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Rising interest rates, inflation take toll on Omaha college students, many are 'hitting their loan limits'

Posted at 7:13 PM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 20:13:44-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The path to a degree is not one-size-fits-all. Take Kinesha Shelton: a single parent and working professional who is returning to college for the first time since 2013. She estimates she's paying a thousand dollars more per semester than she did before.

"Books, parking, something simple as that. Everything has dramatically increased since I last was in school," Shelton said.

There's also Harry Laack, who's transferring to UNO and plans on getting a job to pay for his expenses.

"Last year, I definitely didn't do a ton and that was kind of on purpose. I needed to stay within my means. It kinds of stinks that the overall inflation costs will make it — squeeze that even tighter," Laack said.

Arvin Frazier is the Senior Executive Director of College Possible Omaha, a nonprofit with a mission to help students from low-income backgrounds access college. Since the value of the dollar is going down, Frazier says, that's impacting habits like living at home or finding roommates.

"We're finding students are doing a lot more remote work, administrative tasks, administrative duties they can work from home to minimize their day-to-day expenses," Frazier said.

Another reality that's stressful to students is rising interest rates on federal student loans. This school year, that rate is increasing to 4.99%. Last year it was 3.73%.

"All these students are actually hitting their loan limits. What they're having to do is request Parent PLUS loans, where they're getting their parents involved and getting the debt in their parents' names — which obviously a lot of people, they don't want to do or they're having to go out and find private lenders through alternative loans," graduate student Nathan Estergaard said.

Estergaard works in UNO's financial aid office. At this point, he says, it could be decades before students pay off debt. For students entering a field of study that they are passionate about, or entering a field that requires a specific degree, Estergaard expressed the investment could be worth it. But if not?

"You don't know what you want to do, you're not sure you're going to stick with college, want to try it out for a couple of years and see if this is for me, at this point in time, I'm starting to question if it's worth it," Estergaard said.

One scholarship students can consider is called Nebraska Promise, for students whose family income is $65,000 or less.

UNO also tells 3 News Now that there will be modest increases to student fees: students will pay about $20 more than they did last year.

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