Generation of Students Told to Put
Hands in their Pockets
So school fees have become an election issue. Obama was even ‘slow jamming’ on the topic last week on the Jimmy Fallon show. It is an issue for Republicans too. The threat of interest doubling on federal student loans in July has seen rejection from both parties, though they differ on the detail.
The issue is hot but not just because there are voters to win over. Debt has always been problem for graduates and Obama for one says he remembers leaving college with a ‘mountain’ of it. The existing problem has been made worse because the two traditional sources of funding (state/federal contributions and tuition fees) are both facing downward pressures in this economic climate. Add to that the general negative economic backdrop and you have a situation where student loan debt has exceeded a trillion dollars!
Given the fact that, on average graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn 45% more than non-graduates, studying still might be the right financial decision. The fact is that you need to do your homework, both while you’re still at high school to keep up your grades and while you’re looking for funding to make sure you know about what is on offer. So what are the options?
Grants don’t have to be paid back. College offer their own grants with various criteria but also various federal grants are available, such as the Pell Grant and Teacher Assistance Grant. Whether you qualify to apply and the amount of the grant varies according to individual circumstances.
Scholarships are the only ticket for some people to study at the college of their choice and, like grants, do not have to be repaid. Those provided by colleges usually have to be competed for and are won on the grounds of factors such as academic achievement, musical or sporting talent, personal background and so on.
You might also be associated with an organization that awards scholarships. Awarding bodies range from church bodies to the company that one of your parents might work for. If you qualifying to make an application for one of the many scholarships available, the key to winning one is to make sure your form is filled in well and gets in on time.
Sadly, this is the way most students have to cover a lot of their fees. Federal and private loans are available to students. Federal loans include the Perkins and Stafford loans and are likely to be relatively friendly with low interest rates and high flexibility. In some cases the interest is subsidized, which might mean it is paid for you while you are still a student. Private loans, being more expensive and less flexible, are available to those for whom other avenues may have failed and options should be researched thoroughly.
To help pay your way or to chip away at any loans during college, you can find a job. If you are lucky it might be relevant to your study programme. Alternatively, you might be able to sign up for a programme like the Federal-Work Study programme, which aims to provide undergraduates with work that serves the community or is along the lines of their studies. It pays at least at the minimum wage, possibly on campus or is otherwise based off campus with a public organization or non-profit organization that works in the public interest.
Not all degrees are likely to bring high wages. Many graduates will still share part of that trillion-plus debt for years and be buying cars by the month rather than in one payment and find it difficult to secure a mortgage deal as a consequence of their high debt load. Remember though that the subject you chose and how hard you study will have a great bearing on your earnings on the other side and how quickly you free yourself of any debt. While you are deciding on a programme of study, you might want to take a look at the job market, speak to professionals and read around to see what’s out there for people who take your path. Graduation will come round sooner than you think!
Janine Hardy is a freelance writer from England who specializes in life coaching and self improvement writing for a number of local publications. She works with many good causes including helping and advising students at local colleges and writing on behalf of an alcohol addiction center.