Classic Signals: Students’ debt a burden

By Jessica Ganga
Features Editor

The College’s debt rate surpassed Princeton University in 2010. (Jessica Ganga / Features Editor)
The College’s debt rate surpassed Princeton University in 2010. (Jessica Ganga / Features Editor)

In this week’s issue, Opinions Editor Chelsea LoCascio reports on the break down of tuition that students pay at the College. In an excerpt from a 2010 article by Kelly Johnson, she highlighted how students at the College graduated with a large amount of debt. The College’s student debt was higher than the state average, which brought on concern for both students and faculty.

A recent study revealed that 2008 graduates are burdened with an average student debt of $22,088, while the overall average for college graduate in New Jersey stands at $20,169.

The Project on Student Debt’s latest report showed the College’s student debt exceeds others in the state, including Ramapo College, Rutgers University, William Paterson University, Felician College and even Princeton University.

However, this debt is topped by New Jersey Institute of Technology, where students had a debt average of $27,930, Rider University with $33,156 and Georgian Court University with $33,620. Georgian Court graduates have the highest student debt in the state, according to the report.

“There is a concern this year because unemployment, especially for young people, is at its worst levels,” Edie Irons, communications director of the Debt Project, said.

The Project on Student Debt is an initiative of the Institute of College Access and Success. According to its Web site, the Project on Student Debt is designed to help students find cost-effective solutions to paying off loans, as well as increasing “public understanding” of borrowing for tuition.

The project has been tracking New Jersey student debt since 2004 and reports that the student debt load has increased 24 percent.

The national student debt exceeds New Jersey’s with $23,200, but New Jersey has a wide range of averages from Princeton University with $5,955 to Georgian Court University with $33,620.

“There is some comfort in knowing that the New Jersey citizens and students at (the College) on average bear a lower debt load on graduation than the U.S. average,” President R. Barbara Gitenstein said.

However, Gitenstein also said the average debt of graduate from the College is still “troubling.”

Gitenstein said the Office of Financial Aid, in combination with the Center for Institutional Effectiveness, “pays close attention to patterns of student need,” and “is very attentive to individual student need, providing individual advice and support.”

According to Gitenstein, the development several years ago of the EOF Promise Award and more recently, the decision to delay payment deadlines for tuition bills are ways the College has responded to student debt.

According to Irons, healthcare debate has all but stopped the progress of student aid legislation.

Progress has been made, however, in the House of Representatives, which passed a bill on Dec. 11, 2009 that would create a new agency to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive financial products and services, including private student loans.

Part of this bill will allow schools the opportunity to consult with students prior to their acceptance of private loans.

According to Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success, “private loans are one of the riskiest ways to pay for college.”