Americans owe more than $1 trillion in student loans, and without the proper financial knowledge, people like Secretary of Education Arne Duncan fear that this debt will only increase over time.
Beth Kobliner, author of "Get a Financial Life" and a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, is promoting educational programs that are starting to be implemented to address the problem of student loans. One of these programs is run at John Hancock High School in Chicago by family outreach coordinator and parent advocate Hector Gonzalez.
"Unfortunately, picking a college based on a gut feeling or a beautiful campus is something that's still going on, but it's really a luxury that families can't afford," Kobliner says. "It's really time for high schools to get practical, because students and families really need that guidance," Kobliner says.
"They have to factor in everything — from the financial aid they'll get from the school [and] the federal financial aid they're eligible for, to a school's dropout rate and what kind of job success the school has, because these are really critical questions parents and students need answered."
While on a tour through Chicago's South Side, Kobliner met Gonzalez, who she says has figured out a way to obtain grant money for his students that has enabled them to apply for college.
"That's just one of those really courageous conversations that we have to have with our families, particularly with Latino parents, mainly because finances is a private matter, so they don't even want some of their children to know that they might be going through bankruptcy," Gonzalez says.
"The fact of the mater is that when we start having these conversations with our parents about what financial aid is, what FAFSA is, and how that accounts into alleviating some of that debt, or at least having some sort of money to attend college, it really gets them [thinking] 'you know what, I think it is possible."
Gonzalez also encourages students to take a look at their lifestyles to see if they are spending money unnecessarily. He points to the $100 a month he spends on coffee, and how that money could go towards his child's education. "It adds up," he tells his students. "Every cent counts."
Kobliner believes that schools across the country can follow Gonzalez's example. "Schools can really encourage kids to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form, like Hector does," she says. "There are two million students who could get Pell Grants [but] don't because they don't know that they're eligible."
"Families have to follow his lead, as do high school counselors, to educate families about how they can get more aid."