SF State students feel the burn of student debt

Allison Michael will be graduating from SF State this semester with close to $40,000 in debt, despite saving as much as she could by going to community college and only spending two years as a student at the University.

“I’m almost in denial about it,” Michael said. “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

She has found herself in the same place as most other college students who believe they fall into the middle class. Their parents make just enough so they get the bare minimum in financial aid, but, while living in California, their parents don’t have enough money to pay for their education anymore.

Michael was raised by a single mother in Redondo Beach, and her father contributes to her education when he can, but those times are few and far between. Her mother has had to take out the majority of the loans through the Parent PLUS program because she can only take out so much each semester, and will have to pay back her mother and the government beginning in just a few months.

After the semester comes to a close, Michael will be moving back home to stay with her mother and begin the job search with her newly acquired bachelor’s degree in history. She is waiting to hear back from the AmeriCorps, which will contribute $5,000 toward paying off her debt at the end of her one-year commitment. But that is just a start.

“Doing AmeriCorps isn’t about the money for me,” Michael said. “It’ll only take care of a small part of it, but it’ll be worth it.”

She is not alone in her worry about how to pay back her student loan debt.

John Gondkoff, 23, returned to community college in his hometown after one year at Cal State Channel Islands, during which he accumulated $7,000 in debt. He came from a similar middle class family, but has three brothers and one sister whom his parents are trying to put through college.

“I only have $800 more to pay off,” Gondkoff said. “I’ll be done paying off loans from Channel Islands right before I transfer to CSU East Bay and have to take out another loan. At least I’ll have a little bit of break.”

The two older brothers have already graduated, one from Pepperdine University and the other from Cal State Fullerton and both were able to pay most of their way with scholarships, but his parents had to help them out, too. His younger brother, Patrick, is a junior at Humboldt State University and has a full ride in tuition for playing football, but his parents are financing his room and board.

“They help out as much as they possible can, but it varies with every kid,” Gondkoff said.

For him and his youngest sister, who is about to graduate and go to Chico State University, it has been the largest financial burden.

“My sister is a very similar student to me,” Gondkoff said. “We don’t get all A’s, so it’s harder for us to get scholarships.”

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