When 22-year-old Madison O'Neill decided to study at a state school, she thought she was making the smart decision for both herself and her wallet. Fast forward to four years later and she said she realizes that’s not exactly the case.
“I went to Central, I went to a state school, and I owe a little over $77,000,” O’Neill said.
It’s a burden O’Neill said is preventing her from becoming financially independent, and she’s far from alone in her claim.
The most recent study from the Institute for College Access and Success found Connecticut ranks number three when it comes to the amount of loans students take on after graduating from a four-year university.
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With a total of 56 percent of Connecticut college graduates leaving school with debt, some state leaders are now urging action.
Attorney General William Tong joined more than a dozen states calling on Congress to wipe out up to $50,000 in federal student debt.
“It’s a burden, it’s a huge burden on Connecticut families,” Tong said. “This arms race comes at a huge cost and it comes at the cost of tuition that many kids in Connecticut, including me when I was a student, can’t afford.”
According to Tong, providing that relief for students during the pandemic has the ability to make a big difference.
“If you can take that burden from around their necks, maybe they could do more productive things with their money and help generate growth in the economy,” Tong said.
O’Neill agreed. She said about 75 percent of her paycheck from her full-time job goes toward her student loans. According to her, those payments are all going toward interest.
“My payments being as much as they are, they’re all going towards interest and I’m not actually even touching the actual amount, I’m just touching the interest payments,” O’Neill said.
For O’Neill, one of the most frustrating aspects of it all, she said, is not knowing what she got herself into when she was just 17-years-old.
“I don’t think myself or anybody at that age knows what they’re getting into and knows what they’re signing up for,” O’Neill said. “I think at that age you don’t know what you’re signing up for, and even worse, you don’t know what you’re even going for, you’re just told you have to go.”
For now, Tong said, the best thing Connecticut can do is help students by providing saving programs and attempting to lower state school tuition. However, when it comes to figuring out how to keep the cost of college low, Tong said that’s a big question for the legislature.