ORLANDO, Fla. – As high schools across Central Florida hold graduation ceremonies later April, many of the seniors heading off to college will be taking on huge loans to pay for their education.
[WEB EXTRA: Valencia Career Coach]
According to a report in The Economist, the cost for a four-year residential degree can run up to $60,000 a year and students across the country have racked up $1.1 trillion in debt as a result.
The class of 2015 has seen what crushing student loan debt has done to the generation before them and they're adjusting their plans to avoid those pitfalls.
Orange County Public Schools College Transition Counselor, Latashia Joseph, has seen the trend. She says many seniors are choosing to stay closer to home, attend two years of community college first or even curb ambitions. All in an effort to keep costs down.
"They're very aware of it," Joseph says. "And they're very concerned about being able to pay for school and not having debt. They want to go into their job field and not worry about having to pay continuously for student debt loans. They are very aware of it."
She says the trend cuts across economic lines.
"It doesn't matter if their parents are doctors, lawyers or engineers. It doesn't matter if their parents are immigrants to the U.S.," she says. "It's the same across the board."
Joseph says financial aid and scholarships are becoming more and more competitive. She's seen an increase in attendance at school sponsored financial aid sessions and suggests parents take advantage of these events.
She also encourages dual enrollment for high school students. Schools like Valencia College offer college credit in some classes.
So what can you do as a parent to help your child make the best decision on where to attend and what path to take?
Joseph says find the best fit for your child. "Your child should be where they are comfortable. If not they might be back home sooner than expected."
She says be aware of what your financial aid will cover. College is a four or five year commitment for most students she says. Will your aid be enough to cover this amount of time?
Be sure the school your child attends has an accredited program in their area of interest.
And most of all employ-ability. "Find out employment rates of past students," she continues. "As well as internship opportunities if necessary. What career options will be available to them and will the school prepare them for the job world.
Joseph suggests using The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida Choices and Valencia Career Coach websites as tools for exploring employment opportunities.
Joseph says student debt is a reality and will be with us for a while but this graduating class has learned from those before them.
“I definitely don’t think it will be the student debt generation, they’ve seen the mistakes of their older siblings or have heard this conversation. They’ll be the generation that’s more informed, more prepared.”