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National College Affordability Week in Tampa

As National College Affordability Week got into full swing in early October, student leaders from USF’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) in sunny Tampa, Florida gathered together at the University of South Florida to discuss:

  • The rising cost of tuition
  • Their fears of heavy student loan debt
  • Prospects of finding a job after graduation

Young Invincibles was happy to have a special guest, Debra Tamargo, the campaign manager for Republican candidate E.J. Otero, running in Florida’s 14th congressional district, to join in the conversation. Both Col. Otero and his opponent Rep. Kathy Castor were invited to speak to the students about college affordability.  Unfortunately, Rep. Castor had a prior engagement and was unable to attend.

With the cost of a 4-year public university increasing an astronomical 84% over the past two decades, and two-thirds of all college students to graduate with debt, students at USF had something to say about it.

Skeptics sometimes argue that students are over-borrowing to support a lavish college lifestyle, spending student loan money on big screen TVs and nights out partying. But when asked about their needs, several students stated that their parents made too much money to qualify for Pell grants or other need-based aid, but did not make nearly enough to finance their own tuition.  These students felt they had no choice but to take out massive student loans – and used them to just scrape by.

Tampa’s local channel Fox 13 stopped by and captured the students “naming their number,” the amount of student loan debt they expect to have once they graduate, and the angst that number generates.

Some students identified not just the amount of debt as a problem, but also figuring out what that debt and costs actually meant. One participant student spoke of how she made an effort to figure out what she was actually paying for, but was confused. After looking at the breakdown of costs, such as tuition, parking, health insurance, and an inexplicable “fee” column, she’s left asking herself, “now what does that mean?”  

Overall, students attending our roundtable gave insightful comments on the troubles of paying for college, and learned some great ways to get the information they need. Though student loan debt can be overwhelming, being well-informed of your options is the greatest weapon to tackling repayment.

Part of Young Invincibles’ mission is to educate young people on college affordability and repayment options after college, like Income Based Repayment (IBR). Currently, the system is a convoluted web of paperwork and legal jargon that make the financial aid and loan process hard for anyone to understand, especially 18-year-old’s who are just beginning to make their own financial decisions. For more help on navigating your loans and college financing options, go here.