MHS graduate presents poster at state capitol
By Kendra Hartsell
Monticello High School 2010 graduate Katie Kotschevar traveled to the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul Feb. 26 to present her research project for the 2014 “Posters at the Capitol” event.
Kotschevar, a senior at St. Cloud State University, was one of four SCSU students chosen to attend the Minnesota Undergraduate Scholars event.
According to Kotschevar, Minnesota Undergraduate Scholars is a group of institutions that support research and creative scholarly work of undergraduates by providing avenues for funding, presentation and opportunities to present their work.
“I became an undergraduate scholar by essentially writing a research paper and being nominated by my faculty mentor,” she said. “After that I was prompted to give an elevator speech to the Undergraduate Research Committee at SCSU, and a week later heard I was selected to attend [Posters at the Capitol].
Kotschevar chose to do her research on the effect of student loan debt on homeownership.
Housing of persons ages 18 to 34 is at the lowest percentage ever recorded, she learned.
“I thought this was interesting and know that housing can be a leading economic factor of consumer financing and thus a crucial growth segment to the U.S. economy.,” she said.
Combining this thought with the knowledge that college tuition costs are at their peak, number of students attending college is at their peak, student loan debt just hit $1 trillion dollars (unforgiveable debt), heightened unemployment rates for citizens ages 18 to 34.
“I decided to see if student loan debt directly affected the probability of a person owning a home,” she said.
Kotschevar found that student loan debt is statistically insignificant to making a decision to purchase a home at ages 25 and 30.
“There is positive significance to being married and having children at both age levels and income at age 25. Being Caucasian and living in the Midwest also proves positively on homeownership. Differences between those who do and do not own a home between ages 25 and 30 shows those who had homes correlated with greater increases in financial assets and income than those who didn’t,” she added.
“Student loan debt has essentially multiplied by approximately five to six times in the past 10 to 15 years. The points I stressed to audience and legislature was the need of educating students in the realms of finance and economics at early ages. Essentially, going to college is an investment; however, countless young adults don’t see it that way. Young adults need to be capable and knowledgeable of financing strategies and money smart at a younger age,” Kotschevar concluded.
While at the capitol, Kotschevar met with Rep. Marion O’Neill and Sen. Bruce D. Anderson.
“It was great to be able to converse and share my ideas with both of them and get feedback on their perspectives. I was also given the opportunity to ask them questions about their work within the legislature,” she said.
Kotschevar’s favorite part about the day was conversing with people and finding out how they viewed the results of her research.
“Each person I met offered a new idea or thought as to the complexity of the effects that were within not only my research but the socioeconomic turbulence of the economy as time progresses on,” she said.
“Every student can relate to my topic, as we are all undergraduate scholars seeking a degree and somehow paying for the costs of tuition.”
The students presented their posters for two hours during the day and were asked questions by state leaders and faculty members from several Minnesota colleges.
Kotschevar said that the research paper has taken her approximately 120 hours from start to finish.
“It was a lot of hard work, and data reconfiguration and statistics can be exceedingly meticulous. I was thoroughly engaged in the topic though which makes it much, much easier,” she said.
Throughout the process of writing this research paper, Kotschevar would meet with her faculty mentor, Professor King Banaian.
“I met with him every single week and had to have a progress report ready and sent to him within 24 hours of the meeting,” she said. ”Meeting with an experienced and knowledgeable professor on the US economy tremendously helped my thought process and he was able to lead me to certain ideas and thoughts that were important to my paper.”
According to Banaian, who has been on the faculty of SCSU since 1984, this project is the capstone experience all students in the bachelor’s degree program in economics fulfill in their last semester at SCSU.
“Katie’s work was very impressive insofar as she worked with a very large dataset, wrote her own code to extract the information she needed from that dataset and then estimated the effect of student debt on the own-or-rent choice for housing for 20-somethings,” Banaian explained. “My role is to guide the student, not to work with her in performing the research. She did that on her own.”
Kotschevar is currently partaking in the 4+1 BA/MS Applied Economics plan at SCSU.
She graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics Fall 2013 magna cum laude, and will have her Masters of Science in Applied Economics in the spring of 2015.
She currently interns as a Statistical Analyst at Preferred Credit Incorporated in St. Cloud. She also plays tennis for the SCSU Huskies and tutors principle economic courses in the Economics Association. She is in the process of planning her future career, with the possibility of furthering her education with a PhD in a related field to economics. She is also interested in analytics for public policy outcomes and may explore the option of working within the government.
Other Minnesota schools that participated in Posters at the Capitol included Metropolitan State University; Minnesota State University, Mankato; Minnesota State University, Moorhead; Southwest Minnesota State University, Bemidji State University, Winona State University, Rochester Community and Technical College, Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Inver Hills Community College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and North Hennepin Community College.
Kendra Hartsell is a freelance business and feature writer for the Monticello Times.