I took out a $40,000 student loan 10 years ago. I barely paid it.

This say-to-say essay is based on a conversation with McKenzie Decoite, a 31-year-old preschool teacher in Tucson, Arizona. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I graduated from university 10 years ago and since then I have been working as a preschool teacher in public schools.

McKenzie Decoite

McKenzie Decoite.

Courtesy of McKenzie Decoite

I remember being in high school, when counselors and teachers said that not being able to afford college shouldn’t be a reason not to go to school. I also remember people telling me that student loan debt was the “right kind of debt” and that it wouldn’t count against me when it came time to get a mortgage or a car loan.

But 10 years after withdrawing $40,000 for school, I still owe $34,000. It’s crazy to know that it’s been a decade, and yet I’ve only been able to munch on a few thousand dollars.

Knowing that my student debt is hanging over my head causes me stress and anxiety.

It’s always been part of my financial calculations, and it affects everything in my life and how my husband and I can support our family. We have a 3 year old son and I just gave birth to another boy this month.

As a working middle class family, I feel like we are constantly in the red. We are still struggling because we earn too much to get any help, but we don’t earn enough to cover our daily expenses.

My husband doesn’t have a student loan, so luckily we only have to worry about mine. But it’s so stressful. With two years without a student loan, we’ve really been able to breathe and plan financially for our second child in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without the repayment break.

I know some people say $10,000 isn’t even enough to count when it comes to canceling student debt, but that would be a third of my total amount. I really hope Biden keeps his promise. I’m obviously grateful any time the date to restart loan repayments gets pushed back, but it’s also hard to plan your financial future when you don’t know what’s coming.

Payments are now supposed to restart in August, but they’ve been pushed back so many times I don’t know what’s going to happen. If we didn’t have to pay my student loans every month, I wouldn’t have to tinker with child care like I plan for my newborn son.

Right now, I think we’re planning on grandparents watching the baby one day and friends watching another day. But if I didn’t have my loans over my head, we could just pay for daycare instead of doing it this messy way.

It’s strange, because I feel like I’ve done all the right things

I went to high school, went to college, started a career, and started a family. But this debt is still hanging over my head. Especially as a teacher, it feels like a vicious circle of going into debt to become a teacher but not being able to earn a good living once there. Teachers are so underpaid and overworked, and I really wish educators were treated better in this country.

Right now it’s a waiting game to see if student loan payments will be pushed back or if my student loans will be forgiven. I just hope I find out soon so I can plan for my family’s financial future.

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