By Haywood Liggett
Listen Up, Lansing Staff Reporter
Some students at Lansing Community College are relying solely on student loans to pay for their tuition.
Shane Harris, who attended Lansing Community College for three years from 2011-2014, used student loans to pay for all of his classes. He acquired $6,000 worth of debt during his tenure. If Harris had only taken out the exact loans that were needed to pay for all his classes, he would only be around $5,000 in the hole.
“Instead of taking that small refund each semester from excess loans and paying it back immediately, I would put it towards things like clothes and shoes,” Harris said. You don’t think about it at the time since you don’t have to pay that money back right away, but six months after you’re done taking classes, those reminders that it’s time to start paying up start flooding in, and they don’t stop.”
Harris did not receive his associate’s degree from LCC. He planned on transferring to a 4-year institution after a year hiatus from school in 2014, but has not applied anywhere else still. Since he hasn’t been in school he’s had to begin paying his loans back.
“Those payments came at a really bad time, but when is it ever good to have another bill,” he said.”I’m paying about $250 a month, which is pretty steep from me, but it’s not as bad as a four-year university loan payment would be.”
The rising cost of college has not lessened the need for those that want a better chance at a decent job to have a college degree. According the U.S. Census Bureau, a person that earns a bachelor’s degree will earn almost double ($51,206 to $27,915) someone with only a high school diploma makes over a span of their working careers.
Although the average difference in wages is noticeable between those with a degree and those without one, there are students that would love the opportunity to receive higher learning, but simply can’t afford the classes on. This is where student loans come in.
For students that cannot afford to pay for college out-of-pocket, loans are another way that they can pay for their classes.
Mark Grannovetter, professor of sociology at Stanford University, said that with the cost of college what it is right now, without any type of scholarship or grant, the majority of students that come from families that aren’t rolling in cash just won’t be able to pay for college out-of-pocket.
“The cost of four-year institutions has been pretty high for a while now, but recently even community college costs are beginning to get to the place that students need financial aid to cover tuition there as well,” he said. “I feel bad for students that have to take on a large amount of debt just to be able to go to college, but that’s just the world we live in today.”
Jeremy Bates, a student at Lansing Community College, relies solely on student loans to pay for all four of his classes this semester.
“My mom works about six days a week normally, sometimes seven if she picks up an extra shift,” he said. “She makes enough to keep everything in the house running smoothly but it’s no way she could afford to do that and pay for my schooling.”
Bates borrowed roughly $2,000 this semester to cover his classes and books. He said that this was about how much he’d borrowed each of his previous four semesters at LCC.
“I mean it’s not ideal but it’s the only way I can afford to go to school. If it wasn’t for loans I’d be sitting my butt right at home this year and probably be working at Kroger’s,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with Kroger’s but I don’t want that to be the only thing I have going on.”
Londell Nelson, a business major at LCC, also is relying on loans to pay for his education. His first year at LCC he received a scholarship for the entire year. But it only lasted the first year he was there. He tried paying out-of-pocket his third semester but said it cut in to other necessities financially.
“I got through but I was struggling,” he said. “Even though community college is way less expensive than a four-year university, for someone who lives on their own and works a couple minimum wage jobs, it was another bill that I couldn’t afford to have.”
The second semester of last year Nelson began having his tuition covered by student loans.
“It was a pretty big weight off my shoulders,” he said. “Even though that weight will come crashing down on me when I graduate, I at least can get through school and have a chance at a better job to pay off those loans.”