The Cost Of College
Start writing a post
Student Life

The Cost Of College

Why student loan debt is so high

The Cost Of College

Justin Magee is pursuing his Ph. D. in UTEP’s department of Psychology’s Legal Psychology program. He’s had a diverse educational career, graduating with a B.A. in Sociology from Arkansas Tech University and a M.S. in Intelligence and National Security Studies from UTEP.

In 2019 Justin will graduate with his doctorate and roughly $100,000 in student loan debt.

According to the most recent statistics, the United States has amassed $1.26 trillion in total student loan debt, dispersed among 44.2 millions American borrowers. This amount is the second highest level of consumer debt in the country, behind mortgages.

Students from public colleges took out an average of $25,550 by the time they graduates. The average monthly student loan payment amounts to $351. In 2012, 71 percent of four-year graduates had student loan debt. One in four student loan borrowers are either in loan delinquency or have defaulted on their loans, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Research has shown that rising tuition rates and in turn, rising student loan debts have had a negative impact on the economy. Recent graduates are discouraged by their high debt from making the kinds of purchases that drive our nation’s economic growth, like purchasing houses and cars.

The cause for rising student loan debt comes from a variety of factors. First, state investment in college funding has diminished significantly, leaving colleges to make up the difference by raising tuition rates. At the same time, federal financial aid has not adjusted proportionately to the tuition increases, leaving many students to come up with the remaining tuition on their own. In the eighties, federal financial aid covered over half the costs of attending a four-year public college. Today, federal aid covers less than one-third of the cost of attendance, if you manage to qualify.

For Justin, student loans seemed inevitable, “I do not come from a moneyed background by nearly anyone’s standards, so familial financial support was nonexistent. For some reason, I have never qualified for a penny of federal Pell grant money, despite my limited means.”

Increasing demand for higher education has also contributed to rising loan rates. Stagnant wages in the United States has pushed more Americans to go to school to increase their job qualifications.

Many students are left with no option but to work through school to help offset costs. But do to stilted wages in the United States, earned income hardly makes a dent.

“I was left to pay for housing, utilities, transportation, sustenance, tuition, fees, books, etc. (e.g. EVERYTHING) on $6.25/hour (yes, that was minimum wage in Arkansas at the time), being scheduled 20 hours a week if I was lucky,” says Justin. “An extremely liberal estimate of my monthly earnings at the time totals at $500. What other option does an 18-year-old student have in this situation other than take advantage of loans? Drop out of university and be relegated to a life of minimum wage work? These sure seemed like the only options at the time.”

The irony is that the flood of college graduates has depreciated the value of a bachelor’s degree. Some even consider a present day bachelor’s degree at the value level of a high school diploma from the eighties.

Many students graduate and find they cannot find a career in their field, reducing them to minimum wage jobs. At the same time, they are expected to make large monthly repayments on their student loans.This has pushed many students to pursue even higher education, take out more loans and delay repayment and increase the overall national debt.

For Justin, his debt comes with a heavy mental toll. “The impact my debt has had on my life has been entirely psychological up to this point. That is to say, the massive debt I have incurred weighs heavily on my mind, ever looming in my future like a slowly approaching tsunami. I am standing in the shadow of an incomprehensibly large wave, waiting to feel its full force crash down on me. Any attempt at reducing the impact of my debt similarly feels like trying to drain the Pacific with a measuring cup.”

A controversial issue that plays a factor in rising tuition costs is administrative bloat; universities and colleges spending millions of dollars on non-academic facilities and staff, leaving students to pick up the cost.

Financial illiteracy plays a large role in student loan debt as well. Although all student are required to undergo entrance and exit loan counseling provided by the federal government, most students don’t understand the full scope of the debt they have taken out until the reality hits after graduation. At first, student loans seem like free money. Students take out a loan and receive funds almost immediately and don’t have to pay them back in the immediate future. Four years can seem like a very long time.

Justin advises prospective students to search for other avenues for aid before settling on loans. “I would advise this hypothetical individual to first seek additional funding through their university’s Office of Scholarships or relevant administrative department. These offices usually list several options for scholarships and grants, both public and private, about which information is not readily available (or at least aggregated) elsewhere. Searching online for alternative sources of funding can also turn up interesting options. Online field-specific communities and organizations often have areas devoted to funding.”

If you are one of the over 40 million Americans with student loan debt, there are several ways to help manage your financial situation.

The first and most important thing is to be aware of your student loan debt. Find out who your loan servicer is and develop a rapport with them. Communicating with your loan service provider will help you stay informed about the status of your loan at all times. Regularly logging into your account and tracking your progress will keep your loan repayments fresh in your mind and help you to budget your income and avoid late or incomplete payments.

If possible, try to back portions of your student loans before you graduate. These payments don’t have to be large, maybe pay back $50 dollars of your loan instead of going out to a restaurant for one night. The amounts seem insignificant but any amount paid off while you are still in school is money that won’t be factored into your loans interest. Reducing your loan amount by even a little will also reduce your monthly payments.

Try and pay off your loans on time and consistently. This will help you by reducing any added costs incurred by deferment or forbearance. Paying your debt back in a timely and consistent manner will also help you increase your credit score and help your consumer credibility in the long run.

If your loan payments are becoming too great of a financial struggle, talk to your service provider. Loan service provider employees more often than not have personal experience paying loan debt. They will work with you to find a more suitable plan to help you pay back your loans. Your loan service provider would rather you pay back a little at a time rather than nothing at all. Don’t shirk your payments because this will only increase your overall debt and also destroy your credit at the same time.

While choosing to take out a loan and go into debt is a huge financial decision, it is not all bad. Student loans allow students the opportunity to achieve a higher education without breaking their backs trying to juggle work and school. The positive effects of student loans are not lost on Justin, “I would not have been able to complete my B.A., much less any advanced degrees, without the support offered by student loans. While imposing a massive burden on me, federal loans have made higher education a reality in my life. Soon, I will be able to call myself Doctor. I couldn’t have done that without student loans. As problematic as our student loan system is, that’s pretty cool.”

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

Why I Don't Write (Or Read) An "Open Letter To My Future Husband/Wife"

Because inflated expectations and having marriage as your only goal are overrated.

Urban Intellectuals

Although I have since changed my major I remember the feverish hysteria of applying to nursing school--refreshing your email repeatedly, asking friends, and frantically calculating your GPA at ungodly hours of the night. When my acceptance came in I announced the news to friends and family with all the candor of your average collegiate. I was met with well wishes, congratulations, and interrogations on the program's rank, size, etc. Then, unexpectedly, I was met with something else.

Keep Reading... Show less
Content Inspiration

Top 3 Response Articles of This Week

Meet the creators making their voices heard on Odyssey.

Top 3 Response Articles of This Week
Why I Write On Odyssey

At Odyssey, we're on a mission to encourage constructive discourse on the Internet. That's why we created the response button you can find at the bottom of every article.

Last week, our response writers sparked some great conversations right here on our homepage. Here are the top three response articles:

Keep Reading... Show less

"Arthur's Perfect Christmas" Is The Perfect Holiday Special, Move Over Charlie Brown

Arthur Read is here to deliver the real meaning of Christmas.


As the holiday season draws nearer, many of us find ourselves drawn to the same old Rankin-Bass Christmas specials and the perennial favorite, "A Charlie Brown Christmas." However, I would like to suggest an overlooked alternative, "Arthur's Perfect Christmas." It is a heartfelt, funny, and surprisingly inclusive Christmas special that deserves more recognition.

Keep Reading... Show less

Reclaim Your Weekends From The 'Sunday Scaries' With 'Self-Love Sundays' Instead

Everyone needs a day to themselves sometimes.

Reclaim Your Weekends From The 'Sunday Scaries' With 'Self-Love Sundays' Instead
Olivia DeLucia

Laid back and taking it easy — sometimes that is the motto we all need after a busy week. Sunday scaries? Yes, they are valid – but you know what else is? A Sunday full of self-love. A lazy Sunday spent doing what you feel needs to be done to ease into the next week. Self-Love Sundays are a guilty pleasure that isn't only essential for our mind, and body, but are also a surprisingly proactive way to devote the upcoming week with a clear mindset.

So, what is a more suitable way to dedicate your week's end than a beautifully, connected playlist to accompany your face masks and journaling? Cheers, to a Self-Love Sunday (and a playlist intertwined with it to match). (Please note: "Sunday Morning" isn't included in this list, due to the obvious, but feel free to blast it anyway, we know you want to).

Keep Reading... Show less

On Sunday Morning

Breaking Free

Sunset Girl

The sun rose and peeked through the sheer curtains. Rose’s alarm shrieked. The loud bells caused her phone to jump on the side table. It was time for her to get ready for church. Blindly reaching for her phone, she shut the alarm off and pulled at the covers providing her a cocoon of warmth and tossed them to the side. She swept her bare feet across the bed to touch the cool wooden floor.

Rose softly tiptoed to the corner of the bedroom to grab her clothes dangling on the arm of the bedroom chair. Scooping all of the items of her chosen outfit, she headed to the bathroom hoping that she wouldn’t drop anything.

Round, piercing blue eyes stared back at her in the bathroom mirror. Rose fingered the wrinkles forming around her eyes. So many of them bore signs of laughter and smiling. Slowly dropping her hands, she couldn’t remember the last time she laughed in her home with Tom. Shaking her head as if to erase the negative thoughts, she reached for her makeup bag and went through her regular routine.

Applying her favorite deep rose lipstick, Rose headed downstairs to make her coffee and bagel to take with her to church. The smell of dark-roast coffee swirled in the air as Rose sliced her cinnamon raisin bagel. Hearing the Keurig sputter with the fresh brew, Rose found the interruption of the stillness comforting. The toaster signaled that her bagel was done with a soft pop. It had a delicious golden brown color. Placing the bagel on the counter, she generously spread honey nut flavored cream cheese across both halves. Gathering her bible, notebook, and pens from the side table on the porch she stuffed them into her purse. Purse hanging on her right shoulder she juggled her coffee and bagel in both of her hands as she headed to the garage.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments