Navigating student loans can be confusing and overwhelming! Learn about different options with Adrian and student services specialist, George Huerta, in the latest episode of Taco Bout It.
Adrian: Hi y’all my name is Adrian and I’ve got a lot on my mind. How about you? Let’s taco ’bout it! So today we are talking about the dreaded, the terrifying student loans. Recently I had a little run in with one of my old loans, and it came back to haunt me and so I just really thought that it was important to bring the subject up and talk to you all about it. So today I have a very special guest. He is an expert and he is gonna bring all of his wonderful knowledge to the table to share with you all and I really hope you enjoy today’s episode.
Adrian: Okay guys, so we are here with George and I’m just gonna let him introduce himself.
George: Hi you guys, my name is George, I’m a student services specialist and I’ve worked all over the Valley, Brownsville, Harlingen, McAllen. So I know all the ends and outs of upper higher education, financial aid, admissions, registration. Through experience and through work I’m really familiar with all that.
Adrian: First off, just really, like simple 101, what is the difference between a loan, a scholarship and a grant?
George: A loan, we’re gonna get the worst one out of the way first, is money that you have to pay back. It can collect interest while you’re in school or it can accumulate interest after you graduate. But with a loan you’re gonna have to pay that back eventually. And sometimes, depending on the loan, it’s not even worth getting.
Adrian: I’ve taken out a few loans where I’m like, “I just should not have done that.” Before we move on to scholarships, I know that there’s two different types of loans. There’s subsidized and unsubsidized.
George: Oh yeah. So federal loans, which is the federal unsubsidized and the federal subsidized, one accumulate interest while you’re in school, and the other one accumulates interest six months after you either have graduated or stopped attending or fall below half time, so fall below six hours. Then it starts accumulating interest and charging you while you’re in school.
Adrian: Yeah. By then you’ll have a full time job. Your life completely in order.
George: Oh yeah, 60, 70K a year job.
Adrian: Yeah, definitely, totally.
George: That’s what I believe.
Adrian: We’re a little salty about it.
George: We’re gonna talk about that later.
George: Scholarships are money that, similar to grants, money that you would get awarded depending on your achievements, things you’ve done, or even some scholarships just depending on your ethnicity, your background, things like that. For those, there’s many different ways to apply. Some scholarships come in the form of full rides, which I would recommend if you’re able to get a full ride to a certain school or to any school, like the Gates Millennium Scholarship, I would run with those, take those. But yeah, so scholarship’s free money, you just have to apply and they’re kind of hard to get. Scholarships have a lot more competitiveness versus grants, which grants go off of your GPA, off of just different things like that, versus scholarships where you’re competing with people all over the nation for those. Yeah, so scholarships are definitely more competitive.
Adrian: So you just mentioned something really important that I think we need to touch base on as far as someone’s citizenship status. When someone is undocumented what are the options for them, what do those options look like?
George: Yeah, so if you’re undocumented you may be eligible for some scholarships, but there are a lot of scholarships out there that require that you have a social, or a social security number. But there’s also the Texas Grant, that it’s a grant that the state of Texas awards to undocumented students. Of course, it’s on a first-come, first-serve basis, so try to get your financial aid done as quickly as possible.
Adrian: One thing I do wanna talk about, because I was telling you I was recently served papers. Straight up, “you got served.”
George: Oh shit.
Adrian: “Is this your name? Here are legal documents.”
George: Like a very scary, like Babadook looking person was at your door?
Adrian: Yes. I saw the top hat through the top of my door window. No, so I got served papers on behalf of this private student loan that I took out. I didn’t understand, ’cause I was like, “But I’m back in school, this is supposed to be differed, what do I do?” It turned out to be a private student loan. Now I’m having to figure out how to pay that back. I wanted to make sure that we definitely talk a little bit more in detail about what is a private student loan and what does it mean to take on that responsibility.
George: Okay, yeah. Private student loan is different that a federal loan, which is the unsub or the subsidized loan. A private student loan actually has a higher interest rate versus the federal loans that have a way lower fixed interest rate. Private student loans can also be sold, so you can actually end up being charged not by the original lender, but by somebody else. And they can slap on more interest on top of that. I know people who can barely afford to pay off their interest. They’re kind of sitting there, waiting for something to happen in the future, waiting for that 70, 80, $90K a year job to maybe one day pay that off. But right now they’re barely scraping the interest and it’s just building and building and building.
Adrian: I think that’s one thing that I want, I also wanna reiterate for people is like, you … I think at the end of the day these people, they just, they want your money. If you can only afford to pay $25 a month, let them know, “This is all I can do.” Chances are, from my experience, they’re gonna say, “Okay, sure, we’ll take it.” Versus nothing at all.
Adrian: Is that a fair thing to say?
George: That’s more than fair, because about 40% of people who have taken out student loans in their lifetime are unable to pay them back. That’s a good 60% of people paying back student loans. The US actually ranks number one in the world for student loan debt, but it’s so high that all the other countries with student loan debt combined can’t even equal half of our overall student loan debt in the United States. We have a crisis on our hands when it comes to student loans.
Adrian: That’s is so sad. I want people to know what to look out for and what to be careful for, because a lot of the help that’s out there is not genuinely there to help us. What are maybe some red flags that we need to keep an eye out for when we’re trying to navigate this?
George: Okay. I try to keep it basic. If a school is asking you to pull out loans to help pay for it, you probably shouldn’t be going to that school. The try to have names very similar to accredited institutions. They can be very expensive. Grants do help play for some of that, but they also are able to pull out a as well. With that it can cost about 18, 20, $25,000 a year.
Adrian: Yeah, and I think that again, that just comes and circles back to the pressure that’s put on young people to seek higher education immediately.
George: I always think about, if I could go back what would have I done differently? There’s a million things I would have done differently, like not change my major a million times, different things like that. What would have been something you would have done differently or what type of route would you have taken?
Adrian: Okay. First of all, I ask the questions here.
George: Oh shit. Calm down Barbara Walters.
Adrian: I wish I would have gone to talk to my advisor more often. I wish I wasn’t so scared of talking to my advisor, ’cause I really had this weird, irrational fear of-
George: “I’m bothering them,” or like …
Adrian: Yeah, exactly. It’s like, “I don’t wanna bother them, I’m scared of them, they’re gonna mad at me ’cause I have all these questions.” I wish I just would have gone and asked all those questions. I’m definitely that person now. I think that would have helped me so much. I was just so confused in many different ways, but about the process and about where I stood as a student was definitely one of those big things where I just didn’t understand how that worked. I think had I sought out advice from the people that are there to give that advice, that is their job, then I think I would have done a lot better.
George: But what it comes down to is like did you get your education at an affordable rate? Education, we’re all gonna come out of it with loans, but I would rather come out of it with maybe 10, 20, $30,000 in student loans, than versus some of my friends who were kind of pushed to go as far as you can throw it. But if you ended up pulling out hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans and you’re working the same job as me, where does that put you?
George: That didn’t benefit you. It might have benefited your high school counselor, it might have made it look like, “Oh, we had this many students go to prestigious, ivy league schools,” but at the end of the day it didn’t benefit you as a student.
George: My best advice is if you do get those scholarships, those grants, those full rides, feel free to take them. That’s a gift. That’s a blessing. I guess it’s knowing what our means are and also not basing your own self-worth on the amount of scholarships, ACT scores, different things like that. That doesn’t put value on you. Of course that’s great, but that doesn’t make you any less or any more of a person.
Adrian: I love that. I think that is a beautiful note to end on. Thank you so much for being here.
George: Oh yeah.
Adrian: Thank you for bringing your wisdom and your knowledge and your expertise.If people had more questions about these types of things, where would recommend they go look?
George: If you have any questions I would recommend maybe going to a community college. There is TSC in Brownsville, which I love. There’s TSTC in Harlingen, which I went to. It was a really great school. And there’s STC in the upper Valley, which I work at. You can go to any one of those campuses, ask more questions. We’re definitely there to help you. We’re not bothered at all. You can come, ask us anything, anything you’d like, and we can give you our best advice on that. And of course, there’s UTRGV down the street, can’t forget about them.
Adrian: And this is even if you’re not a student?
George: Yeah, even if you’re not a student, even if you have question for your siblings, for your family, you can come in, ask them and we can try to help you best we can.
Adrian: All right, awesome. Well thank you so much.
George: Yeah, any time.
Adrian: It was such a pleasure.
George: This is where I like disappear, like …
Adrian: Just vanishes. We’re just gonna edit him out.
George: Do you have those special effects?
Adrian: We can do that. We’ll just vanish him out. Oh my God, witchcraft!
George: Where am I?
Adrian: All right. By y’all. Say “bye” George.