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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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Survey Shows Staggering Student Debt

There's nothing new about college students being in debt after graduation, but the Minnesota State Student Association wanted to find out just how much MSU students were forking out after donning the cap and gown.

by Garret Felder

Issue date: 1/23/07 Section: Campus News

There's nothing new about college students being in debt after graduation, but the Minnesota State Student Association wanted to find out just how much MSU students were forking out after donning the cap and gown.

Following a two-month survey of more than 200 students, the MSSA finished their study Friday and uncovered a surprising five-digit average in student debt following graduation.

"People were around $20,000 in debt on average" said Jessica Kallio, a student senator for the College of Allied Health and Nursing. "There were some people on scholarship who didn't have any debt, but there were a lot of people [who did]."

The more than 200 surveys were distributed randomly to students in the Centennial Student Union in October and contained questions about student debt and lifestyle, Kallio said. How many jobs students have, what a student is involved in, and how much debt they suspect they have were just a few of the questions in the survey. While most of the returned questionnaires were from undergraduate students, Kallio said, it helped her and others of MSSA realize just how much MSU students are sitting in the financial red.

"I was surprised because I thought I was the only one who had that much because I have a pretty high amount of debt," Kallio said.

Although student senator Brandon Ross of the College of Business said the number also surprised him, he thought such a figure could also be expected with the tuition increases of the last five years.

"I think $20,000 is surprising and it is sad that it is at that level as an average," Ross said. "But I think it is probably to be expected because of tuition and how high it is. I guess $20,000 was somewhat of what I expected, but not what I wanted to see."

One student for example, Kallio said, reported they expected up to $130,000 in debt following medical school. Although this high amount is a rare case, it is just another display of the skyrocketing debt that most students face after commencement.

Kallio, who is studying to become a cardiac rehabilitation professional, speculates her own debt total after graduation and two years of graduate school will be between $60-65,000. Her colleague, student senator Casey Carmody of the College of Arts and Humanities suspects he already owes $30,000 from college costs. With such debt, Carmody said, he might have to delay going to graduate school to pay it all off.

"It's absolutely ridiculous that the amount of student debt is that high," Carmody said. "We have a big problem with student debt and most students are coming out of college overwhelmed with it all. We need to do something about it."

Carmody took a step in such a direction a week ago when he testified his personal student debt story to the state capitol hoping to catch some ears of the legislature.

Along with Carmody, Kallio also thought it was necessary for this issue to be opened up to the eyes of the public and the state congress.

"Instead of just sitting back and complaining about tuition I wanted to make a difference and to have people check out that tuition is increasing," Kallio said. "I know [tuition] can't be cheap, but it shouldn't be this expensive."

Not only was Kallio one of the leaders for the student debt campaign, but she also wrote a study-related letter to the Mankato Free Press that was promptly replied to by state Sen. Kathy Sheran.

Besides the MSSA getting the attention of local officials like Sen. Sheran, the student government also hopes to get a group of students to rally outside the state capitol in St. Paul for Rally Day February 14. With a successful rally, Carmody said, MSSA hopes remind legislators that Minnesota State students are concerned about the rising student debt totals.

The MSSA started the Student Debt Campaign as advised by the Minnesota State University Student Association (MSUSA) in October, Ross said. In addition to the other schools of Minnesota State performing similar campaigns, Ross said, the MSUSA is also in charge of organizing the February 14 Rally Day.

To aid Rally Day at the state capitol, the MSSA also plans to allow students to share their feelings about student debt during the February 5 open forum that will be held on the main floor of the CSU near the food court.

Garret Felder is a Reporter staff writer