Student Debt

Money trapped in-between books to represent student debt after graduation, April 28, 2019. (Photo By Jay Soliz)

The academic year is drawing to a close, and this May will be the end of numerous students' college careers. For many graduates, May is also the start of the lengthy process of repaying student loans.

Student debt has become a huge problem throughout the United States. Many politicians, such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have made it the forefront of their campaigns. Both politicians have promised to erase student debt and make college significantly cheaper to attend.

According to The Institute for College Access and Success, NAU students graduate with an average of $24,413 in debt, with 59% of graduates owing money. NAU's student debt level is comparable to other public universities in Arizona. ASU students typically graduate with an average of $24,000 to $31,100 in debt. At UA, the average student graduates with about $24,000 of debt.

According to a Forbes article regarding student loans and debt within the U.S., “There are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. alone."

Students receive more than $325 million annually in scholarships, grants and other financial aid, according to NAU's website. While these programs and allocations offer assistance, numerous students still need help paying for school.

Senior Serena Sorensen said that when she entered her freshman year, she simply accepted all the financial aid she was offered.

“I was so eager to start school that I did not even think about paying off my loans," Sorensen said. "Now I have seven months to figure out how the heck I am going to pay all of this back."

NAU senior Morgan McKinney plans to attend graduate school for elementary education after she graduates this May.

“I have about $5,000 of debt," McKinney said. "However, most of that has been from Seattle University, where I went before I transferred to NAU. I am very aware of how much I have taken out and how much I will need to pay back after I graduate, and exactly how long it will take me to pay that back."

Other students such as senior Ryan Shiner are fortunate enough to have their parents pay for their college education.

“I am lucky, I know I am," Shiner said. "My parents work really hard, so when my sister and I went to college we could just focus on school. I know a lot of people are not as lucky as me. I want to find a job after graduation where I can do what I love and help pay my parents back."

Junior Jacob Dunn explained how he is already worried about paying back his loans. Like Shiner, Dunn is financially assisted by his parents, but the debt is his to pay.

“It is like a big, dark cloud looming over my future," Dunn said. "I am already worried about trying to pay all these loans back. My parents have helped me a lot with college, but paying back my loans is my responsibility."

Similar stories can be found all around campus. Some students are complacent about their debt, and others are anxious about paying it back.

Now that the university has raised tuition, NAU has become the second most expensive public university in Arizona for in-state residents, according to an article by AZCentral. The rise in tuition could mean more expensive fees, larger loans, bigger grant amounts and increased student debt.

Many students are forced to worry about paying thousands of dollars in debt back after graduation. However, students also have numerous options for help. Graduates can set up payment plans, consolidate loans and extend repayment plans. It is important for students to be conscious of the money they are borrowing and how they will pay it back.