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The Battle of Loan Mountain

By HANNAH VANDENBERG
Updated: 01/12/14 7:24pm

Welcome back, fellow class goers! Did everyone enjoy their two days off? Were they more enjoyable than your professors frantically trying to cram everything you missed into the first few classes now? I sure hope so.

I don’t know about you, but for me, a new semester is another fresh start. Along with every new semester, however, comes this beautiful thing we like to call a FAFSA reassessment. After this assessment (which asks you to include how much you made the previous year, where you live, how much you pay in rent/mortgage, who you live with, marital status, children, how much your spouse makes, what size your underwear is, and where your dog takes a crap every morning, so have that information handy) you will receive notice of whether or not you are approved for federal loans and/or grants.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 88% of GVSU students received financial aid in the 2011-12 academic year. 64% received grants or scholarship aid, while 65% received help paying tuition with federal student loans. Doesn’t seem like a big difference, right? But now, let’s look at it like this. Those that received grants received a whopping $64,462,101 in aid. This never has to be repaid! Sounds unbelievable. But compare that to how much students were loaned, meaning they will eventually have to repay once they’re finished with school, with an additional interest amount tacked onto it, and the amount is a jaw dropping $105,253,062. In one year. This is out of 24,654 students that year (21,317 undergraduates). Does this seem a little bit off to anyone else? Being a returning student, I not only “make too much” as an evening waitress at a Grand Rapids restaurant to receive grants, but because I am currently paying off my loans from my previous attempt at GVSU, I also do not qualify for federal student loans. (What? I can’t even add to my already existing mountain of loans?)

I never looked into this problem until I had to pay cash out of my pocket to finish my education while also picking away at paying off my former tuition. Not to mention every other cost adulthood shovels on us. With tuition climbing every year and the economy desperately struggling to recover, why are we seeing these epic loans as no big deal? And why are grants so difficult to obtain when there is so much need? When I was told I make too much money to qualify for grants I laughed out loud. “Do you want a copy of my bank account? It is valid proof that I do not, in fact, ‘make too much,’” I responded. It makes me wonder, how poor is poor enough? Why are we required to dig ourselves into a hole of debt so we can (hopefully) get hired at a job to spend the next good chunk of our lives repaying that debt? Is it just me, or does this just seem insane?

I want your feedback. What do you think about this? Am I being a whiny brat? Let me know at vandenha@mail.gvsu.edu.

Do you like what Hannah has to say? Check out her personal blog at www.hannahstwenties.com

Published January 12, 2014 in Non-Traditional Students

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