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Student debt effects mental health

Nov 6 • Features, Top Stories • 415

College students come from all over and have different experiences, but there is one thing that unites virtually each and every one of them: student debt. As one of the leading stressors for college students, these financial burdens are constant sources of anxiety.
Recent studies conducted by CBS have shown that the cumulative national student debt recently climbed to a record amount of $1.5 trillion. With that much money, you could literally buy the entirety of Apple Inc. and still have a healthy half trillion just sitting around.
This absurd amount of money affects most of us. According to Gannon’s Financial Aid Office, 74% of Gannon graduates possess some form of loans to pay after college. So how are Gannon students responding?
The answer is simple and common: stress. Students are already dealing with a lot on their plates and adding intense amounts of debt on top of that creates a myriad of problems that no one person can handle.
“It just adds a whole other stressor on top of the college experience,” said Alex Whittaker, a junior biology major. “It changes the things I can do in college by making me worry about what I have to pay after college.”
This immensity of worrying preys on some students harder than others, causing long-term anxiety. This can be detrimental to a person’s day-to-day feelings.
“Debt, of any kind, that seems impossible to get out of leads to feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy, worthlessness, anger . . .” said Virginia Leutz, a practicing behavioral support specialist from Pittsburgh. “These negative feelings can intensify and be difficult to manage as long as the person is forced to stay in debt.”
The continued pressure put on individuals to deal with these monetary concerns only worsens the situation. Slowly wearing on an individual’s morale, debt causes the downfall of productivity and mental well-being.
“The long-term stress associated with financial issues can make mental health extremely worse,” said Kaylee Luchansky, a freshwater and marine biology major and president of the Active Minds Club.
Fortunately, it is not all dark days and eternal debt. People have found healthy ways to deal with this stress, like effective budgeting and proper use of resources.
“It’s important for students to live like they’re students,” said Sharon Krahe, Gannon’s director of Financial Aid. Students should “only borrow what they absolutely have to in order to pay off their direct expenses,” Krahe said.
Support services are also available for people feeling overwhelmed by their student debt. Utilizing these resources and being willing to ask for help are huge steps toward improvement.
“Therapy may be necessary to help a person learn how to cope with stress and manage their negative thoughts,” Leutz said.
By learning to deal with debt and the stress associated, students can learn to identify the source of their problems and start working to fix them. At Gannon, the Counseling Center is available to students feeling overwhelmed by stress, not only providing individual assessment and therapy services, but also giving the opportunity for group counseling.
Gannon also offers competitive scholarship programs, need-based financial aid and individualized payment plans.
In the end, student debt is a necessary evil, and working toward/paying for your degree can only be beneficial to you.
“Over the course of a lifetime, someone who has a baccalaureate degree is going to earn over one million dollars more than somebody that just has a high school diploma,” said Bill Edmondson, Gannon’s vice president for enrollment. “Thinking about student debt as an investment rather than an expense is probably the best decision a person can make.”

SCOTT ZANELLA
zanella003@gannon.edu

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