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The class of 2011: Entering the real world in debt

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Colleges and Universities across the country have been increasing the cost of attendance incessantly during the last several years. While the cost increases, graduates are finding it tough to land jobs and those who do, aren’t making as much money.

Virginia Union University graduate, Ryan Wilson says, “some days I feel like a failure. Some days I feel like I’m hopeless. Some days I feel like I have no answer. “Wilson tells us, he never imagined feeling this way after such an accomplishment.

Wilson has to pay back more than $80,000 in student loans. He’s not alone. According to the US Department of Education, the average amount of debt for a college graduate sits at nearly $23,000, making the class of 2011, the most indebted in US history.

VCU graduate, April Gaskins says college is like a catch 22. Gaskins says, she is moving ahead educationally, but, facing serious setbacks financially because, “there are so many other things to worry about in life right now. I have a car payment, so many other payments and an additional payment added is really going to keep me from prospering.”

To get these graduates help, we spoke with financial planner and author of the book, The No-Nonsense Guide to College Planning, Tom Leahy. Leahy says for 2011 graduates, it’s already too late. However, those of you preparing to enter college soon, should begin planning now.

Leahy recommends the following:
1. Know what you can afford before applying to schools. Don’t buy first and figure out how to pay later.
2. Don’t assume there’s a high-paying job after graduating. Leahy says it’s important to know the probability of getting a job in your field of study.
3. Decide if your career field even warrants a degree from a four-year institution. Leahy says community college is always a good, affordable option.

While this advice comes four years too late for Gaskins and Wilson, both say, college is still worth it.The College Board says it will take recent graduates at least 10 years to see the financial benefits of earning a college degree.