Students take more loans, less work

By Galvin Kennedy

NIU students, along with those at other state universities, are borrowing more and earning less through work/study jobs to pay for their educations up front.

An Illinois Board of Higher Education report on financial aid trends noted that college work/study made up only about 23 percent of student aid last year as compared to 39 percent in 1975.

Students employed through the work/study program receive 70 percent of their wages from the federal government while the local university pays the rest.

Almost 30 percent of the financial aid to public university students last year was in the form of low-interest loans, the report indicated. In 1975, loans made up only 19 pecent of financial aid.

But the fact that fewer students are in the work/study program doesn’t necessarily indicate a laziness trend.

“Some students need the money right up front to pay for tuition and since money from work comes in gradually over the year, those students are forced to take out loans,” said Melody Amundsen, coordinator for the NIU Student Employment Office.

However, many students decide to take out the loans merely because they are available and they will make balancing students’ budgets easier, she said.

IBHE spokesman Ross Hodel said, “this has been the decade that college tuition has outpaced inflation three times, so affordability is becoming an increasingly bigger issue.”

“Colleges and universities all accross the nation are experiencing similar trends in lower student employment,” Amundsen said.

NIU Food Service Director Robert Fredrickson said the cafeterias have experienced a shortage of student employees for the past couple years, which might be partly because of the trend toward loans.

In an effort to reverse the lack of numbers, Fredrickson said the starting salary for food service employees will increase at least 45 cents to $4.35 an hour.

Amundsen said recent studies that show an increasing student loan default rate are not a result of more loans being granted then in the past.

“The students who are now in default of their loans took them out earlier, before the trend (of increasing loans) began,” she said.

Amundsen said there is a down side to all of the student loans being granted in recent years. Many graduates regret having taken out the loans because “they face debts of more then $10,000,” Amundsen said.