Students looking towards college fear taking on debt

May 22, 2019

By Ambar Cabrera

The average cost of college tuition is now $34,740 for a private nonprofit four year college and $9,970 for an in-state public four year college, according to As a result, Americans have been forced to take on over $1.56 trillion in college debt, according to Compared to 10 years ago, the average debt per student rose by $24,000.

In 2018 alone, 69 percent of college students took out student loans and graduated with an average of $30,000 in debt, according to Year after year, more and more students are saddled with large amounts of debt that take years to pay off.

On average, over 44.7 million students are overwhelmed with student debt. The total amount of student debt has only increased throughout the years due to inflation and tuition prices. In 2001-2002, the average student debt was $23,000 and has increased by almost $7,000 in the past 17 years. College debt has surpassed credit card debt and is the second highest in the consumer debt category, falling behind mortgage debt, according to

The fear of landing in debt or not being able to repay student loans has led students to decide against attending or completing college., which offers assistance and information to those affected by student debt, reports that over 16.17 million Americans attended college in 2011. That figure dropped to 14.58 million in 2017. The website attributes this decline to the high cost of college.

Biology teacher Dr. Dunn said cost should be a factor in a student’s decision about which college to attend.

“They should probably find the school that’s going to be more economical for them so they don’t come out with so much debt,” Dunn said.

Dunn, who is still working to pay off his graduate degree, said student loans have had a major impact on his life.

“I paid my college debts when I was in college, and I was lucky because I worked a little bit towards the end,” said Dunn, who earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming

and his doctorate at Palmer College of Chiropractic in Iowa.

“But with my graduate school, surprisingly enough, I’m still paying and probably will for the rest of my life,” Dunn said.

“A big part of what I talk about is money. I try to convince students to try to go to a cheaper school so they don’t have debt.”

He said loan forgiveness, which forgives graduates of debt after they have worked 10 or more years in the public sector, is something he has not looked into because he is concerned it will lead to him to lose money.

“I fear that when they find out how much I owe, I’m scared they’ll charge me some sort of monthly fee. I don’t necessarily trust it, so I’ll pay my monthly dues,” Dunn said.

Junior Mikayla Poggi said she is nervous about taking on student loans and plans to work hard to minimize her debt.

“I think everyone is in fear of having college debt. Everyone will most likely have it, and it’s a bigger burden on people’s lives,” Poggi said.

She said the work students put in during high school can have a major impact on the price they pay for college.

“The better the grades, the better the scholarships,” Poggi said.

Poggi, who took an SAT Prep class with Kaplan SAT Prep in January and February said her goal was to score at least a 1050 on the SAT. In March, she took the test for the first time and intends to take it at least two more times before applying to college.

“Once you get all your acceptances back, the best way to choose is to pick which one gives you most money. Thus, which college will leave you in the least debt in the end,” Poggi said.

Junior Sinan Fidan said the state and federal Departments of Education should take action to provide relief for students.

“The Department of Education can find more funding for students, offer more scholarships and just generally make the whole process less stressful,” Fidan said.

He said it is important for teachers to educate their students about college tuition. He said one teacher who has woven this topic into class discussions is Italian teacher Mr. Raguseo.

“In a normal school, your classes will not teach you about debt and tuition, but one of the teachers that has been there for me and other students is Mr. Raguseo,” Fidan said. “Mr. Raguseo takes time to explain things to students and has a real conversation with us about college while also being an amazing teacher.”

Guidance counselor Ms. Colombo, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Montclair State University, said Montclair’s affordability factored into her decision to attend that school.

Colombo said when talking to her students, she stresses the importance of considering one’s financial situation before committing to a college.

“A big part of what I talk about is money. I try to convince students to try to go to a cheaper school so they don’t have debt,” Colombo said.

She said money management and applying for scholarships is crucial.

“The state made it mandatory to take personal finance in school. They have realized the ongoing problem with money amongst teenagers and try to address it in schools,” Colombo said. “When applying for scholarships, apply to them on time…. Kids have big loans because they are not following through when applying [for] financial aid.”

Colombo said aside from seeking scholarships and financial aid, the best thing a high school student can do for his or her financial outlook is focus on academics.

“Do the best you can in school. The higher the grades, the better scholarship you can get,” said Colombo.Infographic by Ambar Cabrera
This chart reflects data from the National Center for Eduction Statistics and illustrates average tuition costs for undergraduate students in the United States during the past decade.

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