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Brooklyn forum offers advice on how to get an education without breaking the bank


Four years of college shouldn’t mean a lifetime of debt.

Students, parents and a panel of experts gathered Saturday for a day-long discussion on student loans — and how to get into a cap and gown without losing your shirt.

“When I started hearing about people who had on average $65,000, $70,000 in debt coming out of undergrad, that alarmed me and it angered me,” said the Rev. Anthony Trufant, whose Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn hosted the event.

Students learned about ways to minimize debt, from community college to federal loans to loan forgiveness.

“You want to talk about loans?” asked financial coach Danny Morales. “Let’s minimize the loans by not sending them off to California, or sending them to another state where these colleges are overly expensive."

Skye Jones, 22, of Fort Greene, said the answers are not simple. After one year in college, she’s already accrued more than $23,000 in debt.

Jones is caught in a financial aid Catch-22: She’s ineligible for some financial aid because she’s too young, and for others because she doesn’t have a child.

“I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” she explained. “That’s the weird part of it all.”

Patient care technician Itaziea Harris, 29, is currently working two jobs: One at a hospital, the other at a senior home. But in her heart, the world of fashion is still calling her.

“My mind has always been on Fashion Institute of Technology,” she said. “At the time I was growing up, it was once you graduate you get a job, so I (thought) go into the medical field because I like helping people out.”

But she’s cutting back on her hours while plotting a way to keep working enough to cover the cost of her return to school.

Carolyn Fast, special counsel for Attorney General Letitia James, urged people to remain alert while making their way through the world of college financing.

“If a company calls and says they’re part of the government … and they’re trying to pressure you to pay them to get loans forgiven, it’s a scam,” she said. “It’s complicated, but you can do it for free.”