Skip to main content

Huge Burden Lifted


I graduated from college with loans, but now they'll be forgiven.

Maria Morales Student Debt Relief copy cropped

By Maria Morales

Ever since a teacher of mine in elementary school took the time and care to help catch me up academically—due to my first language being Spanish rather than English— never giving up on me, enabling me to succeed, I've wanted to give another child the same priceless, patient, humane gift as a teacher myself.

My parents were born in Mexico and immigrated to California before I was born, and my mom (especially) always wanted me to go to college. And I did! And I graduated! (just last year in 2023) It was a huge accomplishment for my parents, but of course for me too. I felt so proud of myself. It's different when it's you doing it.

So that's the good news. The not-so-easy news was that graduating for me required financial loans. Most people don't know this, but becoming a teacher requires paying for ongoing credentialing courses, recurring testing, and clearances—beyond paying for a college degree. The costs add up.

So I took out loans, and I have always worked, in addition to being a full-time student (to pay for usual expenses beyond college), as an aide and then as a specialized paraprofessional. I also took one year off from college just to earn money. As such I've been a member of SEIU Local 99, which represents educational workers, since 2017.

Last week I attended a White House event on the Biden administration's student debt cancellation program—a program that will relieve me of my own loan burden. President Biden said something that spoke to me: To afford the basics of life like housing, which is especially so expensive in California, you need a well-paying job, and to secure a well-paying job, you need to be educated. Higher education is indeed a pathway to the middle class, and it cannot, should not, be a barrier to opportunity!

But most people can't afford higher education. So people take out loans. And here’s something I’ve come to learn that many people might not realize: once you have loans it’s then difficult to apply for other loans to help you fulfill your dreams, like applying for a mortgage. So it's a cycle. Once my loan has been forgiven, I'll be able to save much more money and then aim for stable housing costs like applying to buy a home.

While eventually I will have my student loans forgiven, for now I’m a part of the President’s new SAVE plan. The SAVE (Saving on a Valuable Education) program will help make my student loan payments more affordable, unlike some other IDR (Income-Based Repayment) plans. On the SAVE program, my required monthly payment is based only on earnings above 225% of the poverty guideline. Eventually, the monthly payments would be 5% to 10% of our income instead of the 10% to 20% of other plans. This is all thanks to having a President who supports and champions working people, not one who tries to keep us down.

Thank you President Biden for promising to fix the student loan system, for being determined from your first day in office, and for following through on your commitment!

Higher education is a pathway to the middle class.
It cannot be a barrier to opportunity!