ECU graduates thousands; loan debt could hurt economy - WRBL

ECU graduates thousands; loan debt could hurt economy

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East Carolina University is sending out another graduating class.  Friday marked the first day of the rest of their lives.

Thousands of East Carolina University students officially graduated Friday morning and 9 On Your Side was there for the commencement ceremony.

It was a packed 50-yard line at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium as more than 3,600 students donned their purple and gold for one last time as a student.

Alumna and award-winning developer of children's programs, Dr. Valeria Lovelace, challenged students to always be themselves.

"Today is very exciting. It's a reward and a celebration of an accomplishment," said Jessica Anderson, graduating with a Masters in School Administration.

By Thursday the commencement stage was assembled and workers were putting on the final touches before today's ceremony.
Police urged those attending the graduation ceremony to show up early because parking was expected to fill up quickly.

"We ran the Pig Skin Pig Out where we had the spring football game a few weeks ago. We were able to test our operations, test our communication and technology and our command post. We are going to continue to do the same for this event," said Lieutenant Chris Sutton, ECU Police.

The optimism was high during the day's ceremony and new reports show student loans are also higher than ever.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently released new data showing total student loan debt at $966 billion as of March. Some experts say that number had now reached the $1 trillion mark.

The average loan balance rose by close to $10,000 since 2005.  This after more-and-more borrowers come on the market, more than 10 million more since 2005.

With high student loans, CBS Money Watch projects the recent graduates will be less likely to immediately purchase cars and homes, hurting the economy.

"Yes, that concerns me a lot with the amount of student loans I have right now and will have in the future," said Kimberly Thomas, a ECU College of Nursing graduate, "but I'm excited about pursuing my education and that's what it's all about."

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