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College Costs Alter Dreams: Education: $9,000 for Dorms Put UW Out of Reach for Freshman

College Costs Alter Dreams: Education: $9,000 for Dorms Put UW Out of Reach for Freshman

The Olympian, Olympia, Wash.

August 31, 2009

According to the Federal Student Aid Web site, first-year undergraduate students can borrow $5,500 to $9,500 a year through the Stafford Loan program, depending on whether they are dependent on their parents and how much money the family makes. The Lutzes say that their family has too much income to qualify for any other type of financial aid.

At Saint Martin’s University, tuition costs $24,880 a year and the residence halls cost students a little more than $8,000 a year. Eric Pedersen, dean of enrollment and financial aid, said that they have been told by prospective students that the university dream would be deferred.

“Some of the phone calls have been almost apologetic,” he said. “They say things like, ‘I really need to save money this year. Dad says we shouldn’t take on more loans.’”

At Saint Martin’s, financial aid officials have encouraged students to file appeals and seek additional student loans, Pedersen said.

In some cases, though, some students see the poor job market and become unsure of whether it is worth it to borrow money to get a degree, Pedersen said.

But Saint Martin’s President Roy Heynderickx said he tells those students that it is best to work on their degrees, to be ready for jobs when the economy recovers.

“The best place to be in this economy is in school working toward a degree,” he said.

Lauren Lutz has revised her college plans and will still work toward a degree.

She has enrolled at South Puget Sound Community College to study video production, and plans to transfer to the University of Southern California after two years to attend its film school.

She also will save money by living at home while attending SPSCC.

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While she says she’s looking forward to fall, it won’t be what she had expected when she received the acceptance letter in May.

“I thought I was headed to university,” Lauren Lutz said.

Maureen Lutz says she hopes sharing their story will encourage parents to think carefully about how much they can afford for higher education before signing any contracts with colleges.

She also said her daughter’s change in plan is painful.

“She came in the top 25 percent of her class. She has a good GPA. She got a scholarship. She did everything you’re supposed to do,” Lutz said. “This is happening to a lot of people, but when you have to tell it to an 18-year-old, it really hurts.”

Read how the financial crisis is increasing the need for college tuition financial planning.