Educational Debt is Squeezing Too Many

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I first encountered a seriously thoughtful advocate, a university student, at the Occupy Wall Street actions, when I stopped by to speak with folks onsite while visiting New York City. Since then it was the underground steady drum-beat topic among younger Americans until the rise of the Movement for Black Lives.

In my humble experience, this topic is a source of deep intergenerational tension and a topic where cohorts talk past each other. And, it’s worse when folks of different family wealth status, or different postures on entrepreneurial spirit, get going on the topic with each other. Yet, it is a serious matter with serious ramifications anyway you turn on the issue.

Federal student loans squeeze many Americans, particularly those who don’t finish, those in programs where many peers are unable to find a job after completion, or programs, where debts incurred, are unpayable even with a good-paying job. And those who struggle are disproportionately from lower-income families, are first-generation students, and tend to be students of color. From recent graduates to working professionals, 43 million Americans owe nearly $1.7 trillion in student loan debt. Still, college is known to be an important step in achieving a higher income and financial freedom. However, gaining and realizing the benefits of such human capital investment is growing more difficult, because of the debts incurred.

President Biden and Majority Leader Schumer can make a difference, but Americans of all walks of life need to say it is important — it is more than just whining or a lack of personal accountability. It is an appropriate response in support of the regular people facing what looks like predatory lending, and a sector out of control.

In love and for justice,

Pablo DeJesús

Executive Director, Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice

P.S. Full disclosure, I just finished paying off my own educational debt. So this will not benefit me other than to know, I tried to help others. I tried.