U.S. Education Secretary in Hartford to Talk About Paying for College

May 19, 2014

"There was no way I could pay 50 percent in pure loans. That was too much money."
Orlando Romero

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was in Hartford Monday to speak with high school seniors about paying for college.

The students praised their teachers, their parents, and their schools for getting them ready, and they talked about how money affected their college decisions.

"My financial aid isn't giving me that much money," said student Angie Reyes. She's eventually going to Manchester Community College. "I'm not going to apply to the first school I wanted to," she said, "because it is too much money for me. I'm not going to go in the fall, because it is too much money for me. I'm going in the winter, because I have to save up all the money myself. My family is just going through a whole bunch of struggle. I'm the first generation that's going to college. It's tough for me."

Nearby was Orlando Romero. He got into Drexel. He's going to UConn.

"We have bright students in this school," Romero said. "A lot of us didn't go to our top school, and part of that is because of the affordability. I had got into Drexel myself, but I couldn't afford it. There was no way I could pay 50 percent in pure loans. That was too much money. I think that we have to be mature enough, we have to sit down with our counselors, with our parents and say, what is right for us?"

U.S. Education Arne Duncan speaks to reporters.
Credit Jeff Cohen / WNPR

Elected officials spoke of various measures to try and help make college more affordable. Education Secretary Duncan told the students that the federal government gives out $150 billion in grants and loans each year, but you have to do the paperwork.

"I don't care how much money you have, or you don't have, or your family has, or doesn't have," Duncan said. "There's any opportunity for you to go to school."

This discussion came after a report in The Chronicle of Higher Education detailed that more public college presidents made over a million dollars in 2013 than in 2012.

I asked Duncan what role those salaries play in college costs, and what these students should make of it. "I don't think tuition goes up because of any one factor on the ledger," he said.

Duncan also said that students should have the benefit of transparency -- knowing which schools keep costs down, and graduation rates up.