By: Alex Olivares
After graduating from Santa Ana College, California State University, Fullerton and USC, Rudy Loera is now beginning his career in social work.
But before he can afford a new car, nice house or any other luxury item with his new salary, he must first work on eliminating the debt he’s incurred from attending multiple universities in California.
“I’m gonna say about $15,000 for the three years,” Loera said, remembering how much his bachelor’s at CSUF cost him. “Now? I still owe like $7,000 or $8,000.”
And the debt he’s accumulated for his Master’s at USC makes Loera wince.
“It’s definitely over $100,000 for the three years I spent there.”
With the cost of living rising in California and the tuitions of its private and public universities following suit, cases of overwhelming student debt are becoming increasingly common.
However, many students at SAC still say that the risk of student debt does not influence which four-year college they wish to attend.
“I have financial aid, that’s why,” SAC student Daisy Avila said.
More than 93 percent of SAC students are on some form of financial aid, and most other students echo that sentiment.
“No, I’m more concerned with the quality of the university,” explained Jonathan Delamora, who plans to transfer to USC to study film and theatre. “Scholarships, grants, FAFSA, financial aid. There’s many ways [to pay for tuition].”
But assistance can only go so far.
The average cost of attending a Cal State is about $15,000 for two semesters for students living with their parents, according to the CSU system. This price factors in living expenses like housing and transportation in addition to books and tuition.
Students can expect to pay about double that at a UC.
The UC system estimates that a student under the same conditions pays $29,200 annually for tuition, transportation, and other living costs combined.
Those receiving the maximum amount available from federal and state grants would get about $11,000 in aid if attending a Cal State. At a UC a student would get roughly $17,000 paid under the same conditions.
Still, the average California university graduate can expect to owe $18,113 after leaving school, according to a study by the Institute for College Access & Success. This figure does not account for graduate school, which could translate into thousands of dollars of more debt.
At SAC, for students receiving financial aid the reality of debt has not set in. But the same cannot be said for students paying the full cost of each unit.
“I’m not receiving aid. It’s $46 per unit. So it’s like $600 this semester, since I was disqualified,” SAC student Edwin Castrejon said. “I put it all on my credit card.”
Castrejon can only smile and laugh when he thinks about the debt he’s already collected.
“Every paycheck. Every two weeks,” he said shaking his head.