PLATTSBURGH, New York—Ms. Jeanine Mucci is like many other college students, taking out her first student loan to help with the costs surrounding college life.
However, she is in her last year of college, not her first.
Rather than take out a hefty loan to pay for her education at State University New York (SUNY) Plattsburgh, she worked at retail stores near campus and as a resident assistant (RA), as well as accepted money from her mom to cover the cost of her pending nursing degree and living expenses.
The one loan she is taking out will pay for her apartment this last semester.
As graduation is approaching, Ms. Mucci told the Viễn Đông that she is striving toward a sense of independence and sees the loan as a way to achieve this, as she can avoid asking her mother for some extra money.
She is not worried about being able to pay the small loan back because she feels she will have job security in the nursing field and will probably start paying some of it off before graduation.
“I know friends that are $72,000 in the hole and don’t have jobs,” she told the Viễn Đông, adding that those friends have to defer their loan payments which only increases their interest rates. “[They’re] looking at the degree on the wall and asking, ‘Is it worth it?’”
Student loan debt
Ms. Mucci’s friends are among the students who have contributed to the national student loan debt of over $1 trillion.
And college tuitions are only rising.
However, protesters nationwide, even internationally, are attempting to help such students.
Part of the Occupy Movement, inspired by pro-democracy protests that spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa in the spring 2011, the protesters feel that banks and corporations are profiting from global social, economic, and political systems.
Such banks and corporations include those companies that loan students money for college.
The protesters, or Occupiers, argue that the companies make loans to students at higher interest rates than the government does, forcing the students to pay back much more than they were originally lent.
More students are turning to private loans as the government is reportedly struggling economically and in less of a position to loan its students money for school.
On top of this, Occupiers note that unemployment rates worldwide are unstable, taking away from the job security students need upon graduating college.
Without jobs, students have a difficult time, if they are at all able, to pay back their loans.
As a solution, Occupiers are urging recent graduates to not pay back their student loans and are calling for companies, as well as the government, to make loans to students at zero-percent interest rates.
In October 2011, President Barack Obama announced his plan to make it easier for nearly 2 million Americans to pay back their student loans.
Among other perks, his plan would decrease the monthly payment amounts, consolidate loans, and forgive a borrower’s remaining debt after 20 years.
Still, the Occupiers feel this is not enough.
College students ready?
SUNY Plattsburgh Director for the Center for Diversity Pluralism and Inclusion (CDPI) Dr. J.W. Wiley is paying back a series of low-interest loans he took out to help him pay for his doctorate education, as well as part of his daughter’s undergraduate education, while he worked in his career as an educator and consulter.
“It’s tight, but it’s doable,” he told the Viễn Đông about how he is managing. “I still have money to play with.”
He added that he makes a nice salary and has consolidated his loans, figuring out a way to pay back hundreds of dollars every month rather than the thousands some other people have to pay back.
However, his situation is different than the situations of undergraduate students because he is already in his career rather than going to school to start one.
Dr. Wiley told the Viễn Dông that some students finding it difficult to pay back student loans were really never ready to go to a four year institution to begin with.
Some students get caught up in the partying aspect of school and fail to handle their educational responsibilities, lessening their job prospects when they do graduate.
Rather than go to a community college and gradually build the discipline needed to succeed at a four year school, the students “suffer the consequences from having bought into in the hype” of doing what society promotes and rush into a four year institution, Dr. Wiley said.
“People need to be realistic,” he continued, adding that school counselors could have more conversations with students regarding their social maturity. “A lot of these students are not aware of what they’re doing.”