Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said that $26,000 was the average debt owed by college students last year. Nationally, the total student debt tops $1 trillion -- more than the $900 billion in national credit card debt.
"Only 50 percent of those of us who go to college graduate," Manchin added. "If you get a degree, you earn about twice as much."
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said she also "voted to keep interest rates down on federal student loans."
Capito said students coming out of medical schools today have an average of $180,000 in debts.
"They start going into [higher-paid] specialties because they want to repay their loans. But we also need general practitioners," Capito said.
Monday's roundtable was co-hosted by Maisha Challenger and Fred Stinson, outreach representatives from the U.S. Department of Education.
Some private advisers and consultants charge students up to $300 to help them find and apply for loans.
Challenger urges students to use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid program to document their eligibility for loans.
Each year, the Office of Federal Student Aid awards about $150 billion in grants, work-study funds and low-interest loans to more than 14 million students.
Donna Simon, West Virginia State's vice president for university relations, closed the roundtable stating, "These challenges of identifying access to financial aid are very real.
"We want to keep our best and brightest in West Virginia. We need to be getting financial aid to our college students in need. We need to promote an increasing awareness of federal financial aid."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.