Student debt weighs on millennial voters

Driving miles from Long Island to Brooklyn, middle school teacher Rebecca Campbell, 29, brings in extra supplies for her students in one of New York’s toughest neighborhoods. She teaches at one of the two bottom public schools in the city where 100 percent of the students receive free lunch and 80 percent are in temporary housing. It’s considered a Title 1 school with students are at risk of falling behind academically. 

She receives a stipend of $250 to buy supplies for each school year. She also spends an additional $400 to $500 a year buying extra notebooks, ordering teaching software, resources to build her class curriculum, printing paper, etc. Campbell came across the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and thought it would help take the load off her loans. The program would allow her loans to receive forgiveness after 120 qualifying payments.

“$30,000 is a lot of money to be in debt on top of other student loans, and it’s rare to find opportunities where teachers get scholarships or help from their jobs to go to school like other professions,” she said.

The Federal Reserve Bank Of St. Louis reports student loan debt at $1.53 trillion. President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget proposal wants to do away with subsidized loans and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Republican control of Congress after the midterm elections on Nov. 6 may leave Campbell and others unable to receive loan forgiveness, increasing the debt to another level.

Campbell worries not only about herself but teachers in other states. Most teachers in the south make up to $27,000 a year and still have high debt. Campbell has been an independent voter since turning 18. She has decided to vote for the Democrats since she says they have a consistent interest in where she lives.

“Cost of living for teachers may be different but the interest rates on student loans are the same,” said Campbell. At least offer an opportunity for us lower middle class and those at the poverty level to pay off our student loans.”

A quick look at 2018 student debt

Data: , Graph: Lauren Whyte

Robeson Hilton, financial advisor of AXA Advisors, said subsidized loans allow people to go to college and not have accrue interest.

Subsidized loans differ from the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The U.S. Department of Education pays interest on these loans while the borrower is in school, during their six-month grace period, or if they are in a deferment period.

“For a student if they are going to have subsidized loans it’s very advantageous to them because the whole point of going to go to school is to be able to get a good paying job,” said Hilton. “And while you are in school, you don’t have a good paying job.”

According to Hilton, his clients contribute 20 to 30 percent of their paychecks to loans, and it will affect the next generation’s ability to invest and save for a future for themselves.

Video still: Samuel Eliacin; Caption Raymond Mora

Student debt impacting society

According to, the average student debt in 2017 was $37,172. However, Pew Research Center reports that the median for bachelor’s degree holders owed $25,000, which is much less than postgraduates who owed $45,000.

A college graduate needs at least a starting salary of $47,000 to pay it off if they are single. Ashley Oken, 26, who paid off subsidized loans as an undergrad at CUNY York College and is still paying loans while attending grad school at Fordham University, is upset about this proposal from Trump.

“Subsidized loans lift the burden off of so many millennials who are struggling to make a life for themselves due to the debt that loans put them in,” said Oken.“It’s another way to put poorer people further into a hole of debt just for wanting to get an education while the richer people continue to thrive on their wealth.”

Meanwhile, Craig Ferrantino, financial advisor of Craig James Financial Servicessaid students aren’t properly prepared in high school to understand the expense of college tuition.

“We have students that wanna go to college, signing documents that have no idea what to do with it,” said Ferrantino.“It’s not insulting to students, it’s just that high school doesn’t prepare you for the debt you are gonna take on.”

These rash decisions from students have cost them so much to pay it off. It would get worse if the Democrats don’t win.

“Student loans, the way they are now it’s like buying a house,” said Hilton. “I see it getting worse in the next four or five years because if you take away subsidized loans from people you are just going to have more debt.”