Student Debt Raises Concern on Campus

Elizabeth Vierkant – 

Student debt is at an all time high in the United States. According to the financial office this isn’t a major problem on University of Wisconsin Stout’s campus, but debt continues to rise.

According to Bill Kryshack, a professor in UW–Stout’s Business Department, students graduate with an average of $27,000 in debt. As of the 2014-15 school year, the average debt of University of Wisconsin–Stout students was $23,642.

“This is my thirty-third year at Stout. Student debt has risen significantly over the years,” Kryshak said. He believes that this is due to many different factors. “In the University Wisconsin System one of the major changes that has caused a drastic increase in student debt is the reduction of State support for our system,” he said.

In the 1974-75 school year, the state of Wisconsin provided about 79 percent of emotional costs. By the 2015-16 school year, this had decreased to 28 percent of funding from the state. The other 72 percent is covered by tuition.

“While our students may borrow $30,000 for their degree, 98 percent of our students secure employment within six months of graduation, and debt is being repaid.” Beth Boisen, the director of financial aid, said. In Boisen opinion, this is money well spent.

According to Boisen, 98 percent of UW–Stout’s students get a job within six months of graduation. “Unfortunately, the news somewhat sensationalizes student loan borrowing when they focus on one student who borrowed over $150,000 to get a bachelor’s degree,” she said. “That is not what typically happens.”

In the 2014-15 school year, the number of loan recipients at UW–Stout was 889. The percent of graduates with loan debt was 78 percent.

According to Kryshak, many students are also struggling to work in order to avoid debt. Students are expected to work 2-3 hours on homework for every hour that they are in class. Students are also expected to have jobs outside of their school work.

“That 20 to 30 hours of work adds stress, limits opportunities for outside school related activities and takes away from the educational experience as there just is not enough time in a day,” Kryshak said.

Since the 1970’s, the wages that students earn in their jobs are not increasing at the same rates as tuition.

“It was said that in 1972, you could earn minimum wage working the complete summer and pay for your tuition, fees, and room and board,” Kryshak concluded. According to Kryshak, In 2017, a student would have had to make $32 an hour throughout the summer to afford tuition and other fees.

Students at UW–Stout agree that the increasing student debt is a problem on campus.

Makayla Schrank, a junior in the entertainment design program, is one of these students. “I know that tuition here isn’t all that bad. It could be worse, but it’s enough that I will push my education to only four years,” she said. “By pushing it like that, I’ve come to realize that I’m not getting all the information that I need to know.”

Makayla also voiced her concern that debt will keep students from attending college at all.

Hannah Gilkey, a junior majoring in special education is also concerned about the effects of student debt. “You can have the best grades and apply for scholarships and still not get enough, and financial aid is limited,” she said. “I don’t think it’s realistic yet to get through college without debt, not for a lot of ‘average’ students.”

Much like Kryshak, Hannah also believes that it is difficult to afford college expenses on a minimum wage.

“My biased opinion is that student loan debt will continue to increase unless the federal and state governments step up to help make education more affordable,” Kryshak said.

If you or any friends are in need of financial assistance, feel free to contact the financial aid office for more information.

“I think it is important that students contact our office with any financial aid related questions,” Boisen said. She believes that students should never make assumptions when it comes to college finances.

The Financial Aid Office is located in 210 Bowman Hall. It is open Monday through Friday from 8-4:30 in the afternoon.