College: Four Years for Undergrads, In Debt for Life

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December 11, 2012 by robloveless

It’s December, the time of year when high school seniors finalize their college applications, while college seniors prepare to graduate. About five years have passed since the start of the recession and undergraduates wonder if they are prepared to face the “big, bad economy”. Is a college degree enough to secure a job that will pay the bills?

Got Cash?“I can actually make more money [in business] than in psychology,” Timo Breitkopf, a sophomore at Duquesne University, explained. With college loans hovering over his head, Breitkopf decided to pursue a degree in business, although he originally planned to major in psychology. Even though he will earn more money with a business degree, he plans to pay off college loans for about 10 to 15 years after graduation.

Most college graduates are no stranger to college debt. AccordingPay For College Brochures to The Project on Student Debt, students who graduated in 2011 owe on average $26,600 and two thirds of the class is in debt. In fact, Pennsylvania is ranked as the second highest debt state, owing an average $29,959. While some expect the economy to improve over the next couple years, current undergraduates anticipate to be in debt for some time. Duquesne student Ben Sudie plans to enter the job market directly after graduation, but still estimates that it will take at least 20 to 30 years to pay off his own loans.

Unemployment RateTo avoid a miserable job market, some students decide to further their education. In fact, by 2020, the National Center for Education Statistics predicts an 11 percent increase of students under 25 enrolled in graduate school. This may appeal to more students since a Master’s degree earns almost 50 percent more than a high school diploma. However, while a Master’s degree may be another option for graduates who cannot find a job, they will still be accruing more debt. Still, some students, such as Patty Camarda, feel that a graduate degree will improve their chances to obtain a higher paid position.

“I probably am going to go get my Master’s,” she concluded. “I’m going into teaching so you get a little bit more money that way.”

In this time of financial struggles, universities do offer more scholarships and grants. In fact, 36 percent of private schools awarded scholarships to students who didn’t qualify for need based financial aid. Additionally, financial aid is granted to families based upon financial needs. Government loans, such Loansas Stafford loans, distribute “$5,500 to $12,500 per year depending upon financial need. However, when the average cost of a private college is $28,500, scholarships may not seem to even make a dent in the tuition as the loans begin to pile up. Meanwhile, Camarda’s grimace over the thought of how long it will take to pay off her loans speaks for itself.

“Oh God, I haven’t even thought about it. Probably a very long time, if I can even get a job after graduation.”

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