University graduates facing tough economic conditions

Sarah was like any other girl in Staunton, Va. who wanted a better and normal life for herself. However, things did not turn out quite as she imagined. Although life was an existence she loved, she could not ignore the growing cloud of student debt that she has acquired when she enrolled for a master’s degree at 25. She was pregnant at this time and set on providing a better life for the baby on the way.

But paying back the student loan of $60,000 was like pouring money into a bottomless pit. Sarah knew that the only way to be debt-free was to acquire a steady job. She worked as a children’s librarian.

Growing up in rural Ohio, Sarah was simply a home-schooled kid who considered her local librarian a real hero. After acquiring an undergraduate degree in English from Malone University in Cantoned, Ohio, she moved to a farm near Harrisonburg, Va. She wanted to put her education to good use but contrary to what she wanted, Sarah settled for a job at a yarn-dyeing plant. She eventually moved to Staunton Va.

Fortunately, she got a job as a part-time librarian and took up a few extra shifts at a coffee shop. Later on, she discovered she was pregnant and realized she had to do better. Her undergraduate degree was not enough and she decided to enroll in a master’s program at the nearby Mary Baldwin University.

Working at the library and coffee shop, as well as attending part-time classes was no easy task. Her boyfriend had to help in taking care of their baby, Max during the day. Once Sarah returned home, he worked at a bakery overnight. She did not have to worry about school and leftover living expenses because her student loan came in handy.

Her hard work paid off and Sarah graduated with a 3.95-grade point average. Later on, life took its course and she broke up with her boyfriend. Needless to say, she had to solely fend for herself and her son.

To make ends meet, Sarah became also a teaching assistant and was eventually hired as a full-time library assistant in a neighboring town. After 18 months on the job, she had been promoted twice and developed a passion for presiding over toddler story times and teen reading books.

Without a master’s degree, Sarah would not be a librarian. However, it was a daily struggle to convince herself that it was worth the $280 per month she was paying in student loans. Without a reliable income, she would have to pay $780 on a monthly basis.

Granted, she may not enjoy everyday luxuries such as expensive clothes, weekend getaways, home WiFi or fancy dinners but she still has hope for the future. The debt is a constant worry for her but she has learned to adjust her lifestyle to pay it off. If she enrolls in a public service student loan forgiveness program, her remaining debt would be cleared but she is scared of disqualification from the program.

Sarah did everything possible to provide a comfortable life for her son. Even without the luxuries she still felt like she has all she needs in her son, Max. When she does not think about her impending debt, she feels lucky. She has a job she loves, lives in warm town and is the mother of an adorable boy. She is still hopeful that the future has a lot more in store for her.