Student Debt: Collect it in college, keep it forever, or so it seems

 Alexandra Woolbright


College is for most, a memorable experience. Students meet new people, prepare for the future and usually gain 15 to 20 pounds.

However, for most, the Freshman 15 isn’t all that’s being gained.

According to the Huffington Post, college debt is on the rise. The average student in 2012 graduated with a degree and $29, 400 in student debt. This amount has increased in less than a decade, with students in 2004 owing only an average of $18, 750.

The New York Federal Reserve Bank reported 12 percent of student loans were delinquent by 90 days or more, and outstanding balances have risen from $33 billion to $1.03 trillion.

From the start of one’s college career, paying for school is an immediate issue. Students cannot finalize schedules without having paid their debt or created a payment plan for the semester. Though scholarships certainly help, not all students are eligible, leaving a large sum to pay for education.

For most, deciding on which college to attend is based largely on scholarship eligibility and financial aid opportunities. In fact, scholarships and financial assistance played a major role in the decision of some MUW students.

“My scholarship played an enormous role in my choosing the “W.” I visited for the first time on Scholar’s Day and was one of a lucky few to receive a Centennial Scholarship. I probably couldn’t be here at all if not for that,” says senior theatre major Casey Duke from Corinth, Miss.

Graduating college is meant to be a joyous time of celebration, but for some it becomes a warning of loans that must soon be paid.

The Huffington Post reported that private student loans averaged $13, 600, meaning 1 in 3 graduates left college with debts to repay. While some students who receive federal loans can be qualified for forgiveness programs, as well as restricted a borrower’s income of no more than 15 percent, private loans do not offer these luxuries.

Also, some students must work while enrolled in school as a way to make ends meet, regardless of financial assistance.

“I do work in order to live, although school was paid for through scholarships,” says senior biology major Kori Latham from Weir, Miss.

With an increase in student loan debt, this affects students’ decisions to pursue higher education.

“When applying to grad schools, I did take into account which programs offered graduate assistantships. From what I’ve heard about grad school, living simply is the way to go,” says senior English and Spanish major Alexandra Torres from Houston, Miss.

Though student debt can be overwhelming,having a degree provides more job opportunities, leading to quicker loan repayment.

According to The New York Times, the median male with a college degree made 1.95 times as much as the median male with a high school diploma as of 2011.

Dr. Andrew Luccasen, assistant professor of finance and economics at MUW, encourages students to immediately begin working to pay off debt.

“In a nutshell, students can finish college with a lot of debt, but average earnings are higher for those with a college degree. One common mistake people make is not making the minimum payments. If a student does not make the minimum payment, then their debt can be increasing, not decreasing over time,” said Luccasen.

Overall, money is in the forefront of students’ mind and financial responsibility begins immediately upon entering college.