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Students remain positive despite debt

Tuesday, February 12, 2008  
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By Lori Woodfin

With the recent announcement of an increase in tuition next fall, some students give the change only a small thought.

"I will just have to take out a bit more," junior Kelly Tomasi said.  "I have already taken out so much that the extra few thousand dollars won't stop me from coming here."

Director of Student Financial Services Clint LaRue reported 76 percent of students at Oklahoma Christian University have borrowed money to help pay for school for the current academic year.

April graduates will leave the university with an average debt load of $22,820, private loans included, according to the CollegeBoard.

Some seniors who graduate in April are not worried about the load.

"I know that I'm going to be paying these loans off for quite a while, but I feel confident in my ability to get a job where I will have the income needed to pay them off," senior Britt Ingram said.

Senior Roxanne Maloy sees the load as a challenge.

"It is my biggest goal to not be paying on these loans for longer than 10 years," Maloy said.  "I really want to accelerate the payment plan, so it doesn't worry me as much, and it will be more of a challenge."

Maloy has been paying her own expenses through all of her adult life. Leaving college with debt does not worry her.

"I've also been taking care of my own bills since I was 16," Maloy said. "I am already paying on some of my loans, so it just comes naturally for me."

In the 2006-2007 academic year, students at Oklahoma Christian had an average total loan of $6,785, according to the Coalition of Christian College Universities.

LaRue said graduates in 2007 left with an average debt load of $23,894, including private loans, which is higher than the expected amount for this year.

LaRue also said if a student does well during school, the debt load is not so much of a burden as it is a financial investment.

"College is definitely an investment in my point of view, and I have already seen so many rewards as a part of it that I do not have any doubts of the outcomes I will see even ten, twenty or thirty years from now," junior Amber Grubb said.  "OC is completely worth it."

CollegeBoard reports more jobs are requiring an education beyond high school.  College graduates have more job options and are also paid more in comparison to those with only a high school degree.

On average, someone with a bachelor's degree earns $50,900—that's 62 percent more than the $31,500 earned annually by someone with only a high school diploma, CollegeBoard said.

Despite the availability of jobs and more income to be earned, Grubb is not worried about her loan load because of other sensible reasons.

"I know it is going to take a long, long time to pay it off, but I know it is a part of my life that has helped make me who I am. I would not change any of it," Grubb said. "I have loved being here at OC, and I am so thankful for the opportunities that I have had."

Tomasi is not worried either.

"Everyone I have talked to who has graduated OC says that OC leaves you prepared to take care of your business," Tomasi said. "I know that it will all work out, and I do not worry about it too much."

LaRue strongly encourages students to seriously reconsider loans which are not school certified and are offered through banks or other lenders.  These loans are never seen by Oklahoma Christian.

"Those loans are more expensive, [with] higher interest rates. We highly, highly, highly encourage students to not take those loans, but to apply for aid through the financial aid office and let us get better loans to them," LaRue said.

Although paying for school can be a challenge, Grubb encourages students not to let money hold them back from opportunities.

"We sometimes let money be what holds us back from so many opportunities that come before us, but money is not the end all say all in life," Grubb said. "It is important to realize that if there is something you are really passionate about in life, there are others who most likely are as well or that just want to help you achieve it."  


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