The Cost Of College
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Student Life

The Cost Of College

Why student loan debt is so high

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The Cost Of College
NPR

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.”

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/americas-growing-...

https://www.navient.com/loan-customers/getting-sta...

https://studentloanhero.com/student-loan-debt-stat...

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