lopez said.
“I think being able to get through college is important, and without student loans I wouldn’t be able to,” Shedlock said. “However, students should know that when considering student loans, also consider your interest rates, which keep the debt steadily increasing.”
Shedlock tries to take advantage of various programs and grants available. Like other students, she hopes to find a higher-paying job after graduation to more easily pay off her student debt.
Some students are proactive about their financial literacy because, even though they aren’t in debt now, they plan to take out loans later for graduate school.
Khalia Fisher, a junior majoring in biology who also leads the press and publicity committee of the NAACP chapter at FGCU, hopes to graduate debt-free and then attend medical school. She realizes student loans are in her future.
“I know I’m going to need loans for med school, and I plan to speak with an advisor when the time arrives,” she said.
— Sarah Angel is a junior English major who is part of a student intern writing team with University Marketing & Communications. Students interested in a writing internship should contact Keith Gibson at [email protected]
ABOUT STUDENT LOANS
Here are some of the basics about student loans:
- Subsidized loans are awarded to students who are eligible based on their financial need. Interest rates don’t take effect until after graduation.
- Unsubsidized loans are awarded to any student who fills out a FAFSA application and is eligible for federal aid. Students are responsible for the monthly interest accrual that begins at the start of schooling.
- Federal Direct PLUS loans are awarded to parents based on their credit. If parents are not accepted, the student will be offered additional unsubsidized loans.
TO LEARN MORE
The FGCU website provides comprehensive information and resources to help students manage their debt successfully:
- Types of loans and interest rates
- Scholarships and financial aid
- Loan repayment options and simulator
LOAN REPAYMENT EXAMPLE
Question: If Emma is a dependent student and borrows the maximum amount for which she is eligible all four years at FGCU (a cumulative total of $27,000 under 2021 guidelines), how long will it take her to pay back the loans, and what will be the total repayment with an interest rate of 5 percent?
Answer: Under current guidelines, it will take Emma 10 years to repay her student loans. Her original principal is $27,000, and with the interest accrual totaling $7,365.23, Emma will repay $34,365.23.