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The impact of school debt on UMKC students

When asked about his student debt, Colton Glen’s eyes widened.

“Yeah, I know how much student debt I have. It’s gonna take me forever to pay it off,” said Glen, a senior business administration finance major.

Glen will soon be facing a bitter reality many UMKC graduates have struggled with after college: paying off student loans.

 “My student loans are with a loan provider that lets me pay a monthly bill so I can pay some of it off while in school,” said Cydney Evans, a junior communications studies major. “I’m hoping I won’t have too much left after college.”

Loan providers often send students statements about the number and amount of student loans they currently have. However, as walk to their classes and go about their days, many students do not realize the incredible burden of debt they carry with them.

“I didn’t realize how much debt I actually had while I was in school,” said Hannah Swartwood, a recent UMKC graduate. “I had no idea about interest or what percent my interest would be. All I knew was that I would not get billed or accrue interest on my loans while I was attending college.”

Student loans are often the only option for students hoping to attend college. UMKC offers some scholarships, but many students feel that scholarships through UMKC are not that easy to obtain.

“Most of my scholarships are from outside the school,” Evans said. “Over my last three years here, I have noticed that UMKC is turning into a commuter school, so most of the scholarships they offer are mostly for residents in the Kansas City area.”

Evans also said most scholarships UMKC has don’t apply towards her major.

“I feel like they have way more resources for majors in the medical field,” Evans said.

Some feel student loan education is lacking, saying it would have been helpful for a financial aid advisor to explain what taking out student loans entailed.

“I wish that UMKC had better resources,” said senior communication studies major Sadie Billings. “I know they have aid, but they don’t do one-on-one counseling for loans, and no one explains what the difference is between the loan options.”

“No debt pay-off strategies or counseling were offered to me,” Swartwood said. 

The only loan pay-off suggestion she received was from the loan distribution company, who gave her options for payment amounts and the terms of her loans.

For first-generation college students, the loan process can be especially confusing.

“As a first-generation college student, (UMKC) wasn’t really as helpful to my parents with understanding different loans to take out,” said Evans.

Evans felt like no one wanted to help her understand how to finance her education.

“As far as finances, that’s the one downside for me going to UMKC,” she said.

In the absence of advice from her university, Swartwood has suggestions for current students looking to keep track of their loans and personal finances.

“After you graduate, set aside some money specifically for your loans so you can have a cushion,” said Swartwood. “I would also recommend setting your loan payment amount to a lesser amount until you have a stable job.”

laceyclark@mail.umkc.edu

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