LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - With more than a trillion dollars worth of student loan debt divvied among Americans, some aren’t sure how to start the conversation when it comes to responsible borrowing.
At Lincoln Public Schools, that discussion is happening early, as juniors at Lincoln Northeast are attending the “Take Charge” class, aimed at teaching students “how to pay for college, taxes, insurance, budgeting, how to write a check, all of those things.”
Jocelyn Crabtree, a teacher at Lincoln Northeast for the past three years, heads up the class. She explained that for most of the students in the “Taking Charge” class, the information provided is incredibly valuable.
“For some it is a lot of shock,” Crabtree said. “Overall I think I get good feedback from the kids. When they finish the semester they start to get a grasp for some of those things that they are going to have to do when they leave high school.”
The semester-long course covers a variety of topics, but a hefty portion of the class is spent on financial literacy and intelligent borrowing.
Something Crabtree believes is necessary information as the transition into adulthood begins.
“I tell my students all the time at the beginning of the semester, that this is the one class they take in high school that I think has the biggest impact,” she said. “It shows them all the things that they really have to deal with when being an adult. Some students just have no idea how much it costs to go to college, how much it costs to pay a mortgage, so it is kind of eye opening for them.”
Keshawn Stubblefield, a junior at Lincoln Northeast and student in Crabtree’s class, echoed the sentiment.
“Honestly, I find it very useful. Even going into this I am like why am I learning this so late?” Stubblefield said. “This is super useful information and it is a blessing to actually get taught it. I know that there are some situations where you are just going in blind.”
One of the biggest benefits of the “Taking Charge” class, according to Stubblefield, is learning of the abundance of scholarships that are available to prospective students.
“I always used to think there was only one scholarship that you can get, but this has shown me that there are plenty of scholarships that I am able to obtain,” he added. “We talk about scholarships all the time. You don’t want to be in debt all your life so do well in school and get scholarships.”
Leo Ramirez, another student in the class, explained that not only is the class beneficial, but is fairly unique.
“I just recently relocated from California and they don’t have anything about this kind of stuff over there,” Ramirez said. “Knowing that they have these types of resources in Nebraska, it just makes me really happy to know that I got here and I was able to take care of that aspect of my life.”
The class, which partners with EducationQuest, a private, non-profit organization that provides free services that helps get students to college, is already starting to see positive results.
Les Monroe, the Director of College Planning at EducationQuest said that “most of the students that I have talked to that have taken the Take Charge class just go on and on about how beneficial it was.”
“It really got them thinking,” he added. “They have to own their life, and this class helps them realize that if they don’t own it, if you don’t give it direction, it is going to go anywhere. And they really appreciate that direction.”
Throughout the semester, a number of guest speakers come in and address the class, including a representative from EducationQuest and members of local universities.
They discuss how to prepare for college financially, apply for scholarships, as well as important financial keys to life.
But for Crabtree, the conversation is personal, and when she talks student loans, she talks from experience.
“From day one, when we start talking about college, I tell them I am still paying on my student loans, and I don’t want you to be like that,” Crabtree said. “So I try to push that you guys have to start looking at scholarships. You have to start looking at financial aid.”