By Stephanie Lefler and Joshua Coppenbarger
After five years of study, one semester in Thailand and two completed majors, Erin King will graduate from Webster University this spring. But, like many graduating seniors, King is not finished paying for her college experience.
King, an art, advertising and marketing major, said she will owe around $40,000 in student loans when she graduates.
“It is very frightening to think about,” King said.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Americans have more student loan debt than credit card or car loan debt for the first time in history.
Jon Gruett, director of financial aid at Webster University, said Webster processed over $175 million in federal student loans for students in the 2010-2011 academic year. Gruett also said the predominant source for Webster students’ loans is the federal direct loan program.
“Consider that everything you purchase will cost a lot more than face value once you enter repayment and are assessed interest charges on your loans,” Gruett said.
King isn’t the only one in her family who will be Webster alumni — King’s older brother, Cory King, graduated from Webster in 2009 with a degree in audio production. Her younger brother, Alex King, will graduate this year with a degree in broadcast journalism.
Students who use federal subsidized and federal unsubsidized loans have a postponed repayment while in school and a six-month grace period after graduation.
Within the first six months after Cory King graduated in 2009, he said he didn’t have a steady income or means of paying back his student loans. Cory appealed his loans and defaulted, giving him six more months to start his repayment.
Joyce King is the mother of Cory, Erin and Alex King. Before sending her three children to Webster, Joyce King said she and her husband did not plan ahead like they should have.
“The last few years have been really scary,” Joyce King said. “But we definitely wanted the kids to have an education.”
When Cory King was in college, Erin King traveled from her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio to visit him. She said she chose to follow in her brother’s footsteps and attend Webster because of the comfortable feeling it gave her.
“I wanted to get away from my class in high school,” Erin King said. “(Webster) feels like home and I love the people.”
Just one year later, Alex King decided to join his sister at Webster.
Joyce King is a 5-12 grade teacher. At one point, Joyce King had so many loans taken out in her name for Erin King and Alex King that their aunt needed to co-sign for them.
Erin King said after her father was laid off from his factory job after 30 years, he was having trouble finding a stable income and wasn’t able to co-sign.
“We pretty much had to take everything in loans,” Joyce King said. “We will have to cut back on many things.”
Joyce King said after her husband got cut in the economic crunch, there was definitely a bigger strain on the family, financially. She said the strain won’t be over anytime soon.
“It is pretty frightening to look at that when my husband was just a few years away from retirement,” Joyce King said.
Erin King receives an academic scholarship from Webster, grants and work study. She has several Parent Plus loans, a private loan and both subsidized and unsubsidized loans, which add up to a loan amount of $11,500 a semester. In her five years at Webster. Erin King said she has written two appeals to receive more grant money and another appeal to renew her academic scholarship for a fifth year.
“It’s been a huge learning experience,” Erin King said. “I should have applied for more scholarships.”
Erin King hopes to find employment within her field when she graduates and plans to live with her family until she can finalize payments on her loans.
Alex King said he was once nervous about graduating, but isn’t nearly as nervous as before. He was recently offered a job in Dayton, Ohio with WHIO television station as an assistant producer. He will move back home with his family and start his new job on May 21.
“I was nervous because I sat and watched my brother, and how much of a pain and how hectic it can be,” Alex King said. “It’s only a part-time job, but it’s something.”
Cory King currently lives at home where he is paying off student loans and working as a full-time easy tech at Staples.
Joyce King said there were definitely state schools her children could have attended for a lower price than Webster, but she appreciates what they have gained by attending Webster.
“The experience and how much they have grown up being away from home, it was worth it for that,” Joyce King said.
She said she has no regrets, as long as her children are happy.
Erin King said her non-educational experiences at Webster made it worth the money. Though her family has struggled with the cost, they learned how to be more responsible with money.
Joyce King said she learned important financial lessons from sending three students through college in the last 10 years.
“If there is any way to pay ahead of time, do it and don’t put it off,” Joyce King said.
Erin King said she has learned some valuable lessons, as well.
“The (board) game of Life is really accurate,” Erin King said. “When you go to college, they make you pay $40,000 dollars in loans. I thought that was an odd number but I think that is where I am going to level out when I graduate.”