This story is published as part of StudentNations Vision 2020: Next Generation Election Stories, reports by young journalists that focus on the concerns of various young voters. In this project, in collaboration with Dr. Sherri Williams recruited young journalists from diverse backgrounds to come up with story ideas and share their peers’ concerns about the most important choices in our lives. We will continue to publish two stories each week through September.
J.Onathan Moraga’s dream school was the American University. Born in Miami, Moraga wanted to study political science in the capital of the country. But he never expected the high cost of living and student loans to drive him out of university.
When the financial burden got overwhelming, he moved to Florida International University, nearly 900 miles from Washington, where tuition fees are $ 26,000 lower than American University. “Most other students don’t have to work or think about student loans. They just have to remember to go to school,” said 21-year-old Moraga. “I just felt at a disadvantage. I know a lot of people who graduate and can’t find a job after college and the problems only worsen when you’re in a minority. “
Despite the ongoing student loan debt crisis, young voters fear that presidential candidates will once again be overlooked as a national crisis – a crisis that often prevents students from improving their lives after graduation. Given the constant threat of loan payments, debtors need to worry about paying them back rather than focusing on their socio-economic mobility.
Student loan debt is one of the largest forms of debt in the country, according to a March 2019 report by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Americans owe a total of $ 1.6 trillion in both federal and personal loans.
According to the Federal Reserve and the Federal Reserve Bank, students who graduated in 2019 owed an average of $ 29,900 in personal and federal loans. Additionally, 14 percent of parents loaned an average of $ 37,200 to federal parents in 2019 plus Loans according to the same data. Nationwide, nearly half of black borrowers defaulted on their loans and 75 percent dropped out of college, according to the Center for American Progress.
Student loan debt has inevitably become a bigger problem for color and low-income borrowers who are hardest hit. In Washington, DC alone, racial differences have influenced educational levels. For example, in Brentwood, one of Washington’s poorest neighborhoods, around 33 percent of residents get a post-secondary degree, 53.4 percent get a high school diploma only, and 13.6 percent get no high school diploma at all. In Georgetown, one of the wealthiest areas, 92 percent of residents have a post-secondary degree, 6.5 percent a high school diploma, and 0.6 percent no high school diploma, according to a study by the Statistical Atlas takes data from the US Census Bureau. And these trends are reflected in cities across the country.
The reality for many workers is that the educational disparities between these neighborhoods are just one example of the racial wealth gap and how it affects access to education. The level of education is largely influenced by the environment in which a child is raised. Growing up in poverty makes it difficult for students to graduate from college, even if students overcome this hurdle to gain access to the facility, according to a study by the Urban Institute.
Overall, the most vulnerable low-income and color students have become students who have insurmountable debts that take years to pay off. Wil Del Pilar, vice president of higher education policy and practice for the Education Trust Foundation, said cities like Washington that do not have robust community college systems “present unique barriers.”
“Access is directly linked to proximity,” he said. “Unless there is a community college nearby, or an affordable college nearby that is high quality and provides students with additional resources such as transportation costs, low-income students just won’t enroll.”
As a result, Washington DC students are some of the most vulnerable to student debt in the nation. This has only been exacerbated by annual tuition fee increases. “Almost every time I speak to students, they ask about student debts and how it affects them,” said Tim Maggio, financial aid advisor at American University in Washington. “If you are a first-generation student or if you don’t have much access to understanding higher education, you don’t understand all of the complexities associated with student debt.”
Mark Goudy, a 34-year-old YouTuber and private entrepreneur, said his lack of understanding of the cost of higher education influenced his decision to take out student loans. He said he had $ 270,000 in debt, defaulted on two loans, and had financial problems. “I would scrub toilets for money. I couldn’t afford a bed and slept on the living room floor, ”said Goudy, who attended Ohio University. “I had big problems and was at a disadvantage not only because of my credit but also because of my financial situation.” He wished someone had told him about the possible consequences of taking out credit. But he was always told to “stay in school and not worry”.
Derrick Cooper, director of the LA City Wildcats, a youth organization that works with children in the most vulnerable neighborhoods of Los Angeles, has worked on student loans as the father of two college graduates and coached underprivileged students. “It’s a very downhill experience as most of them just aren’t well informed,” he said. “Some are just intimidated about how they would make a living without having to pay for loans. Some make it and I’m proud of them, but most of them don’t because they can’t. ”
This nationwide student loan debt crisis became a predominant theme in the 2020 presidential primaries. Candidates discussed viable solutions. The country’s students have to choose whether or not to go to college – a decision that could potentially change the way they pursue their academic careers. However, the most vulnerable students are naturally left with fewer options. “I always had a plan to go to school,” said Goudy. “But because I had to start paying off my loans, I had to start working right away.”
In March, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Response to the Pandemic, which indulged federal student loan borrowers and suspended interest loans until September 30, which was extended to December 31 in August.
Some experts believe that measures like these are beneficial in the short term, but long-term solutions to the student loan debt crisis are not enough. The CARES Act only applies to federal loans. This means that students who have Perkins and privately held federal family education loans will continue to have to make payments, Del Pilar said. “This is only effectively delaying payments and does not help reduce student loan debt,” he said.
Although the country’s capital city is home to some of the country’s richest and most powerful people, it has also become the epicenter of economic disparity, which has a dramatic impact on undergraduate students. This is the unfortunate reality for disadvantaged students in the US. The debtors just hope this will not be overlooked forever. “This debt cycle worries me,” said Moraga. “It’s a different way the system works against minorities and people of color, and I don’t think it’s fair.”