Tick, Tick… BOOM!
A few weeks ago I had a nightmare.
In this nightmare I was in the body of Robin Williams as Peter Pan in one of my favorite films Hook.
At first I was flying high above green mountain tops, looking out into the horizon and before my eyes were my fellow UA students as the lost boys.
As I continued to fly through the clouds I noticed a ship where I could see student loan creditors dressed as Captain Hook and his many pirates.
As I continued to fly through the air I saw an endless line of freshmen entering Neverland through a gate. Before they passed through the gate each one of them was forced to empty all of the money out of their pockets onto a mountainous pile that reached the sky.
Then, from the distance, I could hear the sound of a ringing clock. Then another and another ringing clock until I was surrounded by the sound.
“The crocodile will be after Captain Hook any second,” I thought.
But the crocodile never came.
Instead the sound of the clocks continued to become louder and eventually the clock sitting at the top of the pile of money sounded off causing the pile to explode and cover everyone and everything in Neverland.
I woke up.
Later that day I picked up a copy of the Sunday Edition of the New York Times and the story on the cover page was about a recent college graduate, Kelsey Griffith, who had $120,000 of debt after graduating from Ohio Northern University.
Her monthly payment was about $900. At that rate she will pay off her college debt in about 133 months or 11 years, but in order to make those payments she will have to move back in with her parents.
Her story is one of several stories in this New York Times series about “A Generation Hobbled by College Debt.
Granted, this is a very sad story, but one thing that should be noted is the fact that Griffith’s debt is not exactly representative of the average student debt after graduation at her university.
Ohio Northern University’s tuition and fees in 2007 was $28,260 and the average student debt after graduation was $39,349.
Yes, $39,349 is still a lot of money, but it is substantially less than Griffith’s $120,000 debt after graduation.
So, keep in mind that the article points out some of the more extreme cases as opposed to average cases.
Nevertheless, the problem of student debt has been building for quite some time and this past year student loan debt surpassed credit card debt as well as passing the $1 trillion mark, according to finaid.org.
So, my nightmare is on its way to becoming a reality, right? Well, not exactly for UA students.
For the 2012-2013 school year, tuition and fees for an in-state, undergraduate student taking 15 hours averages $7,554. The average is $17,002 for an out-of-state student, according UA Office of Institutional Research.
Additionally, the average UA student is in $21,000 of student loan debt when they graduate from their undergraduate program, said UA Director of Financial Aid Kattie Wing in a recent Traveler interview.
So, graduating with debt can be a problem, but attending the UA means students on average will have less student loan debt after graduation.
Despite the recent 5.3 percent increase in tuition and fees for in-state students for the 2012-2013 school year, UA tuition and fees for in-state students is the fifth cheapest out of the 14 Southeastern Conference schools, according to College Board.
Now, it is still possible for a UA student to accumulate $120,000 in debt, but certainly less likely than many schools. This is why it is important for freshmen, and all college students, to evaluate how much his or her college experience will cost so that he or she will not be forced to make very high monthly payments or move back in with mom and dad like the student in the Times series.
After researching for this column I can say that my nightmare does not seem as likely to happen at the UA, yet, that does not mean it is impossible for UA students to accumulate a large amount of debt.
My advice? Budget and make wise purchases the next four years. The $1,500 television or $20,000 car