Currently in my second year of my Masters program at San Francisco State University (SFSU), I'm finding it very hard, if not impossible, to finish my degree without drowning in debt. Being a San Francisco Bay Area native, I take great pride in California's state public university system; however, I am quickly losing faith in the Golden State.
In 2006, I graduated from SFSU with a B.A. in English Literature and soon after I was lucky enough to get hired at a startup internet advertising firm. Racking up around $5k in credit card debt and about $10k in student loan debt from my undergrad education, my goal was to get it paid off as soon as possible. Luckily, because my first job out of college paid me well, I was able to pay off the credit cards within two years and start to pay off my student loan. That all changed when I decided to go back to school to get my M.A. in Environmental Communication at the beginning of 2009 - just as the recession was beginning to take hold. With my little savings, and deciding to take out student loans for the duration of my M.A. degree, I again enrolled at SFSU to pursue a career in public service.
Jump ahead to now, and I am again swimming in debt. Along with the student loans from my undergrad, the credit cards that I have run up buying books and supplies, and the student loans I have maxed out for my M.A., I'm on track to have at least $40k of combined debt. I've searched high and low for grants and scholarships, but have yet to find any that I am viable for applying for. How is it that I am going back to school to better my community and there are no grants or scholarships available? I've taken on teaching a low-level college course, but will have to take a second job just to keep a roof over my head. I have a feeling that the retirement fund that I started building up while I was employed might get dipped into.
Politics and financial crisis aside, California needs to rethink its priorities. We are so busy worrying about what is happening now, that we are forgetting about our future leaders. My voice, dreams and goals are being stifled by my states inability to make education a priority. Instead, we are taking money from our schools and sending it to our prisons. We live in a culture where college is almost a requirement to be taken seriously and legitimately, yet it's still impossible for most to get there alone without going into massive debt. It's sad that I'm grateful I will only be $40k in debt when all is said and done. What about everyone else?
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