The Price of College is Rising, While Student Financial Stability is Falling

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Photo Illustration / Frankie Stevens

You’re finally graduating college after four hard years of lectures, late nights, and coffee. Finally free from the everyday rhythm of classes and homework, you’re ready to start your new job, but let’s not forget about the $50 thousand dollars in student loans that got you to this point.

Every year, students are graduating from college with thousands of dollars in student debt. Milestones like buying a house, starting a family or saving for retirement are all affected by this.

For the students in Kalamazoo Public Schools who receive the Kalamazoo Promise, paying for college isn’t as scary as it is for others. These students have the security of knowing that a portion of, or all of their tuition is paid for.

“If I didn’t have The Promise and couldn’t get enough grants or scholarships, I don’t think going to college would be worth taking out loans,” said Loy Norrix junior Josh Wild.

Forty million Americans have an average of $29,000 in student debt each, making the nationwide total rise to $1.2 trillion. Many people put off going to college or decide not to go when they realize they can’t afford it straight out of high school, but as a college education becomes a requirement for many jobs, not going to college is less of an option.

“Student loans were the only way I was going to be able to go to college, so I think it was worth taking them out because I wasn’t able to pay for it myself,” said Loy Norrix teacher Jay Peterson. It took Peterson 13 years to finish paying off his student loan debt.

For others that are fresh out of college and have only been teaching for a few years, like  Math teacher Samantha Maxwell, finally paying off student loans is a long term goal.

“This is the fourth year I have been paying them, and I’ll continue to pay them for at least thirty more,” said Maxwell.

Other countries like Brazil, Finland, Germany, and Sweden all offer free college tuition. In France annual tuition is $150-$900 dollars, but compared to the U.S that equals about two credit hours at Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC). Finland, on the other hand, has completely free college tuition and is said to have the best education system in the world. Free college comes with a price though, at an average tax rate of 24 percent. The European countries have higher taxes, so they can offer additional social services like college.

Other methods of paying for college include grants and scholarships. If a student doesn’t have proper funds, applying for them is beneficial since the money can go towards room and board and books.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FASFA, provides $150 billion in federal grants and loans each year to more than 13 million students who are struggling to pay for college. The process starts with filling out and applying for student aid, getting a federal student aid ID and providing the right paperwork.The state deadline for students attending college in 2016-2017 is March 1st for applications.

After you submit your application, it takes a few weeks to know if you have been selected to receive student aid. If you have been selected, you choose which type of aid you need and reply back within the deadline. The process can be long but well worth the help you receive.

Overall, the price of college in the United States is an average of over $32 thousand and the students here are struggling to keep up with payments. Students need to get involved in their future and learn about their financial options to avoid being part of the 40 million in debt.

 

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