Scholarslip: A documentary about the student debt crisis
Student loans the crushing debt The cost of a college education is rapidly rising, far more than the cost of inflation more than even the cost of healthcare, but I don’t hear a peep about it in the media The policy of student loans is a total failure, I mean a trillion dollars of debt? The colleges need to justify what it is they’re doing with our tuition dollars and our taxpayer dollars It is becoming more and more and more expensive to go to college. You are seeing the potential of an economically lost generation. And the average debt for a college senior right now is over twenty five thousand dollars. It’s time for congress to stand for the rights of student loan borrowers. Because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college. I was sitting and waiting for my AP psych test and I was freaking out everybody’s super nervous My phone rings and I’m like, “Oh it’s my dad, he’s totally going to make me feel better.” He’s says, “Where do you want your stuff it’s in the back of my truck” and I said “What do you mean?” And he said, “Well Josie” (my stepmom) “told me to pick you or her so where do you want your stuff?” And I was like “Oh. OK, I feel like crap now.” So I was thinking, “What am I going to do?” It was always like you’re going to college no matter what, even if you have to scrape gum off the ground you’re going to college. So what I decided I’m going to go to a 4-year university, I want to go a big school. It wasn’t until later I realized, “Oh my gosh I’m paying for this.” I have a two thousand dollar loan, a four thousand dollar loan a three thousand dollar loan and then the eighteen thousand dollar loan. And then I have a school direct plus that’s like two thousand dollars. Federal loans I think since the late seventies you haven’t ever been able to declare bankruptcy. That’s across the board on federal loans. But until 2005 you could declare bankruptcy on private loans. The moment that they put the bankruptcy protection in, schools had no incentive to keep tuition low they started to go sky-rocketing out of control because they were backed by the federal government and they would always get their money, no matter what. It’s different than any other debt that we have, you can discharge your credit card debt your home loans, your medical debt; you cannot get rid of your student debt. It sticks with you forever. I would like to see tuition freezes until we can figure out where –you know really open up the budgets– and see where money is going. If you paid more teachers to have smaller classes, people would learn so much more and the teachers would care more. So they have plenty of money but it’s just not to subsidize the cost of education for students. I don’t think the students want it Every school wants to compete with each other to be the most prestigious, the most beautiful school, when in fact students just want a simple education for as cheap as possible. If you’ve got three classes and it’s four hundred students each I’m sure you’re not like, “Oh let me go through everbody’s test.” But if you just put something into it, you know, put in what we put in. We really care about our grades so for you to just push us to the side well then why am I even here? Does the money that students put in to their tuition, do they actually get it back? If you look at tuition between 1979 and 2010, it’s increased 175 percent in private colleges and 220 percent in public universities and colleges. The only problem is the ratio of professors to students has stayed the same at 7 per 100 However the number of administrators has increased from 3 to a hundred to 6 to a hundred. So it appears that a lot of this extra money that students pay for tuition is not going into the classroom to improve their education but is going for administrators. Several years ago I was holding up hearing approval to build a fitness center at Northern Arizona University, because they were going to charge the students three or four hundred dollars a year to pay for the fitness center. A gym. Like a spa on campus. And I said, “You know what? You want to build your fitness center then charge a fee for those who want to use it and have that pay for the fitness center. Don’t make every student on the campus pay this.” And the administrators tell me, “Well we have to be competitive. We don’t have a fitness center we can’t get all these extra students.” I said, “Why do you want all these extra students? So you can build more buildings and come here looking for more money and increase tuition more to pay for them?” It’s all money all the time. I feel like– it sounds weird– but if you want to get an education money shouldn’t be a part of it. We would probably have a better campus not because it’s beautiful but because we’ve got smart people. You shouldn’t worry about how it looks, you should worry about if it’s actually doing what it’s supposed to. We’re trying to grow both the west and polytechnic campus because there’s the opportunity for growth on those two campuses with the expansion of residence halls and the new residence halls and the new rec center. You see my financial aid you look at it with your own eyes. You see how much I’m coming from, how much I make, how much I don’t make and how much is in my bank account. You literally have the paper in front of you and you ask a kid who doesn’t have a job who has a thousand dollars in her bank account that’s in her savings and like two dollars in my checking account and they say, “OK so we want you to pay thirty-six thousand a year.” My loans will continue to grow faster than any salary or wage ever can. It has cost me my family, it has cost me my friends, it has cost me two potential marriages, and of course I’ve shied away from having children because I simply can’t afford it. I currently make eight dollars and fifty cents an hour as a cashier at Ace Hardware. I’ll be forty-five thousand dollars in debt by the time I graduate. I am freshly enraged about the state of our education system in the United States. I just called the U.S. Department of Education regarding my bill that I pay on every month and I have been for the last decade. After I graduate, I think I will have about forty-thousand dollars in debt. Facing turning sixty-two and knowing I have another thirty years to pay on my student loans is daunting. My goal you could say right now is to hopefully graduate with two degrees in psychology and global health, get an MBA with emphasis in hospital management. I’m an administrative intern for Maricopa Integrated Health System. I learn things like payroll scheduling, scheduling protocol, working with patients, meeting doctors– things like that. I kind of get a feel for exactly I want to do. “Thank you so much.” Selling tickets over here I work for the athletic department at Arizona State University
“If you want to buy a ticket I can sell you a ticket over here” I manage five houses and I also make sure that groceries and all day to day plans are met. When I was actually left alone, it was a big shock. My first semester I kind of cried a lot. Not just because they were gone but because there was so much pressure on me. Every morning I had to wash my own clothes make my own food, do pretty much everything by myself. Alone. I think of myself as a Dad. They are my children, because every single week I am responsible for every single thing that happens inside this house and outside this house. I have to make sure that my sister gets her books that she needs for her assignments. So that they are done every single week. I want to be an important person someday. I want to make some kind of a change.
My parents always wanted me to be a doctor they always wanted me to have a big degree. They always wanted me to be the best person I can possibly be. When I think about it in my situation right now, it’s really hard to focus on always school, school, school. Even though it’s a really important thing.
I’m working, I’m studying I need to get good grades. You need to have a good G.P.A. when you get out of undergrad because it’s important in your job field. Graduation rates are highest at the highest income levels. So regardless of your aptitude, if your family is making a hundred and fifty thousand dollars and above in family income, your chances of graduating at the undergraduate level– seventy-five percent. If you’re under thirty thousand dollars it’s twenty-five. Just to be honest, I would not be able to do anything if it wasn’t for the scholarship. It’s my lifeline right now. It means everything to me. If someone hears my story, one of my teachers hears my story and she says “Why are you in class? You should be out working or something.” Study and get A’s. You want to get a great job? Leave college with a G.P.A. that’s high. I don’t know what the answer is I don’t want to deny anybody the right to go to college, but I think everybody should understand what they’re getting into and what they’re going to leave with. It’s not the dream that college was in the 1960’s when I went to college when it was a true ticket to prosperity. Things have changed. My loans me have caused me to have to fight every single day to be able to pay my bills. If I didn’t have that student loan, I would be able to go out in search for a new job.
I think we need to listen to the millions because we need to be heard. I don’t think it’s fair that education is placed on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to being recognized as something that everyone needs. They haven’t been able to help me in any way. I looked into their hardship plans and their disability deferment plans and for one reason or another I was always ineligible and that begs the question: If someone with brain cancer is ineligible for the hardship program then who the hell is eligible for the hardship program? I’ll definitely be over a hundred thousand dollars in debt by the time I graduate so I’ll be paying that off for the rest of my life. When I was a junior, my mom got diagnosed with cancer. Junior year I’d be going to school and I would drive to Mayo Clinic after school to spend time with my mom, that’s just what my daily routine was. So then my senior year came… OK. So you know those nightmares you used to have of, well I always had them, of both my parents dying? That was the biggest nightmare that I’d ever have and that my mom would die too that was the scariest thing for me to go through. Before I graduated– it was April 29th– I had my whole family out there and she had gone through a couple surgeries, emergency surgeries, because she had internal bleeding from one of her biopsies. So my whole family flew out there and everybody got to say their goodbyes and my sister and I were there in the room when she took her last breath. I wanted her to go knowing that I could achieve what I wanted and that I was going to be OK. That’s just what I kept repeating to her, “I’m going to be fine. You need to be OK.” I had to pack up in a few days and put it in storage, everything. And that’s when I was living in the dorms that was the hardest time because I didn’t have anywhere to go. I didn’t have any place to call home. I didn’t have parents. It was all bad. And that was the first time I was like, “You know I need to get a job I need to be able to support myself. I’m never ever going to put my family through what I was put through when it comes to finances. I’m making my life now. This is my life and I just need to do it. I didn’t question can I not make it through school? Can I not finish? Do I have to go work? It was just second nature, I needed to just do it. And I need to come out of it on top and be an inspiration to those that have no idea. In reality I work thirty two plus hours a week at one location, one store, you know, one job. I started as a sales associate, then a keyholder then a floor supervisor, now I’m assistant manager. So I’ve worked my way up but that’s pretty much the top that I can get. So balancing the thirty hours of work that I do, over thirty hours, and then my fifteen hours of credit-hours that I’m in school, I am always just staying up late at night at two o’clock in the morning, pulling all nighters. I am an intern for marketing for ASU athletics so I do the football and basketball games, which is so fun. I do on-site promotions making sure that all of our corporate sponsors who have booths set up or onsites set up that everything is going OK. I’m willing to look at it as, I’m willing to sacrifice this time in my life to school, to work, for happiness in a couple years. Everyday I think about money. When I wake up it’s about money. It’s just stressful, I get paid on Friday and I’m living on forty dollars for the next couple of days, which is, substantial. I’m going to make it through, but I don’t want to feel like that anymore. I want to be able to know that I’m going to have a career that’s going to give me something other than living paycheck to paycheck. It’s just one after another of something I have to pay and it’s hard. You may have to work, you may have to take out loans, you may have to accelerate your program of study. The federal government only allows x number of dollars to go to students in federal assistance or grant assistance. Those are the rules. It’s increasingly seeming that students who went to school are actually in more trouble than students that didn’t because they don’t have that hundred thousand debt on their back when they graduate. My education is just something that I have to do. It’s something that needs to happen. I don’t think that I’ve ever hesitated and been like me dropping out of school– well I’m going to have to start paying my loans back, so why not just stay in school? Pell grants. Student loans. What these have done is they’ve allowed college administrators to jack up the tuition. It’s a very simple process. If these loans weren’t being subsidized at dirt cheap prices, and if students weren’t getting all these grants, then the administrators wouldn’t be able to charge ridiculous rates for tuition they’d have to be competitive and charge lower rates. The bottom line is, throughout the United States, there has been an erosion of state support for higher education at public colleges and universities and that oweness that responsibility has shifted to students. Three years ago when we look at that the state’s budget cuts about two-hundred and sixty-five million of those budget cuts came in higher education. I feel like it’s almost like a company it’s almost like a business. You’re education has turned into business rather than being– you know, you should be looked up to because you’re going to school and you’re doing the right thing.
And I almost feel like I’m getting punished with these bills and with these late fees and everything that comes. Half of the stuff that adds up to your tuition I have no idea where it goes, you know what it adds up to technology fee, what does that even mean? Schools have become degree factories and not academia places of higher education where great minds come together to talk. It shouldn’t be like a company, it shouldn’t be like I’m a machine, it shouldn’t be like I’m just everybody else, it should be more personal it should be more hands-on. Why are you not helping me? Why aren’t you helping the other around me? When it comes down to it, I can do it, but those people that really can’t, there’s people in worse situations than I’m in and they’re in school. But why won’t you even talk to us? Why won’t you even have the dignity to sit with me one on one and tell me the truth and tell me the answers and tell me why this why that. If it’s out of their control then so be it and there’s nothing that we can be angry for, but we don’t know that because we haven’t heard anything. It’s not the same system it was ten, twenty years ago that a lot of people remember.
We’re coming out now in so much debt that it’s difficult to fathom. I can hardly afford to live on my annual salary and pay back my student loan debt. Education may have set my mind free, but my student loan debts have shackled me for life. I earned this and right now, all it is, is a piece of paper. It’s not getting me any jobs or anything. They need to realize that this is crushing the “American dream” for people and it’s going to hurt. We have no idea what the effect of so many student debtors will be ten years from now on the American economy and that’s what I’m afraid of. So when you go out there with your degree, because everybody else has a degree, you get less money or instead of being a barrister with your law degree, you are a barista at Starbucks. That’s the way it goes. And that’s the reality of the situation. As a country, what do we value in education and how does that help us be a better society? Be a better society for this state, this country and actually the world. They could take away everything, my room, my hair, shave my head I don’t care, but you can’t take away my education. Education is the one thing they can never take away. They can cut off your leg, your arm but they can’t take away your education. If we want to be successful, I think that we need to have educated young men and women to run this country.