SAN ANTONIO – Student loan borrowers have at least a few more months of relief now that payments are paused through Aug. 31.
U.S. borrowers owe $1.7 trillion in student loans, according to the Federal Reserves Bank of St. Louis.
Staff members at East Central Independent School District are trying to help students avoid adding to the growing national debt because figuring out how to pay for college can be a challenge, especially for those who are the first in their families to go to college.
“Coming to another different state, it’s just, there’s a lot of obstacles that you have to overcome,” East Central High School senior Jahatzy Ramos said.
Millions of Americans are still paying off their student loans years after graduating.
Amanda Holman, the director of College Career and Military Readiness for East Central ISD, said they take extra steps to make sure high school seniors are informed about their options so they won’t be in a similar situation.
“We really encourage our students to, you know, educate themselves on loans and what that means for them and what that means for their futures when they take out student loans,” Holman said.
East Central High School hosts information sessions, both in-person and online, where students and parents can learn about the free application for Federal Student Aid and the Texas application for State Financial Aid.
The sessions also discuss the Alamo Promise, a San Antonio-based tuition-free program.
“They helped me get all my college applications in faster and they told me everything. My parents didn’t know how to help me,” East Central High School senior La’Darin Franklin said.
“Because a lot of families are under the impression that number one, if they fill out a FAFSA or TASFA, that they automatically have to take out loans, and that’s not the case,” Holman said. “And so we try to dispel that myth.”
The district also has a central location where students can get help at the Go Center, which is located at East Central High School.
“It helps you with like your transcripts, your GPA and technically overall, like going to college,” Ramos said.
“(The Go Center) actually provides the Texas Success Initiative, or TSI testing for students so that they can be considered college-ready when they leave us,” Holman said.
East Central High School seniors said it helped take the pressure off so they can focus on making their parents proud.
“I’m doing things they couldn’t and I’m continuing our name for them,” Franklin said.
“I think that’s something that allows me to keep moving forward,” Ramos said.
Something new for the 2021-2022 school year, the Texas House passed a law that requires high school seniors to complete and submit the FASFA, along with the TASFA for any students who do not have a U.S. Social Security Number.
However, students do have the option to sign an opt-out form.