Connie Cass, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — No matter how many subjects they're acing, most college students these days find economics a grind. Tricky financial calculations influence everything from what school they attend and what major they choose to how quickly they finish their degrees — or whether they graduate at all.
Money problems, not bad grades, are the reason cited by most college students who have considered dropping out, an Associated Press-Viacom poll finds.
Almost 6 in 10 students rely on loans to help with college costs, and nearly half who do say they're uncomfortable with the debt. A majority of students at four-year colleges say they routinely feel at least a little worried about having enough money to make it through the week, according to the poll, conducted in partnership with Stanford University.
Scrimping has long been part of the college experience, of course, but tough times in the real world mean even tighter money on campus.
Recession-battered parents have less money to spend on their kids' tuition. Jobs that used to be waiting upon graduation aren't there anymore — consumed by the nation's 8.8% unemployment rate. And college prices keep going up, as states struggle with budget deficits. Average tuition, room and board rose to about $16,000 at in-state public schools this year and $37,000 at private schools.
Most college students — 84% — need more than one source of cash to keep up, the poll of people ages 18 to 24 found.
About two-thirds say they work part-time or more to help pay for college. That's supplemented by another popular source of funds: Mom and Dad. Six in 10 get help from parents. The same number rely on scholarships for part of the bill.
"For a while, I couldn't find a job, and it was like, 'How am I going to eat? And how am I going to get to school if I don't have gas?'" said Allyson Bure, 20, a nursing student who works two part-time jobs, as a clerk at a Fashion Bug store and as a hotel housekeeper.
Like 57% of college students surveyed, Bure depends on student loans. Including debt she racked up at another school, she expects to owe about $52,000 by the time she finishes her associate's degree at Trocaire College in East Aurora, N.Y. Then she hopes to transfer to a university.
Many students are uneasy about borrowing, with good reason. The U.S. Education Department says 7% of borrowers default within two years of beginning repayment on loans that can stretch for a decade or more. Average student loan debt tops $23,000.