College Tuition Crossroad How do you plan to pay for your higher education?

College tuition in the United States is on a rise and over 40 million students are affected by the debt and loans that comes with it every year (www.marketwatch.com). Student loan debt is the second-highest level of consumer debt behind mortgages. The total outstanding student loan debt in the United States is currently $1.2 trillion.

Top Left: Vicente Valdez and Diane Martinez at Paso Robles High School, supporting the Cuesta College Promise. Top Right, Bottom Left and Right: California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA.

A key way students choose to pay for college would be financial aid. There are four primary types of financial aid offered to college students, including, grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study funds (www.collegequest.com). Grants and scholarships are money you recieve and do not need to pay back -“free money”, loans are borrowed money that you pay back with interest. Federal work-study programs provide part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students, who are in need of financial aid. Applying for financial aid grants is free, all students need to do is complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and any other information needed. The Cal Grant is a financial aid program offered by the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC). To apply for both the Cal Grant and FAFSA, you’ll need to submit your verified Cal Grant GPA, which is just the students verified grade point average (www.csac.ca.gov). According to the CSAC, there are other grants, including the Cal Chafee Grant for students who are or were in foster care, and federal financial aid including the Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, National SMART Grants, and Federal Academic Competitiveness Grants. Students can also apply for student loans, which must be paid back with interest. According to www.studentloanhero.com, 2017 statistics show that 42.3 million students borrowed a total of approximately $1,3331.7billion in Direct, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL), and Perkins loans. (All federal). Work-study funds are a way for students to earn money for school through a part-time job. Work-study positions are very limited and not all schools offer the federal program (www.blog.ed.gov). Participates become eligible by completing the FAFSA and demonstrating need for financial aid. Those who are chosen are paid their states minimum wage or $7.25 (federal minimum wage). Finally, students can become volunteers in order to receive money for college. Students can join groups, such as AmeriCorps, California Volunteers, and California Conservation Corps, to gain perks, such as student loan deferment, living allowances, and an Education Award upon completion (www.nationalservice.gov).

College tuition infographic by Tiahna Merwin.

Another important variable students must weight is whether they want attend college in the state they are already a resident of, or if they go out of the state. State tuition costs vary depending on which state the student plans to attend college in. Average tuition cost for out-of-state students at public four-year-universities for undergraduate is currently $25,620, meaning they pay $15,650 more than students who are a resident of the state (www.trends.collegeboard.org). The average cost for in-state tuition is currently $9,970, but in the last five years, in-state tuition has had an average increase of 8% across the United States.

Students may also attend a community college in their area to fulfill their general education and then transfer to a four-year-university. According to the American Association of Community Colleges’ (www.usnews.com) annual fact sheet, students who choose to go to community colleges in their area, to get an Associate’s Degree, paid an average annual tuition of just $3,260 in 2013-2014 compared to an average of $8,900 for in-state students attending four-year universities. Average tuition for public community colleges is now approximately $4,868 per year for in-state students and $8,614 for out-of-state students. The average yearly tuition for private community colleges is approximately $15,467 (www.communitycollegereview.com). Community College Review also states that the University of California Regents reported that approximately 30% of all UC awarded Bachelor’s Degrees were given to students who transferred to community colleges

Graphic by Tiahna Merwin

In an interview with Cappy Culver Elementary School Principal and Special Education Director, Stephanie Schofield, we discussed her experience with college tuition, loans, and debt. Schofield attended California Polytechnic State University, also known as Cal Poly, in San Luis Obispo, CA. She attended for 5 years and got her Master’s in teaching. When she graduated, she had $46,000 in student loans, and after filing for bankruptcy in 2010, she consolidated her loans to $50,000. After not paying, her interest built up and that’s why it rose. She’s been paying her student loans for 10 years and has another 6 left. Schofield told me in the interview,

“I like my job and I felt prepared and the college helped me get a job. Cal Poly gets you involved in the community with professionals in your field of interest.”

At the end of the interview I asked if she had anything she’d like to tell students considering college and she stated,

“Try to pay as much as you can while going to school because it sucks to pay after the fact. Make sure to choose the right school the first time so you don’t have to go longer. Console with your counselor so you know what to take. Take your general ed at a junior or community college so you can get your Bachelor’s degree out of the way and I’d recommend getting a Master’s degree.”
Cappy Culver Elementary School Principle and Director of Special Education, Stephanie Schofield. Cappy Culver is located in between Paso Robles, CA and San Miguel, CA and is one of two schools in the San Miguel School District.

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