Student debt: Is there a way out?

Stressed student

Debt.

It's the newest four-letter profanity among college kids.

A word that once was mostly connected with credit cards and home mortgages now strikes fear into the hearts of college students nearly every day. The one thing students are taught to avoid in college is largely unavoidable now due to the rising costs of college.

According to the College Board Trends in College Pricing report for 2019, tuition alone for “flagship colleges” in all 50 states raised 2.47 percent from the 2018-2019 school year to the 2019-2020 school year.

Debt weighs on every student who needs loans to finance their education.

Music performance senior Kassie Lindamood is in her second semester at Oklahoma State. She has taken out about $13,000 in loans... so far. She did not have to take out any at her previous institution.

“It makes me feel constantly stressed,” Lindamood said. “My main concern is that I won’t make enough money as a performer or teacher to pay off my loans.”

Carrying student loans can greatly affect how students look at their futures. Hunter Pogue, a senior management and information systems major, has taken out nearly $60,000 in loans.

“Being in debt adds a lot of stress,” Pogue said. “I feel as though I will be digging myself out of a hole for the first part of my career while I am paying the loans back … I think it will affect my ability to make important purchases such as buying a car or a house.”

Congresswoman Kendra Horn, House Representative for the fifth district of Oklahoma, is sponsoring and helping write legislation to address the student loan debt crisis many current and former students face.

“Student loans and student debt is something than affects so many of us,” Horn said during a town hall meeting at OSU-OKC. “Not only those of us who have it or had it or anticipate having to take it out, but it is an issue for people, for individuals and it is an economic issue for so many.

"Over the course of the last couple of decades across this country, and Oklahoma is certainly no exception, we have been a part of this. The cost of a higher education at a public four-year institution has more than doubled … Now we have $1.6 trillion across this country in outstanding student loan debt, and the average Oklahoman has $26,000.”

Students complain that OSU isn’t doing enough to inform them on loans and student debt, in terms of what tools are available for help and more. Both Pogue and Lindamood said they have not received any information from OSU about loans.

“It’s almost like the university tries its best to not talk about it,” Lindamood said. “Everyone knows that everyone is in debt, but no one talks about it.”

The recently opened Chase Bank in Stillwater is planning to have classes free of charge to help students with their finances.

“We are thrilled to be here at really what we think is the heart of the community, which is right across the street from the Oklahoma State University campus,” said Jonny Rogers, branch manager for Stillwater’s Chase Bank. “We want to serve all of the community but particularly the student population we find really really important.

“A lot of people get to college and they don’t have a plan for personnel finance. We here, free of charge, could be that source for students about how to build a budget, how to build a plan and how to get started on the right foot because your financial life starts right when you hit campus.”

Pogue said he would be “very interested” in a financial aid class.

“I think most students would benefit from it,” Pogue said. “When you come to college, you don’t have very much guidance and I think that classes would help students make smarter decisions with their money.”

Debt is not only something students deal with throughout their collegiate careers, it follows students for the rest of their lives.

While things may be happening to help students, will they ever be able to catch up?

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