Most college graduates in the United States leave with student loan debt, but did they know before entering college how big of a financial hole they were actually digging for themselves?

Zephyr Picture, Getty Images

Hoping to better prepare New Jersey high school students for the costs and debt associated with higher learning, state Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City) has introduced legislation that would ensure high-schoolers receive the proper dose of financial literacy before graduation.

Her bill, S-990, would require instruction at the high school level on state and federal tuition assistance programs, including grants, scholarships and student loans. Issues such as student loan debt, and the consequences attached with failure to repay loans, would have to be included.

Cunningham said in her travels to colleges across the state, too many students insisted they were not aware of all the financial options available to them. Any help they can get up front equates to fewer dollars that need to be repaid on the back end.

Her measure also specifically requires that each high school student, in their second or third year, meets with a school counselor to discuss similar topics.

"We wanted it to be mandatory," said Cunningham while discussing the bill during a committee hearing in Trenton on Monday.

The measure received strong support from the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association.

"We're pleased to support the inclusion of instruction on college funding of student loan debt and scholarship opportunities within the financial literacy graduation requirement," NJPSA's Deborah Bradley said during the hearing. "These issues are a major concern to both students and parents alike as they face the issue of making realistic choices.

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