Many college students rely on loans to help pay for school, but the ailing economy is affecting private loans available to students. The slowing economy has some lenders concerned about people's credit, and that they might not get their money paid back. Stephanie Chetelat is a UNCW student who relies on both private and federal student loans. Chetelat said, "They are so important. They are like the fate of whether or not I go to school." She is preparing to apply for more private loans to study abroad and says the state of the economy is unsettling. "Since I haven't applied yet for my loans for the upcoming year, I'm definitely worried about how that's going to go and if I'm going to be affected," said Chetelat. Certified financial planner Ross Marino says investors are demanding higher premiums from lenders, who then have to charge students more interest. "With a private loan company like Sallie Mae, they don't actually have money, they have to have investors give them money, then they turn around and they make the student loan. If the investors don't want to give money to Sallie Mae, then Sallie Mae doesn't have any money to give to the students," said Marino. UNCW's financial aid director Emily Bliss says she hasn't seen too many problems with private loans yet. "It's early in the year, so students haven't run out of money yet," said Bliss. Bliss said half of UNCW's students rely on financial aid, but only 10 percent of those students take out non-federal loans. Bliss said, "We encourage any student to do that as a last resort and try to talk them out of private loans." Bliss and Marino both believe federally guaranteed loans are a student's best bet. They tend to offer the lowest rate and most flexible payment options. Bliss said many students who come to her office could avoid taking out loans by cutting back a little. She recommends not spending as much on food, perhaps not having a car on campus and living with roommates.
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