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As student debt rises, local universities offer top value, rankings show
Both Brenau, UNG rank well for student debt in college study by U.S. News & World Report
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Members of the May Court line up before being introduced during May Day at Brenau University in Gainesville, on Saturday, April 14, 2018. - photo by David Barnes

Ja’Net Adams graduated debt free from South Carolina State in 2003 after attending on a full-ride tennis scholarship. She also had a cool $10,000 in the bank.

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Ja’Net Adams, an international speaker, author and CEO of EMACK Consulting, will share tips with students about how to pay off debt after college at the University of North Georgia in Gainesville on Sept. 20.
Then life happened.

She began a family and debt began to accrue, particularly after she lost a job and her health insurance. Adams said she and her family found themselves with nearly $50,000 of debt.

But through budgeting and saving — prioritizing spending needs, cutting out restaurant visits and new clothes, for example — they paid off that burden in about two years.

Adams said it’s important for anyone with debt, particularly students or young graduates, to make sure they start looking at their finances before problems arise. She now conducts speaking tours to educate students on how to manage and pay off their debts.

She will be a featured speaker Sept. 20 at the University of North Georgia Gainesville, offering tips to students about how to manage and pay off their debt after school.

“There is still hope,” she said. “(Students) forget that life happens after college.”

Student loan debt has risen dramatically in the last two decades, particularly since the Great Recession. About 44 million borrowers collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, according to figures from the Federal Reserve.

Managing debt after college

What: Ja’Net Adams, an international speaker, author and CEO of EMACK Consulting, will share tips with students about how to pay off debt after college

When: 1-3 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 20

Where: University of North Georgia, Gainesville campus–Robinson Ballroom

The average student loan debt of college and university graduates in the class of 2017 was $39,400, about $20,000 higher than in 2005.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland reported that in 2016, the average student loan payment for borrowers between 20 and 30 years of age was $393 a month compared with $227 monthly in 2005.

Student loans and educational costs are among the many factors accounted for in the 2019 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings released last week.

Brenau University moved up 10 places to No. 47 on the list of Best Southern Regional Universities, ranking No. 3 in Georgia. It was also listed as No. 8 in the Best Ethnic and Economic Diversity category.

The annual report is targeted at students and their families, providing statistical profiles for more than 1,800 schools, including tuition costs, financial aid policies, admissions requirements, student body makeup, graduation rates and more.

Student loans by the numbers

Average student loan debt: $39,400 (Class of 2017)

Seven in 10 college seniors will have borrowed money for their education

Student loan default rate (90-plus days delinquent): 11.2 percent

Source: Federal Reserve

“We are thankful to be recognized for what we have to offer here at Brenau,” Brenau President Ed Schrader said in a press release. “But we also know that rankings only scratch the surface of all we do. These measures are a glimpse into the high quality education provided by our faculty, the personal attention we give to our students and the efforts we make to help them afford their educations. This is a piece of our story.”

Brenau officials said the school’s emphasis on reasonable costs factored into its ranking on the Regional Best Value list.

According to the Federal Student Aid Office of the U.S. Department of Education, Brenau University graduates in 2012 had a loan default rate of 4.9 percent. In 2013, it was 5 percent. In 2014, it was 5.3 percent.

The national average that year was 11.5 percent. The national average now is 11.2 percent.

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The University of North Georgia shuttle waits for passengers Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, at the university’s Gainesville campus. - photo by Scott Rogers

The University of North Georgia, meanwhile, ranked No. 20 among all public regional universities in the South on the U.S. News rankings.

UNG was also listed as a best value among all regional universities in the South.

“At the University of North Georgia, we are proud of the high quality educational experience we provide our students that helps them succeed as leaders,” UNG President Bonita Jacobs said in a press release. “Our continued recognition as a leading regional university is an indicator of the impact we are making on our students, our alumni and the communities we serve.”

UNG ranked No. 1 in the South for the least debt load and No. 2 among all public regional universities on the Student Debt Load at Graduation list.

The average amount of federal, state, institutional and private loans borrowed by a UNG student graduating in the class of 2017 was about $19,000.

The national student loan debt average at graduation is more than $39,000.