SF State students find ways to maneuver around loans

Going to college has never been scarier, but it’s not that hard to please professors or the endless amounts of reading that’s making students squeamish, it’s carrying a huge financial debt after graduation.

According to The College Portrait, a project and website designed as a tool for future students and their families to easily find facts on any college, about 41 percent of students at SF State start piling onto their financial burden by taking out loans. Total living and school cost for one year at SF State for a full-time student is around $23,580, and with California State University trustees recently approving a 9 percent tuition increase for the fall 2012 semester, more students would rather not borrow money in order to be debt free after college.

SF State graduate Alexis David received bachelor’s degrees in Asian American studies and criminal justice in 2006 then got her master’s degree in social work in 2010, all without borrowing a dime. While working full-time she received a CalVet fee waiver and a federal grant that required her to work two years in a non-profit organization or with child protective services.

“I’m not down with debt,” David said. “I don’t like strings on me. I had to hustle full time throughout college and I had no choice but to take on a heavy load.”

Not everyone thinks that debt is such a bad idea, however. SF State career center marketing and publicity assistant Anthony Robbins said students need to explore their options at school before they decide to struggle to get by. He advises to look into grants, scholarships and even consider a loan as a third option because students shouldn’t be stressing over money while stressing over studying.

“Debt is a part of life so don’t be afraid of it,” Robbins said. “There’s going to be a lot of vacancies out there in the job market because the baby boomers are retiring. Opportunity is out there. If you need a loan to pass a class, do it. The point is to get a degree.”

Robbins said he assumes most students who go to school without pulling out a loan typically have been saving money since they started high school.

SF State history major Eduardo Daza Taylor is graduating in the spring and he said he never had to stress about money because he was very lucky to have parents who set aside savings for his schooling. His mom took up two jobs in order for him to go to school without having to worry about money for books or every day expenses.

“Getting an education is their number one priority for me,” Taylor said. “I’m really lucky to have them pay for everything, but I can tell it’s starting to stress her (his mother) out. It keeps me motivated to stay focused and bust my butt off and graduate.”

Now, almost a year after graduating SF State, David said she is relieved that she’s finished with school and living a newlywed life with her 4-month-old baby without the burden of paying back a loan. She hopes soon to develop a multi-service community center for Filipino youth and families in San Francisco.

“It was very liberating when I graduated from SF State,” David said. “They put so much pressure on you throughout school with budget cuts and tuition hikes. You have to find a way to get it done. It was so hard for me to do it working full-time and finding free money, but I did it. I’m glad that it’s over.”