Class shows students real cost of college

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald Matthew Leija (front) and Jace Richard-Mills (back) do some figuring of the cost of college during the ‘Debt Slapped’ program Tuesday at CB Tech.

MOSES LAKE — So – how much does college cost? It’s a good question, and one that some students don’t think about until they’ve started college and incurred the debt.

Giving high school students a look at what college might cost them, and ways they can reduce that cost, is the goal of Student Loan Awareness Month, sponsored by the Washington Department of Finance. The agency brought its “Debt Slapped” program to Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center Wednesday.

Tony Leahy, SLAM chair, said students loans and student debt are something high school students hear about, but the impacts don’t always register. He’s presented Debt Slapped class to kids early in the morning, when they’re barely awake. “When you hit the ‘tuition costs’ button, they’re awake,” he said. Some of the numbers really will get a kid’s attention.

“What is the cost? That’s always the eye-opener,” he said.

Jace Richard-Mills, Moses Lake, said his dream career is in the production side of the film and television industry. And he figures the best way to pursue it would be to move to Los Angeles and get the training there. However, a lot of people are looking for careers in film and TV production, Jace said, and he figured a backup career would be a good idea.

“I grew up loving cars. Always watching my dad work on his car,” he said. So he used auto mechanics school in his calculations. The bill for his first year was $20,619, “which is heartbreaking, really,” he said.

Jacqueline Rodriguez, Quincy, is looking for a “hands-on” career, and she too used auto mechanics school for her calculations. The results were a shock, Jacqueline said – she knew college would be expensive, but she didn’t know it would be that expensive.

One goal of Debt Slapped is to make “it (the cost of college) relevant to them,” Leahy said.

But another goal is to show kids how to avoid some of that debt, and some of the options available to them to cut costs. Matthew Leija was working on calculations determining how much he needs to save, and education planning that will help him cut debt.

Leahy said the program encourages people to pursue the career that interests them, but is designed to give them a realistic appraisal of the costs involved. To that end, it also includes information on what they can expect to earn in their profession.

This is the first time the program has been presented in eastern Washington, Leahy said.

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