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Lifestyle

May 11, 2014

Diplomas and caps look the same, but a whole lot is different with graduations

There's still plenty of pomp and circumstance, inspiring words from lofty speakers and tossing tassels, but graduating from college today is very different from a generation or so ago.

Here are four things today's college graduates may experience that have changed from 30 years ago, when the parents of some of today's students were picking up their diplomas.

STUDENT LOAN DEBT

In 1984, according to some estimates, only half of graduates had debt from college loans, averaging about $2,000. Now, two-thirds of recent bachelor's degree recipients have outstanding student loans, with an average debt of about $27,000, according to a Pew Research Center report.

"Back in 1984, I was a fairly recent college grad. I had a $10,000 student loan and payments were $63.50 per month," said financial planner Judy McNary in Broomfield, Colorado.

Rent on her apartment was $600, "so that loan payment was about 10 percent of the cost of our housing. Fast forward to 2014, and I have met many recent graduates whose loan payments are anywhere from $900 to $2,000 per month — easily matching or exceeding their housing costs."

SELFIES

Several schools are urging 2014 graduates to resist the selfie when they walk across the stage during commencement to get their diploma and shake hands with the college president or dean of students. But selfies are OK at other points in commencements at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island, and the University of South Florida in Tampa, two schools that banned selfies on stage in the interest of time.

How painful is the ban? "Nobody cares that we can't take selfies," said 22-year-old Ali Luthman, a Bryant senior graduating with a double major in sociology and marketing. "There's a time and a place when selfies are appropriate and that's not when you're crossing the stage."

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