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Student debt averages $28,783 for 2011 Conn. graduates

By Cole von Richtofen
On October 25, 2012

According to the Project on Student Debt, the average Connecticut graduate student in 2011 carried a debt of $28,783 - and this isn't even including for-profit "private" institutions. While students nationwide graduated with an average of $26,500 in 2011 (a five percent increase from 2010), Connecticut colleges and universities were ranked fifth in graduate debt nationwide.
The study, which aimed to illustrate barriers to higher education for policymakers, noted that while last year's graduates had generally entered college before the economic collapse, the recession of 2008 had significantly increased the gap between college costs and what students could afford to pay. However, "research continues to show strong economic returns on investments in college degrees," despite this, according to the study.
The Project also discussed the job market, noting that 37.8% of working graduates had jobs that did not require a college degree. 2nd semester UConn graduate student and Graduate Student Senator Hayley Kilroy commented that one of the reasons that she had decided to continue research in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology was the difficulty of finding stable employment on her four-year degree alone. She also said that although UConn has "standardized assistantship pay across the departments," TA positions at various other universities may have "one, two, even three classes per week" and yet have the same pay disproportionate to number of classes. For her, the actual cost of tuition for graduate school was far less important than whether or not the position received federal funding-one such position that she applied for disappeared when it was denied such funding.
Rubina Javed, a 1st-semester graduate student in agriculture and resource economics, agreed that funds for assistantships and similar positions are limited.
"I applied late, and most money had been exhausted," she said. This in turn limited her in class selection, making it unaffordable to take more than two courses this semester, since she wants to avoid taking on debt. As for the presidential candidates and their plans for education financing, Javed pointed out how important their solutions were to her voting decisions. To her and her fellow graduate students, tackling school costs is a paramount issue in this election season.
The Project on Student Debt is an annual publication and study by the Institute for College Access and Success, a non-profit organization that aims to "pave the way to successful educational outcomes for students."

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