New site to calculate potential student loan debt

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By KIMBERLY HEFLING and KRISTI EATON, Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Want to calculate how much you could owe in student loans after graduating from a particular college? A new government website provides tools to help with the math.

The site, by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is in the testing phase, but already includes information from 7,500 colleges and universities.

Users can plug in details such as grant and scholarship offers to compare what they might owe after attending different schools. The site also offers information on graduation and student loan default rates.

A "military benefit calculator" function allows the nation's more than 2 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to determine what they could owe after using their GI Bill benefits.

It can be found at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/payingforcollege/costcomparison.

The site is the latest effort by the federal government to make colleges and universities more open about costs.

A separate Education Department web site — http://collegecost.ed.gov — also addresses college cost, with information such as the rate of tuition increases at colleges.

"Choosing a school is a big responsibility — one that is too often made difficult by an inability to determine the impact of student loan debt," said Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, at a news conference in Sioux Falls, S.D., with Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and a gathering of local high school students.

The bureau says student loan debt has reached $1 trillion, surpassing credit card and auto-loan debt. Graduates owe on average about $25,000.

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Hefling reported from Washington.

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