Ruth Hayden on paying for college

The Daily Circuit live chat for March 2, 2012

  • I come from an upper middle class family. I went to Scripps College (one of the Claremont Colleges in CA). Tuition, room & board was about $30,000/year. Privates have more money to give and Scripps does an excellent job w/need-based grants. I received a $100,000 education and left with only $12,000 in loans.
  • I knew how much I would have to pay each month. But that amount of money meant nothing to me as an 18-year-old just out of my parents' house.

    How could I have known how much $600 a month would or wouldn't go back then? Or how it would have affected my finances 20 years hence?
    by Jen edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:46:20 PM
  • what about the people who attend college and don't get the degree and yet accrue all the debt. that is my situation and I foresee paying for the rest of my life.
  • We have two small kids and we are paying so much for daycare that college is beginning to look affordable.

    Honestly, between daycare, retirement and college there's nothing left over to enjoy.
    by Yesenia Anderson edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:46:45 PM
  • I chose a college without considering the reputation of the school, the network I would develop and the likelihood that college would rise in rank throughout the years.

    I would not pick an investment in these ways.

    I did not think of my college as an investment.

    I had a great time but in retrospect I should have chosen the school that would continue to support my development through active alumni groups, professional development resources and so forth.
    by Anne edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:47:03 PM
  • I got a 1 year certificate that got me an entry level job, now the company I work for has a college reimbursement program up to 5700 dollars a year, now i can work and go part time for little to no debt.
  • The big issue here is expecting 17 year olds to know how the rest of their lives is going to play out and exactly what they want to major in.

    Going to college is expensive and worth it, once you know what you're doing. If I could go back I would complete my generals at a community college, then finish my undergraduate degree at a university with a degree i know I can use.

    I worked 3 jobs throughout college and I value my education immensely but the burden of $700/month is too much. I love what I do but there needs to be a way of educating teens and young adults about finances so we take this recession seriously and it doesn't happen again in another 25 years.
    by Jennifer edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:47:35 PM
  • At 18 years old when I fell in love with my private undergraduate college, I didn't understand why my parents were so concerned about the price tag.

    Even after college when I secured a great job and was able to make those payments, it didn't occur to me how onerous this debt is. It is only now that I'm in law school and will have substantially more debt on top of my undergraduate debt that I am becoming very concerned about my financial solvency post graduate school.
    by spraska edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:47:48 PM
  • Luckily, my son picked a NDSU, which is very affordable (about $15k/year for everything).

    We have saved some money, but are holding onto that for the year that we have two kids in college. It works out that we have to put aside about $600 a paycheck to keep up.

    We paid off our cars and refininanced our mortgage at a lower rate for 30 years to improve cash flow. Also, now our older son is an Resident Assistant, which cuts the bill by about $4k per year and he gets paid $200 every two weeks. So far it's working.
    by Brad edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:48:10 PM
  • My wife's student debt has been locked at 1.75% for 27.5 years via sallie mae in 2005.

    She borrowed $40,000 at age 23 to get 1 year of MBA, then joined an employer Target who paid for the second year. What a great long term investment to have this education debt at ridiculously low rates!!
    by Matt edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:48:27 PM
  • I have friends with parents who paid for everything. They have no idea how lucky they are. Perfect example of how the rich get richer.
  • You can not absolve the average student of the responsibility for their loans.

    If they don't have the wherewithal to research what they are getting into they probably shouldn't have them in the first place.

    I graduated a little over a year ago and before my loans came do, I knew what I would owe and what my options were and I budgeted accordingly.
    by Ryan edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:48:40 PM
  • My son graduated debt free from St. John's University through merit scholarships and the ROTC program.

    His wife has student debt they cannot pay because of their frequent moves and 26% military spouse unemployment, the only jobs she can find pay near minimum wage and yet she has both a bachelors and masters degree.
    by Kathleen edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:48:54 PM
  • There is federal loan forgivness programs if you work in public service for 10 years. You have to be on a certain loan repayment plan to qualify, but that program is available for those of us who have large loan amounts and are working for a non-profit or for the government.
  • @Keith That's awesome Keith. And your employer deserves a lot of credit for offering this program.
  • I think people overrate the importance of the school for a four year degree. One degree is pretty much as useful as another. Where this makes more of a difference is in graduate school.
  • I went to a small private school in St. Paul. It is one of the most expensive schools in MN, and yet because of its generous grants, the loans I took out (not my parents didn't pay a dime, would have been the same if I went the U of MN.

    Fabulous education and opportunities, and just as importantly, amazing students- wouldn't have changed a thing! My two year grad school education at the U of MN cost the same as my 4 year degree and I have some regret about that.
    by Sophia edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:49:31 PM
  • How do high school students even make an informed choice about what career they are best suited for?

    I wish there was more attention paid to this in high school because I ended up paying a lot of money for a graduate degree and found my personality was not suited for that field.
    by lmt edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:49:46 PM
  • My parents paid for my tuition but I paid for my living expenses for college, then both for law school (1 yr at nite while working days).

    My father was a contractor and when things were tight we (older brother & I) worked the jobs he could get and weren't paid, as we got an allowance, housing food etc.
    by ray edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:49:59 PM
  • Ruth, could you discuss the new loan consolidation plan President Obama recently enacted? What are the benefits of it? The drawbacks? And can one still apply for IBR while on it?
  • I am a high school Senior and my parents were very clear from the start that I would be on my own as far as paying for college.

    Consequently, I worked hard to get good grades because I knew the only way I would be able to attend a good/expensive school would be to get tons of scholarships.

    By telling me from the beginning that the cost of college would be on me, my parents gave me a concrete reason to work hard and get good grades, and take Advanced Placement and College classes during high school to bring the cost down as far as possible.
    by Kaija edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:50:16 PM
  • What do you make of the increasing need to graduate from the highest-ranked or most prestigious school, particularly in expensive professional degrees? For example, if you go to a cheap law school, you get what you pay for in terms of future earning capacity.
  • Wow- the brainwashing by the post-secondary education complex continues: enslave yourselves to un-dischargeable debt, but you'll have a great time partying and studying useless subjects. There is a way out, though: move to another country and default beyond the reach of the US court systems.
  • Why are private parties allowed to influence college classrooms? I have seen more corporate influence than ever before. College has become
    a new platform for companies to influence government!
  • Enough with depressing talk about debt and jobs. You need to do a show about kittens!
  • My wife is currently getting her Masters degree in nursing. We also have a 7 year old, so we started saving for her education two years ago. My wife qualified for a William Ford Unsubsidizied Federal Loan for her 2 year program. We will be paying at least the interest on the loan as we go, so we do not suffer the compounding effect of interest on interest.
  • its all about employment to justify the debt. The job market is so depressed that borrowing anything at all is risky
  • If people cannot afford $500 to $700 per month, how can they afford to purchase a car? What kind of salaries are they making? What else are they spending their money for?
  • Why has no one mentioned military service?

    I took out a mountain of loans to earn my degree from St. Thomas, joined the army and got them paid off! I wish I would have known that I could have joined the National Guard during my junior year of high school, recieved 100% tuition assistance for a part time job, and been done with my contract by the time I graduated from college.
    by Dan edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:55:41 PM
  • Ruth, do students have a better chance of qualifying for FAFSA loans if the parents are divorced?

    From Ruth: They can take one parents income, whichever is the lowest. So, yes.
    by Kathy edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:56:24 PM
  • With a junior in high school I feel lost in that I understand the system is broke, but my wife and kids don't. I likely will have a freshman at St. Olaf in 2014. How can I get this to change??!!??
  • Apart from the need to make good choices about financing one's education, isn't there a hidden issue that tuition at state colleges and universities has gone up partly because parts of the public and certain politicians have blocked keeping taxes that support the schools in step with increasing costs. Twenty-five years ago certain grad school credit hours at the U of M cost about $120.

    Today they are two or three times that.

    Today I couldn't even consider the grad study I did relatively easily back then. Which is better: paying slightly higher taxes now or having the economy of the future stunted because today's debt-burdened new college grads can afford a fraction of what their parents did?

    From Ruth: Public schools are going up faster than private schools. Private: 4 1/2%. Public: 8%. Full inflation: 3.6%
    by John edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:58:04 PM
  • Get your undergraduate degree by attending Junior College and transferring to a 4 year State school. You'll save tons of cash and then you can go to the graduate school of your dreams.

    Ruth adds: And they have made the transferring of credits easier. The U really wants well-qualified juniors and seniors. It is a smooth process now.
    by Jim edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 4:58:13 PM
  • Ruth, Any ideas for parents who will foot a lot of the bill for a good student at a good school but have concerns how student will do once in college.

    Study about men and video games is disturbing.

    Our son has good scholarships but don't know if he will be able to keep up good work given his video gaming. How should we handle things if academic performance wanes? Should be withdraw support? Any suggestions for dealing with intersection of academic performance and financial support?

    Ruth: That's complicated. I believe in a minimum GPA. Set standards. There are so many parents in debt for loans for students who never finished college.
    by StPaulBorn edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 5:01:26 PM
  • @Bill Good point, I wondered the same thing. What is so bad about saving, spending less, working through college, waiting to go, taking classes at night?
    There are online options. Everyone I know in IT/software jobs, most freelancers and independent contractors, small firms, etc. are self taught. They don't do what their majors involved, they just took majors that involved sufficient math and science while being largely self-taught and then taking tests to demonstrate certification in different systems and languages.
  • Go to university, yes, however, plan on working! All the experience one receives working while also going to university cannot be overlooked.

    It won't be easy, it'll be hard. But it will be excellent experience that will help you later. When I went to the U of M, I did stop after my first two years because the cost was going up and I still had no major decided. Once decided, I went back. No money wasted this way.
    by Jean Drake-Muller, St. Paul edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 5:01:40 PM
  • To Luke: Encourage your kid to get a degree in science or engineering, and continue to graduate school. This way, all graduate schooling he/she attends will be paid completely paid for by the university (true), and the education will pay off in the long run.
  • @Luke I have spent my life avoiding loans of any kind. Except for my house, I've paid for everything with cash, and I paid my house off in 5 years.

    So, yes, I'm cheap. Were I going to college now, I would employ the same strategy. I would consider going to college part time, and taking much longer to get a degree so that I would have very little debt. I understand there is a US college that requires all their students to graduate without any debt. Perhaps more colleges will take this attitude if fewer people are going to college because they fear the debt.
    by Bill edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 5:01:52 PM
  • I am at college at the same time working and i know that after my college i will be starting to pay my loans.

    Is there anyway for us who is still in college to re-evaluate our future college bills to be lowered or the college that we are attending can be more worth for my future college loan bills?
    by TAM1RO edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 5:02:14 PM
  • Military service is a definite option, but often gets no attention for political reasons.
  • My daughter qualified for some loan forgiveness because she was willing to work in rural MN as a physical therapist in Cambridge.
  • The problem isn't so much the cost of the degree as much as it is that many students spend their first 1-2 years with no major and no realistic post-college plan at all.

    What I would tell every high school senior I wanted to help is that they need to look online at and etc to see what is currently desired in the workforce, and how little almost everything pays.

    They will find that engineering, IT, nursing, business degrees are highly rewarded, while teaching, music, psychology, philosophy, language, degrees, unfortunately, are not. I did not do this research myself, but fortunately I switched to a profitable field half-way through college.
    by soren edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 5:02:51 PM
  • My parents paid for my tuition but I paid for my living expenses for college, then both for law school (1 yr at nite while working days).

    My father was a contractor and when things were tight we (older brother & I) worked the jobs he could get and weren't paid, as we got an allowance, housing food etc. I slept in the room next to my parents office so I was pulled in to check on his work. By the time I got out of high school I knew not only how to do bids with planning for all materials, but also how double entry book keeping systems worked and the need to track materials and save for future loses.
  • Re: the large amount of college debt in MN. As the supervisor of the tech lab of the largest shelter in the five state area, I became aware of the incessant phone calls from private college to our homeless clients.

    These calls promised as much as an $80,000 award to the client who saw this as a chance for a home, a car and a safety net.

    When examined the private colleges calling had a high default rate, low graduation rate and high costs. Many of these clients were not prepared for the rigor of college and defraulted leaving the taxpayers to pay their debt. It was predatory and abusive recruitment.
    by Dee Ann Christensen edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 5:03:21 PM
  • Kids and parents need to understand that colleges are businesses just like any other.

    Just like the housing industry, cheap loans made college accessible to everyone and everyone bit without giving notice to interest rates or long term debt. This is one reason that tuition has ballooned. Colleges charge what they think they can get away with and loans were easy to come by.
    by Izzy from Stillwater edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 3/2/2012 5:03:29 PM
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