$43,000 in debt and party’s over

New report underlines student questions about cost of a WVU education

An editorial from The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — You could draw some parallels to student loans and a keg party.

After all, the effect of both is immediate, and you get this high that money can buy … legally.

But unlike a keg party, you don’t just wake up in the morning with a bad hangover.

You wake up for the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years with a bad hangover and thousands of dollar in debt.

If you graduated from WVU in 2012, the average undergraduate’s hangover was $43,694, according to the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC).

No other institution of higher education in our state could even think of keeping up with that figure. The closest was West Liberty, a small private school, whose 2012 undergraduates racked up $33,045 in debt.

Many of us cope with large debts, such as mortgages, home equity loans, business loans or medial bills.

But few of us ever faced a $40,000 debt fresh out of school.

What’s even more disturbing about the debts WVU’s graduates are tallying is the rate at which they are increasing.

In only four years — from 2008 to 2012 — WVU’s undergraduates were saddled with about $9,000 more debt on average — from $34,604 to $43,694.

That’s a 26.3 percent increase for an average 8.5 percent increase each academic year. And this figure appears to not be going anywhere but up.

Call it coincidence or call it coordinated, but WVU’s Student Government Association (SGA) was bending the university’s Board of Governors’ ear, as the HEPC’s report card on higher education was being released.

Bet you’ll never guess what was atop the students’ agenda. That’s right — the price of their education.

A lot of figures stood out during the SGA’s presentation to the board, such as tuition, student fees, housing, transportation and so on.

But the real message from both the HEPC report card and the SGA’s presentations is, as one student leader, put it: “It gets really expensive to live here.”

And we would be quick to add to that declaration: Go to school here, too.

No one’s knocking the quality of the education at WVU, nor the opportunity if affords all ages.

But this rate of student loan debt, an average annual 6.6 percent tuition hike and the cost of living on- or off-campus read more like an ordeal than an opportunity.

We call on WVU to seriously consider a four-year guaranteed tuition option, call in its loans to the athletic department and freeze salaries.

Such sober measures, of course, may not have any place at a party school. But they would give students a lift without the buzz.

Click here for The Dominion Post e-edition.


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