Testimony before the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education
Presented by Alli Rigel
May 19th, 2015
When I first entered college, I was wearing the rose-colored glasses of the American Dream. Having grown up in varied degrees of poverty, supported by a single mother that carried the economic stigma of bankruptcy and ongoing student loans herself, I started working towards my med school ambition very early. I held a job consistently from the moment I turned 16, graduated Valedictorian, collected a handful of scholarships, and gained acceptance at a top university. Although I started at Miami, my mother got a job at Ohio State and so I transferred to get reduced tuition, an opportunity I could not afford to miss since my parents’ offered no assistance otherwise. I flourished at Ohio State, making the Dean’s List every semester in honors, juggling a biochemistry and sexuality studies degree, 20+ hours a week at my job, multiple internships, research and volunteering, among a longer list of activities. I would go several months in a row without having a Friday or Saturday off. I pinched pennies in every way I could manage. Many of my top-performing peers lacked debt, did not have to keep a job, and de-stressed with leisure spending every weekend. But I was convinced that hard work ethic was all they asked in the promise of the American Dream and I was determined to earn it.
The first major set of hits came my junior year. My mother quit her job without notice, especially trialling after I had given up my scholarship at Miami to transfer. In the transition from quarters to semesters, my advisor had failed to get me into the correct courses and I was told I would have to take a 5th year even though I had loaded myself with credits and had only 8-10 classes left. Entering this final year without any scholarships left or the reduced tuition, I was still doing really well. But late in summer, the joys of campus housing and slumlords resulted in the destruction of my home and belongings, costing me most of my savings and leaving me homeless for two full months. I was unable to afford my retake on the MCAT before the application cycle. The student loans I had been receiving were capped and several thousand dollars were denied last minute. Then, the company where I’d maintained a job for three years shut down with only a few weeks’ notice, and, despite my immediate re-employment, the company where I got a second job shut down with two days’ notice just a month later. When my laptop broke, i was almost offended by this series of bad luck. I used the last of my savings on medical school apps but came up short, unable to afford the majority of them. I used 100% of my Christmas money, the last of my loans, and money from odd jobs and turned them in just two days short of the due date. For those of you who know what rolling admissions are, this delay will prove a vital disadvantage as I wait for my acceptance letters. I finally have a job again but, in the coming months, I will need expensive business clothes, plane tickets and gas money for interviews across the United States, and thousands to place down a deposit.
I worked hard, chose a major with highly eligible job opportunities, and proved myself capable for four years of college and yet in the final year, the extreme stress of this loan cut and unpredictably bad financial conditions has left my application status compromised and my comfort nonexistent. As I file my exit interviews, the weight of my accumulated debt weighs on me and leaves me fearful of a future I worked way too hard for to fear. I’m very upset by the proposed state budget. While you give billions in tax cuts to the rich, you deny people like me the right to become hard-working, contributing citizens. By failing to give funds to higher education and financial aid, you commit to the lie of the American dream. You use your position as my representative to line the pockets of rich at the price of your honest, hardworking constituents that put you there.
Please make a different choice. Redirect the tax breaks for the rich, and invest in higher education. Invest in me, and others like me who want better for themselves and for their communities.
Previous Posts in This Series:
Ohio Student Association Testimony before the Ohio Senate on Student Debt: Part 1: https://academeblog.org/2015/05/29/ohio-student-association-testimony-before-the-ohio-senate-on-student-debt-part-1/
Ohio Student Association Testimony before the Ohio Senate on Student Debt: Part 2: https://academeblog.org/2015/05/30/ohio-student-association-testimony-before-the-ohio-senate-on-student-debt-part-2/