Education Station: Last few years of economic unrest causing more high school

Student loan debt was made worse by the pandemic, prompting college-bound students to seek more economical ways to pay tuition

OHIO, USA — Many of us can relate to the burden of student loans. Student debt was made worse by the pandemic’s economic punch, making financial literacy more important to young people, especially those headed off to college. 

The number of states requiring high school students learn financial literacy rose to 23 in 2021. Ohio is one of them. Financial literacy is the personal knowledge needed to handle your money well – like budgeting, saving, building wealth, and staying out of debt. That last one can be tough for college kids.

“Loans should always be considered something of a last resort,” says Michael Collins, Financial Aid Director with Case Western Reserve University.

“My mom went to school. She did a lot of schooling and she’s still in debt from it. I don’t want that for myself,” says John Hay High School senior Noah Hill, who plans to go to college in the fall.

With COVID causing financial concerns & inflation, today’s college-bound high school students are looking to pay tuition the most economical way possible. Experts say the first rule is to find as much free money as you can. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a good start.

“Filling out the FAFSA is probably the best thing that you can do. Thinking about grants from the federal government, and also Ohio has grants as well, scholarships, try to get everything you can,” says Collins.

It can also be lucrative scouting for dollars in your chosen field, or in your community, like asking churches, local businesses, even an employer if they offer scholarships.

“It is going to involve, most likely, submitting a lot of applications, but the more applications you submit, the greater your chances of receiving something and the greater your chances of getting back multiple results as well,” says Collins. “A lot of scholarships, to be honest, don’t get used because there just aren’t enough students who apply for them.”

But there certainly are enough students who apply for loans. Student loan debt in the US is over $1.675 million dollars, with each of the 48-million borrowers in debt around $38,000.

“I filled out my FAFSA, I applied to the Say Yes scholarship offered here in Cleveland CMSD and any other scholarship that I could apply to. Now that you told me about the types of grants, I’m applying for those too,” says Hill,” says Hill.

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