Time to look at our least favorite topic — financial aid

As the semester comes to an end, it is once again time to take a look at college tuition.

Despite being ranked No. 3 in best undergraduate teaching by U.S. News and World Report because of its affordability, Georgia State students are more likely to take out additional credit than students in other national universities — almost $6,100 in their first year alone, compared to the average of $5,300.

According to College Factual, approximately 54% of Georgia State students take out some form of a loan to pay for tuition. Both their borrowing rate and amount exceed the national average by about 25.8%, not including private loans.

So, what makes Georgia State students borrow so much? The numbers have recently hit their all-time high, and it is due to recent tuition hikes.

According to The Signal in a 2014 article, the tuition rates rose 4% higher during the 2014-15 school year. As a result, in 2015, more than 13,000 students entered a loan repayment, and 9.6% of these students defaulted on their payments after three years.

“Student Financial Services encounters students borrowing funds for all the appropriate reasons to pursue their degree,” Atia Lindley, director of the Student Financial Management Center, said. “We have also encountered the opposite.”

The SFMC caters to the individual needs of each student who is concerned with their financial decisions. 

According to Lindley, The U.S. Department of Education reported that the median debt for a Georgia State bachelor’s degree is approximately $25,000. The study looked at students who graduated during the 2014-15 school year.

And when nearly 92% of Georgia State students need some level of financial support, the numbers begin to rise quickly.

Lindley noted a variety of resources that can help students make quality financial decisions, including the SFMC website, which offers important information such as cost breakdowns for each degree and calculating the approximate expense a student is looking at each school year.

On average, the annual cost of an in-state bachelor’s degree with 15 credit hours per semester is approximately $11,000 and $30,000 for out-of-state students, which can lead students to difficult financial decisions. 

As a result, one of the largest financial decisions a student can make is deciding on the appropriate loan type.

“Georgia State offers educational loans from a variety of sources, including federal, state, private, commercial and institutional,” the SMFC website states.

Different payment plans are also offered by the school. The Early Registration Payment Plan cuts semesterly costs into three installments over the first two months.  For the spring semester, the first installment (50% of the cost) was due upon enrollment, and the other two (25% each) were due Feb. 7 and 28. The plan, eligibility and frequently asked questions can be viewed on the Early Registration Payment Plan website.

April is Financial Literacy Month, during which the SFMC plans to host weekly events to promote financial literacy. At these events, students can ask their questions and concerns, as well as learn valuable tips to navigate their upcoming years.

More information on the program will be updated on the Georgia State social media channels and student emails.

Before April, students should make sure that they have completed their FAFSA registration for the fall semester (the Georgia State FAFSA code is 001574).

Every year, thousands of Georgia State students go through a number of financial hurdles to pay their tuition, including freshman Alejandro Gorricho, who moved to the U.S. from Colombia two years ago. During his senior year of high school, he applied for a number of scholarships, including the HOPE Scholarship.

Upon his registration into Georgia State, Gorricho realized he wasn’t eligible for the HOPE scholarship because he didn’t have the proper tax returns and didn’t meet the residency requirements. As a result, he almost had to drop out after his first semester.

Despite meeting the GPA requirements for HOPE, his application was rejected two weeks into classes and Georgia State gave him until October to pay the rest of his tuition. 

Absolutely no one clarified this specific requirement to me until this moment, so I went into a panic looking for financing,” Gorricho said on his GoFundMe

He was able to continue his education from an anonymous donor on GoFundMe but recalls his experience with financial aid last semester.  

“The college was as helpful as it could be,” Gorricho said. “The only issue I see is that I had to depend a lot on intermediaries to solve this problem.”

He said that many students suffer from individual problems that the financial aid department isn’t able to allocate enough time to each.

“The financial aid office should become more involved with the [SFMC] to provide all available options to students,” Gorricho said.

But not all hope is lost. There are a number of resources the department offers that can teach students different financial options. For more information, visit the [SFMC] or call in.

“College is an opportunity for students to set themselves up for financial success by mastering both your academic and financial goals,” Lindley said. “Engagement is important. At Georgia State, we are committed to student success, and we are here to help.”