One Wisconsin Now Blog

Higher Education Becomes Double the Struggle

By Cara Josephson

To many, the idea of the "American Dream" is simple: Work hard, follow the rules, and you can receive an education, degree, high paying job, or whatever your dream may be. Unfortunately, with the crippling student loan debt crisis, many now realize all of their time and effort spent to achieve a higher education is not paying off as it should.

The destruction of the American Dream comes in the ugly form of student loan debt.

Since the privatization of student loans and subsequent stripping of consumer protections heavily-supported by Wall Street and the big banks, college tuition has skyrocketed. It is unaffordable for most without taking out student loans. Many who wish to obtain an education fear remaining in debt for years after they graduate due to being saddled with numerous student loans.

The cost of an average student loan after college is already at $27,000. Dreams of graduate school are becoming less and less realistic for those already suffering from debt from their undergraduate education. And now because of obstruction by Senate and House Republicans, the Stafford loans rate has jumped from 3.4% to 6.8%, making college even more unreachable.

The countless student loan debt stories are already haunting, and doubling the current rate only makes future stories more terrifying. One Wisconsin Institute's website http://trilliondollardebt.com/ highlights the struggles and stories of real people across the country due to student loan debt.

Anitra from Wisconsin graduated from college in 2007, and nearly 35% of her monthly income goes to her student loans. She works three jobs and even volunteered as a "guinea pig" in a drug-testing lab for some extra money. Anitra has even considered selling her musical instruments, which are her love and passion simply to pay the bills. She regrets her decision to go to college every day and believes " higher education has become a sick, money-making scheme".

Yolanda from North Carolina went back to school in 2010 for a graduate degree after being out of school for 13 years. After completing her degree, she has suffered with trying to find employment. Even though she returned to school for a graduate degree, she is still unable to find a decent stable job. She says she is now burdened with student loan debt in addition to "having no health insurance and struggling to make it from pay day to pay day". Many have been led to believe that returning to school for a higher degree is the answer to our problems, yet the reality of the situation is that this is untrue.

Elizabeth from Pennsylvania graduated from college and the only job she has been able to get is part time at a grocery store. She has no social life and does not want to get married so her husband is not forced to struggle financially along with her.

Michael from Texas also fears not being able to move on with his life due to his student loan debt. He recently graduated from the University of Houston and enrolled in graduate school while working in a school district. He still lives at home with his parents, and does not know when he will be able to afford a house, a new car, or even start a family but has "put it off because of his tremendous debt". He fears paying the loans back because of their increasing enormity.

And it goes on and on. Hundreds and hundreds of stories.

With so much already being sacrificed to go to school and get technical college training, at what point will it stop? Dreams of having health insurance, retiring at a decent age, having a stable job, buying a home, and even starting a family have been destroyed all to pay back student loans. At what cost should people who just graduated pay back for their schooling?

How many more people must sell their possessions and passions and bequeath themselves as guinea pigs and lab rats simply to get money to pay their student loans?

Something needs to be done and quickly if we do not want to see even more pain from student loan debt.

Doubling the interest rate will not solve any of these problems, it will merely double them.

Cara Josephson is an intern at One Wisconsin Now. She will be a senior in the fall at UW-Madison majoring in Communication Arts.