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The Struggles of the Middle-Class College Student

I’m not the kind of student that gets Fs, but the kind that has to check their schedule three weeks into the semester to make sure I still know when my classes are. I am not truthfully a bad student. The lowest grade I’ve ever gotten was a C, and for a third-year college student that isn’t so bad.

Truth is, middle-class college students across the board face the same issues as me. Work, money, loans and all other stresses that aren’t faced by well-off students all take precedence over schoolwork, which inevitably cements the cycle of cultural capital among any student whose parents don’t have the means to throw $30,000 a year at their three children.

Photo courtesy of RADD via Unsplash

I want to start by saying that my parents specifically by no means are unsupportive financially, or in just the family sense. They are simply a middle-class couple with four children living in Long Island, New York. Making over $100,000 each year puts them at well off according to the economy (and FAFSA), but poor according to just about any decent college in America.

You see the thing is that the middle-class in America is diminishing…becoming extinct. In America, the divide between the upper and middle class is becoming just as significant as the one between the upper and lower class. Only six percent of the population make the majority of the wealth in America. In fact, according to a Federal Reserve study, more than 40 percent of the population in the U.S. say that they don’t have more than four hundred dollars in their savings account. Those same respondents are all considered to be middle class.

The middle class is supposed to be living to your means, and four hundred dollars does not seem like someone who is living above the poverty line. Those in that same survey—that are considered middle-class, another 40 percent—say that they do live paycheck to paycheck. An employed middle-class citizen reporting to be living paycheck to paycheck does not scream middle-class to me.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

My parents are now faced with every parent’s fear of not being able to support their child’s dream. Being a middle-class college student means FAFSA is not your friend. Filing a FAFSA as an independent, as my parents don’t contribute to my tuition payments, means that FAFSA grants me a whole $1,500 a semester in federal unsubsidized loans.

The keyword in that statement being loans, not aid, not grants, but loans. I add that to my total of $85,652 of private student loans putting me in more debt than I was in in the first place. How is it that something that is supposed to act as support to struggling college students put them in more financial debt?

Photo courtesy of imgflip.com​

The fact of the matter is that financial inequalities are not just faced by those of the lower class. They are prevalent across the board in so many families attempting to break out of the cycle of living under financial stress. College education is supposed to further our chances of making a decent living in America, not put us in debt that we will not be out of until our children are in college as well. We start with parents who are not debt-free, we become submerged in debt at a measly 18 years of age, and we pass that debt down to our children. We need to end this cycle.

A third-year, USF student who aspires to be a journalist.
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