By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Planning for college and paying for it is a big undertaking for any family.  With the average college student graduating with nearly $30,000 of student loan debt, 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds that the research and decisions you make now can have a big effect years later.

A college education is one of the most costly investments a family makes.  “Definitely the cost of college has risen.  In fact it’s twice as fast as health care over the last few years,” says Patty Hasson, President of Clarifi, the region’s largest non-profit credit counseling agency.

When it comes to tackling the cost of college Hasson says, “You really need to be thinking about how many children you have, you need to thinking about how much you have saved, and you really don’t want to burden your son or daughter with a lot of debt coming out of college.”

According to Hasson, very few families research or even truly understand the types of student loans and financing that are available.  She says, “Studies have shown that many people do not get the federal loans, they go right to private loans and really it makes no sense.  The federal loans are at a lower interest rate, there’s more options around them.”

It isn’t until several months after graduating that the reality sets in.  Hasson says, “November is typically right around the time, October-November when people start to get their first student loan bill.”

So are you having difficulty paying off your student loan debt?  Or maybe your child will be heading off to college next year and you don’t have a clue how you’ll pay for it.  On Wednesday, October 16th, 3 On Your Side will be holding a “Paying For College Phone Bank” from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.  Clarifi counselors will be available to answer questions regarding everything from how to maximize financial aid to finding the best ways to pay off or consolidate the debt you already have.


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