It's a staggering figure — more than 3,000 people a day default on their student loans.
Just last year there were more than 1 million defaults worth almost $140 billion, according to the Department of Education.
At Cal State Long Beach, the average student graduates owing about $15,000 in debt. Nationally, the amount is roughly $30,000.
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"The first step is completing the financial aid application," said Nick Valdivia, head of financial aid at CSULB.
He says the Department of Education offers interest-free loans until graduation for most students. There are also private loans and several free websites that allow students to search for scholarships tailored to then. But to graduate with limited debts, students should start itemizing costs before they enroll.
"Everything they do in and around choosing a major, choosing a school, signing for a loan, figuring out what career they might have. All of that is extremely impactful," said Susan Leigh, the assistant vice president for enrollment services.
Candace Rice, a senior communications major from Corona, says every penny counts. She advises any student thinking about attending college to start saving now because that bill is coming.
"You can pay for your books and you can pay for other things that you need on campus," she said.
A couple of final points: Paying someone to help you fill out the financial aid applications is not necessary. And consider going to a community college to knock out required courses at a fraction of the cost.