November 2011 Issue
October 25, 2011

Student loans a burden

Author: Betsy Sandberg
Source: NYSUT United

Times are tough even for those with a paycheck coming in.

Stacey Munoz loves teaching special education at a vocational high school in New York City. So when her autistic students needed laminated materials, she bought the machine and paper for $80.

"These are essential for my classroom," Munoz said, noting in September alone she spent another $120 on food for cooking classes, manipulatives, bins and containers for student materials. She would also like a binding machine to make adapted books, but without reimbursement through Teachers Choice, she is not sure she can afford it.

The Teachers Choice Program supported efforts by United Federation of Teachers members to purchase supplies for their classrooms. It was not funded by New York City this year, which is "hard on the pocketbook," Munoz said.

Even harder is the cost of her student loans.

"Teachers must get master's degrees to keep our certification, which is not paid for, or even assisted in paying back," she said. She owes $90,000 in student loans. "I'd like to know how am I supposed to pay them back when they exceed what I make in two years?"

Because of her finances, Munoz does not have to make payments on her student loans this year, (this is called forbearance) but the debt doesn't go away. She will still have to pay it.

She remembers that Wall Street corporations and banks received bailouts several years ago and now there are reports of the same players "receiving bonuses that I won't make in a lifetime."

Also, she pays $2,250 a month to rent a one-bedroom apartment and is trying to save for a wedding.

"It saddens me when you turn on the television and see people like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie berating teachers and saying we make too much money or our benefits are too good."

To those critics, Munoz has an offer: "Come teach my students for ONE day and tell me I make too much money."