I went into journalism because of Citrus North loans. Student loans made me leave.


Even though I am the first member of my family to attend college, I was reluctant to leave home in the first place. I did not have any friends or acquaintances who had completed their studies. I was unaware of the purpose of college education, its significance, or what happens after one completes their degree. I was at a loss to comprehend the rationale for the fact that I was unable to just launch a company and work my way to financial success.

Regardless of whether or not I was interested in starting a business of my own, my mother insisted that I get a degree. I would have something on which I could depend in the future. She also recalls all of the companies who turned down her applications since she did not have a bachelor’s degree at the time she submitted them. She believed that once she was able to send her son to college, I would have an opportunity to get one of those high-paying job opportunities that would make my life much easier for me than it was for her to live. This was true even if it meant that she would have to work multiple jobs while taking care of me all by herself.

Around the same time, I also started contributing to the school newspaper by writing articles. Even though I didn’t really like the process of writing, I was certain that I could complete it, and I assumed that I would be compensated by the newspaper. But it didn’t. On the other hand, I had experience in journalism. In the end, I decided to transfer my major, and as a result, I was the first Black person to ever hold the position of editor-in-chief at the newspaper.

I performed well. A regional student prize was given to me for a paper I wrote on the housing policy at my school, which I believe may have implications for the First Amendment. It was essential in securing a position for me as an intern at The Texas Tribune. I reached out to several individuals, and I was able to get a position as an intern at The Washington Post for when I graduate. However, because of COVID-19, it had to be cut short. Instead, I worked as a volunteer intern for The Dallas Morning News.

A guy was able to get out of jail because of one of my pieces that were published there. Other tales that I’ve written about Dallas worked to have the contaminated dumpsite moved out of the way of the Black woman’s home so that it wouldn’t be in the way.

It was at this point that I became aware of the prospect of producing an essay that may really bring about a change in the physical world. Since that time, all I could think about was investigating the boundaries of journalism and determining the potential scope of the influence that my work may have. I became aware of a group known as MLK50, which is focused on the same topic and is called Justice Through Journalism. What exactly does it mean to accomplish justice via the medium of journalism?

I supported a community in halting an oil pipeline project that was aiming to take property from Black landowners by writing a 40-story feature that was published in their newspaper. During my first year working as a journalist, I turned in some reporting that earned me two national prizes for excellence in journalism.

I was making my way toward myself. I listened to the advice given to me by my friends, instructors, academic advisers, and academic advisors, and I even listened to the guidance given to me by internet hustle gurus. I obtained internships, and an entry-level job made an impression, and was recognized for my accomplishments. I went to college, spent a lot of time honing my skills, compiled a resume along with a portfolio, and built a network. I also worked independently, juggled multiple jobs at once, obtained internships, and was recognized for my achievements.

On the other hand, I had no choice but to resign from MLK50 a month ago owing to the mounting debt from my college debts and the rising cost of living. According to the statistics, my best option was to move back in with my parents and start looking for work in completely other industries. The things that I attempted, however, were not successful in keeping me away from my mother’s house. After giving it some thought, I recognized that in order to be in a position to repay my school debts and maintain my standard of living, I would need to significantly increase the amount of money I bring in each month. It is financially impossible for me to continue working in the profession of media. The profession does not pay enough to cover the expenditures of getting started in the field, much alone the price of living in increasingly more costly cities. The topics that I would most want to cover in journalism — those dealing with justice reporting from the outset — are not the ones that would bring in the greatest money for me.

This is not only causing me harm, but it is also preventing me from producing the journalism I might be.

Making ends meet

According to the findings of the study, the amount of student loan debt carried by Black graduates is a considerable burden. It is a significant contributor to the racial wealth and income gaps, and it also makes it more challenging for black families to live a life consistent with the middle class, even if they are successful in doing so.

My income has suffered as a direct result of having to make payments on student loans, both private and government, which I have incurred in preparation for starting college.

As part of my business administration degree, I was required to take a course on personal finance. This course educated me on standard methods for the administration of one’s financial resources, such as putting aside an amount equal to thirty percent of one’s salary specifically for housing expenses. Another method is the “50/30/20” method, which was made famous by Senator Elizabeth Warren. This method states that it is ideal to budget 50 percent of your income for necessities, 30 percent for wants, and 20 percent for savings, investments, or any other debt repayments after taxes. The term “universal budgeting guideline” does not exist, and very few individuals really adhere to their budgets down to the smallest of pennies. However, I created my budget in accordance with what I was advised by professionals to do, but it was not sufficient to cover all of my costs.

When I finally got my diploma, I had approximately $90 000.00 worth of student debts to pay off. around $64,000 of it is in the form of personal loans that I have taken out and now owe to Sallie Mae. Because I needed to take out loans for each of the four years of my undergraduate education and Sallie Mae charged outrageous interest rates of up to 13 percent, the amount of debt I owed ballooned to such an alarming level.

The fact that the interest rates on the loans I took out while I was still attending school were going up was by far the most disappointing aspect. Just try to picture yourself making payments on an automobile that you won’t be able to use for the next four years. My very first debt was to a private individual, and by the time I received my diploma in the year 2000, the amount that I owed them had climbed by fifty percent.

Before you are required to start making payments on either private or government loans, there is a grace period of additional six months that begins immediately upon graduation. Due to the fact that the year 2020 is the one in which I was planning to graduate, I was eligible for an extension on the repayment of my federal loans.

However, private lenders do not take into mind the possibility that a virus may destabilize the economy worldwide. They will continue to need their cash. When Sallie Mae emailed me to let me know that my grace period of six months was about to end, the expected monthly cost was around $700. This information was included in the email. I was just two months into my brand-new MLK50 contract at the time, and I had no clue how I was going to be able to pay for it. I was also unable to determine with certainty when my payments from the federal government may begin, which may imply an increase of an additional $200 each month.

I refinanced my mortgage right away via the business Earnest at the lowest possible interest rate, which resulted in monthly payments of $450. In addition to that, it bundled the private loans.

I have previously written on the ways in which the credit cooperative is standing up against payday lenders that prey on low-income communities of color by giving exorbitant loans. These communities are more likely to be in need of short-term financial help than other communities. Private student loans are a debt trap that has high rates of interest and a stifling repayment schedule. These loans are a staple for students with low incomes who are attempting to achieve economic mobility. It is funny how when we discuss the predatory lending industry, we do not discuss private student loans. These loans are a debt trap that has high-interest rates and a stifling repayment schedule. Who will take on these financial institutions?

When I started writing this post, one of my main worries was that I would be exposed to the general public. I’m going to post details about my personal finances, which means I’m opening myself up to criticism about my views on money and how it should be handled.

“Poverty is not an accident,” as the saying goes.

But I’m going to go through with it since I know I’m not the only one dealing with this issue. There are many people who are dealing with more financial responsibilities while having less money, no mother to share their house with, and no forum comparable to this one to speak with anybody about the problem. For me, being honest even in the midst of worry is one of the most important journalistic values.

If you take anything away from my reporting or the work of MLK50, let it be the idea that poverty is not the result of random chance. The exploitative system is to blame for the country’s current financial predicament.

There are those who don’t share our viewpoint on this matter at all. Some of those who share this viewpoint are unaware of the relevance of being able to change the way one thinks about the difficulties associated with financial situations or poverty. Individuals with low incomes are often held responsible for their circumstances, rather than the structures that contributed to low-income people’s predicament. People have the misconception that those who suffer financially are doing so because they have not put in sufficient effort, because they lack discipline, or because they are unable to handle their money owing to ineptitude or ignorance.

However, when companies wish to fire individuals or say they are unable to pay increases, CEOs do not share their budgets with employees nor do they illustrate the logic behind their assertions. In addition to this, the government provides them with support, but there is no supervision of this help.

When I initially started telling others about the problems I was going through and what I was seeing financially, many of them didn’t believe me at first. When I updated them on the progress I was making, the first response I often got was, “Oh, it is conceivable to accomplish it.”

When you are in a position where you need assistance, it is tough to avoid being mocked. People don’t trust you or believe that I’m not able to do the appropriate computations on my money despite the fact that I’ve completed all of these expensive college programs and won awards for my work.

Let’s put the statistics together to assist individuals who have been keeping a close eye on the pocket of their watch.

After working in this industry for just a year, I had already earned close to $46,000. My annual earnings were lower than $50,000 due to the extra monthly stipends that I received. My take-home pay for the year was $42,000, which works out to $3,500 a month.

If I follow Warren’s advice, I will need to set aside fifty percent, or $1,750, to cover my essential expenses, thirty percent, or $1,050, to cover my wants, and twenty percent, or $700, for savings and the settlement of my debts.

There is no space available for saves. Every month, I put aside around $725 to pay both government and private debts.

Taxes and my education loans are two of the outgoing financial obligations that I am powerless to modify. As a result, before I decide which fees to pay, I’m going to begin by getting around two-thirds of the amount that MLK50 pays for me in the paper. This will allow me to make an informed selection.

When I was living with a buddy in a room that we shared, I had the problem under control; unfortunately, my friend moved out, and my landlord hiked the rent by $1,700.

When I initially arrived in Memphis, I found housing that offered cheap rent in exchange for a lack of security and the sound of gunshots. In a recent post I authored, I discussed how the most prevalent cause of death for Black men between the ages of 15 and 35 is gun violence. Should I, if I were a young Black male, put my life in danger in order to make sure that I have enough money to pursue a career in journalism?

However, bear in mind that rent isn’t the only expense I have, nor are my student loans for education, the total of which exceeds $88,000, the only item I owe money on. Because she wanted to see me succeed in school, my mother took out loans. In the event that I am required to make a payment to Sallie Mae, you may be certain that I will pay my mother back. Nevertheless, I am still an only child, and it is almost certain that I will be required to help mom throughout her retirement years.

At that point, the topic of discussion shifts to what I’m ready to give up in order to pursue a career in journalism. This need does not apply to all people looking for work; however, it does apply to students who are short on cash.

More for less

There are a lot of reporting positions out there, and many of them offer respectable rates. Having said that, I do not want to write about every single item. I have a responsibility to create tales that have the potential to affect real change in the lives of those who are on the margins of society. I want to write tales that have the capacity to change not just people’s thoughts or circumstances, but also the power dynamics.

Because if I don’t, then what is the point of my writing this?

Many African-American journalists who work for the nation’s oldest and traditionally white newspapers are well aware of the challenges that arise when attempting to confront powerful people with the truth about the injustices that affect our communities. Reporters are exempt from the requirement that they fight for their rights in the MLK50 space. When I discuss the challenges that are confronting the business, I consider the MLK50 instance to be an outstanding and one-of-a-kind example.

When compared to the bulk of other Memphis newsrooms, the cost of living at MLK50 is far lower. This makes the station an excellent choice for anybody looking to cover the Memphis area. In addition to that, it is a newsroom that is run by Black women and is committed to confronting the institutions that put its readers at a disadvantage. Additionally, in contrast to other non-profit newsrooms and in contrast to the traditional situation for black businesses, it is not eligible for financing.

MLK50 is resolute in its mission to challenge established norms by producing worker-serving news and instituting best practices with regard to its workforce. And the outcome is positive. On the other hand, this new approach to journalism, which is centered on black people and the working class, was developed by black working-class storytellers who themselves are victims of the repressive system they are required to write about. Therefore, the MLK50 newsroom will need to be more successful than other newsrooms in order to sustain the storytellers that they employ; this will be an extra expense to the business model, which the power-hungry, white-serving news companies are not compelled to budget for.

When I started researching and writing about historically black institutions and colleges in Texas, I discovered that many of them are dealing with the same problems. Despite the fact that they are primarily intended to serve students with little financial resources, HBCUs have always received inadequate funding. They are expected to do more tasks while having fewer resources available.

This is another reason why I do not feel anger at people who are in charge of MLK50 or the movement. The end outcome is a chain reaction brought on by a variety of interconnected issues with the system. The expenses associated with attending college are too high, predatory lenders are given excessive leeway, and the field of journalism does not welcome all interested parties. My opinion is that MLK50 by itself is not sufficient to fix and make amends for all of the problems that exist.

And, most significantly, if these systems collide with one another and overlap, I won’t be the only one who suffers a loss. This pertains to the tales that I might be writing or the ways in which I could be assisting my community. I’m looking forward to a wonderful vacation, but what about journalism? What ends up happening to the people who are supposed to be served by the job of journalists?

There is not a single Black reporter who can claim to be the only one who has struggled to maintain their position in this industry. One of the last persons in my chat group to stop reporting, I am one of the final people to do so.

Legislators and other officials within the government are the ones who are accountable for addressing the issue of excessive borrowing as well as the high price tag associated with higher education. However, the editors who sit at the top of the media profession and the publishers are also obligated to evaluate whether or not they are dedicated to broadening the scope of their job.

I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to my teachers and coworkers who have assisted me in getting to this point, as well as to the individuals who made it possible for each narrative. For me, the most significant part of this adventure has been forming these relationships with others.

At this time, I’m not sure where I’ll go from here, but the scenario has prompted me to investigate other approaches to advocating for justice and reevaluate the roles that journalism may play in various contexts. In spite of the fact that getting to a more equitable world isn’t going to be an easy road, I’m keeping a positive outlook and staying as determined as I can.


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