College Costs: 2016 graduates find themselves paying price of reduced funding

Iowa ranks no. 8 in the country for college debt. Parents and students see it coming, yet most are still slapped in the face when it finally arrives.

The average amount of debt for an Iowa college student ranges around $29,732. This is a far greater number than it used to be, just 20 years ago. State government used to pay more for its students education, but now the college is coming out of parents’ and students’ pockets.

Once CFHS graduates move on to the universities of their choice, many find themselves not having much money for groceries and resorting to some crazy things like, “loading your pockets with dining center M&M’s,” just like recent graduate Sommer Danielsen said she’s done as a freshman at Iowa State.

She said, “College is a learning process. If I could go back and tell myself how to prepare, I would evaluate the cost of education.”

When she was budgeting for Iowa State, Danielsen said, “I put 30 percent into savings, 10 percent into a church or cause … and maybe the rest on shoes. That’s what I did. Creating money guidelines can be helpful. I’ve tried to borrow as little as I can.”

But she said it’s hard to see what’s coming because it’s such a complete shift from what high school students are used to. “Keep an open mind,” she said. “Having specific expectations is what failed me. New college lifestyles are something you can’t quite understand till it happens, and it also helps you to be thankful for high school experiences.”

Danielsen said she loved her high school years, yet she is excited to study journalism and design At ISU.

Recent graduate Andrew Hager can relate. He also expressed debt as, “more than I expected. Little things like parking fees and books add up quick.”

He found himself scrounging early to get ahead of the financial game and cope with the load of his new routines. He has a steady job at Hy- Vee and jumps on any extra shifts.

“Not shying away from really working the hours this summer came in handy,” Hager said. “Also, taking advantage of dual enrollment opportunity between CF and UNI senior year. Take as much college credit as you can. AP classes will help, as they are easier and cheaper in high school.” 

While Hager has college laid out pristinely, there are some rather unsightly sacrifices he regularly makes to see ends meet. “I basically sell my body every week for money in the form of Biolife. Biolife is paying for me to drive,” he said.

Selling plasma is a common routine for candidates approaching college, including recent graduates Matt Bauman, Josiah Sabino, Nathan Doyle, Ben Louviere and countless others.

College students also learn quickly that it pays to be thrifty. College freshman Jacob Leisinger said if he could go back and repeat his high school money habits, “I would tell myself to stop spending so much money on food and retro basketball jerseys and start saving more money in preparation for the future. I would tell myself to apply for more scholarships, including the small ones that don’t seem like much at the time, but they can really add up and help you out.” Leisinger also confessed to be a huge bargain shopper. “You’ve got to love Great Value products,” he said.

Recent graduates also stressed relying on the wisdom of others with insight into what lies ahead. “Meeting with school counselors is also very helpful,” Sabino said. “They are very helpful and patient when it comes to laying out your future,” a future that can prove to be very expensive.

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