Marcus Miller and Kaitlin Alegria, 24, of Topeka, Kan., always had their eyes on the prize. Both attended Washburn University; Miller now works as a diversion coordinator at a district attorney’s office, and Alegria is completing law school. Everything looks rosy for the couple—except their student loan debt; each owes upwards of $60,000. “I started college on a full football scholarship but stopped playing ball after the first year and began taking out loans,” says Miller. “I didn’t think about paying them back.” Students of color graduate with especially heavy burdens: 81 percent of African-Americans and 67 percent of Latinos (compared to 64 percent of Whites) leave school with debt. The good news is, President Barack Obama has expanded the Pay As You Earn program, which allows federal student loan holders to cap monthly payments at 10 percent of their income and forgives the balance after 20 years. The program does not, however, apply to state, private or peer-to-peer loans. Here’s a cheat sheet for the best ways to manage student loans after graduation and strategies for those with advanced degrees of debt to finally start saving and investing in their future.

1|Study smart. “Your monthly student loan payment should be no more than 10 percent of your pre-tax monthly income,” says Marilyn Stanley, CEO of Kansas nonprofit Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc. For example, if you expect to make $4,000 a month, the total monthly payment for all student loans combined should be no more than $400. Visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook at to see the fastest growing fields and the income prospects for the course of study you intend to pursue.

Read more in the September 2014 issue of EBONY Magazine.