DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) --
DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) --There's a national push on the need for more workers with trade skills, but attending four year college - and taking on the debt that often comes with it - is still a popular choice for many young adults.
Kelly Kuboushek works on at project at Loras College while Wes Rainer welds at Northeast Iowa Community College. (Charlie Grant, KCRG-TV9)
According to the Condition of Higher Education in Iowa 2018 report, the average student loan debt in 2016 was $29,801. That same year, nearly 68% of undergraduates took out loans.
Loras College senior and media studies major Kelly Kuboushek said she's always known she wanted to attend a four year college.
"I’d never really looked at doing a community college," she said. "I very much wanted a four year college experience.”
She knew that was costly, so she planned ahead.
Kuboushek explained, "one way that I was able to save money is I took college credits in high school and I could graduate a semester early.”
Still, she had to take on debt.
"My parents had seven children and so to expect them to pay for college and pay, you know, even just a certain amount of college was kind of asking a lot," she said. "I think for sure after college it will be over $10,000," in debt.
She's confident she chose a field where she will have a good job that will make it possible for her to pay back the loans in a timely manner.
"That gives me comfort to know that I have skills that people want but other people it might not be the case when they graduate college," said Kuboushek. "I don’t really have any worries about being able to pay off my debt.”
Loras College Director of Financial Planning said the average debt students graduated with last school year was about $27,000. The average graduating debt at the University of Dubuque is $24,593.06.
Dunn offers meeting with every incoming family to go over their financial aid package and explain student loans.
"When the students come for orientation and registration we can talk a bit about the package, explain the amount that has to be paid back, and when they would begin paying those funds back," Dunn explained.
Students can reach out to anyone in her office throughout their time at Loras.
"We’re a point of contact to talk to students about the amount that they borrowed and what it’s going to mean as far as monthly payments and how to budget for that and that type of thing," said Dunn.
She said Loras works to make the college experience worthwhile for all students.
Dunn said Loras offers, "internships and study abroad and clubs and organizations and ways to become a leader on campus and hopefully throughout their life.”
On the other hand, Northeast Iowa Community College student Wes Rainer couldn't imagine going into debt for an education.
At 30 years old, he enrolled in the welding program for a career change.
"I’ve been working at this job for like seven years now and it felt like I had reached a plateau, it wasn’t really fulfilling like how it used to be," Rainer explained. "I decided if I”m going to invest in anything I need to invest in myself.”
One semester of his program costs him about $4,000. He plans to graduate in May with no outstanding debt.
"I just pulled some money out of my 401(k) to pay for it," Rainer said. "For $8,000 you can get a career that you know you’re gonna make money for the rest of your life. I think that’s a fair exchange.”
Last year, students at NICC graduated with $14,691 in student loan debt.
Both Rainer and Kuboushek understand there isn't one path that will fit every student's needs or wants.
"I think that's a bad decision," Rainer said. "I would never get into that much debt for something that you're not even guaranteed to get a job in."
"I think that a four year degree is definitely worth it," Kuboushek said.
Source : https://www.kcrg.com/content/news/Is-a-four-year-degree-worth-thousands-in-debt-Dubuque-college-students-discuss-492124061.html