With growing tuition, students prepare to pay back loans

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The College Board indicated this week that all four-year public colleges and universities in the nation elevated tuition and fees by more than 8% this fall compared to last year. The average was found to be approximately $600 more than the 2010-2011 school year.

While the cost of tuition was raised over the last year, the rate of increase was less than the national average at Arkansas State University. In May of this year, the ASU Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favor of a measure to raise tuition and fees by four percent. The hike was viewed by many members of the board as conservative.

"The increase in tuition at a four percent increase is basically for us to continue at least business for the next year, at least at the level or a little bit higher level," said Dr. Rick Stripling, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at ASU. "We try to retain our employees through salary increases and to attract new faculty members here to ASU."

Stripling said the price of gas and other line items have also fueled the increase.

"That's a part of that package, plus we also have fixed costs that go up. Electricity and utilities, all of that. Just the cost of doing business goes up," said Stripling.

Stripling said students pay $176/credit hour in tuition. With fees, the total amounts to nearly $230/credit hour. A student taking 15 credit hours would spend $3,450/semester in tuition and fees, based on Stripling's information.

"I believe for us, we're ranked about third in the state. We hover around third and forth in the state as far as tuition goes," said Stripling. "We know that our students, the cost of attendance is a challenge and we keep that in mind through the budget process."

The price of college depends on several circumstances, including how many hours a student is taking, if they're enrolled as in-state or out-of-state and if the student has any scholarships or grants.

"It's about $18,000, but that's tuition, fees, room, board, any travel costs, meals, the whole thing. We figure that all in," said Stripling.

Stripling said the university has just recently installed a cost calculator on the university's website. Click here to view the calculator.

"Our financial aid office last year, this last federal year, we processed about $145 million in financial aid and that's scholarships, grants, loans and everything," said Stripling. "We typically are around $115, $120 million, but $145 million this year. It's an enormous amount we process."

Stripling said of the $145 million , $80 million of that was due to student loans.

"I started in 2007, I guess fall semester is when I graduated high school, but I started off as an engineering major and changed over to a business major, business management," said Adam Hunt.

Hunt is a member of the ROTC and plans to serve in the U.S. military after his college graduation. He said his student loans are minimal compared to some of his friends.

"Students loans for me, I was on a four year, full paid scholarship, so this is my fifth year. I'm kind of rolling over not being on scholarship," said Hunt. "I took out a student loan, I guess this year and last semester of last year, so total, I'm probably looking somewhere around $6,000 in student loans."

"I've got a friend that, he's probably, I guess it's not a whole lot, around $27,000, but that's a lot at looking whenever you graduate, if you get a good job, you're looking around $40,000, so that's half a year's pay," said Hunt. "It's probably six, seven years he'll look at paying on it."

Hunt said while he hasn't noticed much of a bump in his checkbook, other students have voiced their frustrations about it.

"It hadn't affected me as much because I was on scholarship, but there's a definite notice in the price," said Hunt. "A lot more than I do, but it makes a lot of difference how many hours you're taking. I'm taking 18 hours this semester and I'm taking a second term class and from 15 hours to 18 hours, it was seven hundred and eighty something dollar difference, so that's noticeable and that's coming out of pocket because student loans and everything was already paid on top."

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