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How much money taken out for student loans is reasonable?

I'm going to school to be an art teacher, and I know I can get a job as a teacher after I graduate and start paying off my loans, but I don't know how much is too much to take out based on a teacher's salary.

#teaching #art #artist

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Ellen’s Answer

Hi Rachel!


Hooray! A future art teacher! You'll love your career as an art teacher. I tell people I had the best job in the world...I could pass out 30 sheets of blank paper and some paint, and at the end of 90 minutes, I would have 30 masterpieces!


I don't know how to answer your question; "reasonable" depends on your personal finances, your debts, where you want to live, how you want to spend your money, and where you get a job, but I've got a few ideas on how to get the information you need.


Look online at the schools with art education programs you are interested in, and see what their tuition is. Look to see if you qualify for any scholarships. Talk to your guidance counselor and see if they have any information on scholarships and loans and so on.


Find a "cost of living calculator" online--there are lots of them, usually based on large cities, but you can get a ballpark for the area you think you want to teach in. Plug in the information and you'll get an idea of how much it will cost you to live in terms of rent, utilities, transportation, food and so on.


Pick a school district where you think you would want to teach, or just choose your local school district and go to their website to the employee section. There you should find a table of salaries from Year 1. You should see what the "step" is, that is what your raise will be for the next year for Year 2, and so on. They might also mention a cost of living adjustment, which can be from 1-2% added to the step each year. You might also see what benefit plans they have available for your health care and future pension, and what that will cost you.


Go online to find a "student loan payment calculator"; again there are quite a few, and this will give you an idea of how much you will have to pay each month to pay off your loan in how many years.


I'm sure there is some magic percentage out there, which you may run across. It is really a matter of your financial resources, the school's tuition, your costs during your schooling, the size of the loan you will need to cover all that, AGAINST your future salary, your future cost of living, and how much of the loan you can pay off each month. Remember, these will all be "estimated" figures, but they will give you an idea.


This can all be very stressful, but know that many students are in the same situation with the rising cost of post-secondary education. (So much cheaper when I was a student!). Be sure to compare schools in terms of living and tuition costs, and shop around for student loans, if you can. Don't be put off by the amount of debt in your student loan, as a teacher you will find a job that does pay well (over time, maybe not in the beginning) and does have stability. The end of all this financial stress will be a great job teaching kids about the wonders of art. That is worth it all.


Best wishes!



Thank you comment icon @ellen Thank you so much! That was really helpful. I really do look forward to teaching, and the stability of a job in the future is what makes me feel comfortable with loans. I'm glad I got to get advice from an actual art teacher! :) Rachel
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Lynn’s Answer

There is no firm formula for a reasonable amount of debt, but before you commit to anything, sit down and go over every possible way you can avoid taking out loans. Be as creative and realistic as possible in looking for options other than borrowing, because although you will be working as a teacher, life has a way of using up your paycheck with unexpected expenses, and loan payments are non-negotiable. Be sure to seek loans that have fair repayment schedules, and some lenders have provisions allowing loan forgiveness for those who teach in high need areas or in at-risk schools. Before you decide to borrow, be sure to complete the FAFSA paperwork to make yourself eligible for assistance. Ask your school guidance department for resources and applications for scholarships and grants, and review every possible scholarship/grant source you or your family may have access to through work, place of worship, hobby/interest group affiliations, and community-backed funds. Very importantly, plan to work while you are attending college! Work/study jobs on campus can help with mentoring and are more flexible. Twenty hours a week is doable, and can significantly reduce your future debt. Employers also respect the initiative and responsibility it shows. I worked at various on-campus jobs, (library, tennis club, cafeteria, registrar's office), which in combination with a competitive academic scholarship and summer jobs, reduced my need for borrowing to what was reasonable for me to repay within a new teacher's expected salary range. Good luck!

Lynn recommends the following next steps:

Make a budget plan for college expenses
Apply for FAFSA
Make an appointment with school guidance department for resources and applications
Scour family, friend, and community connections for sources of grants, scholarships, and part-time employment
Stay positive!
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Doug’s Answer

Take out as little as you need. It all has to be paid back (except Pell Grants). And the government will get their money back.


I used to work in Financial Aid at a college. It amazed me how many students considered the amount over what they need as a "refund." It is not a refund. It is a LOAN. Once you are out of school (either graduate or drop out) you have 6 months to go without paying back your student loan. After that, here comes Uncle Sam for his money back.


So, the bottom line is take out only what you actually need and leave the rest.

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