By Sanai Browning
Science Leadership Academy
From all accounts, Tamera Browning is doing well.
The 46-year-old mother has a good-paying job, enjoys spending time with her family, and indulges in many of life’s comforts.
But there’s one thing you may not know about Tamera: She’s facing a mountain of debt from student loans — a situation that’s not unique to her.
If Tamera, like other college graduates, was better prepared to deal with the crushing cost of education, she would be in a better place.
What’s lacking in schools and around kitchen tables in many homes today is an honest conversation about facing the high cost of a college education. Had that been the case with Tamera years ago, she would be in a better financial shape.
It should be noted that Tamera did not have the typical college experience, where she attended school for four consecutive years. She took a circuitous 18-year path to her degree.
She first attended Millersville University in the early 1990s, took time off to start a family, then went back to St Joseph’s University on and off for the next 10 years before finally picking up her degree in 2018.
A survey by Cengage, an educational services company, found that it will take roughly six years for a student to pay off an array of student loans. But in reality, that number is closer to 20 years. Members of the class of 2018, Tamera’s class, took out loans averaging $29,800.
“Once I had finished high school, I went straight to college. After that, life took over,” said Tamera. “I got a job, got married, and I started back to school in 2002 just before I got pregnant with my daughter.
“It would have been very helpful to me in my college career, and even later on as an adult if the institutions and universities would have had programs that can help work out our loans,” said Tamera.
According to a 2019 survey by Debt.org, the total student loan debt was $1.5 trillion dollars. The research showed that almost 45 million people share in that total debt.
Let’s be honest here. At age 17, a student is preoccupied with school and social activities, and other pressing issues, not the cost of a college education. So it is then incumbent on parents and schools to advise students on the financial obligations of a college education.
The first task is to find out the exact cost and the type of college a student wants to attend. In the 2017-18 school year, the cost of college at state institutions averaged $20,770, while private institutions was at $34,740.
Antwann Aubrey, a senior at Science Leadership Academy, cited a program that helps to educate students and parents on the cost of college.
“Aramark is basically a program that provides information about college costs, financial aid and many other things that have to do with college,” said Antwann, who moved here from Dayton, Ohio, at age 11.
He was candid about his experiences with college admissions, saying “Oh, college isn’t free. I have to pay to go to college.”
You for Youth is another academic program that helps students deal with college readiness. Students can also turn to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for more financial aid.
On the campaign trail, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has strongly advocated free college education for all. That would be a grand idea and would eliminate the endless headache of dealing with student debt.
“We have a student loan crisis—and we can’t afford to wait for Congress to act. I’ve already proposed a student loan debt cancellation plan, and on Day 1 of my presidency, I’ll use existing laws to start providing that debt cancellation immediately,” said Warren.
So, for students at Science Leadership Academy and elsewhere, preparing for college may be more than just cramming for SATs and ACTs. It’s also a matter of dollars and cents.