Paying for college is no simple task. Many students, including myself, rely on scholarships, loans, and grants to cover the expense of a college education. The rising cost of tuition at universities across the nation makes it hard for students to cover the tab even with help from the federal government or private institutions. For those who can't rely on savings or parents, it can be very stressful. Choosing between eating out or staying at home with a bowl of ramen because you want to save money is the kind of dilemma faced by many across the nation. It is not uncommon these days to find most students working one -- or sometimes two -- jobs to support themselves and pay for school instead of studying for class.
A few days ago, two co-workers and I went to a local pizzeria during our lunch break and the topic of paying for school came up. Kyle, who graduated this spring, racked up $50,000 in student loan debt in just the past two years. He not only used the money to pay for school expenses but to cover rent and other bills when his two jobs weren't enough to cover everything. He never qualified for federal aid which would have helped him even though it was a $5,550 federal pell grant, a drop in the bucket of what he eventually has to pay back. Evan, a senior, also has to rely on private loans to pay for school as well as work in order to pay bills.
I hear similar stories every time the subject comes up. Usually I stay quiet about how much I have had to pay out of pocket for school because I have benefited greatly from federal aid and scholarships. As of now I only owe approximately $6,000. Although relatively small, it still contributes to the United States $1 trillion student loan debt. Chances are, you know someone who has some amount of student loan debt. Don't be ashamed to talk about it. Student loans are not necessarily a bad thing, they're how a vast number of us college students pay for our education. Starting a dialogue with those around you leads to a better awareness of what's going on, which enables better decision making concerning what will affect you in the future.