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EDUCATIONAL Development Debt and Degrees: The True Cost of Higher Education Graduating from college can be a joyous occasion marred by the looming amount of debt incurred to obtain the coveted de-gree. With 40 million borrowers col-lectively racking up $1.2 trillion of loan debt with an individual average balance of $29,000, the financial bur-den can seem as if there is no light at the end of the repayment tunnel. Stu-dent loans are a necessary evil in a society that places, literally, a high-er value on higher education, paying degree holders on average $28,300 more than their counterparts with only a high school diploma. Essential-ly, the resulting outcome equates to students obtaining a degree in order to find a well-paying job only to have that job pay for education received. Student loan debt has become an important campaign issue for the up-coming 2016 presidential election and should have the attention of current students and alumni alike. But, stu-dent loan debt should be everyone’s concern as the magnitude of this kind of debt can have a ripple effect on the stability of our economy in general. In a recent report by CNBC, it was found that student loans are de-laying important milestones because of borrowers’ use of any available in-come to payback the debt they owe. Reasons ranging from delays in pur-chasing a home to starting a family are suspected to be the result of bor-rowers’ inability to save for such ma-jor life changes. Career choices are also being affected, causing students to shy away from jobs in social work and healthcare for higher paying jobs just to pay back their student loans. Being able to save for their chil-dren’s s70 DELTA SIGMA THETA SORORITY, INC. education or retirement can also seem impossible when borrow-ers default on payment’s on average $14,014 per borrower. Now, with a proposed Reduc-ing Education Debt Act on the table (since mid-January), there is some hope for borrowers. This act is indic-ative of the fact that lawmakers not only recognize the problem, but are calling for reforms to the structure of federal student loans. In the meantime, the National Ed-ucation Association has developed the “Degrees Not Debt” pledge that every borrower can take to ensure college is more affordable and not feel like they are drowning in debt. Delta’s National Program Planning and De-velopment Committee is urging every Delta to also take this pledge. The pledge consists of five easy steps: 1. Sign the pledge at www.nea.org/ degreesnotdebt to help Con-gress’ decision to increase need-based federal aid and federal aid to minority serving institutions. 2. Get a FSA ID! – The Federal Stu-dent Aid ID allows you access to your Federal Student Aid and loan records and allows you to apply for lower student loan repayment programs. Log in to any U.S De-partment of Education website. 3. Inquire about repayment plans that may lower your monthly payment: Educators and educa-tion support professionals may be eligible for lower payments. The most common are Income Based Repayment, Income Con-tingent Repayment and Pay as you Earn plans. 4. Check to see if you qualify for Public Service Loan Forgive-ness: Your loan could be forgiv-en in 10 years if you are work-ing in public service jobs. Go to https://studentaid.ed.gov/sites/ default/files/publicservice-em-ployment- certification-form.pdf to use the Employment Certifica-tion for Public Service Loan For-giveness form to keep track of your eligible employment and qualifying loan payments. 5. Promote the Degrees Not Debt campaign: Start and advance the conversation about the NEA’s campaign. Visit www.nea.org/de-greesnotdebt to view and down-load materials to help you and your chapter get started. The more people know about how to tackle their student loan debt, the more attainable the “Amer-ican Dream” will be for everyone. s BY BERNADINE WILLIAMS STALLINGS


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