The Burden of Student Loans


College is expensive. I think everyone can agree on that. What everyone can't agree on is how to pay for it. Since this is a huge topic, I'm not going to cover it all in one post. Today, I'll cover the costs of college and a little bit about student loans. Next week, I'll hit you with some information on how to pay for college and some ways to get a college education without spending a ton of money. 

First, let's point out the actual costs of college. I went to two different colleges for one year at each. Since this is what I am familiar with, this is what I am going to use as an example. Yes, I know there are cheaper schools out there and I'll get to that in a minute.

My freshman year was spent at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA. I attended from the fall semester of 1994 through the spring semester of 1995. (Yes, I know I am old.) When I went there, the annual tuition was about $14,000. The annual tuition of attending for the 2014 - 2015 year is about $34,000. (Please note, this doesn't include room and board or books. I don't have the numbers for 1994 but, in 2014, that takes the total cost up to about $45,000 per year.) That is a huge jump! 

I transferred for my sophomore year to Beaver College (now called Arcadia University) in Glenside, PA. In 1995, the tuition was about $13,000. Tuition this year is $37,500. (Again, this doesn't include room and board or books. That total is $52,400.) Wow.

My tuition cost for two years of college comes to approximately $27,000. This still doesn't cover room and board or books and supplies, which generally adds at least another $10,000 per year. So it's safe to estimate that my two years of college cost me almost $50,000. Sadly, I didn't fully understand the cost or how to pay for it. And, here I am, about 20 years later, still nowhere near paying off my student loans. 

When I was in college, I double majored in Theater Arts and Communications with a minor in Music. While I know that Theater Arts majors don't rake in the cash, no one really told me that I would still have a difficult time paying off my student loans with a Communications degree. It is rather unfair to expect our teenagers (remember, most people entering college are 17 or 18 years old) to burden themselves with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt before they can even legally drink alcohol. Yes, there are ways to lower the costs a bit. I did get a little bit in grants and scholarships but nothing that paid the large chunk of money I now owed the school. 

Don't get me wrong. I have every intention of paying off my student loans. (Not that I have much of a choice. Student loans can't be discharged via bankruptcy and, if you can't pay and default, the government will garnish your wages.) However, having these huge monthly payments looming over my head every month means I can't do things like buy a new house or replace my ancient mattress or just go vacation. It would be awesome if the government would come up with a way to forgive student loans after a certain amount of time. (With the assumption that your loan is in good standing.) I mean, there are people on Social Security that are still paying student loans! Your student loans shouldn't last longer than your mortgage. 

Next week: Join me as I'll talk about ways to get a college education without spending a lifetime's income. It is possible! I wish someone told me this when I was young!