Looking back, Jermecia Starks wishes she had done things differently — or had better guidance on how to pursue a college degree without becoming saddled with thousands of dollars in student loans.
“If I had a chance to do this all over again, I definitely would not have taken the loans, it wasn’t necessary. I would definitely do a two-year degree,” she says. “And in the end, I am trying to make a better life for my family where we have money saved up, just to be comfortable.”
The professional and part-time student’s hindsight is 20/20. Jermecia has been working on her undergraduate degree since 2009 and now owes $57,000. “When I hear that number, I just have chills,” she says. “That’s a large amount of money that I know I may not ever be able to pay.”
According to Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), in Fall 2017 there were 5.8 million students attending public 2-year institutions (community colleges). Of this number, 757,345 of the students were black. Compared to four-year institutions, the debt load for community college students is significantly less.
According to NPSAS Data, community college students tend to borrow significantly less than students at other institution types (the average for public two-year students is ~13,000, whereas the average for all students is close to $19,000).
Now, Jermecia is 21 credits away from graduation and struggles to make ends meet on her annual salary of $27,000. “I take that and calculate how I am going to pay the rent, the lights, the water, the Wi-Fi for the online classes and take care of [my daughter] Autumn and my brother and sister who are here in the household, as well.” Jermecia adds that she’s maxed out on the federal loan limit.
See more of Jermecia’s story by watching the video below.
Angela Rye’s BET NEWS primetime special, Young, Gifted & Broke: Our Student Loan Crisis, will air on BET on Sunday, September 15, 2019, at 8:00 p.m. ET.