How Will I Pay for College?

NFA students stand with Mayor Deberey Hinchey and Senator Richard Blumenthal after his presentation in the school's Board Room.

NFA students stand with Mayor Deberey Hinchey and Senator Richard Blumenthal after his presentation in the school's Board Room.

Marissa Fitzgerald, Staff Writer

Without a college education, a high paying job can be very difficult to come by.  But the rising costs of college are placing a heavy burden on students and their families.  So, as seniors get ready for their first year in college, many are asking the question, “How will I pay for it?” That is the question that I started to ask when I applied to college this past fall.  I am lucky that my parents will be able to help me afford college, but all young adults, no matter their background or financial situation, should be able to earn a college education.  

According to U.S News and World Report, Vassar University in Poughkeepsie New York is the most expensive college in the country at a cost of $63,280 per year.  

In order to pay for college, students take out loans and rely on both merit and financial scholarships to help offset the total cost.  Scholarships can range from $50 to full tuition.  

After receiving acceptances from Fairfield University, Loyola University, Providence College, Ithaca College, Hofstra University, and Sacred Heart University, I was excited that I would actually be attending college in the fall of 2016.  However, the reality of applying to all private colleges set in.  I realized that even with the merit scholarships that I have received, my cost will still be approximately $40,000 per year.  Even though my parents have good jobs, they still will not be able to pay for college in full, especially since I have two younger brothers; therefore, I have also applied for numerous scholarships, including a full tuition scholarship, to help defray the cost.

I attended Senator Richard Blumenthal’s presentation in NFA’s Board Room on February 1, where he revealed that the nation as a whole has $1.2 trillion in college loans, which is the highest debt, besides home mortgages.

Senator Blumenthal understands that high school students are worried about how they are going to afford to continue their education, and in response, he has set up The Reducing Educational Debt Act (RED).  Within this act, there are three areas that Blumenthal covers: including two free years of community college, addressing the significant loss of Pell Grants by modifying them for inflation, and giving students the ability to refinance their existing loans at lower interest rates.

Being one of the dozen students who attended Blumenthal’s presentation,  it was interesting to see what he has planned for future generations. I found it fascinating to hear the other students’ stories about how they are planning on paying for college, because they made me realize that my family and I are not alone in the struggle. 

Senior Debbie Guerrier immigrated from Haiti in 2008, when she was eight years old, and she will be the first child in her family to attend college in America.  Her top choices are Yale University in New Haven, CT and George Washington University in Washington D.C;  she plans on majoring in International Affairs.  Being that she is her parents’ first child to go to college, Guerrier took the lead in the application process, while also taking into consideration the fact that her younger sister will be heading to college in just a few years.  She was concerned about paying for school because she has not received any monetary scholarships, as of yet, and Guerrier needs these scholarships in order to lower the estimated cost of her family contribution.

While senior Felicity Wang has cousins who have attended college, she will be the first child in her immediate family to attend.  Her top choices include Boston University in Massachusetts, Georgetown University in Washington D.C., and Brown University in Rhode Island.  Although her family owns the popular King Wa restaurant in Norwich, Wang will still require financial assistance to pay for four years of education.

Hearing my peers’ stories showed me that I am not alone.  Almost every student and family is worried about the cost of college, but this fact is very frustrating because America is the land of opportunity, and every student should have the right to better their futures through education.  It is unfortunate that in the land of the free, college is anything but.

As students opened up about their plans for paying for college, Senator Blumenthal listened closely.  He asked specific questions about students’ family structures and their families’ financial status.  The questions he asked opened my eyes to the fact that there is more to think about when paying for college, beyond how much money I have in the bank.  It made me realize that my parents’ future plans will also be affected by the amount that they have to pay to help me.

My brother will be attending college in the year 2018 and knowing that college prices are on the rise, my brother and the rest of the future college attendees should start to prepare for the heavy costs.  Hopefully, other politicians will realize the struggles of paying for college and follow in Blumenthal’s footsteps by working to make college affordable for all.