The average amount of student loan debt incurred by an ETSU graduate in 2014 was $32,776, a number that has steadily increased since 2012.

An increase in tuition causes students to accumulate more debt as time passes. Most students cannot pay for a semester year out of pocket and must consider student loans.

Each year, the Tennessee Board of Regents sets the price of tuition and considers the cost of living. The increase in tuition over the past few years is due to several factors: the cost of books, rooms, travel and other miscellaneous expenses.

The office of financial aid offers counseling, literature and advice for current and graduating students.

“Something for college students to consider when they are seeking a degree is utilizing the tools of information ETSU and the state of Tennessee provide for them such as Degree Works,” said Lisa Bell, assistant director of client services for the office of financial aid.

Bell, who assists with counseling for students, said the university provides financial aid awareness as much as possible by providing information to high schools, high school guidance counselors and various workshops or training programs.

The financial aid office encourages students to apply for scholarship and aid early and utilize any tools or information available for students. The counseling services offered are there to help direct students in the right direction, especially when considering the best student loan repayment options.

“Just remember to try not to default on your student loans,” Bell said.

Bell said she would like to see more work study programs at ETSU being offered to students to help with debt management. The less money that graduates incur, the less they have to pay back on a loan.

“I would like to see exit loan counseling information mandatory for students before they graduate,” Bell said.

In 2012, the Tennessee loan debt average was $21,775, below the national average of $29,400.

In 2011, Tennessee’s average debt for graduating students was seventh lowest in the nation with $20,700.

“In my 20 years of working in Financial Aid, I have seen students seek out more free resources and scholarships and pay more attention to following up,” Bell said. “They want less debt, and sometimes, they do resort to dropping out for a little while to save up money and incur less debt, but many students always return after re-evaluating their options.”