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“student Loan Debt And The Digital Skills Gap: Addressing Education Costs”

We Owe You Nothing is a series from The Debt Collective and Prism that looks at four different kinds of big debt: student loan debt, health care debt, carceral debt, and tenant debt. Our goal is to shift the narrative around debt and break the false notion that it’s a personal, moral failing, and that “easy” money management advice and a bootstrap mentality are the only solutions to financial freedom. The pieces will expose debt traps, highlight collective organizing tactics, and celebrate the growing debt cancellation movement. As The Debt Collective says, “Alone, our debts are a burden, but together they make us powerful. Read the entire series

Tips To Lower Your Student Loan Debt This Year

Anxiety hits me most mornings. A wave of financial regret, a tsunami rising with every breath, threatens to destroy me and take my community with it.

The full story of why I am in the red for my education starts in elementary school. After spending my K-12 academic life navigating the treacherous terrain of the public education system, I somehow managed not to be the “forgotten child.” My dyslexia diagnosis did not stop my ability to excel academically, nor did my father’s death in high school derail me. I bred “toughness” and “toughness,” buzzwords white people often use to praise poor black and brown kids for eating. After being accepted to the University of Washington, I made the dean’s list, studied abroad, and took some of the most academically rigorous courses of my life.

However, getting a degree was not my ticket out of poverty. It only marked the beginning of my descent into debt.

I entered the workforce during the Great Recession of 2008, barely 20 years old and over $20,000 in student loan debt. My first job out of college was working full-time at a non-profit for just $5/hr. I was on food stamps and shared a rundown apartment in Seattle with a roommate. I wanted nothing more than to be a full-time literary artist, but I had no idea how to do it. Coming from a working-class family didn’t allow me the free time that rich kids enjoyed, and I wasn’t privy to the contacts and seed capital necessary to make my creative visions a reality. So I did what many women around me did: I applied to graduate school.

An Faq On The Biden Student Loan Forgiveness Plan

I was accepted into Mills College’s MFA program in poetry. Was my graduate education overpriced? Absolutely. Did it seem like my only option at the time? Yes. My MFA led me deeper into debt while opening the door to better job prospects. Two-thirds of student borrowers are women, but black women carry the heaviest burden of any other demographic. Although we earn advanced degrees in hopes of earning higher wages, black women earn just 63 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men. This will cause us to stay in debt longer and at the same time result in a loss of nearly $1 million in profit over our entire career.

After graduating with an MFA, I got a job at WritersCorps. I asked four times. The program paid writers $30/hr to work as artist tutors at community sites throughout San Francisco. I spent the next eight years working in the field I was studying. As poet-in-residence at the San Francisco Juvenile Center, I have taught creative writing courses focused on healing with thousands of incarcerated children. Although my job was challenging at times, it was extremely fulfilling. So why did I still feel like I was being penalized? During this time, I paid off my student loans based on income, but never put a dent in my debt.

One day after class, one of my students exclaimed, “That workshop was so much fun! I almost forgot for a second that I was in prison.”

Sometimes I forgot that I was in debt, but there was a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that reminded me that the financial burden of my education was perhaps the worst mistake of my life. It didn’t help that, like most arts programs, my work was constantly in flux, bouncing from San Francisco Arts Commission project to grant until funding was finally cut in 2022. This job did not always have an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which made me ineligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), a federal student loan forgiveness program that rejects 98% of applicants. To make matters worse, Mills College declared financial emergency in 2017 and nearly stuttered as an institution, though it merged with Northeastern University in May 2022, effectively avoiding financial ruin.

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However, my problems only got worse. My federal student loan debt has ballooned to over $120,000. It felt like a life sentence.

If my debt story sounds familiar, that’s because I’m not alone. More than 43 million people in the US have student loan debt, and while our stories may differ, we are united by the debilitating burden that our debt creates. The student debt crisis has become a nearly $1.8 trillion problem—and it’s a problem that may not exist. In reality, debt is hardly about money at all. Debt is all about control.

To understand how this phenomenon relates to the American education system, we have to go back to the 1950s. Americans once invested in affordable—even free—college in some states, albeit mostly for white males. However, the combination of school desegregation and integration in the 1960s and the anti-war movement of the 1970s led to an increase in the number of diverse students entering school campuses across the country. Many of these students led protests against the Vietnam War and called on institutions to introduce new fields of study. When former President Ronald Reagan was governor of California, his education adviser, Roger A. Freeman, worried that continued affordable higher education would lead to an “educated proletariat.” Reagan cut funding to California’s public universities, causing the schools to raise tuition, and continued to cut public funding during his presidency, shifting federal tuition to loans.

Democrats also played a role in escalating the student debt crisis. Private lenders were initially wary of lending money to people with lower incomes. Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Higher Education Act of 1965, which included a federal student loan insurance program to support private lenders. But what happens when you make education a commodity? Colleges are raising tuition and lenders are raising interest rates all day. The 1980s and 1990s saw the rise of for-profit colleges that preyed on lower-income people and promised them upward mobility. Add to that the fact that student loans are one of the few loans that cannot be escaped through bankruptcy, and you have a recipe for disaster. Student debt policies enacted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic will cost more than $900 billion over a decade, more than has ever been invested in higher education in this country’s history.

Election Could Shake Up America’s Student Debt Crisis

Although my debt still causes me to feel waves of anxiety, I can breathe easier now. I’m fighting with the support of The Debt Collective, the nation’s first debtors union. Just as labor unions organize to advocate for higher wages and labor rights, debtors’ unions use the power of solidarity to demand debt cancellation. With roots in the Occupy Wallstreet Movement, the Debt Collective has seen incredible gains, one of which was the announcement of President Joe Biden’s Student Debt Relief Plan—a plan that provided eligible borrowers with cancellation of up to $20,000 in student debt. The announcement was a hard-fought victory that took nearly a decade of pressure before politicians began talking openly about the severity of the student debt crisis, let alone taking action to fix it. If Biden’s plan survives the conservative Supreme Court, it would wipe out the student loan balances of 20 million borrowers and provide $400 billion in economic aid to working-class Americans.

However, debt cancellation alone will not solve the root of the crisis. The ultimate goal is free college for all—a goal we must continue to fight for. Perhaps my background as a literary artist makes the idea of ​​a future where everyone has access to higher education so exciting. Maybe all the Maya Angelou I’ve read is making it impossible for me to carry the untold story of student debt. I can only hope that you will have the courage to tell your own story as well.

Maddy Clifford is a writer, musician and organizer from Oakland. Her creative practice addresses cross-cutting feminist themes, from debt cancellation to environmental justice. Maddy’s work has been featured… More by Maddy Clifford The amount of student debt in America is roughly the size of the economy of Brazil or Australia. According to US government data, more than 45 million people collectively owe $1.6 trillion.

This number has skyrocketed

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