Monday, March 30, 2009

College Life

Looking For A Way Around Debt?
Why not just take on more
By Holly Dougherty

There are the lucky few that get to go through four years of college debt free and when they get out the world is their oyster.

Then there are the rest of us. Those of us who are leaving college four or more years later with an almost useless Bachelor of Arts degree have what could easily be over $100,000 in debt in an economy in which professionals are getting laid off.

So what is a 22-year-old unemployed educated person to do? Stay in school. When there are no jobs, some people feel that the best thing to do is continue their education and rack up more debt.

Evan Schapiro, a 2007 University of Pennsylvania graduate, says, “I worked in advertising for a while but I wasn’t happy with my job so I decided to quit, and when the economy went south I was not able to find a new one.”

Schapiro says after a slew of odd jobs he decided that the only way to strengthen his resume was with more education. “In the fall I am going to NYU for a Masters in Spanish Secondary Education,” he said.

New York University isn’t known for its financial aid so Schapiro will likely pay for his degree in student loans. “I know that I am taking a financial risk going back to school, but I also don’t think that more education is bad thing,” he says. “If anything, I will be able to get a good job that I like with a master’s degree from a school like NYU. I am not too worried.”

Schapiro isn’t alone. Jared Bardugone, a 2008 Marymount Manhattan College graduation is in a similar situation. “I graduated MMC with a BA in Theater Arts. Not the most lucrative degree,” says Bardugone. “It also didn’t help that I fell out of love with acting around the end of my sophomore year. I took a year off to record with my band and figure out what I really wanted to do. I realized that I always had a passion for writing, but since I did not have much experience I decided to go back to school for a second BA in Journalism.”

Bardugone was actually one of the lucky, the debt free graduates. So why ruin a good thing? “I was still living at home and not making money,” he says. “I was going absolutely no where with my degree because I didn’t want to use it. I can actually transfer most of my credits to the colleges I applied to so I am actually only about a year and half away from a BA in Journalism, and am looking into state schools that would also save me money.”

Their tales are not uncommon. I’m also one of them. I am graduating MMC with over $100,000 in loans. Come August, I begin Seton Hall University Law School, which will cost me $28,000 a year plus living expensive (close to $15,000 a year). All of this is after you subtract my $10,000 scholarship. So why the mounting debt? If I am to try and get a job in May the most I will probably make is $32,000 (if I can even get a job). After I receive my law degree, a starting salary for a law firm in New York is about $160,000. It’s a gamble but it’s a much better option than my other option.

We all know that we are not guaranteeing a better salary in two to three years. But we are buying time -- time for the economy to bounce back and for the job market to pick up. When we get out in a better place than we are now, we will be more educated than many of our classmates who took odd jobs, were on unemployment for extended periods, or took administrative jobs to get by. We are improving our resumes, but maybe not our bank accounts.

But then again, who is, but AIG executives?

Monday, March 23, 2009

College Life

College Costs: Debt Or Delay?
By Heather Bates

It's no secret that the cost of education increases every year. Due to tuition rates constantly rising, and the horrible state of the economy, students are finding it harder and harder to fund their college education. It all comes down to a choice: is it worth the money? Various students have different opinions about what the cost of an education is truly worth.

In fact, nineteen year old Frank Pietrangeli, a struggling photographer, was forced to postpone his goal of moving to New York City for college because he couldn't afford it. When asked if financial reasons were the cause of him waiting an extra year to attend school, Pietrangeli replied, "Yes, it seemed like just when I had saved enough, and I felt confident to support myself, I'd look at the cost of rent for one month and tend to reconsider. I'd keep saving and saving."

According to Finaid.corg, on average, a college student's tuition tends to increase roughly 8% a year. This means that a student attending a private college can end up paying over $1,500 dollars more every other semester. Because most colleges do not lock in their tuition rates, this means that by the time a student graduates, he or she could owe close to $8,000 dollars more than when they started their freshman year. estimates that private four-year colleges and universities average around $25,143 dollars yearly.

For a student paying this much money to attend a school, such high tuition increases are hardly welcomed. Not only are tuition rates rising, but the cost of other financial necessities, such as books and computers are also more expensive than many students can afford. Is a college senior prepared to enter the workforce with so much debt to worry about?

Stephanie Aubel questions whether the price of pursuing her
dream of becoming an artist is worth it.

College sophomore Stephanie Aubel decided to attend the Art Institute of Boston for a degree in the Fine Arts regardless of the cost, but she questions the amount of debt that she's amassing. The school that the young art student attends costs her almost $40,000 dollars a year including room and board. “I don't understand why I ever believed that this kind of debt was worth it," says Aubel. Sometimes, I realize the weight of my so-called dreams."

With such expensive school bills, where are students and their parents coming up with the money? It all comes down to loans. Some students are forced to take out both private and government funded loans just to afford their college or university of choice.

These come with an even higher price, as most loans have interest rates of 8% or 9%. This means that a student can practically double the amount that they owe by the time they finish school. With a mere six months of room to breathe after graduating before beginning payments, college graduates are forced to come up with a way to start paying their loan companies almost immediately.

Frank Pietrangeli says descending into
a pit of debt may help create respect for
an education.

When asked about the cost of education and how it is worsened by today’s economy, Pietrangeli says, “I think it's ridiculous. No one should have to plummet themselves into a pit of debt for an education. But at the same time I also feel it pushes those who have the strength to better themselves. It gives you a sense of respect for what it is that you're doing."

Ultimately, the question is, do students feel that the money they are paying for an education is worth it? Aubel can only hope that it is.

“My opinion of debt and dreams constantly shifts, Aubel says."I am always crushed under the cost of my choice, but I know there's no backing out now. I've already put myself in so much debt that I need to work as hard as I can for my future. Is this money worth it? God, do I hope so.”

City Life

Struggling To Benefit From Financial Stress
By Thomas Ford

The thought of any person or business actually benefiting from the current economic crisis and the subsequent debt of struggling Americans is repulsive to most people. But what many do not realize is that those who are now benefiting were not too long ago the ones struggling to stay afloat in this time of severe financial difficulty.

It was just ten months ago that Tamara Strickland, 37, was on the brink of filing for bankruptcy. Her house payment had skyrocketed from $1,500 a month to about $4,800/month. With two children, a new Lexus and new Escalade, money was running low. “(My husband and I) stopped paying on our credit cards in order to maintain our mortgage and the household bills,” says Strickland, a Silver Spring, Maryland native. “We were scared of losing our house.”

Advised by her parents, she and her husband filed for bankruptcy on all of their credit cards. They felt defeated and helpless until their lawyer came up with an idea to salvage their wellbeing by covertly exploiting the current financial crisis. “Our lawyer threatened our mortgage company that we were going to include the house (when filing for bankruptcy),” says Strickland. The mortgage company, frightened by the amount of money they would have lost if Strickland and her husband had filed bankruptcy on their house, “…reduced [their] mortgage payment (by) $1,700.”

Although, their financial situation has seemingly returned to period in their lives when times were much better, she advises others: “If you can help it, do not refinance your house numerous times. That’s what got us in trouble in the first place.”

Thrift stores, like Housing Works are attracting new customers
that may be around for the long-term.

Achieng Radier, a 19 year-old resident of New York City, fortunately does not have refinancing in her track record, but she has surely felt the weight of America’s tense financial situation. Says Radier, “My mother got laid off in November of 2008. In my (hometown, Poughkeepsie, New York), a lot of the small businesses have closed. Even the small gyms have closed. Mom and Pop stores are gone. There really isn’t anything new opening (besides) huge chains or department stores.”

Radier has actually found refuge in these department stores. She has been taking advantage of many of them dropping prices on goods because so few people can afford them. “This is the best time to buy,” she says. “If you have money to buy things at the price that they are now, you just won’t need them when the prices go back up because you’ll have already purchased them for the same value just at a lesser price.”

Later, with a smile, Radier admits that she recently bought a Ralph Lauren sweater, valued at $98 for just under $40. A sophomore at City College of New York, Radier says that it is easier than people think to benefit from the state of our economy right now. “Just keep a look out for good sales,” she jokes.

Sales are popping up everywhere—from upscale boutiques on Fifth Avenue to small electronic stores in Times Square, and to thrift shops that permeate New York City, and particularly Housing Works Thrifts Shops. These shops are just one of the many faces of the Housing Works organization.

“(Housing Works) is actually a nonprofit,” says Melissa Carter, a 27-year old Brooklyn resident who is visual merchandiser for the thrift shops, located in Yorkville, the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, Chelsea, Gramercy, Tribeca, the West Village, and Brooklyn. “All of our proceeds go to people who are dealing with two parallel issues: AIDS and homelessness.”

Unfortunately, they, too, have felt the effects of the current recession. Because everything in these shops has been donated, including the mannequins, it is difficult for them to prosper when people are not donating. And lately, that has been the case. Says Carter, “…people are donating less because they are getting rid of less. So, we’re down because our store is based off of donations.” She adds, “As far as the Gucci and Prada, we receive very, very less of that.”

Because so much less is being donated to the shops, Housing Works has had more sales than usual. “We’ve kind of dumbed down our prices a little bit,” says Carter. “We (also) have promotions, like three-dollar pants or fifty percent off on jackets and women’s suits.”

But even through all of this, Housing Works has, in a way, been able to take advantage of the current financial instability. Although they are not making as much of a profit as they once were, their sales have caught the attention of a lot of customers, especially working-class clients. There are presumably more people searching for sales and promotions now than there were before the recession.

So, when people hear of such low prices on such high-quality products, they tend to flock to these shops. In kind of a backwards way, Housing Works is creating a clientele that may not have necessarily known about them or been willing to feel as though they were compromising their integrity to shop at a thrift shop, had it not been for the recession. While the shops were once struggling and feeling the weight of the economic crisis, they have now been able to possibly attract long-term customers.

These thrift shops and a few people may be slowly getting back on their feet and can admit that at one point, times were tough and that they were struggling, but now, times appear somewhat brighter.

College Life

Confessions Of A Recessionista
Move over high fashion, recessionistas are on the rise.
By Adriana Lorenzo

New York City is considered one of the fashion capitals of the world. But looking good in the city has its price, and with the current recession the price tags are looking heftier than ever. The fashion industry has always been seen as a place where only the strong survive. But recently, even top names in the industry have suffered.

Saks Fifth Avenue is laying off people, Macy’s is shutting down stores, New York Fashion Week scaled back with many designers opting out, and LA Fashion Week disappeared completely. In this survival of the fashionably fittest, where even the most luxury names are suffering, how do aspiring fashion students even stand a chance?

Enter the recessionistas, those style mavens who still manage to make a fashion statement while staying on a tight budget during hard times.

College students in general across the country are struggling with debt, expensive textbooks and finding cheap meals. On top of this, fashion students are expected to purchase materials for endless school projects and dress a certain way, following trends to make impressions and get ahead in the industry.

“It is definitely not easy being a fashion student,” says Cristina Nuñez, a sophomore fashion merchandising major at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “Being a college student is expensive in general. But going to school in New York City is incredibly expensive.”

Nunez moved from Miami, Fla. to pursue her lifelong passion for the fashion industry. Nuñez was well aware of the more than $5,000 a semester tuition for FIT, that did not include housing. But she didn’t realize how much of a struggle pursuing her dreams would truly be.

Cristina Nunez found this bargain
outfit for a class assignment

Many of Nuñez’s peers share in her sentiments. James Murphy, also a sophomore at FIT, recalls joking with his family and friends about how as an aspiring fashion student he would likely be poor the rest of his life.

“Now that I am actually living and working in this industry, I realize how hard it is going to be to make it big and have money,” Murphy said. “I have to really balance my budget in order to have enough to buy clothes, materials for my projects, and oh yeah, occasionally eat.”

Various classes at FIT contain major projects such as creating life-size window displays, designing a seasonal clothing line, and as student Drew Tyndall recalls, “putting on a fashion show in class.”

The "A+" projects are typically the most detailed and creative, and likely required the most money spent on supplies. “My group decided to produce an Alice in Wonderland themed show,” Tyndall said. “We split the costs of the show’s programs, invitations, favors and the actual outfits on display. But it still ended up being pretty costly.”

In an effort to save money, students often get creative when making purchases for their school assignments, or even for their everyday wardrobe. For one of her class assignments, Nuñez was asked to dress up as a well-known style icon. She chose to dress as singer Katy Perry, and to stay within her budget, she found all the items for her costume at discount stores.

“I go to vintage shops or flea markets whenever I can and find great deals,” Nuñez said. “I also make my own clothes sometimes and hair accessories. Mixing and matching is also a big part of expanding my wardrobe.” Her entire costume cost under $20 and she got an A.

Despite the grim presence of a slumping economy in the usual glitzy world of fashion, most fashion students are not worried about their futures in the industry. Many believe that the key to their futures is making connections early on through internships or part-time jobs.

“The industry is extremely competitive as is, even without the current economic crisis,” Murphy said. “I have already interned for a top designer and worked my butt off for various fashion weeks. I am confident the hard work I put in now will pay off when I am actually hunting for a job.”

During these tough economic times, fashion lovers and college students alike can take pointers from these FIT students when looking toward the future. They are a prime example that one does not always have to have a large disposable income to look and feel good.

“Everyone is suffering right now, and all industries are hurt by this recession,” Tyndall said. “I am confident everything will turn around though, and in the mean time we can just find the best ways to be fabulous on a budget.”

City Life

More Than A Mortgage
By Alexandra Gardell

JoAnne Chernish, 26, lost her job as a receptionist when her company downsized and has since re-enrolled in college to complete her bachelor’s degree. She is now living with anxiety that she will be unable to meet her monthly condominium mortgage and association fees. “I might be living on the streets soon because I’m about to run out of unemployment and I don’t have any job opportunities until after I graduate this spring,” Chernish says.

Chernish lives in Beacon Hill, a New Jersey condominium community that was built in 1989. She is part of the “Mount Laurel Program” that provides affordable housing units with lower assessment fees to lower income residents. Chernish says that her current financial situation has forced her to put payments like medical bills on the back burner because her housing fees are a priority. “I need a roof over my head,” she says anxiously.

JoAnne Chernish has to decide which bills to pay each month.

For condo owners, it’s not just mortgage payments, but also association fees, or assessments that cover costs for maintaining common areas that come due each month. The current Beacon Hill association fee is $200 a month.

“We’re responsible for everything from the paint on the walls out. That monthly fee takes care of the landscaping, sidewalks, parking lots, the pool, and all common amenities,” says Carole Branin, the Community Association Manager for Beacon Hill.

Beacon Hill, like a number of housing communities throughout the US, is feeling the effects of the subprime mortgage bust. At the time it was built, people with limited incomes could qualify for adjustable rate mortgages enabling them to purchase homes that they really could not afford. In this case, the initial monthly mortgage rate started very low, making ownership appear within reach. A few years later, when these homeowners had settled in, their mortgage rates began to rise to levels that they could not afford.

Attorney Bill Singer, who has been hired by Branin’s association to resolve some delinquent accounts explained that, “Four or five years ago people were putting down 1% or 2% to buy houses they couldn’t possibly afford.” These skyrocketing rates caused many condominium owners to ask themselves the question of which was more important to pay off: their monthly mortgage or their monthly association fee?”

Singer says most people caught in this predicament opted for paying their mortgage every month, not realizing that the condominium association has legal rights to the money as well. The association then hires an attorney to handle the collection process. Owners will get a collection letter stating the amount owed. If there is no response, a lien may be put on the property, which means that the unpaid assessment will be documented in public records. The next step is filing a judgment lawsuit against the individual.

For condo owners who have fallen into foreclosure, either by the bank or the association, there’s a pecking order as to who collects money in the event of foreclosure: first is the bank that holds the mortgage, second is the association, next come any other creditors that may have lent money to the homeowner.

The worst case scenario is a person is up to date on their mortgage but very delinquent on their association fees. This can lead to the association foreclosing on the unit and not the bank. The association then gets stuck with the unit, spends money to fix it up, and then is unable to sell it.

“I have had some owners come to me and say they can’t afford their assessments,” says Branin. “I don’t want to see anybody lose their home, so I say, ‘Draft a payment plan that you will pay X amount on specific dates and present it to me and we’ll see what we can work out.’ We haven’t had to actually foreclose on anyone in my property yet, but there are some condo owners who are walking a tight rope,” he says.

Singer said that he has definitely seen increases of late payments in recent months, due to many people being dislocated from their jobs. “I work with about twenty condominium associations, and I tell those clients that it’s the most aggressive associations that protect themselves. When they tell me someone owes $6,000 or some other high amount I ask them, ‘Why didn’t you do something about this then?’ You’ll pay whoever puts the most pressure on you.”

Singer adds, “I find that condo owners respond to a threat of foreclosure, because it means there’s fear that they could actually lose their house. That tension makes them respond more than any monetary charge.”

What’s happening now?
President Obama recently proposed the “Making Home Affordable Plan,” in which the federal government would bailout homeowners who are delinquent in their mortgages and association fees to help people stay in their homes. “Taxes and utilities costs are all up now,” says Branin. “Who’s going to bailout all of these homeowners? Mr. Obama. I don’t know how, but that’s apparently the plan.”

In addition, association fees and taxes are being raised to help associations meet their demands. “If ten out of one hundred owners aren’t paying, then the other 90% need to pick to it up,” says Singer. “It’s easy to feel jilted, but the associations still have the expenses. It’s everything, shoveling snow, cutting the lawn, and they are getting the services but not having to pay for them. Let me just say we have a lot of people come in to pay on May 15 because they want to use the pool.”

City Life

Money Determines Your Level Of Medical Care
By Erin Maguire

Dillon McCarthy is a happy, healthy 20 year-old student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. However, his whole life would have been different were it not for his family’s private medical care. McCarthy found this out at age nine. "I was sledding to one of my friends’ house who had a long hill type driveway, and I actually sledded down the driveway, into the street and got hit by a car," McCarthy said.

McCarthy was brought to Framingham Union Hospital in Framingham, Massachusetts suffering from a broken femur, which is the bone connecting his hip to his knee, and a cracked knee cap. Three procedures later, including a large operation in which a two inch pin was put in his leg, McCarthy was in traction and his wounds weren’t healing well.

"The doctor told me that my best bet was manual surgery, meaning that he wanted to go in by hand and put the bones together,” said McCarthy. “But the worst case scenario was they would have to put a metal rod in my leg and that I may be crippled for the rest of my life and have to use a walker.”

McCarthy says his family's first instinct was to get another opinion, which they did. “This doctor noticed that the pin had actually been placed in my calf, a foot and a half away from where it needed to be,” said McCarthy. “We were shocked. We never thought to doubt our first doctor who the hospital had appointed to us."

A year later, McCarthy had made a full recovery and today he walks normally. "If we hadn't have had the money to pay for private care, I would be crippled today, and that's pretty scary to think about. That's the main reason I support universal health care, I think that it's so unfair that you get better treatment based on how much money you have," McCarthy says.

Healthcare has become a growing concern in many family budgets. According to Web MD, "a recent Kaiser Family Foundation telephone poll of 2,003 adults shows that Americans rank health care as one of their top personal economic concerns. Nearly three out of 10 of those surveyed said they have had considerable trouble paying for medical care or health insurance, and they blame the problem on the struggling economy.

“We had a very well known business person from a wealthy family in Boston whose mother was brought in to Oak Knoll as a long-term resident,” Says Barbara Maguire, 50, who has worked at various skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes) for over thirteen years. One of her biggest concerns are those patients who come in with little money 'know how' and end up paying most of their savings to the nursing home. She agrees that certain people have the upper hand in medical care because of knowing how to pull the strings in the system.

Maguire says the patient had her Medicaid application filed and approved quickly. “Her son knew right away what expenses Medicaid would cover, like hearing aids,” says Maguire.” This woman was very hard of hearing and could probably have used hearing aids long before she got to Oak Knoll. Her son knew how to work the system, and how to get around the rules. All of this lady's of assets were protected because her son had it set up.”

Maguire cites the inequities in the healthcare system as one of the reasons for some of its failures. “You have families that don't have a lot ending up losing all of their family assets while others who have a lot more keeping theirs."

This unfair level of healthcare could seem disparaging to some, but Maguire has hope. She feels that the healthcare reform President Obama is working on is a step in the right direction and that the outlook for the future is hopeful.

Friday, March 13, 2009

College Life

How High Is Your Debt?
By Sydney Zarp

(For legal reasons, the sources for this article requested to use only their first names)

Before entering college, James, 21, had a fairly normal life growing up in southern California. He was a regular kid living in a suburban town, helping with chores around the house, and when he could, surfing with his dad on the weekends. James, blue-eyed and tanned, was living a relaxed California lifestyle, topped off with a ‘Barbie’ look-alike girlfriend, Stephanie, 20.

Today, James’s life is far from envious; he spends his days selling marijuana to pay for his schooling at a local community college. “Being in debt was never an option, and selling marijuana was the only thing that paid above minimum wage, and that would hire me,” James said. This however doesn’t mean that James doesn’t consider his dealing a full-time job. He worked hard to establish relationships with customers and suppliers. Since joining the freshman class nearly three years ago, James has become one of the top dealers in the area.

James says he can make $300 to $500 a day selling marijuana.

His daily routine consists of picking up and delivering drugs. For example, James is on call twenty-four hours a day, giving his customers full access to his stash as long as they have the cash. James describes that the calls come in continuously and that he’ll sometimes spend two to four hours just delivering his goods to faithful buyers. Stephanie often goes along for the ride to keep James company, and James jokes that she has become his ‘business partner.’

Neither student, however, likes to think about the potential complications of selling illegal substances. In 2007, which are the latest figures available, there were 74,119 marijuana- related arrests in California, according to the California State Department of Justice's Criminal Justice Statistics Center. That figure is up nearly 10,000 arrests from 65,386 in 2006.

By selling marijuana James has so far avoided the debt caused by the ever-increasing college tuition. But are the fears of college debt higher than spending half your life in prison?

“I feel like I’m ahead of the game,” says James. “You may think I’m crazy, but I’m not $100,000 in debt.”

James said he grew up with dreams of attending the University of Southern California, and kept that focus throughout his high school career. Always knowing that he would attend college, James said he just figured it would be easy. It was a shock and an eye opener when he first saw how expensive it would be to attend USC.

Thinking his parents would handle the burden he soon realized that was not the case, so he turned to a new direction. One year of tuition at USC costs $37,890, according to The College Board, a non-profit organization that provides college admission information and administers tests, such as the SAT. By contrast, at the community college that James now attends, one year of tuition is $6,000.

Paying for college is a struggle many young adults and their parents are facing. While the amount of financial aid and scholarships offered to students seems to shrink every year, students continue to struggle to pay school bills. While some take out student loans, others like James turn to a job on the side. As James has found, there is a different way to pay for education, which can help avoid debt all together, as long as you’re willing to take that risk.

James says he never imagined himself as the drug dealer type, and he still thinks it is funny that he has become one. James recalls the first time he became interested in selling drugs. “After seeing my good friend make thousands of dollars from two days worth of work, I knew that I wanted to know more about the pot world.”

James says he makes about twenty dollars on each sale and brings in roughly $300 to $500 a day. “About 90% of what I make goes to school, the other 5% goes to buying things for my girlfriend, and the last 5% is usually mine,” he jokes.

Reaching out to Stephanie about her thoughts on her boyfriend selling drugs, it was obvious that she is in full support. “I’m proud that he can get good grades and still sell weed at the same time,” she said. “Many other people I know have ended up dropping out of school, but he is gunna go somewhere.”

James still lives at home with his parents, but he says they have no clue about what he does, and thinks he has a full time job at the school as an office helper. He knew his parents would never accept this lifestyle, and said it was easier to lie.

Now in his final semester, James will walk away from three years of college and not owe one dime. He plans to transfer for his final year to a four-year university, something he has waited seven years to do. James’s three years at community college were far from his childhood dream, but he says it was his most affordable option.

James now plans to pay for his final year of schooling with financial aid and help from family members because he wants to give up selling drugs and become an ‘average student.’

“The day I graduate is the day I stop selling weed,” he says.

College Life

Coping With A Mountain Of Debt After Graduation
By Katy Berninger

The day you never thought would get here has finally come. You are now a college graduate, and you proudly admire your brand new diploma. You have never felt more accomplished in your life, and then it hits you: now it's time to pay for this diploma that you worked so hard to get. And 65% of your fellow graduates will have to do the same, according to

It's not enough that college students are already facing an incredible transition by being thrust into the “real world,” they also must cope with the thousands of dollars of debt that has piled up over the last four years.

College students from all over the country are finding ways to deal with this new burden, as well as coping with the change of being adults. Amy Myers, 21 has “mixed feelings” about leaving college.

“On the one hand, I'm really looking forward to having freedoms that I haven't had for the last four years, and pursuing other things. On the other hand, school has been what I've been doing for the last 21 years, and I don't know if I really feel like an adult yet,” Meyers says.

Myers isn't alone in her feelings. Julia Dorney, 21, feels the same way. When asked how she felt about graduating she said, “I'm really excited, but scared at the same time. Especially since the economy is so bad right now.”

Making money during a recession is becoming a burden
for graduates who are trying to pay off student loans.

Dorney is right about the economy. It is no secret that the current job market is the worst it has been in years. College graduates are facing some of the bleakest prospects in decades. The National Association for Colleges and Employers conducted a survey that found there will be 22% fewer jobs for graduates in 2009 than the previous year, according to Time Magazine. Some companies are not even planning to hire recent college graduates.

How are graduates supposed to pay off those loans when they can't even find a job in the first place? Some are going to have to turn to their parents for help.

Mike DeMarco, 22, says, “I'm planning on moving back home for the first year so that I can get on my feet and find a job. Hopefully living with my parents will allow me to save money.”

DeMarco is one of a few lucky students whose parents were able to pay for his college education with the help of loans. Talking to soon to be graduates it becomes clear that parents play a huge role in whether students are able to pay off the pile of debt that they accumulated. Many students who have this luxury are grateful for their parents’ support.

“I owe it to my parents because they have done everything for me,” says Meyers. “They have supported me for so long.” When asked if she felt more responsibility Meyers said, “ of course, more than anything I want to pay my parents back for what they have done for me. I feel like it's about time.”

The feeling of responsibility that Myers describes is not uncommon. Graduates are no longer under the umbrella of school and don't feel like they can get away with as much. “We aren't in a little bubble anymore where our only worries are homework and our part-time job,” says Dorney says. “We now have to worry about bills, and paying taxes, and supporting ourselves.”

Students are going to have to find different ways of going about this daunting task. Some like DeMarco will move back in with their parents hoping to save money. Others like Myers will try to work as much as they can to save money.

However, the current recession is always in the back of people's minds. Myers said that she didn't think she would be affected by the current economic situation. She works at Starbucks and didn’t believe she would face job uncertainty. But the company has announced store closings and Myers says she is trying to hold onto her job so that she can begin paying off those looming loans.

No matter what graduates will be doing to tackle the mountain of debt, it is certain that it won’t be an easy task. The transition into adulthood is rarely easy. As students enter this time of change, more than ever they will need to keep a positive attitude.

“I'm just going to keep chipping away at whatever I need to pay back and do everything that I can,” DeMarco says. “There is no reason why I need to be freaking out about it. I have my whole life ahead of me.”

College Life

Don’t Work, Just Study
By Gabriella Calabro

Debt is one four-lettered word that more and more college students are finding themselves repeating. With private school tuitions rising each year, more students are opting for public universities and community colleges.

While the media focuses on the large population of students who can’t afford college, no one talks about the smaller, more fortunate group of students that are largely unaffected by the financial stress that most other students face. Parents of these students do not want them to worry about paying for college so they take on the extra stress themselves. A student’s involvement in paying for college varies from family to family.

Louis Erazo, a 19 year-old freshman at a New York City private college said, “My parents had me do the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), but that’s only because it’s on the computer. I do most of the computer-based stuff at home.”

While some students have constant fights and struggles with their parents about how the school bills will be paid, some students only have to worry about a small portion of the college tuition payment process.

“My parents don’t talk to me about numbers. They just always say that I need to do well because they’re paying a lot of money for it,” says Max Hirsch, 18, a college freshman.

Not having to pay for college is not only beneficial for the students enrolled, but is even more helpful for those who have graduated. Alexandra Yacullo, a 25 year-old graduate student says, “I don’t have a stable job. I’m also going to grad school and getting married this summer and there’s no way I would have been able to pay back those loans and been able to do anything else.”

Many young adults find themselves in the same position, or much worse off than Yacullo. For those recently graduated, finding a job could be extremely tough in today’s economy. And with loan payments due six months after graduation, many college-educated adults could find themselves working minimum wage jobs just to get by.

A poll by shows that 24% of parents plan to pay for their child’s college education with the help of loans and grants, and 28% plan on paying with the help of scholarships and having their child work. Only 12% of parents said they would not pay for college because they could not afford it. Although the poll makes it seem that more parents are paying for college, the truth is that as the economy continues to spiral downward, so does a parent’s ability to help.

While most college students find themselves working one full-time or a few part-time jobs, there are others who get money just for being students. They may have the luxury of not having to pay for school, but what about other expenses? Erazo’s tuition includes a meal plan, and his parents have put him on a budget.

“They give me $300 a month,” says Erazo. “If I choose to work it’s because I want extra spending money. But my parents have never told me I had to get a job.”

Like Erazo, Hirsch also receives an allowance, “My parents put money in my account every month, probably about $500.” When asked if he was required to have a job, Hirsch laughed and said, “No, they’ve never told me I needed to work. I don’t have to have a job.”

Some young adults may find $300-$500 hard to live on, but it’s important to realize that this money is likely to be spent on shopping or going out. This money is not spent on phone bills or books because Erazo and Hirsch are given extra money by their parents to buy anything for school, or cleaning supplies or even groceries.

Unlike scholarships, parents often do not have a strict or clear set of guidelines that requires their children to work hard to keep getting their money. “My parents threaten that if I don’t do well they’ll stop paying,” says Erazo. ”But they know the reality is that a 19 year-old cannot pay for a private education in Manhattan, and maintain a social life, work life, and do well in school.”

Yacullo said that her parents wanted her to transfer after seeing that she was not performing well at her first college. “I originally went to Penn State, but I partied a lot, and didn’t really do well so my parents and I talked and decided it would be better to go a school closer to home and buckle down.”

Looking back, Yacullo offers some advice to students like Erazo and Hirsch. “Don’t take advantage of your parents. You’re a lot luckier than a lot of students. Work as hard as you can and don’t fool around. It’s one thing to waste money, but it’s completely horrible to waste an education.”

College Life

Is There Any Hope For College Students?
By Damaris Colon

Current and incoming college students are facing many of the hardships that are seen in the overall US economy. Many are experiencing higher tuition, smaller scholarships, increased rejection letters, lenders who have put a halt on lending all together, and others who are raising interest rates on personal loans.

All things considered, the country’s current recession hasn’t affected everyone in the same way. Adrienne Warren, a twenty-one year old senior in her final semester at Marymount Manhattan College has been fortunate enough to have parents who are very supportive, especially financially. They have taken out loans to pay for her education and Warren laughs as she recites her father’s announcement that he will, “pay back her loans by never retiring for the rest of his life.”

Despite her father’s declaration, Warren vows to help her parents as much as she can. On the other hand, students like Angelique Smith, 21, who is also in her final semester at Marymount, are afraid of an uncertain future. “I feel that it will be hard for me to find a good job that will help payback my school loans,” says Smith. “College debt is a pain in my ass and I’m scared it’s going to consume me for the rest of my life.”

Considering that hundreds of thousands of workers who sought full-time employment recently were only able to find part-time positions, Smith may have a viable concern. The US unemployment rate rose to 8.1% in February. First-time claims for unemployment benefits rose to 654,000 in the first week of March, and held above 600,000 for a sixth straight time.

Many college students are facing the harsh reality that shortly after graduation they will need to begin paying for their student loans. With the possibility of not finding a job that will cover their expenses, some graduates may make the dreaded decision to move back to their parent’s homes to save money.

While some students like Warren have a great deal of financial support from their parents, others will need to struggle to find money to further their education. Corey Mayer, 25, a prospective student at Mercy College’s Veterinary Technician program, is coming to terms with the idea that he could pursue a career in veterinary medicine, and with the fact that he may not be financially stable to pay for school once he’s accepted.

“It’s unfortunate that it has taken me this many years to finally figure out what it is I want to do with my life, and to have that dream potentially put on hold because of our country’s economic health and because my family does not have the money to pay for my education is a scary and almost frustrating thing,” says Mayer. “I wish I had a family that was financially stable to take on the burden of school loans,” he says, “but the reality of the situation is that I don’t. I guess we are all made to deal with the hand we were given.”

It is even difficult for students who are currently enrolled in college to pay tuition. A recent survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers found that 65% of schools across the US have reported an increase in the amount of unpaid tuition bills, which prevent many students from returning to class.

So, what next? One effort to lessen the financial burden on college students and their families comes from the American Recovery and Investment Plan which now grants a $2,500 college tax credit for four million college students, and triples the number of fellowships in science to help spur innovation. In addition, colleges throughout the US have begun creating initiatives that will allow current and prospective students to remain enrolled.

For instance, Spellman College has called for a large-scale alumni donor drive to help current students stay enrolled, while Brown University has opted to increase the amount of back tuition a student can owe and still be allowed to continue schooling.

However, outside of these efforts, there is not much effort to assist college students. Financial grants and awards are still given out on a first-come first-serve basis, therefore students who consider themselves to be the most “needy” should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible.

Until the country’s economy emerges from the fog of recession, college students like Warren, and prospective students like Mayer may just have to wait and hope for the best.