It’s nearing the end of January and research shows that by next week, 80 percent of Americans will have already given up on their New Year’s resolution. But while hopping on the treadmill five times a week may seem like a tall task for Hoosiers, taking control of their student debt shouldn’t be. To ensure our state remains competitive for employers, workers, and students, managing college costs should be at the top of Indiana’s New Year’s resolution list.

Now more than ever, college graduates are often saddled with debt that can stick with them for decades—causing them to delay personal and financial goals such as getting married, buying a home, starting a new business, and saving for retirement. This affects not only graduates and their parents, but also the local economies of the Indiana cities in which they live. In fact, a recent study from the National Association of Homeowners found that student debt is delaying Millennials from buying a home by an average of seven years.

Americans now have more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, which exceeds the amount of credit card debt in the U.S. And in Indiana, the average college graduate carries more than $29,000 in student loans upon leaving school. The good news is that Hoosiers have resources available to them to help tackle their student debt.

Refinancing can be key

Loan refinancing is one option that can help thousands of graduates lower their debt burden, allowing them to focus their finances on other important investments after leaving college.

Here’s an example of how it could work: if someone now pays 8.5 percent on a 10-year student loan of $35,000, reducing their rate by just one percentage point and extending their loan term by five years would drop their monthly payments by $110. That’s $110 that could be used invested in a 401(k), a new car, a security deposit for an apartment, or a down payment on a new home.

Refinancing isn’t the right choice for everyone, but it can serve as a meaningful way for many borrowers to manage their debt burden. For example, one study found that Indiana residents who refinance save an average of $1,336 over the life of their loan.

Despite these savings, we know many Hoosiers might put off refinancing because the process can appear to be overwhelming and complex. That’s why INvestEd, an Indiana-based nonprofit, has a trusted team of experts who can advise Hoosiers on how to navigate college costs and manage their student loans.

Finding loan solutions that work for you

Every borrower is different, and there is not a one-size-fits all approach to handling student loans. What’s important is that borrowers make sure they’ve considered all options when working to reduce their debt burden. Employers have a role to play in addressing student debt as well, whether it’s offering financial literacy guidance or providing a loan repayment assistance program to employees.

A Hoosier plan for a Hoosier problem

The student loan landscape for 2018 is daunting, and its scope impacts our entire state, from business leaders, to universities, to entrepreneurs, and Hoosiers starting their career. Student debt stunts personal investments, but it may also deter Hoosiers from enrolling in college at a time when it’s critical for our state to have more workers with credentials. To this end, we’re hosting the first annual Indiana College Refi Week to make sure all Hoosiers have access to information and experts to manage their student debt with confidence and ease.

During Refi Week, Hoosiers can call our team of financial aid professionals for personal support and learn how refinancing may help many borrowers secure lower interest rates, extend the life of their loan, and ultimately save money. In addition, as part of our first year we’re hosting a Student Loan Refi Happy Hour event in Central Indiana on Tuesday, January 30th. All Hoosiers are welcome, and depending on the feedback from the event, we will look to host events like this in other Indiana markets as well.

A New Year brings new hopes and new resolutions, but it may also bring new fears. Our hope is that student debt can be crossed off that final list for many Hoosiers in 2018.

Joe Wood is the president and CEO of Indiana nonprofit INvestEd.

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