Debt is major concern for college students
Sebastian Correa experienced every high school senior's dream; He received fat acceptance envelopes from six colleges to which he had applied.
However, the third semester economics and English major said he chose to study at the University of Connecticut strictly because of its lower costs.
"I chose UConn purely for economic reasons," Correa said. "I got into UCLA, Carnegie Mellon, Emory, SMU and University of Michigan, but I would have to pay out-of-state tuition for all of them."
For Correa, settling for his backup college choice was a disappointment. Many of the state's college students are seriously concerned by the high cost of college and the increasing debt load they face should they choose to borrow money to pay for their educations.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, who won re-election to the state's second district on Tuesday, said he has made lowering student debt one of his key priorities. Courtney was a key backer of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. A law that prevented a steep increase in interest rates for the Stafford student loans. He also recently introduced the True Cost of College Act 2012, which would require more information about college costs and financing options to be provided on financial aid forms.
Courtney said he believes information on the different types of student loans is not disseminated widely enough.
"Borrowing to pay for higher education is still valuable - if it takes you to a middle-class or upper middle-class job, I think it's a successful investment," he said. "We've got to do a better job of informing families of the obligations they're taking on when they go to schools. Also, people have low awareness of income-based repayments for students who are done with college and struggling with debt collectors."
Courtney said one key is ensuring prospective students and their families get the information they need to make informed decisions.
"We have to start getting the information out there," Courtney said. "There are tens of millions that can benefit from [income-based repayments], but right now it's less than a million."
Correa said students do worry about college debt.
"[Employment] used to be a guarantee instead of a possibility, but a bachelor's degree is now the beginning," he said. "Before, high school diplomas were enough and skills were learned through experience on the job. Now, there are higher expectations where you have to be trained right out of college and a master's degree still doesn't guarantee you a job."
UConn freshman Rob Turnbull said many students he knows did not want to graduate with a lot of debt.
"Not many people I know have taken out loans because their parents have helped pay for their education," he said. "No student wants to owe money to anyone."
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