More specifically, let’s talk about how college is sold to poor kids as a ticket out of poverty. Family, friends, teachers, advisers, and especially college recruiters push the “got to college to get out of poverty” line. We’re told if we go to college and get that degree we’re guaranteed a good job with good pay and we’ll never worry about money again.
Nobody tells you about the loans. Nobody tells you about scholarships and grants. Hell, nobody mentions FAFSA. You wanna know how I found out about the scholarships I got? I spent hours researching. You wanna know how I found out about FAFSA? During one of those many days and nights spent researching.
I didn’t know you were able to lower the amount of aid money you got (including loans) after FAFSA sends the approval letter. Nobody really sits you down to explain the interest on those loans. Yeah, it’s there in tiny print on those forms but what 18/19 year old is really gonna read or understand that?
What 18/19 year old who grew up in poverty is gonna give up refund checks? What 18/19 year old really understands that you’re getting the money now but you’ll pay it back with a shit ton of interest later? So you take the money, work your ass off for the degree, and when you finally graduate guess what? That good job with good pay you were promised? It’s not there.
Those loan payments are about to start up and that cushy job is nowhere to be found. A lot of people are willing to take you on for unpaid internships or underpaid “entry level” jobs, but you’re no closer to leaving poverty. If anything you just dug the hole deeper, but it’s ok! You have a really nice plaque on the wall that says you’re super smart! So what to do? Maybe, you think, if you go back and get a higher degree you pull a better paying job.
So you start the cycle all over again. More work, more time, more stress, and more loans. What do you have to show for it? Another pretty plaque that says you’re smart and another underpaid job that barely covers bills. Here’s the bit where a lot of people, so desperate to believe they’ve “made it”, start living in a fantasy land.
They think since they have a job, an apartment, a running car, food in the fridge, a couple of degrees, and some credit cards that they’re “not poor”. Nevermind the fact that they’re a month or two behind on that car payment, can barely make rent each month, and definitely reached the credit limit on at least two of those cards.
They’re totes “not poor” and so much better than the lazy bums on welfare. They’ve pulled themselves up by their bootstraps! They’ve “made it” out of poverty! They’re “middle class”! It’s totally possible!
You’re still poor. You’re a paycheck or two away from homelessness and repossession. You may have changed addresses, but you damn sure haven’t changed class. The worst thing about those people, the ones who refuse to believe they’re poor, are they become the #1 sellers of “The Dream”. They’ll tell every single kid in their former hood that all they have to do is go to college and all their problems will be solved.
I’m not saying college is completely useless. I’m saying that in the state it’s in now, it’s not worth it for a lot of people.