ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR)-- College is a time for learning and growth, but for the majority of students with that comes thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
"I just had to complete the FAFSA for my grad program, and it's crazy," Rockford University student,” Ryan Gillfillan said.
According to Debt.org national student loan debt moves well over a trillion dollars. Experts say the best way for students in Northern Illinois to stay out of the red while getting an education is to plan ahead.
"We strive to help the student and also make it a seamless process for them," Student Loan Coordinator, Stacy Simms said. "For first time students and their parents haven't gone through the college process one of the most popular questions is where do we start?"
Local universities are doing their best to make paying for school as easy as possible, even though, for many, this is an intimidating process.
"Here's your quick back of the envelope formula. And that is only borrow the total amount of money that you think you'll make in your first couple of years of work," CBS News Business Analyst, Jill Schlesinger said.
There are other ways to search for funds. Financial aid experts at Rockford University say the free application for federal student aid, is the best way to start when it comes to paying for school.
"We will also encourage students to do is to reach out to their high school counselors, a lot of times there is financial aid scholarship opportunities available and it's as simple as asking a question or just reaching out,” Simms said.