Archived Story

College financing requires a plan

Published 12:16am Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Brandywine senior Jordan Harper’s goal is to get through college without racking up any student loan debt.

Who can blame him?

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the outstanding student loan balance stands at about $870 billion, surpassing the total credit card balance of $693 billion.

That’s a large financial burden to place upon the shoulders of college graduates, says Lake Michigan College
President Robert Harrison.

“As young people incur debt, they are going to have less options to buy a house, buy a car, spend in the economy because they have to pay back student loans,” he said. “It can seriously affect their credit further down the road.”

Plan ahead

In 2010, college graduates in Michigan had an average of around $25,000 in student loan debt. In light of this figure, Harrison said it is important for high school students to have a plan before heading to college.

“When you look at the cost of some of the schools, it is a huge financial decision,” he said. “I think all of us adults have underestimated what it is going to take to get their kid in and out of school without a boatload of debt.”

For Harper, the plan involved taking college courses while in high school. By the time he graduates from Brandywine, he will have nearly three years worth of college credits under his belt. Most of them were paid for by Brandywine through the Early College Academy program.

He is projected to graduate from Ferris State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in the spring of 2013.

He estimates he’s saved about $42,000.

“That helps out a lot,” he said.

Staying local

Many students are choosing to enroll in a two-year community college out of high school, instead of going the traditional four-year route.

Harris said community college is a good option for students who aren’t quite certain what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Community colleges are also less expensive than four-year universities on average.

Brandywine senior Junie Modlin will be attending Southwestern Michigan College for two years to obtain her associate’s degree. From there, she might go to Ferris State to finish her degree or stay at SMC. Modlin said she would commute to school, saving her about $7,000 a year in room and board. She originally wanted to go to St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame but said it was too expensive.

“I could’ve gotten loans, but I didn’t want that debt for the rest of my life,” Modlin said.

Harrison said the key to making a good college decision is to do the homework and come up with a plan, such as Harper and Modlin have done.

“Parents and students need to sit down and talk not only about where the student would like to go to college, but what is their career plan and what is the financing vehicle,” he said. “You can’t afford to not have these discussions.”

College stats

• $870 billion — total U.S. student loan debt

• $25,000 — approximate average Michigan student loan debt 2010

• $287.38 — average monthly student loan payment

• $12,822 — year of in-state tuition, Michigan State University

• $12,634 — year of in-state tuition, University of Michigan

• $9,716 — year of in-state tuition, Grand Valley State

• $4,728 — year of in-state tuition, Southwestern Michigan College

• $3,480 — year of in-state tuition, Lake Michigan College

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