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I just graduated with a master’s in public administration from West Virginia State University, and I am riddled with anxiety over how to start paying back my student loans. I simply wanted to make a better life for myself and my family. I wanted to show my son that he could do anything. In order to get an education as an older student with a family, financing options are limited to loans. Schools do not fully explain the financial position you are putting yourself into when you apply for financial aid. It feels like a scam.

Now I understand the hole I put myself in and I am panicked over how I will pay it back. It wouldn’t be so bad if not for the insane interest rates we are forced to pay and continue to stack up. Getting an education should not mean a lifetime of crippling debt. An education is meant to better your life; it is not meant become a barrier. College students and graduates deserve to afford an education the way generations before us did. Working and paying for school outright is not an option for most people, and the student loan programs are taking advantage of that fact.

My education was worth the money I spent to get it, but the student loan process is predatory at best. We need a major overhaul of the student loan system and a forgiveness plan that allows people to escape the predatory interest rates. If banks can borrow money from the government with little to no interest, students should be able to as well.

We need senators and congresspeople who will fight for higher education students and graduates. We need people like Paula Jean Swearengin who believe that getting an education shouldn’t financially bury people. We need Paula Jean Swearengin to be a voice for students in Washington.

Kaylen Barker

South Charleston, W.Va.

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