As someone who is currently experiencing the financial pitfalls of college debt, I can easily understand the anxiety that many students face as a result of that debt. One of the biggest points of contention during the presidential race this year involved financial aid for college students and the increasing amount of debt that college students graduate with. While Maine is only $1,200 above the national average of $27,000 of undergraduate debt at graduation, it doesn’t negate the fact that the national average is alarmingly high.
One of the best ways to combat the rising cost of college is to apply early for financial aid. If a student applies for financial aid much earlier in the semester, chances are that he or she will be awarded more financial aid as a result. The well, so to speak, dries up with each passing day that you don’t apply for financial aid because that money is going to other students. So, when your adviser or parent tells you to apply early, you should probably listen. It may not seem like a big hairy deal while you’re in college, because you haven’t actually started paying off your loans yet, but it rapidly gets expensive once you graduate. A few thousand dollars that you don’t need to borrow will be helpful in the months between graduating and finding a job.
There is one thing to potentially look forward to, though. The U.S. Department of Education has proposed a “Pay As You Earn” plan, which would allow some federal borrowers to make loan payments based on their postgraduate income. Hopefully, this is one of the promises that Obama keeps, because it would drastically change the way we individually make loan payments. The current payment system is one size fits all, and the new one would be tailor-made.
Attending college has always been a part of the dreams of students, but in a troubled economy, the college aspirations of many people are coming to a harsh stop. Education should never have to be an unattainable goal, but the current price of college is just too high. It’s time we re-think the definition of “affordable” in terms of tuition.