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Ashland woman compares college costs over decades

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Posted at 8:18 AM, Sep 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-07 08:18:13-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — It’s a conversation that impacts so many of us – the price of a college education and the debt many people take on to get their degree.

So one Kentucky woman recently opened up the dialogue on her own social media with a blast from the past.

Suzanne Barker Griffith is a Morehead State graduate who lives in Ashland, Kentucky. She hopes her college memento put the student loan debt crisis in perspective.

“When we went to school, you could work a minimum wage job all summer long, and have enough for tuition,” Barker Griffith said.

38 years after she attended college, she’s growing concerned about the rising cost of college. That’s why she shared this old receipt on Facebook a few weeks ago.

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Thousands of people have since shared the post. Why did it grab so much attention?

Well, it’s her bill for one semester at MSU in 1984. Back then, tuition was just $445 a semester. In all, she paid $855 a semester.

“So people my age, we could work in the summer, we could get our Pell grants,” she said. “We could buy a meal ticket, but we didn't have to. A lot of our moms said forget it, that's way too much.”

Today, Morehead State is the second cheapest school in Kentucky, but tuition still costs more than $9,000 a year.

According to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, around 616,000 Kentuckians carry student loan debt. The average amount per borrower is $33,000.

“There was a way people could work then,” Barker Griffith said. “There was a way to do it, but now there's not.”

Since she graduated in the 80s, Barker Griffith has worked as a teacher in Kentucky and now in Ohio. She says she’s encouraged by the concept of debt relief the White House recently announced, especially for people in underpaid professions like teaching.

In Kentucky, the average starting salary for a teacher is just over $37,000, the 44th lowest rate in the country.

She hopes the old receipt will help other people understand her perspective.

“We're going to be an educated society, with all the professionals we need, we're going to have to address this,” she said.