Embracing the value of interactive graphics, The New York Times created an online calculator for student loans. The results may be depressing, but the calculator tells students how much they will owe and what they need to earn to cover the expense. By filling in a few fields, students can see how interest rates, loan term (years), and additional monthly payments affect their principal and interest.
Using $29,400 as the average loan for a student graduating in 2012, we see that students need to earn that amount per year. Of course, more is better. At $35,923 per year, the loan repayment amount would equal about 20% of a student's discretionary income. (Of course, that may vary tremendously.)
Seeing the data graphically may help students get a clearer picture about what to expect—for better or worse.
- Do you find the calculator easy to use? Is it useful?
- What other ways can you visual the data? Consider more creative graphics than this bar chart.
- What's your view of the recommended 20% of discretionary income for student loan repayments? In what ways could it vary based on geographical, health, personal, and other factors? Would this be a realistic number for you?