Death, Taxes… and Debt?

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Fairly soon after the celebrations of the New Year conclude and the college bowl games have blown the final whistle, I get a little depressed. It’s not because the weather is grey and cold, or because application review has me questioning if I’ll have any eyesight by the time I’m 60, but more so because I know tax season is rapidly nearing. I hate doing taxes. Collecting the items, filling in the boxes, fearing I’ll miss something and end up curled in a cell corner for evasion…you know the typical, reasonable trepidation.

In 1789, Benjamin Franklin said, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Has student loan debt now become the third inevitability? As tuition costs escalate nationally, 70% of students attending four-year colleges are now graduating with student loan debt. The average amount of that debt for those finishing in 2014 was approximately $29,000. More concerning is that the average debt at graduation has risen by more than twice the rate of inflation over the last decade—from $18,500 in 2004.

The Institute for College Access and Success sponsors a Project on Student Debt that provides excellent state by state information on load averages and percentage of students graduating with debt. On their site you can also download the full report that details trends and geographic distribution information, as well as strategies and recommendations for reducing debt burdens.

If seven of every ten students nationally are going to incur debt and less than 100 colleges and universities nationally meet 100% of demonstrated need, the question for most families and students is where is the line between reasonable and burdensome debt?

To answer this question I spoke with author, columnist, speaker and visiting scholar at Georgia Tech, Jeff Selingo and Rich DeMillo, Executive Director for the Center for 21st Century Universities at Georgia Tech.

Next week we’ll explore this topic more fully and show a sample budget for a student graduating with $40,000 in student loans.

Author: Rick Clark

Rick Clark is the Director of Undergraduate Admission at Georgia Tech. He has served on a number of national advisory and governing boards at the state, regional, and national level. Rick travels annually to U.S. embassies through the Department of State to discuss the admission process and landscape of higher education. He is the co-author of the book The Truth about College Admission: A Family Guide to Getting In and Staying Together, and a companion workbook published under the same title. A native of Atlanta, he earned a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.Ed. from Georgia State University. Prior to coming to Tech, Rick was on the admissions staff at Georgia State, The McCallie School and Wake Forest University. @clark2college