By Mollie Tolbert

For many students, continuing their education is a necessity for their career path, but  the cost of an education becomes a major factor when choosing a school.

Whether it’s for one’s undergraduate degree, graduate degree, or professional programs such as nursing or law, students today face the potential of graduating with a large amount of student debt to repay.

In-state tuition in Georgia along with state programs knowns as HOPE and Zell Miller Scholarships often influence students who are residents of the state to attend colleges or universities within the state.

According to Robert Tucker, associate director of the office of student financial aid at The University of Georgia, 83% of Georgia resident students received the Zell Miller Scholarship or HOPE Scholarship to pay toward their tuition during the 2019-2020 academic year.

Tucker also said 82% of undergraduates received some type of federal, state, institutional or outside grant or scholarship in the 2019-2020 academic year.

Ivy Cornelison, a student from Chicago, Illinois, is currently a senior at UGA. Cornelison said “having scholarships influenced me to attend an out-of-state university.”

Cornelison said UGA has provided her with a “great education without the fear of graduating with massive student loan debt.”

Tucker said that 41% of undergraduates who started at UGA as first-time students and received a bachelor’s degree between July, 1 2019 and June 30 2020 has borrowed through some type of student loan. These students borrowed an individual average amount of $22,777, according to Tucker.

Emily Doherty, a senior at UGA and lifelong resident of Athens, Georgia, is currently studying human development and family science. She plans to use this degree to pursue a career in nursing and midwifery.

Doherty said her future career requires graduate school, and her decision about which school to attend largely depends on “the price of various schools and the benefits that in-state tuition has to offer.”

She plans to attend an in-state university and take out a loan to cover the remaining expenses of her education. She plans to pay back these loans after college when she has a steady income to support herself.

Doherty said she has done “adequate research for which college to attend, but it is difficult to wrap my head around the cost of school.”

She hopes to attend Augusta University for her master’s degree. Doherty said her decision to attend Augusta University was largely influenced by the loan she would need. If it were not for the high cost of Vanderbilt University, she would prefer to obtain her master’s degree from there.

Both Cornelison and Doherty said that scholarships and tuition costs greatly impacted their decisions relating to their education. These scholarships have helped Cornelison and Doherty to better manage the debt they must repay.

UGA offers programs to aid students in managing their debt. Tucker said after completion of Loan Entrance Counseling, students will receive an annual email “with a custom link to their annual debt letter which shows how much they have borrowed cumulatively.” This email serves as a reminder to students about the debt obligations they incurred to obtain their degrees.

Mollie Tolbert is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.