Where’s the student stimulus?

Students worry about future finances as loans become harder to find

By Erica Eding | eeding@flagler.edu

Photo Illustration by Hahau Yisraeli

The economic stimulus bill contains about $15 billion in aid for college students.

This comes at a time when more Flagler students are seeking loans than ever before.

“We’ve had a boom here because of the economy,” said Christopher Haffner, director of Financial Aid at Flagler College.

Haffner said one reason for the increase in student borrowers is that parents cannot support them financially.

“They’re afraid to let go of their savings,” Haffner said.

However, loans are not always easy to find. Sandi Hunsuckle, a financial specialist at Wachovia Bank, said lenders are scrutinizing borrowers more thoroughly.

“If you’re a waitress or a bartender, it may be more difficult,” Hunsuckle said.

Scholarships have become more rare because many organizations that provide them can no longer afford it. To help students, Haffner said the college is providing more Flagler grants than ever.

At this point, the state government can do little to improve the situation. It has a budget crisis of its own.

“We’re hoping they don’t touch educational funding, but everything is on the table at this point,” Haffner said.

Even after a student manages to find enough money for their education, the problems continue.

Loan payments must begin six months after graduation. If a student borrowed $10,000 in federal aid, they will owe about $113 a month at the current interest rate.

“What if I never find a job?” Whitney Orkies, a Spanish and criminology student, said. “I will have loans for the rest of my life.”

The job market is challenging for recent graduates, according to Jenny Preffer, director of Career Services at Flagler. More qualified and experienced employees have been laid off and are also searching for jobs.

Some students choose to delay the job hunt by attending graduate school. This also gives them more time to save up for their loan repayments.

“They’re deferring payment in hopes that things will get better later down the road,” Haffner said.

However, graduate school comes with its own challenges. Many grants, such as Pell, FRAG and Bright Futures are only available to undergraduate students.

“Graduate students mainly have loans available to them,” Haffner said.

With fewer and fewer options as the economy grows weaker, students are obviously concerned about the future.

Orkies wants to work as a translator for the government, but said she has no idea how she will get there.

“I don’t have a back-up plan,” Orkies said. “That’s what scares me.”

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