Students in debt question if college is worth the cost

A few years ago, it was normal to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years or less.

Since starting college at SF State in 2009, Kourtney Evans has had to delay her graduation due to financial hardships.

“My loans barely cover my tuition. Rent, books, bills, and sustaining myself are all out-of-pocket expenses and I don’t even make that much money,” Evans said. “That’s why I’ve always had to have a job to support myself.”

Depending on decisions made by Congress, interest rates on Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loans may double to 6.8 percent July 1, increasing the financial stress students experience. The increase would only affect those who take new loans. On average, if an incoming college student takes out loans, the payback is $1,000 more than the previous group of graduates.

Loans are broken up into subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Subsidized loans don’t accrue interest while in school at least half time or during the six-month grace period, while unsubsidized loans do collect interest from the moment the loan is dispersed, according to Rose Arbulú at the SF State Office of Student Financial Aid.

“Usually an unsubsidized loan will collect on average $136 a year in interest, depending on how much of it you accept,” Arbulú said.

Evans, a fourth-year business marketing major, currently owes $25,000 plus interest in loans, which is just above average for students, according to Arbulú. The possible doubling of interest rates may be the reason students like Evans may be unable to afford additional loans, ultimately leaving her unable to attend school.

A starting salary for an entry-level job in marketing is only $37,500 according to a Forbes article published in 2010. However with Evans’ current income, she feels she can pay off the loan within four years.

Alexandrea Manuel, a third-year biology major, is nearly $50,000 in debt. Manuel was forced to borrow loans because she doesn’t qualify for work study or grants. Most of her living expenses, including housing, bills, food and more are covered out-of-pocket. She doesn’t plan on borrowing any loans for the upcoming school year.

The average salary of a field research biologist is $77,400 according to statistics by the Glassdoor.

“If I paid $700 a month to my loans with an average income, I can pay it off within seven to 10 years,” Manuel said.

Although, if students run into hard times or go on to graduate school, loan deferments are possible.

“If you get sick or lose a job, you can change your payment plan to something that will be more affordable. Also if you do decide to go to graduate school your loans will be deferred once again, as long as you are enrolled more than half time,” said Arbulú.

With plans to attend graduate school, Manuel doesn’t think it is possible to attend without borrowing loans. Despite the cost of payback, students still find college very much worth its cost.

“I think I will be good at (biology), and as long as I’m happy, I think I’ll be able to pay it off,” Manuel said. “So yes, I think college costs are worth it.”


Ellie Loarca contributed reporting to this story.

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  • And with a degree from SFSU which doesn’t teach much in the way of critical thinking skills, one will be relegated to retail and fast food jobs, with loans trailing well into the point they’re a “manager” at one of these mall joints years or decades later.