With the increasing cloud of debt affecting millions of Americans, current college students are trying to find alternative ways to pay tuition. Two area Kansas City students have turned to crowdfunding.
"At first I was hesitant,” said Bola Saliu, a recent Rockhurst graduate who is entering medical school later this summer.
“Being an international student, you cannot get student loans. There is no financial aid,” she said.
Saliu moved from Nigeria to Missouri at the age of 18 for her education. Her family was able to help her with community college, but the community rallied behind her so that she could finish with her bachelor’s degree at Rockhurst.
"My first time that it happened a church raised $5,000 in one Sunday,” said Saliu regarding the community’s unexpected generosity.
Saliu is going to American University of Antigua’s College of Medicine to become a doctor, something she knew she wanted to do since losing her little brother in Africa several years ago. It’s been a tough journey to get to this point in her life, and it’s about to get even more costly, which is why she’s now reaching out for more help.
“I feel like you're sewing a seed and that seed is gonna be brought back and given back to whoever I'm going to treat someday,” she said.
"Student loans now account for more of our aggregate debt than car loans and mortgages combined,” said Tyler Landes.
Landes is the owner of Tandem Financial Guidance in Kansas City and is with the Financial Planning Association. He’s been seeing a variety of new trends as families struggle to find a way to pay for college.
"You do see parents that are paying their own student loans, now have children that are taking out student loans they are helping to pay for,” he said. "Using a retirement plan to make a distribution to pay for college, but that can bring consequences, penalties at tax time."
"A lot of people in this country can relate to what I'm going through,” said Kathryn Figueroa-Nieves, who has also set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for college. She got the idea after a friend told her she raised $11,000 on the site.
"Although I will work and try to put the rest aside, I will be a full-time student, so it's gonna be really hard to raise all that money on the short-term,” she said.
Figueroa is a freshman physical therapy major at UMKC. Money is tight and she doesn’t want to take out student loans that will affect her long-term. The Kansas City native said her father has been trying to pay off his student loans for nearly 25 years.
"I don't think it's gonna get any better anytime soon. I don't think costs are gonna come down,” said Landes.
GoFundMe claims their site has been used to raise $100 million for education, $60 million of that figure coming in the last 12 months.
Is there another alternative way to pay for college?
"Once you're in college, any money that you're paying out of pocket, whether from a summer job or crowd funding ... remember that at tax time. You can get a tuition fees reduction. There's the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the AOTC, which can put thousands back in your pocket. So there are programs out there, there are ways to kinda of offset some of that costs, but you have to know about them,” said Landes.
Student loan debt facts
- Student loan debt is currently at $1.3 trillion and expected to double by 2025.
- Seven out of 10 seniors who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2014 had student loan debt.
- The average class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in debt, up 6 percent from last year.
- There are 43.3 million Americans with student loan debt.
- Student loan delinquency rate is at 11.6 percent.
- The average monthly student loan payment (for borrower aged 20 to 30 years): $351
Josh Helmuth can be reached at email@example.com