By Alex Stetter

My parents have saved for my college tuition since I was born. Thus, when my parents said that they would be willing to support any higher education endeavors that I undertook, I assumed that meant they would be able to cover the entire cost. Despite significant savings, the price tags on the elite liberal arts schools that I wanted to attend were still out of reach.

This came as a surprise to me. I grew up very comfortably: my family went on vacations to warm beaches, and my mom even took some time off from work to raise my sister and me. Growing up, I never imagined that my comfortable middle class family would not be able to foot the entire bill for my college education. I ultimately decided to go to Hamilton College, which offered me significant grant based financial aid, and minimized any student loans that I did eventually have to take out.

My parents are highly educated and well-informed, and were able to support me through the process. They made sure that I understood the burden of the loans that I have taken on and outlined the ultimate interest costs and repayment plans.

I am very cognizant of my student loans. While they have yet to directly dictate my actions, they certainly factor into many of the decisions. I am beyond grateful for support and encouragement that my parents have provided. I realize that despite the loans I took out to pursue higher education, many students have had to take out greater loans and do not have the same support structures that I do. I am one of the lucky ones.

I find it absurd that one of the richest countries in the world has forced its students to take on the burden of more than a trillion dollars of debt just to get an education. In a world where higher education is a pathway for a better standard of living, having insurmountable financial barriers to colleges and universities perpetuates already gross income inequality. We need a #ZeroDebt future now.

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