Laura McKenna has a piece up at The Atlantic which joins the chorus of voices across the internet and print media that are examining the realities of student debt. It’s painful to read, especially as the father of a college freshman. When my daughter started looking at colleges we told her that she could go anywhere she wanted so long as it didn’t require that we borrow money to pay for it. So she settled on a state school. Here’s the rough math for one school year:
Tuition + books $11,000
Pell Grant – $5,000
State Aid -$2,500
Other Aid – $1,500
Work study job – $3,800
Since we had a college fund in place, we were able to swing that money over into room & board so she could have the ‘on-campus’ experience for at least one year. That was important to us to help her establish herself as a grown-up. On top of this she has an off-campus job that generates some disposable income during the week and will pad her college fund during the summer.
Federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour. Working full-time that is a gross of $15,080 per year. Tough to make the math work at a state university, but spending two years at a community college softens that blow. The community college I attended costs roughly $4,000 for one year. Believe me when I say that if we didn’t have the means for our daughter to attend a university without debt, she would have gone the community college route while we saved our pennies.
This is not a how-to post. I understand everyone’s situations are different and grants are not always easy to obtain, but I do think there are still debt-free options for kids willing to work hard and explore their options. They simply need to ignore the PR that says student loans are a typical part of the college experience. It’s not.