HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maggie Orellana racked up $60,000 in federal and private student loans while earning her bachelor's degree in education at the University of Hawaii.
Six years after graduating, at 26, she still owes about $45,000.
"Once I started paying it, that's when it actually sunk in," she said. "And then when I was paying it and not seeing principals go down, it's just like, 'What am I doing?'"
Rising costs for college tuition and fees are leaving many new graduates saddled with thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
Orellana taught special education for a couple of years before taking time off for the birth of her two sons. She now lives with her in-laws in Wahiawa and pays off the minimum balance of her loans each month using her husband's income.
"Right now this works, but we also don't have a home and we depend a lot on our in-laws," Orellana said.
The average student debt in Honolulu is $32,772, according to personal finance website WalletHub. While that figure isn't the highest in the nation, WalletHub did say that Hawaii has the highest student debt in the nation when it's considered as a percentage of income adjusted by the cost of living.
Financial advisers say while rising student loan debt is a real concern, there are some steps graduates can take to bring their finances under control.
For one, they say, consider paying more than minimum monthly amount to pay down a loan more quickly.
"If you pay the minimum, it will take you 20 years to pay it off," said Eric Fujimoto, an advisoe at Ameriprise Financial. "Then on a $37,000 student debt, you would have paid close to $34,000 of interest on top of the debt."
Fujimoto also said that prospective homebuyers shouldn't let student loan debt stop them from entering the real estate market.
"To get into real estate for what you can afford at least kind of guards against you for real estate inflation," he said.
According to him, another mistake some graduates make is to take the first job offered instead of the right job.
Finally, financial advisers suggest brushing up on a variety of loan repayment options and looking into loan forgiveness programs. Whatever you do, they say, take action to avoid going into default, which can have major repercussions.
"I think it will be a huge relief," she said. "We'll have two incomes once the debt is gone so it will be a huge difference. It will be awesome."