By Craig Carter
With most of MSA’s first graduating class set to enter college next fall, seniors are beginning to think past graduation and are starting to consider an issue that will affect us for years after we’re done with college: Debt. As in student loans. Even those of us with scholarships and attractive financial aid offers are likely to borrow some kind of money to make ends meet in school. And at some point, we’ll have to pay that money back.
The issue of student loans and student loan debt is a big one, and it’s growing. According to recently published reports, student loan debt is now second only to mortgage debt in the United States. That means Americans now pay more each month toward their student loans than they do for their cars or for anything they might buy with a credit card.
I’ll be attending DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana on a scholarship that will cover my full tuition and partial room-and-board. That’s a great deal, and it will save me $44,000 per year. But I am still going to be responsible for paying $6,720 to cover housing, food and other expenses each year. Over four years of undergraduate schooling, that’s a total of $26,880.
MSA College Counselor Antoine Finner said, “The average loan students in our 2012 class is around $13,000 a year.” That means students will have to borrow about $52,000 to pay for four years of college. The national average for student debt ranges from $30,000 to $70,000.
Mr. Finner warned about borrowing that money from private lenders.
“I’m not an expert of loans or anything but I can say never, ever take from private lenders! Always borrow from the government,” Finner said. “I think students and their parents should sit down and talk about a proper plan of action, then consult someone.”
Senior Davion Lindsey, who will be attending Alabama A&M in the fall, said he is not worried about student loan debt. “I don’t have much to take out in loans but one of my family members works for a bank and i think they would be a good source for me to talk to,” Lindsey said.
Senior David Brown is still undecided about his college choice but said cost is a big factor in making his final decision.
“The cost completely determines where I go, unless it was like Harvard or Yale. But most likely I’m going to go to Neveda-Reno because Purdue wanted $30,000 a year,” Brown said.
MSA Senior Jazimeon Sumner has decided to attend Southern Illionois University in Carbondale and she will have to earn or borrow about $6,000 a year to cover her needs. Asked about student loans, Sumner said, “I honestly have no idea.”
This honesty is what many students find themselves embarrassed to speak up and talk about. Most of the 12th graders I spoke with feel somewhat like Jazimeon, and several suggested that MSA host a student loan expo or assembly for all network 12th graders and their family members. Student loan experts could help explain the ins and outs of student loans, and how our 12th graders can be better prepared for the financial realities of college.
President Obama has made student loan debt an important part of his re-election campaign, and I felt it was an important topic to touch upon. If you have not seen the story in the news in the last few weeks, the federal government is attempting to raise interest rate on federal student loans from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, which will directly affect MSA’s class of 2012. Doubling the interest rate in our student loans means our college educations will be more expensive than they already are, and will take longer to pay off.
In this economy, that seems like a bad combination.