Student loan forgiveness is a slap in the face for millions


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In light of news that the Biden administration is debating student loan forgiveness, I’d like to tell you a bit about my experience with college debt.

Sitting in the financial aid workshop during college orientation at Northeastern University when I was 18, I was the only one paying attention. It’s not that I was particularly studious, it’s just that I had no one to talk to and no phone to play with. I ended up at Northeastern because they offered me half a scholarship and they had a study abroad relationship with the American University of Paris (AUP), the school of my dreams that I declined to attend after an admissions officer gave me his candid assessment: an undergraduate degree from anywhere wasn’t worth the amount of debt I would have to incur to graduate from high school. ‘TO P. She recommended checking out her school’s sister schools, which is how I ended up at Northeastern.

Sitting in the financial aid workshop, I had a realization: even with the generous scholarship offered, I would still incur an astronomical amount of debt. I estimated my pre-tax take home pay per month, then my loan amount based on the repayment schedule in front of me: half of my pre-tax dollars if I earned a starting salary of $35,000.

I was in a unique situation at 18: unlike almost everyone else in that financial aid workshop, I had no fallback options after graduation. My mother was dead, I was separated from my father. There was no “home” to return to and there was no financial safety net. I would need every penny of my salary to pay for rent, utilities, and other expenses after graduation. I got up, walked out of the shop, and found my guidance manager to find out how I could drop out of college before I even took a single class.


Kassandra Jones, 28, from New York, has been left with $165,000 in student loan debt, despite years of trying to mitigate the cost of her education.
(Courtesy of Kassandra Jones)

Instead, I applied to a local school, City College of New York, and was accepted there the month before classes started. I lived in a first-floor apartment infested with cockroaches and slept on an air mattress that never once stayed inflated the entire time I owned it, worked full-time while attending school, and often walked around with less $20 in my name. Once my utilities were turned off and I asked my friends to get the spaghetti out of their parents’ pantry to get me through payday to payday.

I would go on to transfer to Rutgers University, a public school in New Jersey, and continue to work full-time while attending classes, three grueling years spent there before graduating with a fraction of the debt. that I would have had if I had attended Northeastern.

To say that I sacrificed to obtain higher education without having debts is the understatement of the year. And the hard work didn’t stop there: I never missed a single payment on my loans until they were paid in full 10 years after graduation, even for months when I barely passed.

That hard work paid off: When I applied for my first jobs in 2008 during a recession, when not all of my classmates could beg for a job at Starbucks, I was able to use my work to earn me a job offer. My future boss asked me what set me apart from all the other recent graduates applying for the same job; and when I told her she was working 40 hours a week while attending school full time, she was sold.


There are millions of Americans like me: students (and their parents) who have made tough choices and worked hard to take responsibility for the debt we choose to incur in order to get a college degree and so increase our earning potential. There are millions more Americans who do not have a degree and should in no way be forced to pay for the choices of those who have gone into debt in exchange for a degree which often offers more opportunities for career.

Earlier this month, CNN reporting shockingly painted the full picture of the unintended ripple effects of the debt cancellation plan President Biden is considering, in effect admitting that the cost would be passed on to taxpayers and that forgiveness would do nothing for prospective students, leaving the question of college affordability unanswered.


While many in Biden’s base might selfishly applaud more free money from Uncle Sam, the political costs in the broader electorate aren’t on Democrats’ radar, but they should be. There are millions of Americans like me, for whom debt cancellation is an infuriating slap in the face after years of hard work and sacrifice. These are qualities that we encourage as American culture, and if Biden is successful, we will send a very different message to the next generation.



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