Students Facing the Grim Future of Loan Debt

Jeniece RomanSpecial to the Southern News

Jerica Olson said she tried to do everything she could to avoid accepting a loan but it became unavoidable.

“It was very difficult to make that decision. I just recognized, like a lot of other students do, it’s something we have to do now. It’s very sad how much money we have to take out in loans but it is the reality that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon,” said Olson.

The idea of having to take out a loan was extremely burdensome and it was a decision Olson said she struggled with, going onto say that the decision to accept loans stressed her out. Despite having applied for financial aid and scholarships, taking out loans is what Olson said she needed to do.

According to a survey released by LendEDU, Connecticut was ranked first in the United States in student loan debt for the class of 2015. LendEDU is a website that provides tips on personal finance, a student loan repayment calculator and student loan refinance. LendEDU licensed raw data by Peterson’s Undergraduate Financial Aid Database, according to the website.

“I think a lot of students are just looking to pay for college and are using loans because they need to. They either don’t have enough grant or scholarship money and/or don’t have the means to do the payment plan,” said Lewis DeLuca, coordinator of Financial Literacy and Advising at Southern Connecticut State University.

“I’m taking out loans so I know. It’s a norm from my high school, to be able to go to school, to take loans,” said Shakera Ellison, a freshman nursing major.

Ellison said having to accept a loan did not surprise her, as it was expected of her to take out loans for college. Her high school, Achievement First in Hartford, only explained to her the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

“I think there is a misconception out there that, ‘Oh well financial aid is going to pay for everything.’ If the student commutes: then financial aid may pay for everything: if the student lives on campus, financial aid won’t pay for everything,” said DeLuca.

According to DeLuca, only seven high schools in Connecticut require a personal finance class in order to graduate. He said the lack of financial knowledge, as well as lack of saving college money, could be reasons why students and their parents decide to accept loans.

“Schools have become more expensive, we’re getting less free money from the state so raising tuition is kind of a way to balance that,” said DeLuca.

The standard student loan debt for students at SCSU is $24,029. This is not including books, supplies or room and board, according to DeLuca. He also said the state used to provide 60 percent of the funding and 40 percent came from tuition and fees. Within the past 10 years, the numbers were switched: 40 percent comes from the state and 60 percent from tuition and fees. According to DeLuca, loans have become a necessity in order to attend college.

“I do think the cost of tuition is far more expensive than people can afford,” said Olson. “So, I believe people want an education but they realize they’re going to take out a lot of money and loans in order to get that education. It’s just a reality that we have to face now.”

Photo Credit: John Walker

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