Janet Cruz Padrón
“Not the type to sit around and wait for a handout, Latinas will instead move across borders, trek unknown terrains and brave the elements in search of opportunities that can mean a better quality of life for herself and her family. For centuries, Hispanic men, women, and children have arrived on American soil with little more than the clothes on their back and a dream. A dream so profound and intrinsically complex known as the American dream.
The American dream has long enticed Latinas from the mystical lands of Mexico to the azure waters of the Caribbean to the ancient civilizations of Central and South America with its promise of freedom and opportunity. For many who arrive, sometimes risking their lives to get here, the reality rarely matches the dream. For most immigrants, legal or otherwise, the American dream comes with an astronomically high price tag. One that they will spend their entire lifetime paying for.
While historically there has been no official definition of the American dream, Pew Research has compiled public opinion surveys of U.S. adults which have shown that it generally involves hard work, financial security, career success and confidence that each new generation will be better off than the one before it. Americans have also seen life milestones as a part of attaining the dream such as graduating from college, owning a home, raising a family and giving their children a life that’s better than their own. All values and aspirations that have long been weaved into the fabric of most Hispanic cultures.
Higher education has traditionally been regarded as a powerful tool for upward mobility and the key to the achievement of many of the milestones thought to comprise the American dream. Yet, despite tremendous strides on the academic front, Latinas find themselves carrying a tremendous burden that significantly threatens their dream and that of their ancestors.
In a 2019 Statistical Briefing by Unidos US, it was reported that among major debt categories, Latino families witnessed the largest increases in educational debt between 2007 and 2016. While only 14% of Latino families held educational debt in 2007, close to 20% had acquired educational debt by 2016. With nearly one in three (31.4%) of Latino GenZ and 30.8% of Latino millennials grappling with student loans, this crisis-level student debt has had the power to not only challenge the immediate economic survival of the Latinx community, but also threatens to severely derail the journey towards achieving the highly coveted American dream.
Having reached the promised land, many Latinas and her descendants often find themselves living in fear of having to forget the white picket fence, the house and family, or ever taking a job for love rather than money due to the financial trappings of student loan debt. And when it comes to retirement, many more Latinas and their families will be forced to keep dreaming.
Como (as) Latinx, perseverance is in our blood. And while Latinas are typically not ones to shy away from a challenge, this is one challenge that has proven virtually insurmountable. For Latinx families who are already disadvantaged by generational pay and wealth disparities, carrying the disproportionate burden of student debt can leave communities like ours more likely to experience negative financial events after graduation such as loan default, higher interest rate payments, and higher graduate school debt balances. With rising tuition costs outpacing inflation and wage growth, debt-financing higher education will undoubtedly equate to needing to hustle harder and longer just to stay afloat. With student loan debt in 2020 at nearly $1.6 trillion, there has never been a more critical time for Latinas to understand all of our options both in choosing student loans and choosing how to repay them.
Luckily, my friends at Chipper have made it easier than ever to empower ourselves as borrowers. Their founder, Tony Aguilar is also Latinx. Having been a first generation graduate who grew up in a small West-Texas town, Tony had to finance most of his college education. He graduated with over $100k in student loan debt, but knew he was not alone in this struggle. Like us Latinas, he decided to do something about it!
Chipper is dedicated to getting Latinx and POC on the path toward being debt-free of student loans. By helping these specific groups of borrowers discover and understand the plans and programs they qualify for, helping them enroll, and stay on track, they are ensuring that their members are doing everything they’re supposed to be doing to qualify for income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs. The best part, it’s completely free to discover your options! Get started by clicking the image below or click here.”