College bound students prepare for financial responsibility of paying the bill

Paying their own way

Lauren Thomas | Staff Writer

They are on their own. That is just the way it is for seniors who have to pay for college.

Despite the growing college tuition cost and the prospects of student loan debt, parents are putting the pressure on their children to pay for their own education.

According to a recent Sallie Mae study, only 50 percent of American families are saving for college. The burden of paying for college is falling on 18-year-olds who is about to embark on what could be their biggest investments.

Senior Annabelle Contant is expected to pay for college on her own. Her older siblings did it and now it’s her turn. Contant said the responsibility to save and think ahead made her grow up a lot faster than many of her peers.                           

“It has made me very independent,” Contant said. “I do everything myself right now. I pay for gas and stuff, which helps me manage money because I know I can’t just spend it on clothes. I save over half of my paychecks.”                    

Contant hopes that one day her savings will be enough to support a portion of her four years at the University of Cincinnati. Working various jobs at Pacsun and Bob Evans since she was fifteen, she has filled a savings account with enough money to support her through some of her time at U.C. During her sophomore year, she dreamed of going to college out of state, but reality set in.

“Sophomore year I wanted to go as far away as possible, but I didn’t realize how expensive it was,” Contant said. “I kind of changed my mindset. It doesn’t really matter how far away you go; it’s not like you’re at home.”

In addition to working at Pacsun four days a week, Content has a busy dance schedule and a challenging course load. She hopes the time she invests in dancing will carry over to a scholarship once she arrives in Clifton this fall.

Contant has applied for several scholarships and has earned valuable scholarship dollars. Despite her efforts, she will be forced to take out student loans in her own name and add her tuition to the 1.2 trillion dollar student loan debt in America, according to Market Watch.

Contant is not the only one working towards paying for her education. Junior Conner Gagliardo learned this year he would be paying for college. Gagliardo’s step-siblings have had to pay their own way and this year his parents told him that he will need to pay for his education. Although he has been dreaming of being a Buckeye for as long as he can remember, he has not always been conscious of the fact that he will have to pay his own way.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Ohio State, so now it’s probably just Ohio State or UC because I know I can afford those,” Gagliardo said. “My parents told me this year. It was like my step-siblings; my step-sister had to pay for her’s. My dad was like ‘We know from experience. You’re going to have to pay for it; we can’t afford it.’”

Gagliardo works several days a week, totaling around 20 hours in any given pay period, in addition to his other responsibilities. Knowing he will have to pay for his own college has forced him to save when his peers spend.

Since finding out he is in charge of his future tuition payments, he has made a point to stockpile all his paychecks in order to be ready when the time comes.

“I definitely see myself trying to not spend as much money, and trying to save money, like I’m always checking my bank account to see how much money I have,” Gagliardo said. “I just know in the future that in college there will be a lot of unexpected expenses that I’m going to want to have money saved for.”

When senior Lorna Martin put her deposit down for Eastern Kentucky University, she knew she would be responsible for every tuition bill that came her way.  Following in the footsteps of her older brother, who attends Ashland University, Martin has worked hard to save for college.

“I work at Old Navy right now and every paycheck I save as much as I can,” Martin said. “I save at least 20 percent of every paycheck. I work four to six days a week, 15 to 25 hours.”

Before deciding on EKU, Martin pondered the idea of big state schools, but the reality of tuition prices changed her mind. According to U.S News, in-state tuition and fees at public universities increased 296 percent from 1995. Although in-state may seem like the more affordable option because of in-state tuition discounts, that is not always the case.

“I only ended up applying to two schools because a lot of the other schools I liked, but I knew if I got in, I couldn’t afford (it),” Martin said. “I knew that even if they gave me a little bit of (a) scholarship I still couldn’t, so for Ohio State, I love that school but I could never go there, so I didn’t apply. It definitely affected the schools I visited (and) the schools I applied (to) because I didn’t want to go somewhere that was unaffordable when there were schools more affordable that were good.”

Along with the responsibility of putting aside money for college, Martin is committed to extracurriculars and not only pays for her own gas, but also her car insurance, which forces her to make important decisions on how to spend her money.

“I’m very independent because I had to grow up faster than a lot of my peers,” Martin said. “I have to pay for my car insurance, I have to pay for my gas, but I’m grateful for that because I feel like I am a lot more prepared to go to college and pay for my college and pay my bills.”

Car insurance, college tuition, and six-hour shifts are heavy responsibilities for a high school senior, but Martin sees her long nights and looming bills all paying off down the road.

“I think a lot of people see it as a really negative thing like ‘Oh, your parents can’t afford to pay for your college,’” Martin said. “I look at it as a positive thing. I get to come out of college knowing that I paid for what I worked hard for.”