The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Education at a cost

Photo by Morgan Engel

Students in debt talk about adapting to financial strife.

A typical student faces many challenges during college — deadlines, exams and time management, just to name a few. But one of the challenges that many college students face beyond their time on campus is debt.
Academic debt is a reality that 45 percent of students at Texas A&M face each year, according to the A&M Financial Aid Center. Although lower than the national percent of undergraduates that use loans — 68 percent — a student at A&M will take out an average of $23,000.
Kaylie Fontenot, Class of  2014, is currently $40,000 in debt. Taking out a loan interfered with her plans to go to veterinarian school, so now Fontenot works for the university as a document imaging specialist for the Admissions Department because of the lack of job availability for her degree.
“It was stressful knowing that I was in debt and getting into debt because basically I pay for everything with my student loans so my mom helped me with rent and other than that I worked. None of my tuition was paid for so I wouldn’t say it was good, definitely not good now,” Fontenot said. “Once I graduated it became more stressful because you have to start paying within six months of graduating, so I knew trying to find a job quickly so I could start making significant payments was important.”
Brendon Newman, Class of 2012, took out his first loan for all his expenses because it was his first experience with loans. He was $45,000 in debt and has $35,000 left four years later. To pay his loans it cost him half of his monthly rent, which is 25 percent of his paycheck from his starting salary. Newman said it was a difficult adult lesson to learn.
“I lived off of the dollar menu a lot of times and basically bought the cheap version of everything and tried not to spend money,” Newman said. “Maybe why I’m in such deep debt is because I didn’t let it affect me socially. You have to find a balance between having a life and being responsible and college is a tough time to learn that.”
Experiencing debt for the first time for families can be difficult, but debt also offers benefits that are unobtainable without a loan. First generation Aggie Cynthia Tomaselli, English sophomore, is $8,000 in debt and said although debt can be stressful, she was thankful she got to go to college.
“I think it gives people the opportunity to go to college, even though I wish that there were other ways that we could go about debt,” Tomaselli said. “It gives people like me, whose family can’t afford to send her to a university, the opportunity to go without having to worry about the financial stressors at the moment.”
The Money Education Center, located on the first floor of the Pavilion, provides information lessons on financial literacy, responsible borrowing, the 13 payment options for loans and other financial aspects. Delisa Falks, assistant vice president of Scholarships and Financial Aid at A&M, said students can benefit significantly from educating themselves financially.
“I believe that student loans are not considered bad debt because you are getting an education, and yes, you need to pay the student loans back, but what a student needs to do is borrow wisely and they only need to take out the amount of loans that they need to pay their educational cost,” Falks said.“When we look at our Money Education Center what we’re trying to do is to help students form good habits while in school to use when they’re out of school, and we know that financially students can be stressed because we aren’t just talking student loan debt, but credit card debt, too.”
Tomaselli said students concerned about their debt can find more information on the Money Education Center’s website.
“If you really want to be successful it’ll be okay to take out a loan,” Tomaselli said. “It’s not the end of the world and you’ll find a way to pay it off. It takes perseverance and dedication and it takes understanding that sometimes you don’t get the privilege of college, but in the end it’ll pay off.”

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