Student Loans: Forgiven
The Surreal Feeling of Financial Freedom
Last night, on Thursday, February 17, 2022 at 9:36 PM, I received an email that will forever change my life. I was informed that my student loans, that for over 10 years of payments remained at over $54,000, have finally been forgiven. For the first time in 35 years, I get to experience life without crushing financial debt.
As a first-generation Mexican-American student, I had to mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, and academically persevere through life being low-income in America. Academics is where I excelled from a young age and they became the path to changing my life and financial trajectory. I was fortunate that in high school I knew exactly what I wanted to do for a career — help people as a mental health therapist.
I graduated #3 from my low-income high school, which guaranteed me admission to The University of Texas at Austin where I earned a bachelor’s in Psychology. Toward the end of my undergraduate career, I realized that a degree in Psychology was not enough to achieve my goal of becoming a therapist, which meant going to graduate school. Thanks to the guidance of a professor and mentor during my senior year, I stayed at UT Austin to pursue a masters in social work.
Upon graduation with a Master of Science in Social Work, I began my rewarding career in social work while shouldering over $54,000 in debt and no feasible way to pay it off anytime soon. Social work is one of many underpaid professions where the unofficial motto is “you don’t go into it for the money.” I am extremely proud and honored to be a social worker, however, no profession should require people to go into stifling debt only to step into grossly underpaying jobs.
I spent the first seven and a half years of my working for a phenomenal non-profit organization in Houston where I’m from. I worked alongside people who helped shape me professionally and personally. When I started, I wanted to stay with the organization for 30 years or longer. However, student loan payments, the cost of living, and providing financial support to my mom made it impossible for me to establish a secure financial foundation with a non-profit social work salary.