As tuition costs rise, so does student debt
May 6, 2015
With graduation quickly approaching, many UW-River Falls seniors are beginning to consider how they’re going to start paying off their student loans, a small part of the national student debt crisis.
The crash of the housing market in 2007, along with the $800 billion bailout of Wall Street banks, took a huge toll on the average American homeowner at the time. It has been a long road to economic recovery, but most people who were effected are starting to become financially stable again. Young college graduates of America, though, are the first generation ever to be starting out their financial lives with more debt than their parents.
The Pew Research Center reported extensively on this problem in May of 2014. According to Pew Research: “Student debt is the only kind of household debt that continued to rise through the ‘Great Recession,’ eclipsing credit card debt to become the second largest type of debt owed by American households, after mortgages. A record 37 percent of young households had outstanding student loans in 2010, up from 22 percent in 2001 and 16 percent in 1989. The median student debt owed by these young households was $13,000.”
UWRF students are part of the over 40 million students who have to consider this problem. UWRF financial aid data lists a number of statistics about how much students are being aided by either private or federal loans. According to the data, about 75 percent of students receive aid of some sort, and are not paying for college completely on their own. Federal FAFSA loans are awarded to 33 percent of students, with the average loan being $3,919 per year. Twenty percent of students are receiving state-aid, which on average is about $1,702; the average loan total a UWRF student will have each year is $6,747.
One of these students is Conor Rose, a part-time student with an undeclared major. With two full years’ worth of credits completed, he is starting to think more about what is most economic for his situation and possible time frames of debt repayment.
“Finishing out my second year of school I have roughly $10,000 in student loans. Several were from my time spent as a student at Inver Hills Community College, where I was a full-time student at roughly $3,500 to $4,000 per semester for three semesters,” Rose said. “Now I have spent a full year at River Falls, and have spent roughly $8,000 on school here. I hope to pay off my loans in three to five years after graduation.”
For Rose, the decision to be a full- or part-time student came down to what he could responsibly take on financially.
“The risk of committing myself full time to a major or field of study, on borrowed money, with the possibility of graduating and either not finding a job, or not using my degree, is the main factor at why I’m not pursuing a full-time education at the moment,” Rose said.
Additionally, Rose feels the pressures of having to meet the financial standards for the degree that will help graduates pay off that bill has large psychological impacts.
“Nowadays, as a 24-year-old part-time student, the reality of living on my own, working, studying full time and maintaining a social life is practically impossible, because unfortunately you need this thing called sleep,” Rose said. “It’s almost impossible for me to go to school full time, while satisfying my other basic human needs like say, happiness.”
Likewise, Alysha Sis, a senior studying conservation, says she’s come to terms with where she’ll be at financially after graduating.
“I’ve already come to accept the fact that I’m going to be in debt for a while after I graduate,” Sis said. “I have a lot of support though, which is nice. I keep getting [aid notifications] from Sallie Mae reminding me how much I owe, but my mom has told me not to worry and that I will thrive.”
Throughout all majors offered at UWRF, most graduates will have employment at least related to their field upon graduation. Depending on starting salary, the exact percentage of repayment will vary from graduate to graduate, but federal loans must start being repaid within six months of graduating, or leaving school for other reasons.
While massive amounts of debt are looming over almost all students’ heads, a positive mindset is key in working towards a college degree. Students really don’t have time to think about this until actually graduating and the debt statements start arriving in our mailboxes.
“People don’t like to think about the future in a negative way, and honestly who likes thinking about bills?” Rose said. “It is obviously a subject that should be talked about, especially as we all move closer to graduation, but I believe I’m like the average student and I stuff those worries and emotions away, saving them for a later day.”