University of Washington Alumni Association
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Columns Votes - December 2006
Comments on Student Loans and Debt
I was naive about how much debt I would be in after getting out of school and how that would affect my life. I got my first easy credit card in college and there began my 20s in debt. I also worked a lot of hours during college so I didn’t have to have that feeling of being a “poor college student”. I funded that feeling on debt while taking the maximum I could on a loan even though I probably didn’t need it. So 12 years later I barely have $2,000 of my student loan paid off and it’s a source of contention with my husband who never went to college and ended up better off financially than myself, even though I make a larger salary than him now. I wish there had been some way for me to see how that debt affected my future.
You did not ask about student loans. That’s the financial aid that I could qualify for when I initially enrolled. I used VA benefits while on active duty (Army) for my final 12 months of study for my B.A. I didn’t work during this period, as the Army continued my salary and benefits. I got lucky.
I think this survey is invalid as it ignores the largest source of college funding—loans. A financial aid grant that does not need to be repaid is a *very* different funding vehicle than a loan that needs to be repaid.
I think that 95% financial aid did not affect my life experience DURING college, but rather the reality of my financial situation AFTER college. I was blissfully ignorant of the material sacrifices I would have to make in the future when signing my name to the forms during my educational years. Add credit card debt accumulated while finding a job post-graduation. My situation is that I am very glad to have had a great education, and enjoy the career I have because of that education, but am sacrificing by not having the funds necessary for large purchases in life... a new car, home, etc. If I had it to do over again, I would have worked during college and tried to pay at least half of my educational expenses and planned ahead for post-graduation empty pockets.
As the oldest of seven children, my parents did not have the means to pay for college. All seven of us earned our bachelor’s degrees (six from the UW) through a combination of working, financial aid, student loans, and scholarships. The availability of funds through the student loan program made it possible for me to graduate in four years.
My college experience was positive because I didn’t have to work and could concentrate on my studies. However, now that I have to pay all that money back over the next 20 years, I’m wishing I wouldn’t have taken out so many loans!
Without financial aid, I would not have been able to go back to school to finish my undergraduate degree. I just wish there had been more grants available at the time so I would have had fewer loans to repay.
It was worth the expense but I do look forward to when I am not paying it back. Eight years after graduation and I still owe half of what I borrowed!!
Since I didn’t really pay attention at how much I was borrowing while I was in school, it didn’t really affect my education. As an alum, however, faced with over $50,000 in student loan debt, it’s having a negative impact.
For me, financial aid made up well more than half of my funding for college. However, it was not wholly funding my education. Your data will be skewed. Most if not all of the answers indicating “half” should be construed as “half, or more than half”.
Working the financial aid process should be made more simple. I understand the FAFSA and federal requirements for process, but where possible the UW should simplify process and speed it up.
Connections and integration of private scholarship sources should be made into the UW financial aid office more fully. Many students don’t know where to go to for more direct aid (grants, scholarships, etc.). This should not be missed!!
The short-term loan program is very helpful until it comes time to graduate. At this point the office is not helpful at all. They provided no support or options of other institutions that could provide assistance in paying back this short-term loan. When I called to ask if they know of other places that I could roll the loan over and pay back the University they said flat out NO. There was no advice or assistance provided and that was very unfortunate. Luckily I found a bank that would carry my small loan without the help of the financial aid people, but I felt for all of the people that might have had a harder time finding a bank to credit them that small amount. That was my only interaction with the UW financial aid office and it was a disgrace. I hope that UW will provide more support to future students in helping them secure a better financial future.
I depended on financial aid for all of my tuitions during my five years at the UW. Money earned from work paid for my other expenses ... gas, insurance, food, etc. As for my student experience, it was positive since to continue qualifying for financial aid, I had to maintain a passing GPA. It’s a positive reinforcement. Being able to work (part-time and internship) helped a lot too.
My graduate degree from UW was paid entirely from a needs-based grant, subsidized, and unsubsidized loans. Without financial aid, graduate school would have stayed an unattainable dream. I view my education from the UW as an invaluable experience, regardless of the considerable student loan debt I accumulated.