By: Kacy C.
For anyone who is or has been a high school senior, the process of applying to college can be a daunting task. It is often the first adult decision that is entrusted in our hands as we reach the end of our adolescence and teen years. However, today, in particular, high school seniors and current college students face a future of rising tuition costs and student loans with little relief in sight.
Student stress among these groups is on the rise, leaving many to ask questions about college affordability. These questions are what many administrators, students, and government officials aim to answer with programs like FAFSA and various scholarship opportunities available to students across the country.
The student loan process may seem daunting at first, but as Mr. Scozzaro, Duxbury High School’s Assistant Principal describes it, it just takes a reasonable amount of research to grasp an understanding that will aid students in making smarter decisions when it comes to paying for college.
“College wasn’t as expensive back in my day,” Scozzaro said. “However, today, the biggest thing is the FAFSA. It is a sort of student aid application and the government finds you eligible for certain aid. They send the money right to the college and it gets deducted from your total cost.” The average time for each student to apply for student aid using FAFSA is around 55 minutes, and around 3 to 5 days before a college will receive your FAFSA application, according to FAFSA’s website.
He continued, “When you graduate, most loan companies will give you a six month grace period before they start making you repay them. They spread the payments out over 10 years or so.”
This is a common practice among many loan companies and is a common experience among many American students in college and those looking into secondary education. However, the process is still confusing to many and as Mr. Aukerman, Duxbury High Schools’ residential AP Psychology teacher puts it, “I know many people my age that still doesn’t get the student loan process all the way.”
With the student loans’ process comes a great deal of responsibility being put on high school students and college students. A part of this responsibility is the expectation to research loans to find out which is best for students and to use tools given to them by schools so that the process of applying for financial aid won’t seem so daunting.
Duxbury High School informs its students on student loans and aid in regards to the college application process.
“The guidance department does programs and workshops on how to pay for college,” said Mr. Scozzaro. “They also do a good job of helping students work on their college lists. A lot of people get stressed because they have high, unrealistic expectations when it comes to college.”
Not all schools have the opportunity to help guide their students through the loans process, and some are not equipped with tools to help students with this task.
“There is a sort of perceived mindset that schools should teach useful life skills, and I agree with this,” said Mr. Aukerman. “But, the way that schools have gone about helping with financial aid is by saying that interested parents and guardians will show up when we give a workshop. That doesn’t help all students.”
With college, comes stress to many high school students, mounting on to the already high-stress levels among this generation.
In regards to stressors among the student body, many teachers at Duxbury High School do not see student loans as a primary stressor at this point in time. They are however recognizing just applying to college is stressful enough for students right now.
“Student loans are definitely a concern, just not my primary concern right now. I’m more worried about getting into a college,” said Mel C., a senior at Duxbury High School.
There is also a rising problem of the overall accessibility of college and secondary education to American teenagers and young adults as schools, states, and the government struggle with the overall affordability of college.
“I am afraid that our society is going to stratify itself due to who can and cannot afford college,” said Mr. Aukerman, “Affordability comes across as a big issue sometimes but no one [has] done anything about it. The issue itself has just continued to creep and grow.”
People across America hesitate going to college because of a lack of financial means to meet the growing quota put forth by college and universities in the United States.
In 2013, student debt was estimated to be around $1 trillion according to College Board and is still projected to grow at an annual rate of 10 percent, causing many people to second-guess college as a whole.
As Mr. Aukerman said, “If you look at studies in terms of ‘is it worth it?’ it is only worth it if you complete it and get the degree. There are people who have 2 years of college under their belt, that don’t get the degree and they are the ones in the real trouble, having to pay these loans without a degree to back them up. Then there are the people that delay buying a house, getting married, and having kids all because of their student loans.”
There are no definite solutions to America’s financial aid problems, however, some students and faculty members like senior, Michaela C. certainly have ideas that may help the next generation of college applicants. “The government should adopt a more European mindset and help take away some of the financial burdens from students.”
”One way to help limit the number of student loans is to research what colleges realistically fit in with your budget,” said Mr. Scozzaro.
“In America, there are always people who can afford college and there are those who can’t. However, there’s no harm in going to a school that is more affordable. Buying a degree will not determine your success and happiness in the long run,” said Mr. Scozzaro.
Making the most of your college experience helps put into perspective the purpose of student loans for many students as Mr. Aukerman said, “What you do in your undergraduate program is so much more important than the school name on the diploma. Also, the more you know about something the less anxious you are about it, so do your research before getting locked into a contract.”
As daunting as the college process seems, it is just only a small glimpse into college life and adulthood, each filled with their own set of challenges. For millions of students across the United States, each challenge is worth it, leading to more experiences and knowledge than ever thought possible.