Finish or it’ll cost you: the $1.5 trillion crisis

Finish or it’ll cost you: the $1.5 trillion crisis

Raphael Forbes


Struggling to pay for your expensive books? Trying to sneak sandwiches out of the C.I. so you have dinner? Finding ways to cut spending at all costs? College is expensive, and it does not stop being expensive after you graduate. According to Time and, American students owe more than $1.5 trillion overall. Those that graduate college leave with an average of $37,000 in student debt, to be paid off over 15 – 30 years at approximately $400 a month. 

To put it in context, this is more than credit card debt ($703 billion as of 2015, according to NerdWallet) and auto loans ($1.2 trillion as of 2019, according to Investopedia), second only to mortgages ($13.15 trillion as of 2017, according to Investopedia). 

On top of that, federal student loans are the most collectible type of debt out there, meaning that they do not have statute of limitations and you can be “sued” for payment at any time if you have not been paying says NerdWallet.  If you don’t pay, the loan companies can garnish your wages, come after you using civil suits, and can ruin your credit score, making it hard to rent an apartment or get a loan for a house, and in most cases, it cannot be forgiven in bankruptcy.

According to College Factual, Whittier College has students leaving with an average of $36,560 in debt and Whittier having an annual tuition increase of 3.9 percent, according to the financial aid page on the Whittier website, meaning more and more loans are needed to finish our education. To help offset this, Whittier has 76 percent of Whittier students receiving financial aid, amounting to an average of $36,009 a student in scholarships and grants, according to the U.S. News Report, which can be a huge help for students. 

Whittier has given $8.5 million in financial aid alone this year, as said on the Whittier website. However, the 2019 – 20, $48,924 tuition price tag means that, for many students, loans may have to be used to close that gap. Yet, by no means is Whittier an outlier. Schools around the country have risen in price over dramatically, especially since the financial collapse in 2008, says the Atlantic, and it may be out of Whittier’s hands to stop the rising prices. 

Whittier posts on its website that 89 percent of graduates finish school in four years in the financial aid section, which sounds great but can be misleading in that it does not include those that leave the school — the key word being graduates — and, thus, seems to tip the balance. On that same website, Whittier also says that our six-year graduation rate is 66 percent as of 2012, which seems to display two different narratives. 

For those that do finish, as well as those that do not, the debt will be there, waiting for you. As soon as you have finished school, you have six months to get a job, or get into a graduate program, and then you must start paying back those loans. 

As soon as you have finished school, you have six months to get a job, or get into a graduate program, and then you must start paying back those loans.

At a minimum wage job in California working full time, you would earn approximately $1,920 a month before taxes. Using the Apartment List website and California minimum wage calculator, the average cost of rent in Whittier alone being $1,150 per month not including utilities, food, and gas, and adding on top of that approximately $400 per month in student loans. Needless to say, money gets tight really quickly.

All is not lost though. Before panic sets in, there are some important things you need to know to get started right away to make this transition easier. First, you need a financial plan and you need to make sure you know that finishing your degree will help in the long run in regards to paying back the debt. Second, finish school! Third, consolidate all your loans into one easy payment so that you only have one bill a month, but make sure that it is through a government party —  on the off chance that our loans get federally forgiven. Fourth, avoid, at all costs, private loans; they may offer lower rates but they are not generally able to offer loan forgiveness and thus would not be in a federal forgiveness program.

Fifth, teachers in the public system, whether it be elementary to collegiate, can get loan forgiveness after a number of years being a teacher, and if that is the field you would like to enter, go for it! Sixth, find out who is the congress person in your state that deals with the student debt crisis and petition to them for loan forgiveness. Seventh, register to vote, and vote in the upcoming election year for that person who might be able to help you best in the next few years.

Eighth, use your summers to take classes at community colleges that can aid in the time necessary to graduate. Ninth, take advantage of tax breaks by keeping all your school-related receipts for tax time. If you are an independent student you may qualify for tax refunds. Tenth, the starting mean salary for those that do finish school at Whittier College in a timely manner is a mean salary of $48,100 according to U.S. News which is a great start, so if after school you are able to get a job like this, make sure to pay down your loans as soon as possible. 

All this to say, the debt crisis is bad, but all is not hopeless. So for all the students out there, throw yourselves into school whole-heartedly! Ask questions in class, as your professors are a wealth of information, and can guide you on your path to finishing your degree and finding a job or applying to graduate school. Participate in on-campus events, get involved, join a club, and, if none of those appeal to you, create your own and find others that would also like to be involved. Find internships in your field, and apply for them while in school so that you can invest your time fully in seeing what you might like to do after school is over. Not only is college a time for discovery and learning, it is a time to question everything, and one cannot do so by just slogging it through the classes. 

There are a lot of problems in the world today, and you can learn how to start solving them in your classes; all you have to do is talk to your teachers, alumni, faculty, and classmates. Do not feel like you have to abandon your school; rather, create all the changes that you want to see. You chose Whittier, and must have loved something about the school that keeps you here; so while you are here in Whittier for hopefully only four years, make the most of it and learn as much as you can. The world gets pretty real, very quickly as soon as college is over, and you should make use of all the resources available to you while in school. You need to get involved with whatever you are passionate about during college, because you are paying for it! And, quite literally, may be paying for it for the next 30 years.