Putting off education to pay the bills

We’ve seen college enrollment rise in Minnesota during the recession and that’s good. It likely means people who’ve seen their jobs cut are trying to retrain.

But the enrollment bump doesn’t mean it’s cheap to go to school in Minnesota.

Despite attempts by some schools to ease the cost burden in tough times, tuition and fees at community colleges in Minnesota and Wisconsin are among the highest of any state in the nation. Tuition hikes at Minnesota public colleges are running a lot faster than income growth in this decade.

I was reminded of this by a recent note from Laura Janvrin, a source in our Public Insight Network from Stewartville, Minn., a small town south of Rochester.

Janvrin, in her mid-20’s, is a cashier at a local thrift store in Stewartville. She described her current outlook as worrisome and told us she couldn’t predict how the next month would turn out for her financially.

My money goes toward a credit card bill and a vet bill…finances may improve, but there are too many things that may suck the money right back out of our hands…

My extra money generally goes toward saving up for grad school — something I have already had to put on hold three separate occasions because of the economic situation.

There’s evidence nationally many young people are in similar straits. A recent survey found young adults struggling with debt were putting off school, putting off starting families and adding more debt.

One in five said they or someone close to them had left college or delayed college because of their economic situation. That jumped to 35 percent among those who described their economic situation as poor.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education recently published some tips on what to do if you’re a college student who’s struggling or whose family is struggling in this economy.

It’s worth checking in with your college financial aid office to see if they’ll provide more aid in circumstances where a family member has lost a job. That won’t help Janvrin, who like others may have to wait until the economy recovers.

Know someone who’s trying to plan for college or stay in college in this economy? Drop a line and share a story.

Below are some recent responses from our audience on money issues. Send us a story and we’ll add it to the map.

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