by JAI-LEAH GARCIA
In a report by LendEDU comparing student loan debt among U.S. colleges and universities, UMW ranked fifth best in the state and 284 out of 475 overall. As the cost of college continues to rise, student loans are becoming the reality of higher education for many students.
Mike Brown, a reporter for LendEDU, recently released the report titled “Student Debt by School by State 2020,” which discusses the amount of student loans that have increased over the years through different states and different universities. LendEDU has been compiling this report yearly since 2016.
While UMW’s ranking is relatively high in Virginia, it is in the middle of the spectrum with student loan debt compared to other universities across the country.
“Student loan debt at Mary Washington is $31,157, which is above average, which tells us that it is higher,” said Brown. “It’s not terrible, but not great either. I think that there is room for improvement.”
Timothy Sauliner, the director of financial aid at UMW, spoke on the issue of student loan debt.
“We try to push our students to borrow what they need,” said Sauliner. “What students are trying to cover is housing. Half of the cost just depends on where students live which is where a big portion of the cost is.”
Sauliner also said that many students do not come in with enough knowledge about loans, which can cause students to owe high amounts once they graduate.
“A lot of students take some loans or a lot of loans. You have a wide range of students and the knowledge they bring to either take out or don’t take out loans,” said Sauliner.
When high school students decide on where they should attend college, many students have to face the scary reality that as the price of tuition rises, the decision to take out loans may be their only option.
Universities and colleges have been raising their tuition prices nearly every year. For many families, this rise in tuition is out of reach if they are to give their children a higher education. While in past years taking out loans was the last option for these families, it has now become a necessity.
Grace Montes, a senior biology major, is one of the many students that have taken out loans due to the rise in tuition.
“I received loans as a result of filing for FAFSA,” said Montes. “I received subsidized and unsubsidized loans, both of which did help cover a good amount of my cost of attendance.”
The decision to take out loans can be daunting for students.
“I think that loans are something scary to our generation,” said Montes. “FAFSA does not always help out students to the extent that they need, so students do feel like they have no other choice but to get loans.”
The cost of college can be daunting at best and unachievable at worst for many families.
“Most four year colleges are quite expensive, especially if a student is living on campus or out of state,” said Alexis Vukmanic, a junior psychology major. “Many students just graduating high school do not have the amount of money saved up for tuition.”
The report also provides information that students and parents can reference when making financial decisions.
“It’s useful information for students and parents who are just starting out,” said Brown. “I also believe that this is helpful with regards to what university students would like to go and how much loan debt they could acquire.”
Students have voiced their stress and worry in taking out loans due to the opportunity for higher education.
“I wish I didn’t have to take out a loan, but I think it would be the only option for me to receive the education I am,” said Vukmanic.
At the end of the day, many students feel that college is worth the debt.
“If I had to redo it, I would still have to take out loans,” said Montes. “I simply don’t and have never had the money to just pay thousands of dollars.”
However, according to Brown, tuition prices may eventually decrease due to COVID-19.
“I think it will be interesting to see how the pandemic will affect the cost,” said Brown. “Eventually I think that colleges would have to decrease their cost to stay in business. We don’t see any schools lowering in it yet.”