Student loan debt worries don’t stop when you finally reach graduation. In fact, that’s when the trouble really begins. You graduate and hope to get a job. You’re thinking about buying professional clothes, a better car, and maybe going on vacation, until you realize that your loan payments are eating up most of your paycheck. To make matters worse, many recent graduates end up adding to that debt through credit cards, car loans, mortgages and personal loans. Not including mortgages, the average American had $38,000 in debt in 2018, according to Northwestern Mutual’s Planning and Progress Study.

With all the programs available for teacher debt relief, you might think that student debt wouldn’t be as much of a worry for teachers. But that isn’t the case. The Stafford Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, the TEACH Grant, the Perkins Loan program and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program all come with stipulations and plenty of strings attached. Many preservice teachers don’t know about their existence or, on the other end, have accepted a debt relief program without reading the fine print and find themselves in added debt later on.

In the long term, debt has numerous personal consequences. The longer college graduates are paying off their debts, the less they are saving for retirement. In fact, according to the financial services firm, LIMRA, over 30 percent of people aged 55 to 64 still have education debt.

Student loan debt is detrimental to public education. Increases in student loan debt coupled with decreasing relief from the government prohibit many aspiring teachers from ever reaching the classroom. A lack of accessibility to higher education for prospective teachers leads a teacher deficit. Fewer teachers lowers educational quality.

If you are looking for resources to help you navigate your debt, check out one of NJEA’s Degrees Not Debt webinars at njea.org/dndwebinars.

In addition, New Jersey Communities United is advocating for more debt relief for educators. You can learn more at unitednj.nationbuilder.com/studentdebt.

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