Scholarships, loan options often drive students’ higher ed decisions


See also “Student loan debt nationwide skyrockets”

Camilla Saunders is a sophomore at California State University, Dominguez Hills, but it wasn’t her first-choice university. Saunders applied to several California universities, many of which accepted her. She was almost certain she would choose to attend the University of Southern California, but a letter she received changed her decision.

“After I got accepted (into Dominguez Hills), I got a letter in the mail telling me that because of my grades, I qualified to apply for this scholarship,” Saunders said.

As it turns out, the scholarship would cover her full college tuition.

“My scholarship was a very big factor in deciding which university to attend because the scholarship covers all four years, which is very helpful,” she said.

Saunders said she would have had to take out a student loan had she decided to attend USC instead.

“(USC) didn’t offer me as much money, and it was very expensive — almost the price of my parents’ house to attend for a year,” she said. Saunders works part-time to help cover her living costs.

BYU student Bethany Coates is in a similar situation.

“Subsidized tuition is a huge plus for attending school here,” said Coates, who has also had access to a few student grants and works part-time.

Jay Hanson, director of student financial services at BYU, emphasized the importance of taking all factors into consideration when deciding to pursue higher education.

“The best advice that I can give is that a student should determine as completely as possible what the full cost of education will be,” Hanson said. “Be sure to include all expected costs for tuition, fees, books, housing and lifestyle costs.”

Hanson said students should carefully plan what their finances will look like during their college years and exercise self-control when taking on student loans, not taking on more debt than they can manage.

“BYU and probably most other universities have several resources that can help counsel students before they take on student debt,” Hanson said.

Dr. Kim Hyungsoo, a professor who did research on American Young Adults’ Debt and Psychological Distress, said a current trend is for students to go to a community college and then transfer to a four-year university because community college tuition is cheaper. 

Other schools take a different approach to college education payment. Lambda School was founded in Utah in 2017. Austen Allred, CEO and founder of the school, knew many people wanted to attend college but were unable to afford the upfront costs of higher education.

“He wanted to find a way to make it possible for them to get an education without having to go into debt,” said Lambda School head of growth Mitchell Wright.

The school charges no upfront cost, and students repay 17% of their income for two years after graduation. Students don’t have to start payments until they are earning at least $50K per year.

“The income share agreement will last for five years of no payment. If after that the student is unable to be hired at $50k per year as a software developer, then the income share agreement is considered complete,” said Wright.

Right now, Lambda School only offers tech courses, but Wright said faculty members are looking into implementing other programs, like nursing, which have a high demand and low supply.

There are other options for funding higher education as well.

“Most people don’t know that the scholarship I have exists,” Saunders said. “I think it is important for more students to know which scholarships are available to them. I wouldn’t have given this scholarship as much attention if I didn’t have other friends who were applying for it.”

Thorough research is important before deciding which school to attend and how to pay for it, but it is also important to think about how the system currently in place can be changed so it better serves borrowers and lenders equally, Hyungsoo said.

“Young Americans need to take action. They need to vote,” Hyungsoo said. “Their voices are heard by politicians, by state governors and by the government.” 

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