Economy, debt troubles complicate post-grad plans

Allison Lavelle
Staff Writer

In an ailing economy many college students find themselves trying to fund their education with loans, and when they graduate they end up thousands of dollars in debt with no job offers.

According to The Project on Student Debt, an organization that collects debt data and works to make education more affordable, the class of 2010 graduated with an average of $25,250 of debt, which is a five percent increase from the previous year.

La Verne students from the same class graduated with an average debt of $31,112.

All California students from the class of 2010 have an average debt of $18,113 and the state ranks 43rd overall, one of the lowest average debt amounts.

In addition to students graduating more in debt than ever, unemployment for 20 to 24 year olds rose to 9.1 percent, the highest rate on record for that age group.

Noel Nicholas, a graduate student earning his master’s degree in health administration, will graduate with about $100,000 of debt and thinks the government should be doing more to help students with their loans.

“With the economy the way it is, we’re in debt right from the start and if (the government) can help, they should,” Nicholas said. “They don’t give students enough and not everyone can get scholarships.”

Junior liberal studies major Lauren Heminger estimates that she will be $20,000 in debt when she graduates next year and also agrees that the government should be doing more to help students.

“I think that we pay so much to go to school and student aid is going down, so how do they expect us to pay these student loans when we’re trying to find jobs?” Heminger said.

Heminger also plans on using government programs to pay for her graduate education and teaching credential.

The state of California offers the Assumption Program of Loans for Education which, for the current application year, promises up to $11,000 of college loan debt repayment for teachers who agree to work in certain areas, such as designated subjects, low-income areas, low-performing schools or rural areas.

Although programs like APLE are very helpful, they do not always provide the assistance they claim.

Kim Rybarczyk earned her master’s degree in special education and teaching credential from Azusa Pacific University in 2007 and applied for the APLE debt loan repayment that year as well.

Rybarczyk was told $19,000 of her $21,000 in student loans would be repaid through the program, but did not receive any payments on her student loans until the end of the 2009 school year and has already had to pay more than the $2,000 of her loans she was supposed to be responsible for.

The state has been making one payment of $3,000 a year on her loan, requiring Rybarczyk to make the minimum payment 11 months of the year.

“If you have less than $24,000 in loans, you’re probably not getting your money’s worth because you’re paying the loan off before the state can,” Rybarczyk said.

Some students believe that even though student debt is rising in the United States, the students who take out the loans need to pay them back.

Senior business major Mike McDonald has not looked into government programs to help him with the estimated $40,000 in loans he acquired getting his undergraduate education.

“We’re taking out the loans, we should be responsible for them,” McDonald said.

High amounts of student debt and poor economy are causing young people to put a hold on repaying their loans, as 27 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds are finding ways to delay payments.

The hold on life for this age group extends to other economic areas as well: 44 percent are delaying buying a home, 28 percent are delaying saving for retirement, and 26 percent are delaying changing jobs or cities.

In more personal aspects of life, 23 percent are delaying getting married and 18 percent are putting a hold on starting a family.

As a new generation of Americans graduates college and begins to start their lives, loans and the economy are creating bigger deficits and hardships than previous years.

Allison Lavelle can be reached at

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