Beginning and attending college or graduate school can be a major life transition for many students. It especially becomes difficult, however, for students with mental illness who move away from home and care designed to deal with their specific health care problem.
As the price of tuition steadily increases at many colleges and universities, borrowing money often becomes the only means to pay for education, Iowa college students said in interviews as the current school year ended. Students at Coe College, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, saw a constant rise in tuition over the last four years. They were expected to pay $40,670 in the 2015-16 academic year but that has become $45,230 for the 2019-20 school year. Neither amount includes room and board. Leslie Ortiz, 21, from Houston and a junior this past school year, estimated that she will have loans totaling $38,000 by the time she graduates.
You become aware at Cornell College that school leaders take pride in the Mount Vernon, Iowa, college’s small class sizes and bonds students, professors and staff members make. But the college’s modest enrollment of about 1,000 also means a smaller pool of tuition-paying students supporting facilities that attract people to the school. Tuition increases become a natural part of the college. Parents can help their children prepare for college costs by saving for them, Pamela Perry, the college’s director of financial planning and assistance, said. “I think a lot of families aren’t really thinking that far down the road yet,” she said.
Some students graduating from an Iowa college or university this month will have to pay off debts that could be close to $100,000. Other loans facing college students are far lower and a lot of students have avoided debt. But for many, taking out loans remains necessary in order to go to college, an IowaWatch College Media journalism project showed. “I don’t wanna’ be in debt, but I made the decision to come to school and I think for most students, when they make that decision, it’s kind of already married to the decision to take students loans as well,” Nick Hodges, finishing his senior year in communication studies and writing at Coe College, said. Hodges, 28, from Crawfordsville, Indiana, was one of several students interviewed at eight Iowa college campuses this spring for the IowaWatch project.
Several Iowa school districts have taken on debt the last 17 years, with one district owing as much as $35,448 per student, to handle student enrollment increases but also repairs to aging buildings. The question they face is: how to manage that debt?
Half of all states, including Kansas, pay less than 10 percent of school construction costs. Districts in those states are largely at the mercy of voters to finance new schools and major renovations. Low-wealth districts — particularly in rural areas — struggle to convince voters to do so.
Nationally, school district debt topped $443 billion in 2016. Districts that take on debt but can’t generate dollars through enrollment growth or taxes can struggle to climb out, and often have to take resources away from kids.
BySarah Butrymowicz and Nichole Dobo/The Hechinger Report |
School district administrators and school boards typically turn to outside advisers and underwriters when issuing bonds. But relying on outsiders puts districts in a vulnerable position, one in which they sometimes get bad deals with high interest rates and fees.
Ed tech bonds are part of an emerging shift in how schools are thinking about paying for technology. Yet it’s an approach that some observers say not only violates the principle of taxpayer-financed debt, but exacerbates inequities for schools in communities lacking the municipal wealth of their higher-income counterparts.
Colorado’s share-the-pain approach to pension reform is one that more states may turn to as they seek to prevent their pension funds from going bankrupt. Such changes could further depress teacher pay and crowd out money for school supplies and building repairs, but there are no simple alternative solutions in sight.