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By Monith Ilavarasan

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About this blog: My parents, brother, and I moved to Pleasanton when I was in the seventh grade. I then graduated from Amador Valley High School, went to college at UC Davis and started out a career in tech. After several years working in large co...  (More)

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There should be no barriers to getting an education

Uploaded: Aug 31, 2022
I’m one of the lucky ones in that I graduated college without any debt. I worked a few jobs throughout college, but the real reason I graduated without debt was because of the bank of mom and dad. My parents started saving for my college education the moment I was born and were able to cover my tuition through those four years of undergrad.

My wife on the other hand wanted to do something to actually help people. She graduated with an average amount of federal loans and decided to become a speech language pathologist. She took out more loans to pay for a graduate program after which she was able to land a job in the Bay Area.

After three years of working at one of the more highly paid entry level SLP positions in the country and living at home, she was finally able to pay off all of her loans. Even with all of these immense advantages, we are still struggling to figure out how we can carve out a permanent life here in the Bay Area.

These are the reasons I wholeheartedly support student loan debt relief. The recent actions by President Biden are a small start in the right direction.

According to research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the average student loan monthly payment is $400. They also found that 50% of student loan borrowers owe more than $19,000 on their student loans.

In the Bay Area, according to ZipRecruiter the average yearly salary for a new college graduate is ~$50,000. This breaks down to a monthly $3,200 in after tax income. After loan payments this would result in having $2,800 to take care of all other basic expenses including housing, car payments, and groceries. Given the exorbitant rent and cost of living we see around here, this makes it difficult to sustain even a barebones existence without the help from parents or additional personal loans.

Often this financial crunch forces individuals to forgo student loan payments or pay the bare minimum. During such times the interest continues to accrue, significantly increasing the total amount owed on a monthly basis. When an individual is able to get a raise or find a bit of financial breathing room, they find their monthly payments have increased as well.

This still puts college graduates ahead of the average high school graduate. High school graduates with no college degree make an average yearly salary of ~$44,000 in the Bay Area, with little room for upward mobility.

In this day and age life without a college degree leaves very limited room for growth or a way out of the poverty trap. Conversely, a college degree means that there is no real way for you to have any real financial independence, let alone any way to accrue savings on any meaningful level.

If there is any hope to crawl out of debt one either has to get a high paying job quickly or rely on family to support.

I support student loan debt relief because I would like to live in a society where people can pursue a better life without fear of living forever in debt.

Ideally, we would start with incentivizing understaffed positions in teaching, medical care, social work, and all other fields we cheered on and labeled “essential” during the pandemic. We should expand on the existing framework of debt forgiveness by forgiving all loans for people who choose to pursue careers in essential work that make our society run.

If an individual shows passion, skill, and a desire to help their broader community we should do whatever we can to help them realize their dreams.

Reducing the burden of student loans through loan forgiveness is a good first step. More needs to be done to meaningfully expand educational opportunities to all. If you put in the work to excel academically, debt should not be the anchor that holds you back for much of your life. In a society that claims to reward hard work, an education should not be gated on the lottery ticket of where you were born.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Karl A, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Aug 31, 2022 at 1:14 pm

Karl A is a registered user.

Your thoughts on the challenges of the high cost education and graduating with student are understandable.

I would like to hear more about why you think it is ok to take out student loans and expect the people that did not go to college, for whatever reason, to pay for your partner's education. Also, why is it fair for people who paid off their student loans, like myself, to pay for your partner's education?

Loan forgiveness is not “free money". Someone has to pay for it.

Thank you

Posted by Karl A, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Aug 31, 2022 at 3:15 pm

Karl A is a registered user.

Sorry for confusion - glad you and your partner paid off loans.

Let me modify my question to be more general. How is it ok for people in general to not pay off their loans at the expense of the two groups I note in my original post?

How do you explain to the grocery store clerks, landscape workers, fast food workers, waiters, waitresses, cooks, and other working class low wage people (the ones who make less than college grads) that people making up to $150k / couples making $250k are going to get loans forgiven at their expense?

Maybe you can go around town and interview them and share their comments in a future posting?

Instead of spending $250B to $1T (whatever the true cost is) to forgive loans of many people who don't need it, how about doing something to actually solve the problem. Educate the college bound to go to lower cost colleges instead of the high cost ones, to choose degrees that actually will pay an amount that will support paying off loans taken out, hold colleges accountable (and responsible) if degrees given don't pay a living wage, etc. Let the rich colleges that are in many cases highly over rated to pay for the loans. Have guidance counselors mandatory for borrowers to go through to get loans approved where anyone planning to borrow money that their chosen degree won't support.


Posted by Michael Austin , a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Aug 31, 2022 at 6:20 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

I have ignored your blogs because I know you are an ultra-progressive bleeding-heart liberal, far more so than Tom Cushing ever was. When you ran for mayor, you informed me you wanted to change Pleasanton to a Sancturary city.

I am responding here because I am adamantly against handouts. You are promoting free ride for everyone.

If one is not happy, not achieving comfortable life in one's environment, one must change that environment to an environment where a comfortable life is achievable.
Hard work builds character, hard work provides success. Hard work earns respect.

Going around with your hand out is disgusting.
Expecting, demanding, government bail you out are disgusting.

[portion removed]

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of Danville,
on Aug 31, 2022 at 8:32 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

I believe in forgiveness, but not student loan forgiveness. If you take out a loan, you pay it back. Period. If you can't afford to pay it back - don't borrow the money.

I agree that everyone is entitled to a college education, and that's what student loans are for. The opportunity for everyone doesn't mean a free education.

I wasn't eligible for student loans - parental income. Our kids weren't eligible.

Not everyone should go to college. Not all kids are ready, or perhaps they can't get accepted. And not all careers/jobs require a college degree. Most college educated people do make more money, but police officers, firefighters, blue collar skilled workers make pretty darn good money these days. Thanks to unions.

With all due respect, you're painting everybody with a broad brush. Everyone should go to college, and if mom and dad had a little extra money in their pocket, and yours didn't... you deserve a free ride. That doesn't make any sense.

If you can't afford to live in the Bay Area there are so many cheaper places to live.

Posted by Malcolm Hex, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 1, 2022 at 12:30 am

Malcolm Hex is a registered user.


I guess you feel the government should pay for everything, right? If that's the case, you might want to learn a little history.

When JFK visited the former Soviet Union, he said he saw a dirty, desolate, so-called communist utopia. What he saw was disheveled people from all walks of life, standing in long food lines for hours, just to get milk. Yup, everything was free - including sub-par medical coverage.

When Nikita Khrushchev, the former First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, visited the United States, he was shown one of our supermarkets. He couldn't believe what he saw. He became so angry, and said the store was staged. He couldn't believe that Americans had access to such a variety of foods. But one thing Khrushchev learned very quickly, was that our free-market system (capitalism) worked, and was vastly superior to communism. And least I leave out the eventual collapse of the former Soviet Union.

Besides forgiving student debt, I guess the U.S. government should buy food, homes, and cars for its citizens too? I wonder how far you would go, Monith. Take a look around. How do communist and socialist nations fare against the United States?

America is the greatest nation on earth. And this nation did not become the greatest nation on earth by giving free handouts. People worked hard, very hard, to make America the best.

Posted by MichaelB, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Sep 1, 2022 at 7:08 am

MichaelB is a registered user.

"With all due respect, you're painting everybody with a broad brush. Everyone should go to college, and if mom and dad had a little extra money in their pocket, and yours didn't... you deserve a free ride. That doesn't make any sense."

It makes sense to so called progressives who think that income/wealth is "collectively" owned.

Everything you need and/or want becomes a "right" that the government (taxpayers) have to provide for you so it's "fair". If someone has accomplished/earned/invested/saved more, it's "unfair". You have "ripped off" and/or "cheated" the less fortunate. The government needs to step in and shame you while taking a majority of the outcomes to redistribute accordingly.

Posted by D, a resident of Danville,
on Sep 1, 2022 at 8:02 am

D is a registered user.


Education is a great tool in ending the cycle of poverty for families. That is why there exist so many college scholarships and grants(not loans) for poor students who have achieved success despite their obstacles. But to simply let students take out loans and incur contractual debts and then walk away from those obligations and expect us tax payers to pick up the debt is absolutely wrong and sends the wrong message to these students about the "education" of responsibility. Many people of your generation really need an "education" on personal responsibility, on living within your means, and not looking for the taxpayers to fund your lifestyle and wants.

When my child was born I immediately opened a college savings account and automatically put in $250 each paycheck, so there was money available for a public state college after graduation from high school without needing loans. For 18 years, while my co-workers drove better cars, took better vacations, I valued education over my wants, and valued personal responsibility, not looking for the government to bail me and my child out. So many people of your generation spend money every day at Starbucks, need the latest I-phones and computer equipment, and fail to learn the education of personal savings, and living within your means.

For those students whose parents lacked the personal discipline to save for a state college education, the students have other options besides looking for the government to bail them out. Students can join ROTC, and get a free college education, and pay back the education by serving their country for a few years. One very real consequence of liberals making taxpayers pick up the tab for college loans is a big drop in those who join ROTC and join the military after graduation. With a big drop in ROTC, do not be surprised if in the future we face a need to consider instituting a draft again as our military numbers drop drastically.

Posted by Karl A, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Sep 1, 2022 at 4:55 pm

Karl A is a registered user.

I'd like make one more point for Monith and others who support forgiving student debt and / or that college education be “free".

There is cost that will need to be paid for these actions. The cost is being transferred to / assigned to all tax payers. These supporters are part of this taxpayer group. Given the large cost of these actions and the increase in interest rates, Monith / other supporters and probably their children will be paying for it for the rest of their lives. Good luck!

Posted by Malcolm Hex, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 1, 2022 at 8:44 pm

Malcolm Hex is a registered user.

Great point Karl. Unfortunately, the mindset of today's socialist is not any different than the socialists of the past.

Posted by Nanette Whitman, a resident of Alamo,
on Sep 6, 2022 at 11:29 am

Nanette Whitman is a registered user.

High-tech companies and medical clinics should consider college debt relief assistance as part of their hiring incentives for outstanding job applicants BUT some barista or bookstore clerk with a Ph.D. in Philosophy should not be eligible for federal debt relief because they are not contributing anything constructive to society as a whole.

And this also applies to the countless students who majored in useless subject matter like Black History/Culture and who are now straddled with extensive college-related debt.

Posted by Marcel Wilkens, a resident of another community,
on Sep 6, 2022 at 11:47 am

Marcel Wilkens is a registered user.

Because I earn less than $75K per year I am eligible for full college debt relief as per President Biden's Executive Order.

I have both a B.A. and M.A. in Eastern Philosophy from a prestigious university and can honestly say that I am far more enlightened than any of the naysayers who are speaking vociferously against this college debt relief program.

Posted by Edie Parsons, a resident of Danville,
on Sep 6, 2022 at 12:17 pm

Edie Parsons is a registered user.

Shouldn't much of the college-related debt by African American students be absorbed by the United Negro College Fund?

Their slogan, "a mind is a terrible thing to waste' has always resonated in our family and for years, we used to donate annually to this organization until we realized that like many non-profits, most of the proceeds went to administrative expenses/salaries and there were few success stories.

Posted by John, a resident of Birdland,
on Sep 6, 2022 at 1:25 pm

John is a registered user.

Marcel, Bachelors and Masters and still making less than 75K. I quess employers do not appreciate your enlightenment. You reaped the benefits of your enlightenment so pay for it yourself.

Posted by Penny Drake, a resident of Danville,
on Sep 6, 2022 at 4:46 pm

Penny Drake is a registered user.


To become enlightened should not involve incurring college-related debt that others (aka taxpayers) are on the hook for.

As Ted Cruz pointed out, what's the point of being a barista with an advanced college degree?

Hopefully the tips are good.

Posted by Michael Austin , a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Sep 6, 2022 at 6:25 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

With a BA & MA and making only $75k. You must be an absolute under performer.

Posted by Gary Ulrich, a resident of Walnut Creek,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 7:15 am

Gary Ulrich is a registered user.

Achieving true enlightenment does not require wealth or a substantial salary.

Jesus was not wealthy and the Buddha gave up his life as a royal to pursue a path of deeper understanding.

Not to mention Mohammed who also succeeded in his quest without any monetary backing.

One does not need a B.A. or an M.A. to seek enlightenment.

And organized religion is merely a concerted moneymaking operation/scam disguised as a 'non-profit' organization.

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