LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) — Student debt and student loans aren’t new, but student debt relief is something we’ve never seen before.

Student loan debt relief has drawn both cheers and mockery. Students who qualify are thrilled, but those who still dream of pursuing higher education know that relief comes at a high price.

Every student should think hard, long and smart while working towards their degree.

Jennifer Finetti, Director of Outreach and Advocacy for ScholarshipOwl, helps students and parents navigate what can be high dollar signs.

“Many students take out loans every year for college,” Finetti said.

According to the Ministry of Education, almost a third of borrowers are in debt but without a diploma.

Nearly 16% of borrowers default on their student loans, often leading to wage garnishment, which then affects their credit score.

Finetti said borrowing money should be your last resort.

“I always suggest students avoid taking out student loans if they completely can,” Finetti said.

She suggested that when someone is planning their post-secondary education, they should first think about the cost.

It’s exciting to think about getting away from home or following your friends wherever they go, but when the bills start rolling in, the excitement can turn to panic.

“Everyone should look for an affordable college for them,” Finetti said.

It may not sound glamorous or exciting, but consider starting at a community college or technical school. It is the education a person is looking for, not the location. Staying home may not be exciting, but it can be frugal.

“In many states, community college is free, or if it’s not free, the cost is very low, so the first two years can be easily afforded by most students and most families” , Finetti said. “If you go to an in-state public university, you’ll usually get a more affordable option than if you go to a private or out-of-state school.”

Complete the FAFSA, it’s a ticket for financial aid. Look for grants and scholarships that don’t have to be repaid.

Also check if there are any qualifications for working on a work-study basis or possibly getting a part-time job.

“Looking for more affordable options is the first step,” Finetti said. “Students who can graduate debt-free will be much happier.”

There are times when someone may need help to achieve their dream and need to take out a loan.

For loans taken out before July 1 of this year, individuals may be eligible for President Biden’s student debt relief plan.

“For students who took out a loan after July 1 of this year, those loans will not be eligible for forgiveness,” Finetti said.

Loans taken out after July 1 this year, however, may qualify for the Department of Education’s new income-tested repayment plan. This new plan has reduced monthly payments.

“The new income-based repayment plan will be an available option that will allow students to pay no more than 5% of their Discretionary Income instead of 10%, which is the current norm,” Finetti said.

The average annual student loan payment will be reduced for current and future borrowers.

Remember that some employers will pay for school while a person is working. Some high-need fields of study offer money to acquire this skill set so that they can pay for a person’s college degree.

Also investigate what the military can pay if they serve our country.