Forgive Me, Please

A few days ago, I logged into my student loans account to pay my monthly bill.  I was confused and surprised to find that my $80,000 balance was at $0. I spent twenty minutes attempting to figure out how my loans were paid off, gave up and went to bed.

That night I dreamt of men in suits being sprinkled with fairy dust and pressing the delete key for automatic student loan forgiveness across the world. It was a world not so heavy and down-trodden.  Each student and former student shed their lead vest with the words “Tuition Dept” splashed across the back.  They stepped into the sunlight and all was well in the world.  This of course was just a dream.

But, the next morning I checked my account again, expecting the fluke to be fixed, but my account was still at a zero balance.  I printed out my account info showing my balance and wondered if I was the lucky winner of an epic computer error.

I received my Masters degree in Theater Education. Chances are I will never make a great salary, though I have a huge wealth of knowledge and truly believe I can help change the world for the better.  I would like to work at a University, eventually, but even that does not pay well until tenure is granted. I work with youth and adults with disabilities through the arts. Music, theater, dance, writing, art, we do it all. I see an impact every day on the students my colleagues and I serve. I received a first rate education at Emerson College, yet I cannot afford to pay them back.

I grew up very poor. One of the only ways to lift myself out of that poverty was to attend college.  Now, again, I am poor, college education and all.

Every year tuition goes up. Unless you are part of the 1% or lucky enough to have parents who saved for you, student loans are a necessary evil.  In this country we have high level jobs that are not being filled. Perhaps if the government paid for student’s tuition there would be individuals to fill those positions.

Not every county charges tuition.  “France has 82 universities, teaching 1.5m students. All are public; none charges tuition fees…German universities now charge 1000 euro enrollment charge per year, regardless whether the students are from EU or non-EU countries” Meanwhile Americans can expect to pay $10,000 to $40,000 plus a year.  It seems like it should be a crime.

Later that day, after coming home from another exhausting but rewarding day at work, I received an emailed from Nelnet. It informed me that they were the proud owners of my debt.  Shit. No computer fluke. No epic but wonderful mistake. I was stuck once again under a sea of debt, unable to buy a car or a house, drowning. I stood from my computer chair and strapped my lead vest back on.

Often people ask me why I have chosen not to have children. My new answer, student loan debt.  Who would want to saddle their child with that? Certainly not I.

Enough is enough. It is time to forgive me, please. Forgive me for wanting a better life for myself. Forgive me for being poor. Forgive me for putting myself through college, working 40 hour weeks and keeping a 4.0 GPA. Forgive me for trying to better myself.  Just, forgive me, please.

Need forgiveness too?  You can ask for it here.


Image: Courtesy of via Economic Research – Federal Bank of St. Louis