ASU students tackle student debt in documentary

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- College graduates are celebrating across Arizona this week, finally seeing the result of years of hard work.  But a staggering number of them have student loan debt.

Student loan debt in this country is now more than $1 trillion, surpassing credit card debt.  And the cost of education continues to climb. 

Three ASU students produced a documentary called “Scholarslip” about this frightening problem.

“I definitely will be over $100,000 in debt when I graduate,” said one student.

“I have a $2,000 loan, $4,000 loan, a $3,000 loan, and an $18,000 loan,” said another.

Student populations are swelling and students are borrowing more than ever to try and get a degree.

“This is a national issue,” said Jake Stein.  “This is happening everywhere.”

Stein is a junior at ASU and he sees it and hears about it.  He worked with classmates Tara Molina and Alex Lancial to tell the stories of three students struggling financially to get through college.

“We knew that we wanted three students with one struggle but three different stories,” he said.

Their personal struggles make for a compelling documentary, but the facts of the student debt issue are dark and riveting, more than $1 trillion in American student loan debt and growing.

They asked people to post pictures with signs showing what they owe for their education.

“We then shared it on Tumbler and it went viral,” said Stein. “We started getting hundreds and hundreds of photos from people who wanted to be a part of this.”

Of course part of the debt problem is the cost of a college education, something Stein feels is not always transparent.  In the documentary, Arizona State Representative John Kavanaugh expressed concern that too many universities are failing in the classroom.

“Pell grants, student loans, what these have done is allowed college administrators to jack tuition,” said Kavanaugh.

After all the interviews and research, Stein's conclusion is students need to ask if college is right for them before making such a large financial commitment.

He also feels students need to ask schools where their money is going.
“That's what's really frustrating,” said Stein. “It’s so easy for them to talk up the school and say look this is what we can offer you, but when you question how they are affording it and where the tuition money is going, they become silent.”

Ultimately, all three of the students profiled were making adjustments to make sure they could finish their college degrees.

An important note for all parents hoping their child goes to college, student loan debt never goes away, even if a person declares bankruptcy.

To see the full documentary, click here.