This essay is from a finalist for the 2020 Student Loan Planner Scholarship.
Before the recession, I had a looming feeling about my student loans. I owe approximately $140,000, and the balance keeps going up because my income-based payments do not even cover the interest. I am a School Psychologist and I work for the public school system, so I am not making tons of money.
When I was young, I saw a dramatic movie about a Psychiatrist and then I knew that is what I wanted to do. Fast forward some years, I realized there is no way I wanted to go to medical school. I needed a plan B.
I researched and found out I could become a Psychologist, which did not require medical school. As I began my graduate education, I realized that I wanted to serve children, who often find themselves in environmentally and mentally vulnerable situations at no fault of their own. They deserve someone to fight for them, and I signed up to be that person.
I completed my Ph.D., became a School Psychologists, and quickly realized that people do not enter this field to get rich, which was fine with me because I signed up to serve. People think that because I have a Ph.D. behind my name, I am financially secure. This is not true. My Ph.D. was expensive, and my family is paying the cost.
My fear prior to this recession has always been after my 10 years in public education and making on time payments, my loans will not actually be forgiven. Currently, the recession has not changed my feelings toward my student loan debt one bit. I still have a looming feeling, except now I wonder will they do away with the program, and I will be stuck in a worse position.
I love my job, but without forgiveness, I do not see another way to get rid of them and continue in my current job. I often kick myself for going to an out of state college, or not complete general education courses at a cheaper community college. I just did not know better.
The crazy thing is I had several scholarships, but between the two public universities (one with out of state tuition costs) and the private college I went to for my master’s degree, the scholarships did not cover the cost. I know that I cannot put my children in the same position that I was in.
I have a husband and two children. We live a comfortable lifestyle, but we are not rich, and we live on a strict budget. If the recession prompts our government to do away with PSLF, or if I were to be denied, I feel like we’d just have to pack up and move to Antigua or something (I’m joking, kind of).
This recession is teaching me that I must make a better plan for my children. PSLF is great, but what happens if it goes away? I grew up poor, and I refuse to allow my debt to plant feelings of financial insecurity in my children.
I know that there are people is worse positions than mine. People who make less than me, cannot afford to make even income-based payments. However, as I think about my family’s financial future and the future of my children, I realize I need a better plan than just to hope that in another few years my loans will be forgiven.
I need to work toward wealth building, which I believe is possible, even under a mound of student debt.
On a grand scale, I believe this great country needs a better solution to public higher education. We should not have to sign up to be enslaved to the government through payments in order to get an education and be a productive citizen, which again benefits the government. We should not have to choose between becoming a doctor or taking on debt.
Then consider the generational financial lagging that many minority populations experience. As a Black American, I understand how policies such as Jim Crow and segregation have impacted and continue to impact the financial literacy of the black community.
My grandparents did not finish high school because they had to work to help support their families. My mother went to a newly integrated school and did not receive equal treatment from the teachers because those teachers who were responsible for teaching and caring for her did not want integration.
Truthfully, many Black Americans in my mother’s generation did not want integration either, but separate was never equal. We want equal opportunity, and it is unfortunate the amount of debt that we take on in attempts to be equal.
For myself, after attempting to better myself and my family through education, I somehow have still landed us in an overwhelming amount of debt. I did not achieve the financial equality for which I was reaching, but just its reflection.
I know that we will come out of this recession, and my prayer is that we come out on top, and not buried underneath the whims of government policies that do not benefit the people.