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How Federal Student Loans Reaching $1.4 Trillion Affects Graduates of LHS

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A college student accumulates debt from student loans and needed learning materials as they pursue a degree.

A college student accumulates debt from student loans and needed learning materials as they pursue a degree.

Cari Dobbins

Cari Dobbins

A college student accumulates debt from student loans and needed learning materials as they pursue a degree.

Jenna Grayson, Staff Writer

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     Student loans have been a hot topic in the media lately, with cable news broadcasts, such as CNN and Fox News, discussing the topic in various segments, and political satire shows, such as Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, as well as when musician Nicki Minaj paid off her fans’ student loans through Twitter last month.

     According to the Board of Governors Federal Reserve System, the United States’s central bank that regulates the nation’s monetary policy, provides financial services to the U.S. government and U.S. financial institutions, federal student loans have accumulated to $1.4 trillion as of Sept. 2016. The Institute for College Access and Success Project for Student Debt found that 68 percent of 2015 college graduates had debt from student loans and according to Debt.org, the average student loan debt in 2017 has grown to $37,172.

     Josh Bragg, who graduated from Libertyville High School in 2016 and was a member of Drops of Ink, attended the University of Madison-Wisconsin for the first semester of the 2016-2017 school year. For his second semester of his college freshman year, Bragg transferred to Illinois State University.

     Within one semester at UMW, Bragg says that he piled up $14k in debt,” and has attended ISU since January, due to the lower tuition cost. Although Bragg still accumulates $5k of debt per semester, he said that the cost is much lower than Madison and stated that paying for the cost of college tuition has “been incredibly difficult” for him.

     “This has resulted in one of the most stressful periods of my life,” Bragg said.

     Bragg explained that he “often hates talking about or thinking about [his] college future because [he] fears if [he’ll] even be able to attend school in the future or not.” However, Bragg said that he feels “pretty good about [his] financial future after college,” despite worrying about how he’ll “be spending a good chunk of [his] income on repaying loans.”

     Through a combination of grants, scholarships, and loans, Bragg is able to afford college. He was granted federal aid through Pell Grant and Stafford loans after filing for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and also received grants from both UW-Madison and ISU as well as the MAP (Monetary Award Program) grant from the state of Illinois last semester, but won’t continue to receive the grant next year due to state budget cuts.

     Bragg believes that “the cost of college is too high in America today.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey, from the 1984–1985 enrollment year to the 2014–2015 enrollment year, the inflation-adjusted cost of private colleges increased by 119.5 percent and 124.7 percent for public colleges. These increases are more than seven times larger than the median family income boost during this time, which increased by 16.1 percent.

     Bragg’s state of debt has affected and changed him personally: “The past several months have changed a lot about me and how I view the world.”

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How Federal Student Loans Reaching $1.4 Trillion Affects Graduates of LHS