Student debt is higher now than ever before. Stories abound of students with $100,000 in debt after graduation, increasing tuition and varying job prospects. Where does Hastings College rank in getting students out with minimal debt, and how are students trying to stay on top of their finances?
Derek Bumgardner is 26, a biology major with enthusiasm for his education. Hastings College was his first choice after graduating high school, but the Grand Island native said his decision to wait on getting his bachelor’s degree was the right choice for him.
“I had no vision for what I wanted,” Bumgardner said. So he stayed in Grand Island to support his family and to gain a better understanding of what he wanted as a career.
“There are a few students that see it and follow through, but I would say most don’t really know,” he said. “And I think that’s a huge liability to have when your education costs $50-60,000 at the end.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the median debt for HC students with federal loans was $19,937 as of 2011, as published in the Wall Street Journal online Feb. 19 in the article “A Degree Drawn in Red Ink.” The national average debt owed by 2011 graduates is $26,600.
These aren’t numbers to sneeze at, but considering HC also has 96 percent of students receiving scholarships as of the 2011 fiscal year, it stands to reason that the majority of students here are going to graduate with a degree of financial stability along with their bachelor’s. In the 2011 fiscal year, the amount in scholarships given to students was over half of what the college earned through tuition.
However, this doesn’t change the fact that college is still an investment. For Bumgardner, waiting a few years before pursuing his bachelor’s degree was worth it to reduce the uncertainty he had after high school. He gained the experiences that led him to choose biology through working at Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital and as a suicide prevention coordinator at the South Heartland District Health Department.
Bumgardner also acknowledged that college itself provides many of the experiences that direct students to majors as well.
“You should really look at school somewhat as an experience, as a growth, but also as, I think, predominantly as a career, as building yourself as a person,” he said.
It can be difficult to think about the costs after school when there are immediate costs present, like food, transportation and, if you live off campus, utilities and rent. But there are measures students take to keep their budget.
“I’m a total guy when it comes to the thermostat,” Bumgardner said. He sets the temperature at 67 degrees to keep utilities down.
Matthew Ellis and Elyse Appelgate recommended the use of StudentUniverse.com for cheap and flexible traveling. On campus, both focus on reserving money in their grocery carts.
“Before checking out, find one thing in your cart you don’t need,” Appelgate said.
Ellis recommends making food in bulk, like noodles and rice, so during a busy week there isn’t as much temptation to hit fast food.