Trends in Student Loans: How It Affects Borrowers Now

     The idea that money doesn’t grow on trees is far from new. But the fact that this also applies to both private and public sources of loan money seems to go over some people’s heads. Just like all other people and companies, banks, schools and even the government have limited amounts of money. So, when they dole it out to college students looking for financial aid, they can only give so much to so many people. And this is why most lenders use a first-come first-served system. The earliest applicants get the best chance at getting all of the money they need. But when they start to run out of money to give, they have to give less to everyone else. 

     This is why the amount you borrow is just as important as the amount you can pay for yourself. Any person who dips into the pot is taking that money away from someone else – not out of cruelty, but just because of the way the system is set up. So, the morally right thing to do with your student loans is to, well, use them like you’re supposed to. Use them on tuition, living costs and transportation to and from school. And even more important, only borrow what you absolutely need in order to pay for those things. 

     If you think that this moral contract sounds like common sense, you’re not alone. This has been the unspoken code of borrower ethics for decades. If you need money for school, you use it for school. But recent trends suggest that more and more students are redirecting that loan money into personal purchases (vacations, clothes, etc.). Even worse, some are borrowing more than they need in order to finance personal purchases while still covering all of their responsible expenses (like school). In one scenario, you substitute clothes for tuition. In the other you sacrifice neither. In both scenarios, you are taking money away from someone else who needs it more. And because loan money isn’t traceable, regardless of where it comes from, there’s no way to police how it’s being spent. 

Surya Amundsen, 18, Waterville Senior High School.

     Surya Amundsen is a current senior at Waterville Senior High School and a future university student. She didn’t express concern about what this could mean for her own loan situation. She was concerned for what it could mean for some of her other low-income classmates. “There are plenty of students with significant financial need – they cannot feasibly pay for college without aid. And the government can only loan out finite sums of money. So it is important that (those) who will receive it will actually use it toward its intended purpose.”

Hazel Dow, 17, Waterville Senior High School.

     “It’s called a student loan for a reason,” Hazel Dow, a junior at the same high school, said. “It’s meant to be spent on education expenses and making a better future for oneself.” 

     Strangely enough, both young women also acknowledged the temptation to fund a lifestyle using loans. For example, it could be one using, say, earnings from a part time job. “Just thinking about financing a life of luxury with student loans is tempting. I mean, the money is right there!” Hazel said. “The chance of getting caught is pretty slim. So yes, it’s very tempting.” 

     But after they had separated urge from action? Well, the sympathy seemed to dissipate. “This use, or misuse, of student loan money is not fair to other students,” Hazel said. “One student’s moral misconduct shouldn’t result in a loss of opportunity for another.” 

     Clearly, from the perspective of a borrower, there’s a moral divide between longing to be irresponsible and actually choosing to be. There are enough economic and social walls between people and education. And as for the consensus among future borrowers? Let the haves and their wants not impact the have-nots and their needs. 

‘Spotlight’: The Film You Must See

     “When you’re a poor kid from a poor family and a priest pays attention to you, that’s a big deal. How do you say no to God?” It’s simple–you don’t. And as you’ll discover by watching this film, many other young and vulnerable children said the same. “Spotlight” chronicles the excruciating journey of four reporters trying to uncover the stories of child abuse within the Catholic Church. It’s a tasteful take on a touchy topic. But there’s plenty of unbridled uncomfortableness to go around. 

     Now if you think that telling a story about telling a story might be challenging, you’d be right. The majority of journalistic work is not thrilling. And when you’re telling a story dependent on visuals, journalistic work just doesn’t deliver the same intensity. This is what makes it a rare candidate for film adaptation. In a movie market that’s been saturated with true stories for decades, “Spotlight” could have easily sunk to the bottom of the pile. But it didn’t. And the same qualities behind its swimmingly good reviews are the same qualities that should make you want to watch it. 

     Consider Spotlight an honest look at the work of a reporter. You’ll watch empathetically real people put their own lives on hold for the sake of others. You’ll gaze fixedly as names are input into a spreadsheet. For two hours, you’ll live and breathe with these characters and their pursuit of truth. Skillfully dramatized office work will become enthralling to you. Personal stories will resonate with you on levels you didn’t even know you had. The bureaucracy will enrage you. You may even walk away from the entire experience questioning your own understanding of the system. 

     “Spotlight” unmasked a deeply systemic problem within an institution as old as time. The reporters stood up to their superiors on every level in order to fulfill their responsibilities. And in the end, society was better for it. The Spotlight team continued to reinforce one of humanity’s most cherished beliefs–that no person or organization is above basic morality. So if you haven’t seen it yet, please do. 

Four of the Smartest Personal Finance Moves College Students Can Make This Year

1.Focus on paying down your debt before placing priority on retirement.

     This may seem like common sense, but student loans only grow and gain interest with time. Retirement is more of a long-term goal. The money made in a part-time job will make no dent in retirement. It can definitely make a dent in student loans, though. Retirement accounts are best set aside until your career begins. 

     The best plan of attack is to just know your loan plan really well. Ask questions! These can include the costs of interest, the first payment date and how many years you’ll have to pay the money back. If you don’t have subsidized federal loans, your loans will collect interest the entire time you’re in school. And it adds up (potentially hundreds or thousands of extra dollars). So, consider paying some of your interest payments while you’re still in school. These can be funded primarily through a part-time job. It’s a small sacrifice that will set you up for success in the long run. 


  1. Build up good credit using a credit card.

     Once you’re out of school, your credit score will matter greatly to potential landlords and employers. They’ll likely run it as part of a background check. It can be equally as bad to have no credit score as having a bad one. So start building one early. Open a credit card at your bank and use it for small purchases. Focus on ones that you know you can instantly pay back using money from your checking account. Good examples are small grocery store runs, little cosmetic purchases, lunch out with friends. If you pay it off instantly, it won’t collect interest and will remain easy to pay off. Assuming you can do this regularly, over the course of a few years, you’ll have built up some good credit. This will also help in the future when you try to buy a house or a car.

     Take Gabe Ferris, a sophomore at American University, for example. Gabe has a credit card that he uses for purchases that are under $15 only in order to do just this. “Most of my purchases are small because they are easier to pay back at the end of the month and because they encompass nearly everything I need or want to buy regularly.” And even though he can’t visualize those bigger purchases like houses or cars right now, he still wants to work toward them. “That’s precisely why I have and use my credit card. I think it’s important to build credit at a young age, so I have an established and high credit score when I look to lease an apartment or want to finance relatively big purchases in the next few years.”

‘All the President’s Men’: The Film You Never Knew You Needed to See

     “All the President’s Men”: what can I say? It’s the action film that swapped guns for typewriters and bullets for ink. It’s the action film that proved white collar crime can be just as exciting as cold-blooded murder. It’s the action film whose true events inspired generations of future investigative journalists and filmmakers alike. It’s the action film that won four Academy Awards. And it’s the action film that you need to see, if for no other reason than the fact that watching two unlikely heroes take down a criminal president is uniquely American. And that watching a man, a woman and pen and paper change the course of events is, well, cool.

     You, the viewer, will follow the story of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. They’re two of the journalists responsible for exposing the events of Watergate. Watergate was a political scandal in the seventies. Several burglars broke into the Democratic National Committee, which is a building within a large group of buildings in Washington, DC. They were connected to President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign, and they were looking for documents and trying to wiretap phones. President Nixon took great lengths to cover up the robbery, but as you’ll see, two journalists made sure that the American public knew the truth. They battle their board of editors, chase sources, collect evidence and publish their findings. 

     This film is both a masterclass in journalistic integrity and immersion through ultra-realism. That’s making the audience feel like a part of the story by making the story look like the real thing. You’ll experience wide shots that make you feel as though you are watching the characters through binoculars. And that you, yourself, are being watched by someone else. You’ll experience the kinds of high-intensity situations that journalists do. The camera will constantly be giving you all sorts of information to comb through. You’ll be exposed to scribbled notes you can’t seem to read fast enough. You’ll listen to conversations you can’t quite hear. You’ll be frustrated alongside the characters as they struggle to hear interviewees over the phone because people are working in the background, too. Just like you. Another special camera lens will make you nearsighted. You’ll be able to see two characters in perfect focus at the same time, even when they’re seen from two very different distances. It’s up to you who you watch more. The newsroom you’re plopped into was carefully reconstructed by set designers to be as identical to the real thing as possible, down to exact measurements and the same model of work desks. The papers scattered about are real trash from the Washington Post’s offices. At some point during the film, you’ll start to feel like the third journalist within this power duo. It’s an uncommon audience experience, and you’ll want to take part in it.  

     In a time where love for your country had to outweigh criticism of it, exposing the president was off-limits. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s actions proved that no one was above the law, even the commander of it. They secured the future ability of the media to uncover important truths about the most powerful of people. That’s huge. So, if you want, give it a watch. Feel like a journalist for a couple of hours. Live a different life. If for no other reason, try it out because any action film that swaps the intensity of the car chase opener for the intensity of the clacking typewriter is worth watching. 

The Photographs That Trapped History in a Filmstrip

     Any prospective or aspiring photographers or photojournalists seeking inspiration need look no further than the Pulitzer Prize winning photos themselves. Collectively, they’re practically the professions’ Bible. Moments in time are fleeting, and history seems to be passing us by wherever we look. But tonight, just for the 10 minutes it will take to read this, you may relive life through the eyes of others: other ambitious and brave visionaries who have spent their lives working to inspire people very much like you. Let their triumphs guide you in your own pursuit of the powerful. 

     Consider, first, Iwo Jima: a dormant Japanese volcanic mass surrounded by clear blue oceans. World War II is nearly over and done. The soldiers are exhausted and embedded journalist for Associated Press, Joe Rosenthal, is determined to get a good shot. During wartime, there are no second chances for photographers. Joe struggles up the mountainside, but Marine photographer Louis Lowery informs him that the small makeshift flag has already been raised on the side of the island (and that its raisers have been shot at by the Japanese, now aware of American presence). Lowrey had broken his camera diving for cover.

Iwo Jima.

Rosenthal refused to accept that this iconic moment was now lost, and he continued climbing. Upon reaching the glorious summit, he took notice of a group of men getting ready to raise a second, much larger flag, newly delivered from a massive American battleship – they wanted to see it from the water. This was his chance. His eyesight was poor, but he raised his camera, clicked a single shot and prayed for the best outcome possible. And he got it – not just a beautiful image, but a Pulitzer winner. Ensconced in a clouded grey mass, six soldiers work together in harmony to plant the symbol of victory among the wreckage surrounding them. It flutters triumphantly in the wind, knowingly. 

     Or perhaps Saigon, 1969. A dilapidated city lane lined with desolated buildings sits dormant as a group of South Vietnamese and American soldiers escorts a handcuffed prisoner out onto the street. His worn flannel shirt and shorts are torn, and he looks as though he hasn’t slept in days. His hair is disheveled. He looks as defeated as he feels. Eddie Adams, embedded journalist, immediately reaches for his camera as a Vietnamese man immediately reaches for his pistol. Eddie knows to photograph the prisoner until he’s out of sight, but this prisoner never would get– Eddie snaps several shots quickly. The man aims his pistol at the prisoner’s temple, just five inches from the barrel and pulls the trigger. Eddie snaps the shot just as the bullet is discharged. The frame captures the prisoner’s expression: eyes shut tightly, body leaning away from the gun instinctively, but showing no sign of emotion, as if he has accepted it. The man holding the gun, back to the camera, doesn’t even flinch. His side profile appears indifferent to the murder he’s committing, as if it’s routine. A soldier in the background smiles, looking onward. 

Orono’s Own Pat’s Pizza Announces Plans to Rebrand Into ‘Pa’s Piz’: The Millennial Dining Experience

     The crown jewel of Orono’s dining scene, Pat’s Pizza, unfurled plans to rebrand on Friday. The marketing move was a direct response to a scathing Yelp review by a displeased customer. Following a long list of complaints, the customer lodged one final dig at the chain location regarding their ancient gumball machine. The once yellow letters that read “Pat’s Pizza” had faded, leaving a sickly pale “Pa’s Piz” in their place. That’s a feat the customer deemed “an appropriate representation of the restaurant’s decline.” Though they were discouraged at first, the staff decided to embrace the new nickname. It began the store’s millennial makeover. The staff are hoping to meet the college-aged customer base where they’re at. Even if it means pulling out the paint–something the store hasn’t done in the better part of a century. “Those kids in Portland are putting us out of business. We want to show them we can keep up!” manager Sam said.

     A major part of the paint job is the development of new menu items. The staff are cooking diligently around the clock. And not in vain. The new pies are West Coast-themed and deemed “hipster worthy” by many customers. A favorite of the trial period was the “Could Be California” pizza. It features imitation-imitation crab meat made from Maine lobster and is topped with Trader Joe’s avocado. One customer called it “a confused ode to the California roll.”      

     Another winner was the “Orono Oregon-o,” a pizza that comes with a 1-inch-thick layer of Pat’s original dried oregano. It’s the forgotten green spice of pizza parlors everywhere. “We needed to put it somewhere,” Sam said, as he admitted that most tabletop jars had solidified the untouchable herb into cylindrical blocks. “It really is original,” he went on. As it turned out, the grand pat-riarch, Pat Farnsworth, had bottled it himself upon opening the store back in 1931.