by Ian Vargas
If you’re anything like me, there’s no way you can afford to pay for college on your own: you’ve probably got student debt. While you’re still taking classes, it feels like you don’t have to worry about it because graduation could be years away. It’s always looming on the horizon, far enough away that it seems like you’ll probably have it under control by the time you’ve actually got to deal with it.
I am in my last semester as an undergraduate, so that horizon is closing in real quick for me and it’s scary as hell. My current debt is just shy of $20,000, which is slightly lower than the national average, but still by far more money than I than I’ve ever made at a job.
Ideally college would help with that, but considering the job market, that’s no guarantee.That leaves me and many others with crushing debt in the position of having both a huge amount of uncertainty about what we’re going to do after college and a huge amount of certainty that whatever it is won’t be sufficient to not be living on the bare minimum.
I appreciate my education. I plan on continuing it into graduate school, but this system feels as if it’s built more to place you into a position of permanent debt than to provide an education to people.
Even if you’re lucky and don’t end up missing payments, you’re still paying about 10% of your income, and if you aren’t then you can rack up extra fees and put yourself even further back. On top of that are the countless other ways that you end up gouged for money while still enrolled like expensive but mandatory meal plans or fees for services that, depending on the current level of COVID lockdown, may not even be available to the students using them.
According to educationdata.org, the average monthly payment for someone with a mid-paying job and in the same category of debt as myself is $393 over the course of six years, which is currently more than I even get per paycheck at work.
These debts are what keeps people from buying homes or starting any kind of family. Ideally this whole thing should be free and improve peoples’ lives instead of operating off of a profit motive at all. But that’s a fight that seems like it will take way longer than any of us will be able to see through to the end.
As students, we need to press for more scholarships and grants for students. Ones that don’t incur years of debt, and push back harder against tuition hikes that force students to either abandon their education or take out more loans. Otherwise, college becomes the exclusive domain of people who already have money, even more so than it already is.