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We Want Degrees, Not Debt

My name is Alexis Ploss. I'm a sophomore at Manchester Community College in New Hampshire, studying to become a high school physics and astronomy teacher.

I have been so inspired by the teachers I've had. They come in day after day with great enthusiasm. Their passion to help their students become the best people they can be is what drives me to become a teacher.

This dream, however, comes at a cost. By the time I graduate, I will be close to $100,000 in debt.

We all know college costs are rapidly rising. We've seen the figure that the average college graduate leaves school with nearly $27,000 in student loan debt. And we all know that adults with a college degree are better off than those with a high school diploma.

But what do all of the numbers really mean?

I'm a low-income student. I come from a single-parent household, and to make matters worse, my father is permanently disabled. We live on a very tight income. These numbers mean that I will struggle to support myself financially once I get out of school. They mean that I will have the constant worry of having to pay back an astronomical amount of money.

Not only is this impacting me, it is impacting my father who had to take out Parent PLUS loans to pay for part of my education. It is painful for me to see my father take out loans to cover the cost of my education when he has so little.

I know I'm not the only one who worries about this.

Many of my peers are facing the same challenges. We are told we have to go to college to ensure our success, but we are never told about all of the financial anxiety that comes with that. This isn't an issue that is just affecting future teachers. This is an issue that is facing a majority of college students, no matter what major. We want degrees, not debt.

Like so many other pre-service teachers, I find myself worrying about my future career. We are facing the dilemma of doing the work that we are passionate about or "selling out" to get a higher salary job to help repay loans faster. We should not be sentencing our college graduates to this reality.

Our nation needs more passionate teachers who will touch the lives of our children. I know so many students who won't give up on their dream to teach, and I am incredibly grateful for their dedication. We need to work to make this reality more positive. Though the debt I'm accruing is monumental, I stay hopeful for the future because there are people all over this country, including so many of my NEA Student Program colleagues and fellow union members, working to help make college affordable for students everywhere. 

It doesn't have to be like this. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren pointed out in her propsed legislation to lower interest rates on student loans, big banks borrow at the very low rate of 0.75 percent. What have they done to help our economy recover and ensure success for future generations?

It doesn't make sense to me that we cut banks a break on the backs of students who are struggling to afford the education they need. We're the ones that can actually make a difference.

Can I count on you to stand up for the future leaders of America? It only takes a moment to contact your congressperson to tell them how important it is to lower student loan interest rates.

Alexis is a member of the NEA Student Program.



Tell Congress to stop the student loan rates from doubling.


Are you one of the millions of Americans affected by student debt? Whether you’re a student, a parent or an educator, please share your story.


Learn more about the NEA Student Program.