Testimony before the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education
Presented by Liz Marasco
May 19th, 2015
Honorable Chairman Duffy and members of the committee,
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this morning. My name is Liz Marasco, and I am graduate of Ohio State University. I graduated summa cum laude with a 3.95 GPA, fluency in another language, and approximately $31,000 in student loan debt.
Whether or not I would go to college was never a question. I was never presented with alternatives to higher education. My parents, in their boundless love and good intentions, helped me get to that point but were unable to help me pay for it. When I was invited to join the diving team at Penn State University, without a scholarship, I had to say yes. Saying no to college and collegiate athletics at a prestigious Big Ten school was an absurd notion. I blindly took out loans, placing pieces of the financial puzzle together to realize my own and my parents’ dreams. In the hazy pre-collegiate bliss, principals and interest percentages were minute details, formalities that needed to be exchanged before I could just go to college already.
I continued to add to my education tab as I moved through college. My French professors told me I had to study abroad, it was the only way to really learn a language; so of course I did. The numbers started to accumulate, but even at 19, 20, 21 years old, I could not begin to understand the meaning of the debt under which I was placing myself. I would occasionally take a moment to let the numbers sink in, to force myself to understand the burdensome responsibility I was assuming, but I would quickly be overcome with panic. I would pacify myself by repeating the mantra I had been told all through high school, by my parents, teachers, guidance counselors, “I am making an investment in myself.”
The jobs I want are not available to me with a Bachelor’s. A Master’s is simply out of the question for me. Now that I’ve begun to make payments on my student loans, now that I am understanding the weight, the oppressive gravity of these payments, I could never add to that. And yet, in my desperation, I occasionally will convince myself that it’s not so bad. Desperation is often the source of illogical decisions.
So now we have created a country where young folks, smart, innovative, creative, inspirational people, the future of America, are completely mired in monthly payments. These young people are sometimes shackled to jobs they dislike so they can pay their bills, they are bound to landlords and rental properties, living with a constant state of hopelessness that they are fighting a battle they may never win. Speaking for myself, I feel as though I am in fetters. Any move, professional or personal, that I make at this point is one hundred percent contingent on being able to make monthly payments on my loans. Frankly, it terrifies me. It terrifies me that something other than myself could have such control over my life. I’m terrified of taking risks because of these payments. Buying a home? Having a child? Even owning a car. These are ideas exist far outside my reach.
So I ask you now: is this the country you want to live in? A place where the citizens are haunted by an intangible presence that guides their decisions? A country where ambitious and intelligent young people are afraid of taking risks? A country where people have surrendered any aspiration of one day signing a mortgage on a new home or working part-time while they write a novel?
Just think of how many opportunities for greatness we have missed because of this.
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/
Ohio Student Association Testimony before the Ohio Senate on Student Debt: Part 3: https://academeblog.org/2015/06/01/ohio-student-association-testimony-before-the-ohio-senate-on-student-debt-part-3/