Debt: A Family Reality

From Minnesota Alumni Magazine Fall 2015

Joelle Stangler, a political science major who is now serving her second term as the University’s student body president, is nervous about the amount of debt she’ll have when she graduates next year. (As president of the student body, Stangler sits on the Alumni Association board.) Stangler was valedictorian of her class at Rogers High School in Rogers, Minnesota, in 2012. But the high sticker prices made the cost of attending private schools seem prohibitive, so she applied and was accepted to the University, where she will end up with about $30,000 of student loan debt for her four-year degree, despite scholarships, some support from her parents, and working two jobs.

Both of Stangler’s parents are educators—her mom an elementary-school teacher and her dad a high- school math teacher who is director of the Elk River School District. The trouble is, they are still paying off their own student loan debt, which made it impossible to help pay their children’s college costs. Worse yet, student loan debt doesn’t count when calculating student need and a family’s ability to pay, so Stangler didn’t qualify for need-based aid. There are three kids in college in the Stangler family, and all have taken on debt, she says.

“The core problem is that the students who graduate with debt are graduating with more than they used to, making them rent for longer because they can’t buy a house, they can’t buy a car, they can’t go to graduate school. I’m squirreling away money now because I know that six months after graduation I’m going to have to start paying $250 a month on my student loans. It’s daunting because there is no flexibility for car repairs and all the other things that just come up in life.” - M.M.

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