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Student Debt Crisis at Sonoma State University
by Sharita
Tuesday Dec 10th, 2013 5:00 PM
Student debt has surpassed the $1 trillion mark not too long ago. A lot of students are clearly unaware of how much either they or their parents are paying to attend this University.
Student debt has surpassed national credit-card debt, crossing the $1 trillion point last year. The Higher Education Act of 1965 provided Pell Grants for lower-income students, increased the amount of federal money given to universities to offer students high financial aid awards, created scholarships, and made way for loans with lower interest rates. What started off as an opportunity to get a high education is now what has become a financial burden to those same people. How did we as students reach $1 trillion in student debt one may ask, while another may answer that maybe it has something to do with the government or universities in itself compromising peoples education to make a quick buck or instead of using money towards education it is being used to build unnecessary music buildings, or paying VP’s an insane amount of money to do absolutely nothing beneficial to us as a student body.
Starting from right when the housing bubble popped and the recession hit the American public in 2008; estimates that “approximately two-thirds of students with undergraduate degrees have some form of student debt.” (2013). It seems like once the elites of the country had enough of sucking money out of American homeowners they decided to go after students' pockets. Not even President Obama seems very interested in the student loan problem. Before this year, he last signed a bill in 2010 that “eliminated private banks and lenders from the federal student-loan business. The president insisted the plan would eliminate waste and promised to pass the savings along to students in the form of more college and university loans, including $36 billion in new Pell grants over 10 years for low-income students.” (Taibbi, 2013) Although this sounded very good at the time the truth is tuition and fees have since continued to rise along with student debt. But why has it still continued to rise when both Congress and The President have passed bills to lessen the weight of loans and college fees? The answer, as Matt Taibbi explains, is the rise of tuition was made deliberately by schools' desires to do unnecessary spending.

As a part of our sociological research class project, we decided to look at every aspect of funding within our school. We researched articles concerning anything ranging from our President receiving a car allowance, Sonoma State’s Green Music Building, and tuition fees constantly increasing. We also reached out to different departments within the school such as dining services, the student recreational facility, and housing. To gain a more indebt look on whether or not students were even aware of how much they or their parents pay to attend this University we created survey’s to test their knowledge and handed them out at random in different areas of the campus. The survey was conducted by all members of our group, we passed out 300 surveys at random times of the day all over campus to any individual who was a student of the university and whom were willing to participate. We surveyed at different times of the day to get a variety of students. We constructed appropriate survey ethics and included them at the top of the survey. The survey consisted of 21 questions that were aimed to get some basic demographics of students at Sonoma State as well as see how aware students are of their tuition and fees, how those fees are paid as well as what they think are the primary causes to such dramatic changes on campus. All of the percentages reflect our data analysis attached at the end of this paper.
Of the students who invest in loans to pay for their education only 20% of students knew the amount that they borrowed; the average loan was $11,617 a year. Of the 20% of students who knew the amount they borrowed only 7% knew the interest rate on said loans, with the average being 4.16%. Unfortunately this also is an indication that students are oblivious to the grave they are digging by paying for a college education. In 2010 the interest rate for a FAFSA Subsidized Loan was at 3.4%, after January 2013 the interest rate doubled to 6.8%. 150 students indicated that they did receive a financial aid package through the university, the most popularly used payment being a Subsidized Loan at 35%, followed by Unsubsidized at 15%, and Parent Plus Loans at 15%.
We then extended the survey into also including the 32% of students who receive grants. The average-grant amount accepted was $6,582 dollars a semester. Not only are fewer students being able to access free federal paid education, but also this survey represents the demographics of our upper-middle class dominant campus. We charge students $6,872 a semester to attend the University and due to the pressure to get a hire education parents are willing to pay the bill and students are willing to work excessive hours and take ill structured loans to glimpse the “American Dream”.

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