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As college grads enter work force, still no debt solution

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news Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

BEIMDJI - More than 1,000 students will receive their undergraduate and graduate degrees from Bemidji State University, Northwest Technology and Oak Hills Christian College in the coming days.

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While commencement marks the end of credit counting and cramming for exams, it also means facing real world issues, like how to pay for that degree.

Finding ways to deal with mounting student debt has been on the forefront of the minds of legislators, educators and students throughout the school year.

In October, President Barack Obama announced plans to give millions of young people some relief on their student loans, the No. 2 source of household debt, exceeding credit card debt.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton declared April "Financial Literacy Month," dedicating the second week of the month to higher-education issues such as college affordability and student debt.

Affording increased tuition rates hits home for some students at Bemidji State University, a school that has the highest tuition rate among the seven four-year state universities in Minnesota, according to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

Of the 2010 Bemidji State University graduates who borrowed money, students had an average student loan debt of $19,750, according to MnSCU researchers. At Northwest Technical College, students see a debt load of $14,031 upon graduation.

Overall, 2010 graduates within the MnSCU system who borrowed averaged $16,402 in student loan debt.

Receiving a college or university diploma, however, is not always the answer to paying off student loans. Finding a career that will pay comes first.

In April, the Associated Press reported 50 percent of college graduates this year will either be unemployed or underemployed.

While there's strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder, the report states. Median wages for those with bachelor's degrees are down from 2000. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides.

David Collins, adjunct instructor and counselor at Northwest Technical College, said he has heard a mix of reactions from students expecting to graduate from the college this spring.

"Lately, on any given day it sounds like the economy is recovering, so some are excited for job opportunities, but then a week later they hear it's not as good as they thought and they get a little down," he said. "But typically most are very excited to get out there and start to put their skills to use."

Locally, the health care industry is a big draw, Collins said, which means nursing students who wish not to relocate around should do well finding a job, he added.

"A lot of students are very aware of the fact they will have to relocate," he said. "My best tip for graduates is to be committed and determined to work hard at seeking out their jobs."

Efforts are being made to help make financial aid packages easier to understand.

In late April, U.S. Sen. Al Franken announced he would soon introduce legislation called the "Understanding the True Cost of College Act," which would require colleges to use easier-to-understand language in financial aid offers to students. He plans a stop today at BSU, where he'll address the issue.

The goal of the act is to give families a clearer picture of the true cost of education before choosing a school, according to Franken.

"Families in Minnesota and across the country often struggle to understand the financial aid letters they receive from schools, which can be complicated and leave them in the dark about the amount of debt they will ultimately be responsible for," Franken said during a State Capitol press conference Monday.

Commencement scheduleS

E BSU/NTC - BSU's commencement ceremony will be at 2 p.m. Friday at the Sanford Center. The ceremony is expected to last approximately two hours.

NTC's commencement ceremony will be at 7 p.m. Friday at the Sanford Center.

Cost is free to attend either event and both are open to the public.

For the first time, BSU's and NTC's commencement ceremony will be available through a live online video stream. The stream will be available through America One. Visit www.b2livetv.com/static/bemidji.html to view the video.

Seating in the Sanford Center is general admission and there will be no parking charge for the event. While there are approximately 1,000 parking spots at the Sanford Center, carpooling is encouraged to minimize overflow parking on the streets.

Students and guests may park in BSU's Bangsberg parking lot and carpool from there. No permits are required in BSU parking lots on graduation day.

Commencement guests should enter the Sanford Center through Gate 2, through the main concourse. Seating in Sections U and V will be reserved for handicapped visitors and their families. Section W has been designated as the section for hearing-impaired guests and their families. Section X is reserved for international students and guests. Concessions will be available in the concession stand behind Section U.

E OAK HILLS - Oak Hills Christian College's commencement ceremony will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Evangelical Free Church, 115 Carr Lake Road SW.

Cost is free to attend and it is open to the public.

Photographs will begin at 9 a.m.

BEIMDJI - More than 1,000 students will receive their undergraduate and graduate degrees from Bemidji State University, Northwest Technology and Oak Hills Christian College in the coming days.

While commencement marks the end of credit counting and cramming for exams, it also means facing real world issues, like how to pay for that degree.

Finding ways to deal with mounting student debt has been on the forefront of the minds of legislators, educators and students throughout the school year.

In October, President Barack Obama announced plans to give millions of young people some relief on their student loans, the No. 2 source of household debt, exceeding credit card debt.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton declared April "Financial Literacy Month," dedicating the second week of the month to higher-education issues such as college affordability and student debt.

Affording increased tuition rates hits home for some students at Bemidji State University, a school that has the highest tuition rate among the seven four-year state universities in Minnesota, according to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

Of the 2010 Bemidji State University graduates who borrowed money, students had an average student loan debt of $19,750, according to MnSCU researchers. At Northwest Technical College, students see a debt load of $14,031 upon graduation.

Overall, 2010 graduates within the MnSCU system who borrowed averaged $16,402 in student loan debt.

Receiving a college or university diploma, however, is not always the answer to paying off student loans. Finding a career that will pay comes first.

In April, the Associated Press reported 50 percent of college graduates this year will either be unemployed or underemployed.

While there's strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder, the report states. Median wages for those with bachelor's degrees are down from 2000. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides.

David Collins, adjunct instructor and counselor at Northwest Technical College, said he has heard a mix of reactions from students expecting to graduate from the college this spring.

"Lately, on any given day it sounds like the economy is recovering, so some are excited for job opportunities, but then a week later they hear it's not as good as they thought and they get a little down," he said. "But typically most are very excited to get out there and start to put their skills to use."

Locally, the health care industry is a big draw, Collins said, which means nursing students who wish not to relocate around should do well finding a job, he added.

"A lot of students are very aware of the fact they will have to relocate," he said. "My best tip for graduates is to be committed and determined to work hard at seeking out their jobs."

Efforts are being made to help make financial aid packages easier to understand.

In late April, U.S. Sen. Al Franken announced he would soon introduce legislation called the "Understanding the True Cost of College Act," which would require colleges to use easier-to-understand language in financial aid offers to students. He plans a stop today at BSU, where he'll address the issue.

The goal of the act is to give families a clearer picture of the true cost of education before choosing a school, according to Franken.

"Families in Minnesota and across the country often struggle to understand the financial aid letters they receive from schools, which can be complicated and leave them in the dark about the amount of debt they will ultimately be responsible for," Franken said during a State Capitol press conference Monday.

Commencement scheduleS

- BSU/NTC - BSU's commencement ceremony will be at 2 p.m. Friday at the Sanford Center. The ceremony is expected to last approximately two hours.

NTC's commencement ceremony will be at 7 p.m. Friday at the Sanford Center.

Cost is free to attend either event and both are open to the public.

For the first time, BSU's and NTC's commencement ceremony will be available through a live online video stream. The stream will be available through America One. Visit www.b2livetv.com/static/bemidji.html to view the video.

Seating in the Sanford Center is general admission and there will be no parking charge for the event. While there are approximately 1,000 parking spots at the Sanford Center, carpooling is encouraged to minimize overflow parking on the streets.

Students and guests may park in BSU's Bangsberg parking lot and carpool from there. No permits are required in BSU parking lots on graduation day.

Commencement guests should enter the Sanford Center through Gate 2, through the main concourse. Seating in Sections U and V will be reserved for handicapped visitors and their families. Section W has been designated as the section for hearing-impaired guests and their families. Section X is reserved for international students and guests. Concessions will be available in the concession stand behind Section U.

- OAK HILLS - Oak Hills Christian College's commencement ceremony will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Evangelical Free Church, 115 Carr Lake Road SW.

Cost is free to attend and it is open to the public.

Photographs will begin at 9 a.m.

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