Just Graduated; Cue the Violins


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I believe that everyone has the right to receive a debt-free higher education.

Graduation should be a happy day, not the day you’re stressing over your student loans.

My friend Ava, 23, graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. Everyone was proud of her accomplishment, so it was a very joyous moment. One week after her graduation party, she received an email from FedLoan Servicing, an organization established to support the U.S. Department of Education’s ability to service student loans owned by the federal government. The email congratulated her and reminded her that her first payment was due in six months.

At that time, six months sounded really far away, so Ava did not think about her loan repayment again. A month after graduation, Ava was lucky enough to get a job in her field as a promotion coordinator for a radio station.

Like most people her age, she was ready to move out of her parent’s house and finally establish her independence. After all, that’s why she went to college—to establish a career so that she would be able to support herself.

Ava is not unusual.

She is among the 54 percent of students who graduated from the University of South Carolina with an average debt of over $28,000, according to The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and policy organization dedicated to increasing college access, affordability and success through improvements in student financial aid policies.

Her starting annual salary was about $37,000. With that income, she was able to afford a one-bedroom apartment, with renter’s insurance and utilities. She also started making own car payment and car insurance; her parents had previously paid those bills.

About two months later, she received another email from FedLoan Servicing reminding her that her first payment was due in 30 days. This time she read the email in detail. That is when she realized that she owed over $43,000 in student loans.

Forty-three thousand dollars is more than her annual salary.

With Ava’s student loan payments, which were just under $400 per month, along with her living expenses, she only had about $85 left over for herself for the entire month.

Her monthly repayment amount is not unusually high. Considering she has a standard 10-year repayment plan, her amount is typical, according to Federal Student Aid, the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation, with more than $150 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds provided each year to more than 13 million students.

Ava felt as if she were reliving her “poor” undergraduate years all over again.

Needless to say, this is not the life that college students dream about after graduation.

I believe that college graduations should be celebratory events, not triggers for your anxiety. I believe receiving a debt free post-secondary education should be an unalienable right granted to us along with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as mentioned in the Declaration of Independence.

How can you truly be independent today without a higher education?

View Channon Watkins’ blog THE GENERATIONAL DELAY.

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