NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH) – A group of New Britain High School students told Connecticut’s senior Senator they are scared. Scared about how they will pay for college. In a few years, they hope to be college graduates. Their education so far has taught them everything they need to get into college, but nothing about how to pay for it.
“I got off of a tour of NYU and my mom called me and asked how was the tour,” remembered senior Debbie Brown. “I said it was amazing and she said, ‘You know, realistically we can’t afford a school outside of Connecticut,’ and I’m like, ‘What do you mean?'”
For some, financial concerns are the main factor in where they go to college.
“My brother, who went to college before me, he was really warned against going out of state because it would be cheaper,” said senior Magda Mocarska. “So my parents are really against me going away and they’d rather me stay at home.”
These students let U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal know their college concerns at a meeting at the high school this morning. Blumenthal is part of a team of senators working to overhaul the college funding process.
“Why? Because the system right now is broken,” according to Se. Blumenthal. “It’s broken because the interest rates are too high on the loans, there aren’t enough grants.”
The Senate recently let the federal Perkins Loans program expire. Blumenthal would like to see that, or some other form of low-income student loan, come back. He also wants to make two years of community college free, and he would like to forgive student loans for anyone who spends five years after graduation working in a public service job, like teacher or firefighter. Right now, the collective student debt in the US is around $1.2 trillion.
“The average person coming out of college has anywhere between $60,000-100,000 in debt,” Blumenthal told the room full of seniors. “That’s you 5 years from now.”
Debbie Brown feels that pressure. She said she is one of six siblings in a family that recently got off of welfare. “College has always been this abstract concept in the back of my head and now I don’t know how to make it real,” she said. “I don’t have the money for this. It’s really scary for me.”
The problem keeps getting worse as the cost of a college education keeps growing, yet salaries for recent graduates are not keeping pace. That makes it even tougher to pay back student loans. A whole new group of people is about to find that out, as the 2015 graduating class is reaching the end of its 6-month grace period between graduation and the time when they have to start paying back their student loans.