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Bridging Knowledge Gap on College Costs, Alternatives

The average student debt load in 2017 was more than $39,000. Nearly 44 million Americans currently owe nearly $1.5 trillion in student loans. (Pexels)
The average student debt load in 2017 was more than $39,000. Nearly 44 million Americans currently owe nearly $1.5 trillion in student loans. (Pexels)
June 4, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. – As another school year draws to a close, a new report shows a majority of high school juniors and nearly 40 percent of seniors say they are unprepared for managing and paying the cost of college.

Alison Gottsch-Walton, education director for Junior Achievement's Lincoln chapter, says parents and teens are not having critical conversations about the true costs of college, and many young adults only begin to realize the size and burden of repaying their student loans when they enter the workforce.

"But we just have to close that gap in the knowledge of 'How are they going to pay for it?'” she states. “For this is more than likely the biggest financial commitment they will make at that specific age in their life."

The survey commissioned by Junior Achievement USA found most high school students believe they haven't done enough research on how to pay for college, and a significant majority have only talked to their parents once – if at all – about the issue.

For this year's class of 2018, the average cost for private college was $35,000 a year, and more than $25,000 for out-of-state residents attending public schools.

Walton says attending a four-year college is the right choice for many students, but there are other paths young people can take to be successful.

She points to Nebraska's current shortage of manufacturing workers and other jobs that require two-year degrees or specialty training.

Walton says the Junior Achievement website offers a personality quiz that can help match students with potential careers. She says that's the kind of conversation that needs to be happening before students commit to paying tens of thousands of dollars for a four-year degree.

"And that decision is going to impact them financially for years to come,” she points out. “As soon as that graduation day comes, they're also going be faced with paying back that loan."

Some 44 million Americans currently owe nearly $1.5 trillion in student loans. That's $620 billion more than all U.S. credit card debt.

The average student debt in 2017 was more than $39,000.

Students and parents interested in learning more about how to manage the cost of college can find resources at JAMyWay.org.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE