Student debt creates problems and opportunities for college graduates

Have you ever felt like you were actually in debt up to your eyeballs? Well, most students are as they come out of college. Students are incurring higher and higher debt that is becoming harder to pay off with climbing interest rates and less job opportunities than there were years ago. College students, including myself, are feeling the pinch the closer we get to graduation day. Questions arise every semester, such as “Do I really need to take this extra money out?” or “How much should I save to make sure I don’t need to take more out in the future?” These questions lead to decisions that will most likely affect the next 10 years of our lives as we continue to pay off our debt to our school.

The hard part for many students is the balance between work and school. Work part time and lose out on study time, which could lead to worse grades. But it can also lead to great experience, which can help get a job for the future. According to my roommate and current UMD student Nick Weber, who formerly worked at the RSOP office as an intramural ref, work can be a good thing for a student.

“I think if a student is able to fit work into their schedules, they should,” Weber said.

The study and work schedule is always a tough balance for many students, as they want the money to go have fun, but still need to get good enough grades to keep majors progressing and scholarships afloat. So where is the balance found between work and school?

According to an article written by Steven Moneyworth for Yahoo News, students should work around 15 hours a week if they can find a job in a related field that they would want to go into after graduation. These hours help take the financial burden off the student’s and parent’s pocketbooks.

Graph of how many students are employed while in college.

The burden that students are attempting to balance out amounts to about $22,000 in debt according to a 2008 study by The College Board. Student debt has increased 18 percent since 2001, which means that colleges are cashing in more each year despite the students digging further into the hole.

These statistics bring us back to the idea of working while at college. With the amount of debt becoming a seemingly bottomless pit for some students, a job can help make paying off debt a little easier in the short and long term. According to Tina Tuttle’s article “College Students Working: The Choice Nexus”, 80 percent of American undergraduates worked while attending college. This number shows that many students are getting into the workforce, and therefore gaining experience in possible professional fields for after graduation.

Jane Gherity, UMD student and Multicultural Center receptionist, uses her income to cover her college debt as well as living expenses while trying to balance classes.

"It helps a little bit, but not enough to completely pay it off," Gherity said.

If students can balance their work with enough time to study, they typically are able to be more successful in finding a job to pay for their student debt. According to, employers extended job offers to nearly 70 percent of their interns, which is a 13 percent increase from seven years prior.

These statistics give us students a glimmer of hope once we step foot on the commencement stage and walk off into the “real world.” It also gives us a lesson to be learned; we get what we put into our education, whether it is studies or internships. The more we are able to do, the more likely we will find a job, and eventually we will balance out that student debt.

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