Student loan debt is a looming threat

By The Beacon | April 10, 2014 2:02am

Emily Neelon |

I stare at my computer screen, looking at my bank statement. Then I take a look at my bill for this semester’s tuition. I squint. That’s a lot of zeroes.

As a communication studies major, I’m no mathematician. But the number of zeroes in my bank account does not equal the number of zeroes I owe.

50,000 dollars x 4 years= I’m in debt.

The threat of graduating with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt is a constant issue not only in my life, but the lives of college students across the country. For the class of 2013, the average amount of student debt nationally upon graduation was $35,200. Would you like a side of diploma with that hefty bill?

Between scholarships, working multiple jobs, and help from my family, I haven’t had to take out any student loans yet. But my luck will run dry next year and I will join many of my fellow college students filling out a student loan application. I have yet to figure out how I will manage these payments. Should I take on a third job? Do I transfer to a cheaper school? Or must I take on my imminent debt head on?

According to CNN Money, 57 percent of the class of 2013 reported choosing their major because of the prospect of getting a higher paying job in the long term. So should I switch from my pursuit of journalism to business or computer science in the hopes of having a higher salary? Or should I stick it out, knowing that I will be doing what I love, but always worrying how I will pay my bills? Why must I compensate passion for a paycheck?

The cost of attendance at UP for the 2013-2014 year has increased almost $2000 dollars, going from $51,660 to $53,384. This extra $1,724 is just an additional financial burden. Nationally, the average increase in tuition is slowing down, but the actual price students pay to attend college is still rising. According to US News, this differentiation appears to be due to the fact that while tuition is increasing, financial aid awards have not caught up.

The Red Square Movement on campus has drawn attention to this issue, bringing light to the number of students who also deliberate on how to pay for their place at UP. There is no shame in struggling with student debt.

But why does this have to be such a large problem? Why must attaining a degree come at such a high cost? Clearly the higher education system must be reformed to allow all individuals to attain a degree at a reasonable price. But until this happens, I will continue to compare those zeroes and hope that just somehow, I will figure it out.

Emily Neelon is a freshman communication studies major. She can be reached at