| Florida Times-Union
Over the last decade the importance of education and earning degrees has put added pressure onto high school students and young adults. In 2019, Hispanics and Blacks were the two minority groups that were hit the hardest with a combined poverty rate at 34.4% and unfortunately were unable to recover in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Due to the poverty level continuing to grow and the decrease in available jobs the dream of earning a degree quickly fades over time which limits the career opportunities. In this country the “American Dream” is not attainable to the minorities that live here or immigrants to the United States. Acceptance to a college or a technical program for someone can mean the difference between remaining in poverty or earning a place amongst the middle class.
In this country the average student debt at the master’s education level is $71,300 with 73% of the funds being borrowed from a student loan at a high interest rate that does not begin until six months after graduation. For those that choose a vocational or trade school may end up spending up to $30,000 before completing their program which is paid with student loans as well.
Either decision means the student is not working in their career field and remaining in poverty due to the added debt incurred while in school. The interest rates for the student loans are high but when the loan agreements were signed the interest rate was not a concern because everyone believes after earning a degree or certifying in a trade the job that will hire them will help them to easily pay it off in no time.
Now, some of these programs offer grants but again many of the students are not in the position to pay the remaining balance in cash so, loans are taken out. Grants are not easily accessible or simple to request and the grant does not cover the full cost of their education. Schools easily offer student loans with a vague explanation of what this means and how long it will take to repay the loan.
Many minority students are first generation United States high school graduates and want to make their families proud especially, in Hispanic family households. We all want to accomplish something and bring success to our families. Earning some form of education is expensive and puts many of us in a worse financial position starting out our lives than we were before we pursued an education. No one ever tells high school students that education is expensive but to start applying for scholarships and grants early or to use the community college first. Many times, we drop out or never achieve any form of higher learning because we are faced with a choice which is to fall deeper into debt or find a job that will pay all the bills so no one has the stress or added debt. The local college could be an answer for many of students graduating high school.
Why is education not affordable? Why are student loans so easy to get but take forever to pay back due to the forever increasing interest rate? School counselors should offer solutions for students that have higher education goals. Minorities may not have advocates in the school systems that will help them look for ways to pay for their education. There has to be more options out there besides sports. Students should not have to depend on their athletic abilities in order to want and deserve more than debt.
Michelle Figueroa is a student from Our Lady of the Lake University.
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