Tuition costs rise, Connecticut students forced to pay more for higher education
Eric Urbanowicz – Special to the Southern News
Elizabeth Dixon, a freshman preparing to attend Gateway Community College, has more to worry about than just maintaining a good grade point average. According to a report from the Project on Student Debt at the Institute for College Access and Success, Connecticut is ranked sixth in average student debt in the United States.
“It’s s**t,” said Dixon, “honestly we have a horrible education status and if we had more affordable college, maybe we’d be able to be lower on the list.”
Connecticut is behind Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Delaware. Connecticut’s average student debt is at $30,191; almost double New Mexico’s average debt.
“I’m having a hard time finding a way to pay for it,” said Dixon. “I mean, I know there’s scholarships and financial aid, but I don’t think that’s enough. Not having the ability to get a job easily, and knowing I’m not able to pay for it using money I earn makes me wonder if I’ll ever actually be able to fully pay for it.”
The idea of having to pay back debt may be tricky, but Drew McWeeney, Southern student and radio talk show host, said that there is another pressure.
“I believe that the pressure of building adds to stress levels of the modern student,” said McWeeney. “If one is not getting a free ride to a college based on status such as: valedictorian and salutatorian, parents or kids can afford it.”
McWeeney said it could cause kids not to attend college at all because of the fear of not being able to pay back loans.
“The government makes claims that indicate the debt will be lowered, but I see that claim going nowhere,” said McWeeney.
According to analysis from the public four-year institutions, Southern Connecticut State University students average about $25,457 worth of debt in 2013 with about 73 percent of graduates having debt. Sarah Sobolewski is a graduate student who attends Southern, trying to get into the ACE program.
“Fortunately I don’t have any now, but if I get into the ACE program, then I’ll definitely be taking out crazy loans,” said Sobolewski. “That would put a lot of things on hold- house projects, extended smaller monthly car payments, and other everyday expenses. Debt would force me to say no to a lot of things I wouldn’t want to.”
Sobolewski said she doesn’t see the debt problem being fixed anytime soon, even with Governor Dannel Malloy being re-elected, whose main priority was fixing the student debt problem in Connecticut.
“Well unfortunately that doesn’t surprise me that much,” said Sobolewski. “Just living in Connecticut is ridiculously expensive, let alone attend school. Especially private schools that offer limited scholarships. I find that undergrads have a lot more scholarship opportunities, whereas graduate money assistance comes from research grants for thesis projects, etc. Tuition rise makes it very hard to encourage more people to attend graduate school, and makes me question if I can afford to continue my education further. Even people who have amazing budgeting skills struggle at times, so I feel for those future students who may be unprepared for how to deal with the real cost of more school.”
Student debt in Connecticut is now higher than last year’s national average student debt by nearly $2,000. Dixon said she’s not so much worried about attending school, as she is finding a job to pay off any loans.
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