As Katharine Hargrave prepared for her classes, she packed her backpack with notebook paper, books and her laptop. Lifting the bag across her back, the bag didn’t seem to weigh her down, but something else did — the clunk of change trailing behind her.
By the time Hargrave graduates, she will have accumulated more than $40,000 in debt.
“I have Bright Futures, but everything else is loans,” said the 21-year-old advertising junior. “I do have a job, but it’s at home in Jacksonville, and it’s seasonal.”
Hargrave is one of the thousands of students at UF who take out student loans every year.
In the 2013-2014 school year, UF students borrowed more than $267 million in student loans. From 2012 to 2013, more than $269 million student loans were disbursed, according to the UF Office for Student Financial Affairs.
Since 2012, UF has seen a $1.5 million decrease in student loans, which coincides with a College Board trend study that found that student loans are decreasing.
But Rick Wilder, the director of the office for student financial affairs, said there has been a decrease in the number of borrowers but not in the average amount of loans students take out at UF.
“It has been a trend in that last year or two,” he said.
According to the College Board study, students in the 2013-2014 school year borrowed less money, despite the growing rate of tuition.
Wilder said the study does not take into consideration the inflation of the dollar. The study also contains graduate and professional students, who are more likely to take out more loans due to higher costs, he said.
Hargrave’s loans have increased from last year by about $10,000.
“My younger sister just started going to UF as well,” she said. “And the amount needed for my grandma’s nursing home has increased, and we are having to supplement even more.”
She took out $9,305 in loans for the Fall semester and said it will be about the same for Spring. She’s used her loans to pay off her tuition, living expenses and other fees like a new laptop.
Hargrave plans on attending graduate school, but she said she doesn’t know how she is going to pay off her loans.
“I’m absolutely clueless,” she said.
[A version of this story ran on page 8 on 11/19/2014]