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By Anu Kumar
June 5, 2014
Credit : AP/Butch Dill.

Indiana University alumnus, Jared Thomas, has a Bachelor’s in Art History and Studio Art.

However, as Thomas transitions from his undergrad years to his career, those four years of education came with a hefty price tag.

He has nearly $30,000 in debt and will soon have to start paying off those student loans.

“I do have anxiety about it,” Thomas said. “I’m looking at the calendar, and I need to get a job by October because I need to start paying off loans.”

Thomas currently lives at home with his parents and works at the Snite Museum of Art at Notre Dame University for $8.40 an hour.

It’s a temporary solution, but he has yet to secure a full-time position.

Thomas said he doesn’t regret his choice of major but he understands that other areas of study lead more directly to jobs post graduation.

“I kind of joke with people and say I studied art history and studio art, so I basically majored in unemployment,” Thomas said.

Prior to entering college, Thomas said he was well aware of his options financially and money played a big factor into where he applied and eventually where he decided to enroll.

“I knew I was not going to be able to go to an out-of-state school, so I was specifically looking at public universities and other options in Indiana,” Thomas said.

Anu's_(Jared_Thomas)

CREDIT: Courtesy Jared Thomas.

Thomas said the financial support he had for school was a combination of loans, grants and scholarships. His financial aid package fluctuated from year to year depending on his parents’ marital status, his G.P.A., and available aid.

“I knew I was going to have debt regardless, but it was trying to keep that number as small as possible,” Thomas said. “Not going to school was not an option.”

On average, students with a Bachelor’s degree incur about $29,400 in student debt, and it impacts one in five American households. Overall, more than 40 million Americans hold $1.2 trillion in student loans.

Just as Thomas leaves college, his younger brother will be entering Indiana University as a freshman this fall. Thomas said that fortunately scholarship money will support his brother’s education well and has lessened the burden on the family, but not all families are necessarily that fortunate.

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) proposal to refinance student loans could help decrease student interest rates to a rate of 3.86. The law, the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act that President Obama signed into law last summer, aligns interest rates to a lower number that has both Republican and Democrat support.

“Anything to reduce the burden, lower the interest rates for college students is a step in the right direction,” Thomas said.  “There is this widening gap between students that are coming out with more and more debt and less and less opportunity to pay off that debt.”

Thomas said that he wants to see the cost of education dropping, and there needs to be more of a value put on education and less on making money.

“The highest paid people at state universities are the athletic coaches, and if you take a step back and look at it, our society puts more of an emphasis on things that make money like athletics and less on academics,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he believes no student should have to work multiple jobs just to get through school, he believes there should be a more feasible solution for students.

“Never has it been more necessary to have a college degree, and never has it been more expensive,” Thomas said. “I have $30,000 in debt right now and no way of paying it off at the moment, and that’s my reality.”

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