Students racking up school debt fast

DOWNEY - With debts amounting up to thousands of dollars or more, Downey and Warren students have been having financial dilemmas in owing the respective schools fees.Warren principal John Harris said that the total debt of seniors who recently graduated this past school year was approximately $15,000. These debts accumulated from unpaid club fees, yearbooks, sportswear and unreturned textbooks. Recent Warren graduate and Biola freshman Jacob Marrero said he was indebted to the school because of unpaid fees. "My debt at Warren was easily close to $180 throughout the whole school year," he said. "I constantly paid off this debt, but it kept coming back as I bought more school dance tickets and because of sports fees." The debt of this year's returning students also derives from uncompensated textbooks, library books and fundraiser money ranging from 45 cents to $300. "I owed $15 for the book 'Jane Eyre,' a fee I could have easily avoided," incoming junior Alec Dominguez said. Any senior who owes money to the school is not allowed to graduate until his or her debts are cleared through the school's banker's office and any returning student cannot complete registration unless their debt is paid off, said Harris. Downey principal Tom Houts says the school retains the diploma until students pay back debts they may owe to various athletic programs and ASB. "The school holds onto the diploma until the student returns to pay back their fees," he said. "We don't release them, so the student may have graduated but never got an official diploma saying that they graduated from Downey High." Houts says that almost 99 percent of student debts come from lost textbooks, which are issued to students at the beginning of the semester and usually returned by the end of the school year. Vice principal Ixchel Sanchez says that diplomas are withheld unless the student has not returned his or her textbooks or did not finalize payments through ASB. With over 800 seniors at Downey, the cost of replacing missing textbooks can amount to hundreds if not thousands of dollars. "Since textbooks usually cost around $88 and we have approximately 800 graduating seniors [per year], and if each one lost one textbook, it's going to be a huge amount of money," she said. "Students might be in debt because they did not pay for football equipment or some other athletic equipment as well." With the new school year just around the corner and seniors having to apply for college soon, the last thing they would want on their anxious minds is having to owe their respective schools money or risk not receiving a diploma.

********** Published: September 2, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 20