There should be no barriers to getting an education | Notes on the Valley | Monith Ilavarasan | |

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By Monith Ilavarasan

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.