GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As classrooms across the state fill back up with students, thousands of incoming high school seniors are facing more than just the homework. The decision about what to do after graduation is a high priority.
There are many variables when it comes to picking a college: location, programs, and most importantly, cost.
The amount of student loan debt in America has skyrocketed over the last 12 years. According to debt.org, $2,858 of student loan debt is accrued every second. Across the country, there is more than $1.4 trillion dollars in student debt, second only to mortgage debt.
Gabbie Obiden is a senior at Rockford High School. When she graduates, she plans to be one of the more than 44 million borrowers in debt across the country to pay for college.
“I know it’s going to be a struggle. It’s definitely going to be a struggle, but I’m willing to fight for it,” Obiden said.
She says she started thinking about college and how to make it possible as an eighth grader. By the time she was a sophomore, she found a job at Bishop Hills Elder Community to start saving for school. And she fell in love with what she was doing — cooking.
“I love cooking here too because it’s not just the cooking part. It’s seeing how people react to the food. They tell me if they like it or not, which I really like the feedback,” Obiden said.
She’s in the culinary program at Kent Career Technical Center and along the way has grown to love the idea of how to teach.
“I hope to see myself out there in the world, helping people. Cooking for people too on the side,” Obiden said.
She knows that with those goals in mind, she needs to find an institution with those shared interests.
“I would like to go to a college that shows the same faith as me and is willing to let that grow as well,” Obiden said. “I want to go to Aquinas College. I know it’s a big shot and it’s expensive and debt, oh yeah, crazy. It’s my dream to go there.”
She knows even with the money she has saved, she will feel the weight of college debt.
“I’m trying to prepare myself as much as possible. I know the debt is going to be really suffocating, but I already know a few steps I can take to try and avoid that debt,” Obiden said.
Shayla Willis with To College, Through College says there are plenty of resources available to parents and students when they are making these decisions.
There are government resources available for the early stages of deciding on student loans and repayment after college at studentloans.gov.