The Maneater

Kander hosts college affordability roundtable

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander estimated student debt totals $1.2 trillion nationwide.

Junior Evan Chiarelli said that when he came to MU, “it was squarely on my scrawny shoulders to pay for tuition.”

Like many students, Chiarelli applied for student loans to help pay for the costs of attending MU, which he said were especially high as he was an out-of-state student. Chiarelli expects to graduate with $47,000 in student loans.

On Monday, Chiarelli and several other students discussed their financial situations and shared their personal stories at a roundtable discussion on college affordability held by Jason Kander, Missouri Secretary of State and candidate for U.S. Senate. The event, held at Memorial Student Union, focused on topics such as student loans, options to make college more affordable, and challenges of financial difficulty.

Kander said that the large amount of student debt in the U.S., which he estimated combined to be $1.2 trillion, was an issue that would affect more than just current students.

“It’s a generational issue for us and for the next generation,” Kander said at the event. “Student debt causes people to push off financial milestones and this affects our economy.”

Senior Nick Benham said that many legislators don’t understand the unique financial situations of modern college students.

“The increase in cost of tuition has outpaced inflation and the Consumer Price Index,” Benham said. “It’s now impossible to get a full-time job and pay for college.”

Roundtable participants also discussed their finances in relation to housing.

“The financial aid and grants I got are only covering tuition, so I have to take out loans for housing,” junior Jordan Pellerito said.

Chiarelli described a “vicious cycle” in which many students took fewer courses each semester to decrease costs, but ended up graduating later as a result.

“That makes bills lower, but it’s harder on the back-end,” Chiarelli said.

Benham described how financial pressures caused him to change his career goals.

“My goal has always been to go to law school,” Benham said. “My first ideal was to work in public defense, but once I realized the costs of law school … I made the decision as time passed that I would have to do corporate law.”

Kander suggested options such as capping interest rates and letting students refinance their loans.

“Our goal should be to let people make the best decisions for their future and their community,” Kander said.

Chiarelli expressed his support for state Rep. Kip Kendrick’s, D-Columbia, proposed Student Debt Relief Act, which would aid students in refinancing their loans.

When Kander mentioned that some people criticize students for poorly managing their finances, senior Symonne Sparks spoke out against the criticism. Sparks has had to pay for numerous medical bills, in addition to tuition costs.

.“We’re not spending frivolously,” Sparks said. “This is need-based, and even our needs aren’t being met.”

Edited by Kyra Haas | khaas@themaneater.com

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