How Cougars Can Deal with the Cost of College

College is getting more expensive every year. Around 43 million Americans owe a total of $1.6 trillion in student debt. In order to help borrowers during the pandemic, the Trump administration paused student loan payments, and the Biden administration continued this pause until the end of June. In August 2022, the president announced that he would be eliminating $10,000 in student loan debt per borrower and up to $20,000 for people who received Pell Grants. It also cut the repayment rate from 10% of someone’s discretionary income to 5%. The policy is means-tested, so no person who made more than $125,000 in 2021 would have their balance reduced. 

Shortly after this announcement, six states sued the president, claiming his executive order was unconstitutional. A federal judge blocked the forgiveness, and an appeals court upheld the lower court’s ruling. The case is now on its way to the Supreme Court, and the fate of student loan forgiveness remains uncertain. 

Regardless, this forgiveness plan only applies retroactively to people who have already taken out student loans, so college hopefuls at Apex High will still have to find a way to pay their college tuition.

A poll of 439 college-bound students conducted during both lunches found that 62% of students thought that they would have to take out student loans, 28% thought they wouldn’t have to, and 10% were unsure. 

That means that most students at Apex High will likely find themselves in debt to pay for their college education. 

Many students said that they plan to apply for financial aid. Some have a college fund that their family has been paying into for years. Others have wealthy family members who are able to fully finance their education. 

Ms. Brannan, Apex High’s financial aid advisor, gave several recommendations when asked how students could prepare for college financing.

She said students could prepare for the cost of college by understanding the Financial Aid Timeline. A lot of financial aid is offered on a first-come, first-served basis, so knowing the deadlines for certain types of aid is important. She highly recommended filling out a FAFSA, which opened up for graduating students on October 1. Working part-time jobs can also help pay for a college education. 

Looking for scholarships is always key, and most colleges offer information about scholarships on their website.

When asked if college is worth the price of admission, Ms. Brannan said: “There are many variables to consider such as the desires and goals of the graduating high school student, budget for college, will they have family support financially to help pay for college and their desired major/career field? As you can imagine, it is truly an individual decision based upon the student’s goals and aspirations.” 

She also laid out four variables for students to consider:

  1. Do they want the college campus experience or are they looking to get their degree and go directly to work? 
  2. Do they need to pay for college without outside family financial assistance?
  3. What other options are available to the student?   Options might include the military, 2-year college program to start their career sooner, work in the career field/college major while seeking their degree – this can often occur with a 2-year associate degree and through a co-op program or internships while seeking the 4-year degree.   Keep an open mind to consider all options available for you to reach your college goals.
  4. If the student is considering a loan – make sure they understand all the terms and conditions of the loan.

College is not for everyone, and many may consider alternatives to a four-year institution. When asked how students should consider alternatives, Ms. Brannan said: “Students need to consider their own individual goals, what the career field requires, and how much income it may generate for them, especially if they have to need to get a college loan.  College loans often can be as expensive as a home mortgage.” 

She listed alternatives such as apprenticeship programs, community college, Wake Tech university transfer programs, and military service. 

With fifteen million Americans going to college every year, financing is a big part of the American experience. But there are many things that students can do to make the process not so nightmarish.

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