Photo by Brian Waldbillig ’18

In a new study released by The Student Loan Report, Winona State University was ranked seventh among public universities in Minnesota (16th overall) in terms of lowest student debt accumulation. The report, entitled Student Loan Debt Per Graduate by School by State, was released in late October and draws from Peterson’s Financial Aid statistics, which is comprised of the most recent student debt data from the Class of 2016.

But the fact remains that student debt is a nationwide issue, and college students in Minnesota and across the country are struggling to make ends meet.

For Kassidy Jackson, a junior at WSU, understanding and managing student debt has been a significant challenge. Jackson’s mother passed away after a battle with cancer three years ago, and since then, the 20-year-old has been financing her education on her own, through a combination of financial aid, student loans, and working on and off campus.

“Life has brought some unfortunate circumstances for me as an individual,” Jackson stated. “(But) even with my financial difficulties and lack of funds I had for college, I was still determined to get my degree.”

Jackson began by educating herself on financial aid, grant programs and other scholarships available for college-age students.

“I think it’s extremely important to seek the financial information that the university has to offer,” Jackson said. “Not everyone knows about the money they qualify for through FASA.”

Winona State has made it a priority to provide students with financial literacy programming and resources to help them make smart money management decisions now and into the future.

“WSU strives to promote the lifetime personal well-being of all students,” said Ben Sturomski, WSU Financial Aid Counselor. “In preparing our students to become tomorrow’s leaders, developing a solid foundation of money management skills and practices serves to guide students toward a future of financial stability and success.”

Each semester, the university organizes campus events promoting and invigorating personal financial education, including free Financial Wellness Workshops where students can learn how to apply for numerous WSU Foundation Scholarships.

WSU is also striving to create a more interactive approach to personal financing with its CashCart initiative. In this campus interpretation of the TV show CashCab, students have the opportunity to catch a ride to their next class in a golf cart and earn prizes as their knowledge of personal finances is put to the test.

For students like Jackson, every little bit helps. The financial aid she receives helps bring her dream of a college degree within reach, and the access to resources and education provided by Winona State arms her with the knowledge she needs to make sound financial decisions. She chooses to view her loan payments as an investment into her future career successes, and has already begun paying back her student loans each month in order to decrease her payments in the long-run.

“I’m thankful that WSU has educated me about FAFSA and grant opportunities available to me, because the funding I’ve received has lifted a huge weight off my shoulders,” she said. “It puts me at ease knowing my university cares about me getting an education and wants to help me get the funds necessary to pay the costs a full-time student faces.”

For more information, call WSU Communications at 507-457-5024.

Student Loan Debt Per Graduate by School by State