Tag Archives: Debt

#StopSkippingClass! The need for social class stories in psychology education

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” yet inequality is at an all-time high in the United States.

Within the field of psychology we continue to perpetuate middle class ideology in terms of clinical practice normed for middle class people, research subject selection, and theory development. Socioeconomic status (SES) as an area of cultural competency lags behind other multicultural areas. The SES literature currently does not even have congruent language for describing SES. Terms such as social economic status, cultural capital, tax bracket, and social prestige–along with others–are used interchangeably to describe and measure a spectrum of social class variables.

Within psychology, we continue to perpetuate middle class ideology.

Empirical issues aside, psychology has many social class issues within its training process. Graduate students have now lost access to their Subsidized Stafford Loans, which pragmatically translates to an $8,500 pay cut for graduate students across the country (prior to 2011, this was the amount allotted to all graduate students for a subsidized loan). Students previously had access to both subsidized and unsubsidized loans and could take out both or either in order to pay for school. Students are now only left with the unsubsidized option, which begins accruing interest the second the loan is taken out.

Students pursuing clinical, counseling, or school psychology continue to take on years of unpaid or underpaid internships and practica while attending school full time. In an era of an internship crisis, the application process has become outrageously expensive with some students spending thousands of dollars between interviewing and relocating. It is reasonable to conclude that those that can afford it are able to apply to more sites, visit more sites, and have in-person interviews, which may be substantively different than ones conducted virtually.

If this was not enough to squeeze psychology grad students, APPIC increased the cost of applying to internship sites this year, a 228% increase for clinical, counseling, or school psychology students applying to 15 potential sites. If you apply to 15 sites ($400) and obtain a match number ($110), you will have spent $510, which does not include travel or other fees. Similar to when affirmative action was struck down in my home state of Michigan, I worry that these financial barriers will continue to exclude individuals from low-income backgrounds from becoming psychologists.

The biggest issue for me as a member of the APA Committee on Socioeconomic Status and former APAGS Regional Advocacy Coordinator is the perpetual silence on this issue from students. The Budget Control Act of 2011 passed with little more than a peep from graduate students across the country.

The biggest issue for is the perpetual silence on this issue from students.

This blog post is an effort to break the silence. As the future of psychology, students need to begin openly discussing social class issues. If you feel strongly, please begin a dialogue about:

  1. Your own social class story/financial difficulties in graduate school.
  2. Clinical stories of how your work is impacted by social class variables.
  3. Discussions of how to incorporate social class into your research.

You can do this by responding to this post, submitting your own story to this blog, or tweeting using the hashtag #StopSkippingClass.

Kipp Pietrantonio
Kipp Pietrantonio

Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Kipp Pietrantonio, Ph.D. Please visit the Committee on Socioeconomic Status to learn more about efforts at APA to raise awareness of SES.



Education should not be a “debt sentence”

Yesterday, on my fourth day of my high school fellowship in APAGS, I was able to sit in a Senate hearing about student debt and the adversities that come with it. Student debt is at a staggering $1.2 trillion which is highly unacceptable.

APAGS High School Fellow Damani Jasper outside of a Senate hearing on student debt.

APAGS High School Fellow Damani Jasper outside of a Senate hearing on student debt.

At the hearing, a social studies teacher was emphasizing the financial struggles he is trying to overcome; he felt it was already bad enough that the cost of living in Washington, D.C. is so expensive, and now the loans he has to pay back only make his financial situation even worse. While his car loan has a 1.9% interest rate, his student loan interest rates are much higher.  He also stressed his concerns about going into his thirties and not being able to start a family nor buy a house because he has so many student loans to pay back.

If you think that this high school teacher is struggling financially at a median salary of $55,050, then you can only imagine how much psychologists are struggling with more debt and an average salary of $69,280. Depending on the type of graduate degree, 48 to 89% of psychology students will graduate with debt. By the time they graduate, they will owe up to $120,000 if not more. That is a lot for someone who isn’t fully engaged into their career yet.  Over 10 years, that $120,000 becomes $170K, and over 30 years of paying back loans, that becomes $280K (to add insult to injury, the interest rate is approximately 6.8%).

The debt sentence for psychologists can be up to 30 years—which is very overwhelming.

The setbacks that the student loans are bringing to people like this teacher and maybe some psychologists seem as if they are becoming unbearable. I hope that something can be done about the staggering debt of graduates.

My own thinking has led me to offer some possible solutions to reduce student debt:

  • Lowering interest rates to decrease the amount of money that a student will have to pay back. Congress should be proactive in lowering interest rates as well as tackling many other factors that play a role in student debt. I don’t believe it is appropriate for the government to make a profit off of students trying to get an education.
  • Misplaced money in the budget can be used to decrease student debt and even possibly to increase the amount of money that graduate students receive for campus work. (For example, it bothers me that the executive branch of the government plans to spend $640 billion on nuclear weapons that will probably never be used.)

It will be very wise to approach student debt as quickly as possible because it will only get worse with time. Hopefully, the people that make the decisions in our government will quickly do what is right and beneficial.

The cost of education should not be a debt sentence.

The hearing yesterday gave me a lot of insight on problems that I will encounter a decade from now if something isn’t done about student debt. It will cause too much financial stress on me and my family, and reluctance for my family to send the next generation to college, given what it is likely to cost. The cost of education should not be a debt sentence.

Editor’s note: Damani Jasper is a rising senior at a local high school that emphasizes public policy. He aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon. During his fellowship at APA he will be examining student debt and the connections between psychology and physical health.