University triumphs over post-graduate debt

Destiney Burt/ Staff Writer

Graduating with steep debt has been a national concern, but U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 edition of Best Colleges has ranked the University as number 13 in least amount of debt for graduates.

The average amount of debt carried by the University’s class of 2013 was $17,893, while the national average student debt for public university graduates is $25,550. FIU is the top Florida school in this category.

According to President Mark B. Rosenberg, 70 percent of FIU students have financial aid and less than half accumulate student loans.

“Graduating from FIU without debt is not just an option – it’s the norm,” said Rosenberg to FIU News. “We are pleased to be recognized for the work that has gone into keeping tuition affordable and higher education accessible in South Florida.”

According to Gabriela Mendez, default prevention coordinator for the office of financial aid, there are three main factors that contribute to University students graduating with less debt – low tuition costs, local students opting to live with their parents, and high levels of financial aid.

“Most of our student population is local, meaning we have a high percentage of student living at home and requiring lower costs of living, which ultimately drives down the borrowing levels,” Mendez said.

FIU provides grants and scholarships that total more than $170 million a year from institutional, state and federal sources.

Also, programs such as dual enrollment, which allows high school students to take college courses at no cost to them, save local students $3.8 million, and the University’s Graduate Success Initiative contribute to savings by guiding students to a timely graduation.

“We are able to offer a substantial amount of gifted aids for students with low-income households,” Mendez said. Gifted aids include State programs and institutional funds, such as Bright Futures scholarships, Florida Student Assistance Grant and University Grants.

“It is essential for [undergraduate] students and first-time borrowers to avoid student loans as much as possible.”

Students like Samantha, a freshman business major, is a local commuter who said she has not had to borrow student loans.

“I think my scholarships, such as Bright [Futures], are sufficient enough so I won’t have to take out student loans,” Barroso said.
Barroso said many of her commuter friends also have scholarships, so a low student debt at FIU is not a surprise to her.

On the other hand, there are students who have a difficult time escaping student loans, especially out-of-state students.

Shekinah Harper, a senior broadcast media major, said she works two jobs while being a full-time student. She has also been active in student organizations.

“I feel it makes things a lot more difficult when you have to balance being a full-time student…and then work full-time as well,” she said.

“It’s very hard being out-of-state because it’s more expensive,” Harper said. She said that the University should work harder and put more initiative towards out-of-state students.

Any type of debt such, as student loans, will have a high impact on student financial health, said Mendez.

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