She dreamed of walking along the historic campus, a public research university in
"Neither one of my parents went to college," Hummer said. "At a young age, they always made sure that education was really important. They gave me goals and encouraged me to do better."
Hummer has been making her own money since she could work. Before that, she would make a little change here and there by baby-sitting for friends and family. With her mother, Melissa, being an employee for Steak-Out and her father, David, a coordinator for Big Heart Pet Products, the cost of tuition became her family's top consideration.
"I just heard so many stories about graduates getting loans between
Although the president's order expands the plan to as many as 5 million debtors,
"As long as cost is rising, it seems like debt is the only way that students can finance it," Berry said.
"I knew I was going to get loans, but I didn't want to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans for getting the same type of education," Hummer said.
"It was awful, but we let him follow his dream because we didn't know where it would lead him,"
The Whitleys had their children's college careers in mind the moment they were born. They stored nest-egg money in a 529 Plan, an
They also monitored the cost of tuition so they would know how much to save.
"We don't have that much anxiety now, because I knew that we had it saved," he said. "The initial goal was to save enough so that they can get a four-year state school paid for. If they choose to go beyond that, then they would have to help out."
"My plans are that since I am going to get a high-quality education, I can essentially apply to any job that I can do and I can succeed. My parents have saved, and so my education is going to be well paid for," Nathan said.
She was so determined to get the scholarship that she attended school with a 103-degree fever to make sure she got an interview, which led to her winning a
Nonetheless, she still took out
"I'm going to have loans, and it's going to be stressful paying it off," she said. "But if I don't go to college, then I won't have as good a life."
21 years to pay
"Student loans help students go to college, and by going to college they're spending money, and that money has an immediate impact on the economy," Berry said. But making college more expensive allows graduates less money to put to work in the economy.
Hummer juggled 15 credit hours of school and 25 hours of work at a retail store when she entered UAB. It was a stressful beginning that led to a couple of all-night study sessions. But all her earnings was recycled into her college education through book rentals, and room and board.
A small amount of Hummer's wages were spent on little things that feed into the economy, such as watching movies or eating out with friends. It's a sacrifice she believes will lead her to a more financially stable future.
"My friends would say, 'It's only
Berry believes the long-term effects won't be a drain on the economy, but on the educational well-being of future students.
"In today's economy, higher education is crucial. Student debt makes it hard for students to do that," Berry said. "The more expensive it is, the less students are going to do it and they're not going to be prepared. So it's not just the immediate impact on the economy, but in the future the potential students won't be trained and educated in the ways they need to be."
Berry said money spent on new buildings, monuments or parking lots is money lost somewhere else in the school's budget. On the flip side, Berry said, universities feel obligated to have the latest services because students ask for them.
"This is a national conversation that has to be decided. Do you keep colleges on the cutting edge with all the latest stuff which will make it more expensive?" Berry said.
Some universities are trying to find alternatives to tuition hikes. At
Leslie said that was a relief.
"It's shocking how much college costs," she said. "You look at some of these places and all of a sudden you're paying a certain rate that can be really tough to absorb."
Nathan is looking into ways to help. He doesn't have any scholarships, but he's hoping to acquire some by keeping a 3.0 grade-point average. He can gain experience and money by joining a cooperative program, in which some universities allow students to work in their field of study while they do their degree work.
"With the education you get from that, you get a much higher salary, and that makes paying loans off a lot easier," he said. "I'm trying to become as debt-free as possible, but if I'm going to do graduate school, I think that's inevitable."
Opponents to bill
Opponents of the president's payment plan believe it is unfair to have taxpayers pay for students who attain a lot of debt without considering the amount of income they will receive after graduation. Hummer believes student debt should remain a big topic on
"I think it's fair to help people, because I can't help the amount of debt that I'm getting because I feel like I have to," Hummer said.
As an instructor, Berry observes first hand how the cost of tuition hurts his students. To make it easier on them, he tries to cut costs wherever he can, such as choosing the less-expensive textbook for the semester.
"In some situations," Berry said, "you get a lot more debt than what you have intended -- more than what you feel comfortable with. But people make choices like that, and sometimes they have bad outcomes."
The final days of his senior year, Nathan heard some of his peers trade in their dream school for a less-expensive option. He saw hard workers who stayed up all night studying for the ACT end up not getting the score required for the scholarship they needed. Although he believes their effort will pay off somehow, he hopes legislation to lower the cost of student loans will continue not for himself, but for the benefit of all.
"People need to pay for their education, and education is so important for America with the rest of the world getting more and more industrialized, especially with
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