Student Debt, Tuition, and Fee Payments Must Be Frozen During Pandemic

We need leaders who will protect us from the academic and financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo: Student organizers at Salem State University. (PHENOM)

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As I conclude my senior year at Salem State University during the Coronavirus pandemic, I have been confronted with various unforeseen financial and academic obstacles. Two weeks ago, all restaurants and bars in Massachusetts were shut down. 

For me, a server, that means I lost my job and my main source of income. I relied on that income to fund my monthly loan payments ($45), to pay my rent ($775/month), utilities and food. 

Without a job, how can I be expected to pay for my loan payments? What if I miss a payment? Is that my fault even though I need to prioritize paying for a roof over my head and food in my mouth?

Rather than focusing on adapting and making a smooth transition to remote learning and online classes, I am overcome with anxiety due to my student debt. As a student, this should not be my number one concern. I should be focused on finishing my senior year, not worrying about making my loan payments during a health and economic crisis such as this. 

It is the responsibility of the state to protect the wellbeing of all Massachusetts students and immediately freeze public and private student loans.

Additionally, students should not be required to pay for tuition and fees for the remainder of the pandemic. During the spring and summer months, I save my money to contribute to my fall bill. Along with many other students, I no longer have that opportunity. 

In other words, come fall, students will be left with two options, take out more loans or do not return to school. Is it fair to ask students to put themselves into more debt? Or worse, forfeit their hard work and not complete their degree?

During these trying times, we need leaders who will represent our anxieties and concerns and protect us from the academic and financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. 

Vanessa Bramante is a senior and student organizer at Salem State University.