Clare senior Stephen Bott is delighted his time as Chippewa will soon be over.
The 21-year-old worries the mounting price of education at Central Michigan University might already be a detriment on his ability to succeed after graduation.
A music education major, Bott estimates he has accumulated more than $20,000 in debt. He said it might take him a decade to pay it off.
“I’m glad I have only one year of this left,” he said. “I’m starting to run out of scholarships and having to pay out-of-pocket.”
Under a federally-mandated compromise on undergraduate loans, student loan rates grew from 3.4 percent to 3.85 percent and are expected to increase in coming years. Bott said the lawmakers who approved the increase did not have the interest of students in mind.
“Education is our future,” he said. “And this is really shortsighted, crushing people before they can even contribute.”
Director of Scholarships and Financial Aid Kirk Yats warns students to only consider direct costs when taking out loans — such as tuition, room and board and textbooks.
“We always recommend that students only borrow what they need,” Yats said. “Sit down and create a budget. Look at working as an option as well. We don’t want people taking out loans for a spring break trip.”
Yats was also wary of the increased interest rates impeding student success after graduation.
“The only people getting the short-end are our student borrowers,” he said of the growing expenses. “We like to keep rates as low as possible for students because it impacts their ability to repay the loans and to live the American dream.”
Yats recommends that students take more than the average 12-credit course load. He also suggests 2-year programs at community colleges as possible alternatives to help offset the financial toll.
“Work toward a degree at a quicker pace so you can get your degree in four years,” he said. “We all want students to borrow what they need. With decreasing state aid and increasing costs, we expect borrowing rates to increase.”
As tuition climbs 2.47 percent for this academic year, from $365 per credit hour for undergraduate students to $374, some students are prepared for the worst.
Romulus senior Kaela Torres says the continually increasing tuition rates, which account for about 71 percent of the university’s revenue, is discouraging student enrollment.
“The student side really sucks,” she said of increased tuition. “I’m really scared to graduate. Who wants to pay that much to go to school?”
Now former CMU student Chris Coats says he was so frustrated by the high costs that he left CMU after just one-and-a-half semesters.
Majoring in accounting, Coats will be taking his studies – and wallet – to Mid Michigan Community College this fall, hoping to earn his degree at a lower cost.
“The tuition rates suck here,” he said. “Students can’t afford it — it’s skyrocketing our debt. It’ll probably be 30 years before we can pay it off. That’s not good for anyone.”