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Thursday, April 9, 2020

Opinion

First-generation students shoulder burden of student loans


The average student loan debt among graduating students increased from $24,634 in 2009 to $29,900 in 2019. Combined with proliferating interest, this debt places intense financial stress on many first-generation students. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

The average student loan debt among graduating students increased from $24,634 in 2009 to $29,900 in 2019. Combined with proliferating interest, this debt places intense financial stress on many first-generation students. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

When my sister and I were growing up, our parents always told us they wanted us to go further than they did. They wanted us to become professionals and achieve what they believed was the American Dream.

My parents migrated to the country in the midst of the Civil War in El Salvador and still managed to clothe and feed us. They gave us the best life they could offer. They ingrained ambition into us and made everything feel possible. 

First-generation students often feel the pressure to exceed the success of their parents, many times without the financial literacy needed to fully understand how debt could hinder our ability to establish the stability we seek for ourselves.

The grand total of federal and private student loan debt exceeded the amount of auto loans in 2011, reached $1.5 trillion in 2018 and is expected to hit the $2 trillion mark by 2024 if these trends continue.

This is unacceptable.

While UH does give students various resources to help with academic success and mental health, there should be more available to students to help ensure they minimize their student loan debt. More informational seminars by the University could help teach financial literacy to the student population and allow them to make smart decisions.

Education is seen as my token to wealth and stability. My parents believed I could be rich if I got my education and worked hard. A college degree has always been an expectation my parents have had for me, they believed it would help me achieve all they’ve imagined for me.

It made dreams of someday buying them a house feel attainable. 

Millennials are deemed less interested in owning homes when, according to Forbes, they’re actually unable to purchase houses due to various financial challenges, which include student debt.

With crippling debt and proliferating interest, it begins to feel implausible to provide my parents with a home when it is out of reach not only for myself but for many in the same circumstances.

In the 2017-18 academic year, the average debt per bachelor’s degree recipient was $29,000. With the weight of debt on their shoulders, students are often blocked from establishing themselves until long after they’ve walked the stage. 

For many first-generation students, this is the real cost of our education. It is a payment that binds us at our feet, leaving us unable to move forward and may delay our goals for the rest of our lives.

Most first-generation students feel the pressure to succeed. Even though there is the possibility my life might change because of the high price of college, I’m fortunate to have chosen a university equipped with various resources for first-generation students.

Not only are there significant scholarships offered through UH, but organizations and resources through Counseling and Psychological Services that help deal with the pressure and stress we often feel. 

UH has provided a pivotal support system for first-generation students, as there is a large number of us here. Although, I may never really be able to foresee what my education will really cost me in the years to come.

Much like our parents, we will be the pioneers in creating a better foundation for generations to come.

Bryana Torres-Martinez is a journalism freshman who can be reached at [email protected]

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