Debt increases stress on students
Like many students from Marion County, Goessel graduate Katelyn Olson, 19, faces more than just the classroom stress of studying to become a social science teacher.
Looming over her are student loans that, according to one national lending institution, average $32,045 for each Kansas student.
That’s 13% less than the national average of $36,689, but nearly 6% of Kansas student borrowers will end up owing $100,000 or more.
Even an average $32,045 debt translates to a monthly payment of $255 for loans that aren’t likely to be paid off until 20 or more years after a student graduates.
“I’m a full-time student with barely enough time to work a part-time job at minimum wage,” Olson said. “So to even think about paying it back feels like a massive burden because I know the interest is racking up the longer I work towards being in a position to pay.”
A student at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Olson recently changed her major to social science education.
The amount of time she needs to spend in school has shifted because of that. She estimates she will be in college for four more years.
Forgoing luxuries while facing a frequently rough job market and pressure caused by college performance can lead to depression and anxiety. Not being able to indulge in interests that involve money increases this peril.
Kansas has several programs for undergraduates and graduate students that offer at least partial loan repayment. Many encourage medical students to continue their careers in Kansas. However, the number of scholarship is limited, and they apply to narrow fields.
A Rural Opportunity Zone program in Marion County is open to students of all majors. It offers up to $15,000 in loan repayment for students willing to relocate here from other areas. But the waiting list for the two awards authorized annually is extremely long, and not every student wants to move to Marion County — or, for that matter, stay in Kansas, as required by other programs.
One of Olson’s classmates, Taryn Stout, 18, from Sterling is an art therapy major at Bethany.
She received scholarships from Bethany that covered a majority of her expenses, but she still needs to rely on savings and loans taken out with the help of her father.
“Right now, there is a pause on the interest on student loans until October,” she said.
The CARES act suspended loan payments and put a 0% interest rate in effect until Sept. 30.
“I’m trying to get more money to pay it back in full,” Stout said.
She has taken on two part-time jobs — one at the college’s admissions department and one at a pizza restaurant — while remaining a full-time student, taking 18 credit hours this semester.
She is planning on becoming a resident assistant at a dormitory next year to cover her living costs.
The pressure to pay back her loans as soon as possible gives her a lot of stress.
“My dad isn’t that concerned with me paying for everything,” Stout said, “but I feel like I should be. I try to keep my daily expenses low and save as much as possible. Sometimes I stress myself out with how much I think I need to save, even though I don’t really have a reason to worry about it at the moment.”
Stout plans to pursue a master’s degree, which usually takes six years to complete. She is trying to cut it to five.
Last modified May 5, 2021