This article comes from the Campus Contributor Network. Over the course of the semester, students from across our campus outreach program will analyze their school’s finances and assess the overall return students see on their educational investments.
Mark Kantrowitz, a leading financial aid expert and Senior Vice President and Publisher of the Edvisors Network, suggested in an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that, “total student loan debt at graduation should be less than the borrower’s starting annual salary, thus allowing the student to repay the loan in 10 years.” So, even with a somewhat substantial starting salary, the debt one accumulates as an undergrad will take at least 10 years to pay back, if not more.
It looks like we’re in it for the long haul, to say the least.
Debt by the numbers
Yet, how do these averages compare to those of other states in the country? Not too well, unfortunately.
Since Pennsylvania public schools have some of the highest in-state tuition in the country, students from these universities also graduate with more debt. According to a 2013 report by the Project on Student Debt, students who graduate from a university in Pennsylvania are, on average, about $4,000 more in debt than students on a nationwide basis.
Unlike most other states, Pennsylvania public college graduates tend to have the same amount of debt, if not more, than their private college counterparts.
Debbie Cochran, research director for The Project on student debt explained that, “what we see in Pennsylvania is very high tuition levels for public colleges and not enough grant aid to keep up.”
How, then, are indebted students at Pitt supposed to “keep up”?
The University’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid website does provide a good deal of links for students to learn more about debt. By clicking on these links, students can find out more about loan consolidation, deferment and forbearance, forgiveness, cancellation and discharge, to name a few.
The same proves to be true with the University’s Student Payment Center website which also links students to the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan site. However, it seems as though Pitt doesn’t offer their own loan forgiveness programs.
If at all, it looks like this depends on the individual schools (i.e. Art and Sciences, Business, etc.). For example, for students completing a degree in Social Work, the School of Social Work additionally provides some links on their website about different opportunities that provide loan forgiveness, like the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program.
Implications for the future
The thing about loans, though, is that they don’t just affect our lives now, but will continue to have an impact on our lives in the future, too. Just how big of an impact can vary.
According to the most recent “Life Delayed” report from the American Student Assistance, 53 percent of respondents stated that, “their student loan debt was the deciding factor, or had considerable impact, on their choice of career field.”
Additionally, 28 percent answered that student debt had affected their decision to start a family and 21 percent said that it had delayed their marriage. Further yet, 62 percent of those who graduated with debt responded that they have, “put off saving for retirement or other investments because of their student loan debt.” Even more frightening, 48 percent responded that they do not have any emergency savings.
However, there seems to be a light at the end of this debt-forlorn tunnel, as 65 percent agreed that despite the debt they had incurred, their college experience left them better off.
Without a doubt, student debt is a major issue and one of which students need to be educated and informed. Interestingly enough, the report poses its own solutions to this problem like controlling escalating tuition and fees, keeping federal student loan interest rates low and expanding grant aid by federal, state, and private entities.
While these are all effective ideas, one question remains: What other resources can Pitt provide for its students who invest so much time and money into the university?
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