by Colleen Flaherty
As college tuition increases and tuition assistance decreases, students across the country are feeling the burden from student loan debt, which surpassed $1 trillion just last year. This staggering amount is not just hurting students, but parents, educators and our economy.
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If Congress doesn’t take action by July 1, the federal student interest rate will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently proposed that student loan interest rates be lowered to 0.75 percent, the same rate that the big banks pay on their loans, and voters are behind her.
In the meantime, however, Americans are struggling.
Lynn Grainger scrimped and saved as a single mother for the last 17 years so her daughter to go to the college of her choice. She’s had to put off saving for retirement, and with all the money she’s saved, it might still just be a drop in the bucket:
How much debt is okay for my daughter to start a career? As mature adults, finances are hard to understand and plan. Now 18 year olds are making decisions that involved more money than my first mortgage. My daughter is resigned that her dreams may ultimately come down to which school offers the best financial aid package.
Judy Lazo co-signed for both of her children’s student loans; they each have loans totaling more than $80,000. Her daughter has always dreamed of being a teacher, but is having trouble finding work while worrying about paying back her loans.
“My daughter graduated Magna Cum Laude. She is one year out of college, and she has yet to find a teaching job,” said Lazo. “Congress needs to know that raising interest rates is not going to help anyone. It is time to do something about college loans.”
Between her and her son, Susan Stokes’ student loan debt is over $160,000 and the interest continues to add up. She is a special education teacher in Washington with a Master’s degree, but with what she makes, payments on these loans add up to a third of her take-home pay.
“The interest on my home is 2 to 3 percent less than my school loans,” said Stokes. “It’s hard to pay back graduate level loans on a teacher’s salary, but being highly qualified comes with a price. It is something I believe in enough to continue to teach in this area.”
“The burden of my student loan debt doesn’t keep me from working in a field I am passionate about – for now.”
Sarah Robinson is a student and a future educator. By next year, she will have graduated with a Secondary Education degree and $50,000 in student loan debt:
Compared to many students, I am lucky, but how am I supposed to go into my first teaching job with a small salary and benefits that are frequently being slashed with a debt like that? It is important for us to stop saddling the next generation with unbearable interest rates and loan debt or there will be no end in sight to our nation’s economic problems.
The increasing debt will make it impossible for many of our nation’s students to attend university, which will only further the education gap.
Connie Grzadzielewski is a teacher’s assistant in Wisconsin. Her husband is a teacher, and her two children just recently graduated college. Even with scholarships and living at home, her children are buried in loans.
“We live in a state with a radical governor who has caused our income to be slashed $5,000 annually. We now live day by day, which means we are not able to help our children out,” said Grzadzielewski. “My children could be paying their student loans for 30 years! How can this help our young people? They can’t afford homes, cars, etc. This certainly doesn’t help the economy.”
“Our children should be doing better than their parents, not the other way around.”
If student loan debt is affecting you or someone you know, please share your story on our Degrees Not Debt page.