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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.