Rebuild the Dream has over 600,000 members across the country. Below is a guest blog post from one of our members, Argun M. Ulgen, a public interest attorney in New York City with student debt. He pays $650 each month for his student loans. Read more stories and share your own at our "Real People, Real Student Debt" action center. I've come to accept that if you want to argue on behalf of our Constitution's ten canonized amendments, then your salary isn't going to be very high, and your pay scale will remain a very mild slope. This comes with the turf of being in a profession on the fringe of a predominantly corporate-capitalistic culture. However, what I still struggle to accept is that because I am on this fringe, because I chose a job that subscribes to my progressive beliefs, I am levied 20% of my disposable income - about $650 a month in student debt - with no immediate financial relief in sight. Every month, even after nearly ten years as a public servant, I am reminded that I cannot apply this $650 debt to contribute to charitable foundations or to grassroots organizations that may help some of my indigent clients stay out of court. I cannot invest this sizeable sum of cash into buying a new home or investing in companies that seek to effectuate my political beliefs (e.g., environmental research companies). Contribute that money to my mom's retirement fund? Forget it. Basically, there is no way that I can for the next several years contribute or invest this massive sum of money into anything I believe in. I'm 33 years old - in my lifetime, I have studied hard and earned high grades, and then chose a profession which I was taught was altruistic and important for the preservation of our Democracy. Still, $650 of my hard earned money must go to the bottomless stomach of a debt collector. This sum is a constant reminder that if I chose to participate in corporate culture instead, I may not have this albatross hanging around my neck. Those who have public interest based political or socio-economic objectives should not be punished by having to garnish a massive percentage of their salaries to a "belief debt" collector. Rather, these public servants should have a little more economic leverage in our political climate. Really, so should all students whose incomes just can't realistically handle both paying off massive debt and making positive contributions to our economy and polity. All people who work for low paying professions they believe in should speak out against "belief debt." One way to attain this goal is to lobby universities to spend less money on "state of the art" residence halls or fitness centers, and more on grants on loan forgiveness for those who choose to use their degrees for public interest jobs like antidiscrimination and free housing organizations, civil liberties, and environmental protection. Also, a by far more generous and immediate income-sensitive student loan forgiveness will not only put more money into our mainstream economy, but will ensure that a more diverse and representative set of our country's polity will have a stronger voice in our current political climate. Argun M. Ulgen is a public interest attorney in the greater NYC area. What do you think of Argun's ideas? Chime in at the comment section.
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