My name is Jay’Riah Thomas- I am from Sacramento, California (born and raised), and I am 26 years old. I currently serve as an appointed state council member for Governor Gavin Newsom under the State Independent Living Centers (SILC). I am also a member of the California Youth Advisory Board for Young Invincibles.
In 2014, I earned my bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies from the illustrious Spelman College, located in Atlanta, Georgia, at the age of 19, becoming the youngest college graduate at the institution. While attending Spelman, like many other students around the country, I had to take out public and private student loans to continue my education. Not too long after, I decided that I wanted to give back to my community of Sacramento and begin teaching. I worked in education for five years and decided to go back to school to earn my master’s degree. I was a full-time graduate student attending the University of the Pacific (UOP) in Stockton, California, and a full-time fourth-grade teacher in Elk Grove, California. While at UOP, I applied for student loans once again, but I was denied due to my inability to pay for my previous federal student loans. I was told that I had 48 hours to vacate my on-campus housing and return to school when I could afford it. But I didn’t let that deter me – with the help of my village and grace of God – I was able to receive a private student loan that allowed me to stay at UOP and earn my Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in “Curriculum & Instruction” in 2018 which have now totaled my student loans to be $157,000.
Before the COVID-19 global pandemic, I was in a repayment plan, but I have not been able to do so after losing my job as a result of the ongoing recession. Dealing with my student loan servicer has always been a hassle. I’m never sure who to communicate with since my loans have been transferred to other companies multiple times. The repayment plan set in place is also wholly unreasonable, given my monthly income.
I have faced housing insufficiency and homelessness. I have been kicked out of school twice. I am unable to purchase a home or car. I have been denied from specific jobs due to a credit check. I am unable to enroll in a doctoral program to earn my PsyD in Forensic Psychology. Debt affects every part of my life.
Jay’Riah Thomas is a member of Young Invincibles’ California Youth Advisory Board.