By Francesca Fontana | Video Allysa Veigel | Photos Taylor Wilder

Seven in every 10 college graduates had loan debt in 2013, the Institute for College Access & Success reports.

Their average debt: $28,400.

In 2014, half of the University of Oregon’s graduating class had debt of their own.

Their average debt: $24,508.

Next year, tuition and fees will rise 3.8 percent for Oregon residents and 3.7 percent for nonresident students — up to $10,288.50 for residents and $32,023.50 for nonresidents.

About a quarter of UO students are designated as “high need” students because they’re eligible for a Federal Pell Grant — this typically means their parents make less than $50,000 per year.

But the maximum Pell Grant award next year is $5,775 — which leaves a significant cost to be repaid.

Play with the data below to see the time it would take to pay off your student loans (interest not included), and what you could do with that money instead.

Hours Worked

(8 hour work days at $9.25per/hour)

540.54 hrs
1,621.62 hrs
2,594.59 hrs
3,459.45 hrs
5,189.18 hrs

Time Taken

(40 hour work weeks with no vacation)

3.4 m
10.13 m
1 yr 5.16 m
1 yr 9.62 m
2 yr 10.43 m

What You Could Buy


5 Macbooks
10.34 Months Rent
in Portland, OR
1 New Indian Motorcycle
1 Wedding
1 New BMW Convertible
Not all students struggle. But for those who do, the work load can be overwhelming.

“Usually the conversation is: ‘This is my dream school, I've worked hard to get here, how do I stay here?’" said Jim Brooks, UO director of financial aid and scholarships. “Those are difficult conversations.”

Here are stories of three undergraduates living every day with the realities of paying for their own education — and what that cost has come to mean for them.

Zach Wright

Elle Sullivan

Lillian Huebner

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