Loans for credit or quality?

Lakeidra Chavis/ Editor-in-Chief

Feb. 4, 2014

Is college worth it?

Is the quality of education we receive worth the money we put into it?

In 2012, $28,000 was the average amount of student debt for University of Alaska students. Half of UA students take out loans at some point during their college career, according to Alaska Business Monthly.

For some UA students, that answer can be complicated. Katie Shier, a former high school classmate and 20-year-old junior English student at the University of Alaska Southeast is currently $20,000 in debt. “In what world does it make sense that an 18-year-old right out of high school is going to have enough forethought or even financial stability to apply for college, fill out the paperwork and find some way to pay for it?” Shier said in an email.

Although Shier didn’t know how much college would cost when she was in high school, she knew she was going to take out loans. “Both my parents are teachers and have always told me I wouldn’t be able to have financial help from them,” Shier said.

Twenty-two-year-old UAF civil engineering student Grace Amundsen has also taken out loans to attend college.

Amundsen has taken out approximately $40,000 in student loans. She has also received a few engineering-based scholarships.

Amundsen acknowledged that she underestimated the cost before attending. “It definitely costs more than UAF predicts on their site, for sure,” she said.

Junior Chemistry student Cris Lorlamai just began taking out loans last semester. Lorlamai said that he would probably still attend college without loans, but would need more help from his parents.

Lorlamai, Amundsen and Shier all described the loan application process as difficult and thought there were ways their universities could improve.

“For the amount I’m paying, I should be receiving so much more help, better food, and classes that I need offered more often,” Shier said.

Amundsen thinks that professors would benefit from teaching workshops to help with their skills. “My professors are, without an exception, experienced in their field,” Amundsen said, “I think that perhaps they should get some actual training in teaching as well as engineering.”

But not every student goes into debt during college. History and journalism student Audri Pleas and station manager at KRUA, the University of Alaska Anchorage’s radio station, took a four-year break before starting college. During that time, she worked at Wal-Mart and was able to save up approximately $15,000 in order to pay for her education.

As a station manager, Pleas receives a tuition bonus which helps cut down costs.

Despite the cost of university, all of them acknowledged that college has given them new opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

“I’ve been able to access people that I know I wouldn’t have been able to at bigger universities,” Pleas said, adding that one of her professors had 20 years of NPR. Pleas also co-hosted the Alaska Press Club conference, an annual state-wide professional journalism conference based in Anchorage.

Amundsen studied abroad in England and helped build the annual Ice Arch one year.

Lorlamai has been involved in leadership events. “I went on the Emerging Leaders Retreat with LIVE and met some great people and made some new friends,” Lorlamai said.

“I wish I could leave college debt free,” Shier said, “But I can’t and that’s going to make starting a life after school so much harder than it needs to be. And that to me is more ridiculous than war and the country’s debt.”

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