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How the national student debt crisis is affecting Georgia students

Georgia Military College graduate Jada Bembry never thought pursuing her nursing dreams would come with a hefty price tag

MACON, Ga. — 22-year-old Jada Bembry is pursuing her nursing dreams at all costs.

"I'm taking plenty of loans -- it's kind of impossible not to," she said.

She didn't think her dream career of becoming a nurse practitioner would come with a hefty price tag. "Currently, I'm in debt about $50,000 for a nursing degree. I've kind of calculated it. If I pay on track of what they want me to pay, monthly payments, I would pay back about $85,000," she said.

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She graduated from Georgia Military College with her Associate's degree, but racked up student loan debt when she transferred to Wesleyan College to finish her nursing degree.

"My first two years at GMC, I hardly had to pay anything. Just two years at a four-year university has cost me $50,000," she said.

A report on Student Debt Relief's website says the national student loan debt totals around $1.5 trillion. 

It also says Georgia students average more than $28,000 in the hole after earning a bachelor's degree, and currently about 57% of Georgia's college graduates are still paying their student loans off.

Middle Georgia State University's Gloria Wonnum has worked in Financial Aid for over 20 years, and sees young people start their adult life in debt all too often.

"Up until the time you get your student loan bill and saying that it's time for repayment, you're just busy getting your education. You're not thinking about that," Wonnum said.

Wonnum advises students to pay attention to the interest rates and to be cautious about how much money to take out.

"There needs to be more education, more counseling more things in the initiatives or proposals that will assist students to better manage it," she said.

Bembry suggests drawing the bare minimum.

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"Be smart about whatever you're taking out because you will have to pay it back. Work hard and try to keep up because if you fall behind, it's rough," Bembry said.

Forbes reported over 44 million Americans have student loan debt.

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