Student loans touch nearly everybody, no matter your profession. Doctors, lawyers, and liberal arts and STEM students of all stripes rely on student loans to help them earn degrees that will allow them to do the job that they want to do.
Of course, teachers also rely on student loans to earn the degrees that allow them to educate our nation’s next generation. Unfortunately, as a society we don’t value the work that teachers do anywhere near how much we should. They are underpaid, overworked, and constantly looking for new ways to adapt to new regulations that change how they need to work.
Earlier this year, NPR conducted a survey aimed at teachers who have student loans (2,000 of em!), and just today they released the stories of a handful of the respondents to that survey:
“Teachers have one of the lowest-paid professional jobs in the U.S. You need a bachelor’s degree, which can be costly—an equation that often means a lot of student loans. We’ve reported on the factors that make this particular job even more vulnerable to a ton of debt, including chronically low teacher pay, the increasing pressure to get a master’s degree…”
The picture they paint is a bleak one. Faced with rising costs of a college degree, rising cost of living, less support at the local, state, and federal levels, and little to no compassion from the general public, it’s no small wonder that we even have people willing to become teachers in the first place.
Why You Should Care
I mean, basic compassion is always a good reason to care about the plight of others. But if you need something beyond basic human decency to care, consider the following points:
- Teachers are responsible for educating the youth of our nation. This included you at one point in your life, includes your loved ones, and may one day include your future children. Anyone who is taxed with the role of raising our nation’s future should be able to command a bit of compassion.
- A college degree is required for becoming a teacher. Often, a master’s degree is required. These degrees cost money to earn, which for a great deal of individuals means taking out student loans. As the cost of college continues to rise, the cost of becoming a teacher will only rise with it. What will we as a society do when we can no longer convince people to become teachers because the pay doesn’t justify the cost of the degree that you’ll need to earn to become one?
- We currently have an administration that places little importance on student aid and making college more affordable. In fact, Trump is considering ending the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program around which many public servants (including teachers) had planned their lives.
If you were a teacher, are a teacher, plan to become a teacher, love a teacher, or have benefited from public education in this country, then it is your duty to be outraged when stories like this one hit the news. No one deserves to live in destitution because of student loans. The fact that when a teacher says, “I can’t afford to make my student loan payments and my rent payment” they are answered with “Have you considered getting a second job?” should rightly disgust the whole of America.
What You Can Do
If you’re just an average American looking for ways to change how teachers are valued, you need to show the current administration that you value the work that teachers do for society. Call and write your senators, and make sure you use your vote to put people in charge who understand why it’s important to make sure teachers are fairly compensated.
If you’re a teacher that is currently struggling with paying your student loans, first of all, I want to say thank you for everything that you’ve done and that you do. You should look into the paths to student loan forgiveness that are currently available to you and, if you’re really struggling, select an income-based repayment plan that will allow you to devote more of your income to actually living a comfortable life and less to paying down your student loans.
And if you’re Betsy DeVos, you can just stop.
Sources and More Details
Take a look at the profiles published by NPR (first link below) and some of the key takeaways from their survey (second link below):