Ky. teacher says it’s nearly impossible for students to graduate debt-free today

Ky. teacher says it’s nearly impossible for students to graduate debt-free today
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 4:41 PM EDT
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MOREHEAD, Ky. (WKYT) - The cost of college is expensive and, for those who aren’t on scholarship, loans add up quickly.

However, that wasn’t the case for many in the 1980s. Tuition was much cheaper.

Suzanne Griffith, a teacher, attended Morehead State in the mid-80s. She says she was able to work to pay her college fees, but she says, now, tuition is so expensive that’s nearly impossible for students.

“I’m so deeply concerned. I’ve never seen it this way,” she said.

Griffith recently dug out some old memorabilia and found her receipts from her days as an eagle. Between tuition, room and board, fees and parking, she paid just $855 a semester. She says it cost $8,000-$10,000 range for her four-year degree. Thanks to grants and working part-time, she was fortunate to graduate debt free.

Now, she says a four-year degree at MSU is in the $80,000 range.

Griffith’s post on social media showcasing the changes over time, took off, garnering thousands of shares online.

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She says when she was hired for her first teaching job in 1987, she made just over $16,000 a year. The average starting salary for a teacher in Kentucky now is around $37,000.

“It just breaks my heart so many people are coming out with a 30, 40, 50 thousand dollar loan,” Griffith said.

According to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, $33,300 is the average amount of student loan debt per borrower in Kentucky. They estimate there are 616,000 Kentuckians with federal student loan debt. About 209,000 thousand of them, owe $10,000 thousand dollars or less and will have their balances wiped out by the recent White House announcement of loan forgiveness.

Morehead State President Dr. Jay Morgan says they’re working to help students build their own financial literacy.

“We want to make sure going forward that we’re really educating students on the ability to use the loans appropriately,” said Dr. Morgan. “Really, that’s an investible dollar for them into their future earning power.

MSU has the second lowest tuition in the state and is ranked one of the top schools for financial assistance. Dr. Morgan says it’s a never-ending challenge balancing operating costs and putting a price on higher education.

“We continuously try to find ways to keep the costs of an education affordable and we’re continuously at Morehead State University, trying to keep our tuition low,” Dr. Morgan said.

Kentucky college students aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch. The Commonwealth is among 37 states to slash higher education funding since the Great Recession. They are shaded in red on this map. The center on Budget and Policy Priorities says Kentucky’s funding is 27% when adjusted for inflation. That’s the ninth largest decrease in the country.