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Independence Day?

By Tamika Butler

As a July 5th baby, Independence Day is one of my least favorite times of year. Imagine growing up as a kid and never having anyone at your summer birthday pool parties.  In my young tender years my pool was always empty.  My insensitive friends had the nerve to go on vacations with their families and not prioritize my day of birth.

For the record, I don’t really hate the Fourth of July.  As a military kid who grew up spending most of my Fourths in other countries, I regarded it as one of the best holidays.  Fireworks. Fairs. Parades.  It’s about our independence and everyone having the freedom and opportunity to live the American dream.

It seems like these days the American Dream and independence are two elusive goals for members of our generation to attain. Why? Two words.  Student Loans.  Okay, maybe four words.  Student Loan Interest Rates.

Every year, college becomes less affordable. The impact of these cost issues are profound—fewer students attend and graduate from college than otherwise would, and more students and families are burdened by debt they may never be able to pay back.

Critically, the burden of higher costs falls particularly hard on students from low-income backgrounds, young African-Americans and young Latinos. Student loans are on the minds of young Americans across the country now more than ever.  This year’s graduating class is the most indebted class ever. On average, students who had to take out loans for school graduated with approximately $26,000 of loans.

On July 1, our policymakers did not act and millions of young adults were left asking, WTF Just Happened to My Subsidized Student Loan?! What did the failure of Congress and the President mean to your loans?  Well, the interest rate for subsidized Stafford Loans just doubled.  And guess what?  Now our lawmakers are on break for Independence Day.  So while fireworks are going and we’re celebrating our freedom, young adults are going to feel the sting of increased interest rates.

There’s still time to retroactively change the rate back, but it’s pretty unbelievable that we even got to where we are today.

I know a lot of people think that young adults are in debt because we’re taking our loan money and using it for spring break immersion trips to learn about new cultures.  You know the ones you see on MTV to exotic locations like Cancun and Miami.  But that really isn’t the case.  In fact, we aren’t living in our parent’s world of higher education.  The times when working the summer—complete with time off for a long Fourth of July weekend vacation—meant you could save enough money to pay for next year’s tuition are gone!

You don’t have to love the Fourth of July to know that all young adults should have a fair shot at living the American Dream.  The first step for many of us is gaining independence from crushing student debt.

Tamika blog pic

You can get involved by looking up your elected officials and telling them how you feel about student loans.  Check back next week, when we tell Congress to fix their very big mistake, and again in the Fall when we launch our Student Impact Project, all about training young adults how to fight for college affordability.  Young Invincibles is taking on this fight and will continue long after the dust settles from this last round of fireworks.  Will you join us?