Posted In: Future Educators, Higher Education, Uncategorized

Share your story: Degrees Not Debt

Student loan debt is erupting—more than 70 percent of America’s students borrow money to attend college, and the average student graduates from college owning nearly $30,000. Total student loan debt currently stands at a staggering $1.2 trillion, surpassing total credit card debt.

Are you one of the 40 million Americans affected by student debt? Whether you’re a student, a parent or an educator, please share your story. Make sure Congress and voters know what debt really looks like.


At a time when post-secondary education has become even more important, students and their families are scrambling to pay for that education. We jeopardize our future, as a nation and as a global competitor; if we do not help our future leaders realize their potential.  We must ensure a college and post-secondary education is affordable and attainable.

Over the last 20 years, the cost of higher education has shifted dramatically from the state to the student, and the burden on students and their families is growing:

  • When the Pell Grant program was first created, the maximum grant for the poorest students covered over 80 percent of the cost of a public four-year college.  Today, it doesn’t even cover 40 percent.
  • Average cost of tuition at a public college increased 4.8% this past year, following increases of 8.4% in 2011-12 and 8.0% in 2010-11, but median household income has fallen 8 percent since 2007.
  • Even with the average debt skyrocketing, unemployment for young college graduates remained high at 8.8 percent in 2011.
  • Unlike most forms of debt, student loan debt cannot be erased through bankruptcy.
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Reader Comments

  1. Veronica Noyce

    I went back to school in 2005 to become a teacher. The first 2 years, I paid my own tuition at a community college to get my required Math, Political Science and foreign language credits. I couldn’t get financial aid, even as a single mom, because I had attended the college in previous years, and had too many withdrawals (even though I graduated, received an associate and had a 3.5 GPA). Like before, I had to work full-time, so I took classes on my time off, and paid full price. When I decided to go for my Bachelors in Education, I wrote essays to get a small scholarship toward my tuition, but again, I didn’t qualify for financial aid, as I fell just above the poverty level…so I took out a student loan. Fortunately, my college of choice transferred many of my previous credits from community college, so my loans totalled out at $13,000 by the time I was done (2.5 years). The interest rate was manageable at first, and the payments fairly low, based on my income. After 2 years of teaching, however, I experienced my first layoff, and had to go into forbearance. When I was employed again, I began paying the loan again, but now the payments and interest had increased. I arranged to pay less, but it was only paying the interest. This has been the pattern since 2007, and now, the total is just under $10,000, after 7 years! I was turned down for Teacher Loan Forgiveness, because I worked out of my (low income) district for one year…I need 5 consecutive years in the district to qualify again. So I must wait to reapply, and will only get $5,000 forgiven, if I can even get it. I have considered getting my Masters in Education, but that is not feasible for me. My salary as a teacher has not increased more than $500 since 2009. I am always in danger of another layoff. I have other, smaller debts, so I cannot add another. My best bet is to get National Boards certification, but even that will cost $2,000 or more. My options, sadly, are still pretty limited, after 7 years of teaching, full-time!

  2. holly s

    I heard the government was offering $9,000 TEACH grants in need of science teachers. So, I decided to “go back” to graduate school to become a teacher. However, the government cut my TEACH grant every year for the past three years. I end up receiving only about $5,000 of the $9,000 I was “promised.” Result? A $38,000 graduate bill (and I haven’t even received my Masters yet)! I will take me over 10 years to pay off this school debt on a meager teacher’s salary of $35-$40 K per year. The government needs science teachers, yet who wants to take a teaching job at a rate of 6%-8% interest? Every year, I watched the interest rate on my student loan go up! And, I don’t even have a job yet…

  3. Shelley Teal

    We have financially assisted our three sons through college by paying
    the interest on their loans for ten years! As they have each entered the work force, two have graduated and the third is in his fourth year of Nursing School and in another year will enter the work force as well. All will have landed professional jobs through time, but all have had debts as high as 80 – 90 thousand and that was with our help on interest payments. It’s horrendous! My married son lives with his wife and another married couple because neither of the couples can afford to pay rent and school loans! Young married couples shouldn’t have to share an apartment! Also what has become apparent to us, is that even though our sons have professional positions, are adults now and are paying their way, we cannot get the “parent plus loans” off our debt ( the boys paying us for these loans) which affects our debt ratio in trying to move! There should be a way for these loans to be transferred to them once they have secured positions and pay their bills. This has to change. It is unfair to the children of our nations future to have to continue like this. Help is definitely needed in the appropriation of college funds for future students.

  4. MackK

    I rolled my graduate student loan debt from law school into our mortgage when we moved and purchased a home because the interest rate was half on the mortgage of my student loan rate. Granted, it’s still a long time in paying it off but I saved a boat load on interest (and if refinance to a lower mortgage rate, even more savings).

  5. Diane

    I don’t expect to win any popularity votes with this comment. As a Guidance Counselor I have noticed a shift in the last several years. Many juniors & seniors are expressing concern about college loans. However, it all seems to end there. Why are students choosing to attend schools that cost $55,000/year when they have little or no money? Countless options for an excellent education are out there that cost 50, 60, 70% less.

    Teens need to make mature decisions regarding money. True, they may have to sacrifice their “dream” school. Welcome to reality. Four years later you may want to drive a BMW but . . .

    • MackK

      Because starting salaries for graduates of a top-tier school are higher than low-tier schools and over a lifetime, that is a big shift in income potential.

    • Jeffrey Hamilton

      I would imagine the fear of post college unemployment is scarier that debt. Maybe your students realize that good jobs only exist for those graduating from the most expensive schools. It is awful to hear a guidance counselor bad mouth her students for dreaming big.

      -employed state school graduate with too much debt

  6. Karen Jackson

    I Am A Single Mother of 3 Boys 10 and under Living Below The Poverty Level Since I Left Graduate School. I cannot afford to pay 100,000.00 in student loan when I get $132 in food stamps/snap program. I feel because we are pawns on a chessboard we are not as important as Sallie Mae, Chase Manhattan, Bank of America,etc. to be bailed out of our debt. I do not want to be in debtors prison.

  7. d.a.

    My husband and I are both teachers. Our son and daughter were great students. Both received scholarships, worked while in school but needed loans to pay tuition, books, etc. Both have graduated and are teachers. One has his master’s degree and is currently enrolled in a doctorate program. Combined, they have a debt of $90,000. My husband and I are nearing retirement and will have to use a large portion of our retirement to help them pay off their loans. Another family member is unemployed due to health reasons, her husband is an alcoholic and is unemployed. Their son is a great student as well and has received a Bill Gates Millenium Scholarship. His tuition, books etc. are paid for. He will have to work to keep his grades up. I know my kids would not trade their lives for his and I am thankful for all the blessings we have received. But on the other hand I sometimes think hard-working middle class families are penalized for working.

  8. Deb Fallon

    I have 2 children who have successfully completed college and graduate school. Now their struggling to pay back Student Loans. Entry level professional positions do not cover the costs of living expenses and Student Loans. How low will our citizens survive on BB&J or Ramin Noodles?
    If we as a nation need an educated working class then we ( government) needs to help to achieve this goal. If this additional time spent in higher education servers no purpose then perhaps the movie “Planet of the Apes” ( the original) had a better perspective on American life than we’d like to accept!

  9. Chrissy

    Having a degree does not guarantee or secure a job of any kind. I obviously do not have a degree and to be honest, I’m glad I don’t either. I am skilled I have my CNA, BLS and medical terminology. I’ve worked with physicians to help patients. I’ve been a CNA for 8 years and at one point I was making 15 an hr. A family member of mine who has her Bachelors in social behavior and worked as a social worker for 10 years can’t find a job.

    Education does not guarantee a job and people need to know that. These days it’s all about who you know and what they think you can do. I was offered a job at as a security guard although I have never done this before nor do I have any knowledge of what a security guard does… I was offered this job.

    Education and medical is FAR TOO EXPENSIVE! We are living in a culture in decline and these upper high class individuals could really care less. This is a sad nation we live in.

  10. Janey Haynes

    Nowadays a college degree is needed to get a job with upward mobility, but at what cost? As a teacher in an urban high school, I’m told to get every student ready for college. I can do my part, but unless there is money available, most of my students will not make it. Even community colleges have had to raise tuition, making it even tougher for my kids to get a higher education to take them places. Something needs to be done, and soon, or we’re going to fall even further behind on the global job market!


Reader Comments

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