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White House: Americans ‘literally being crushed’ by student loans

OPINION: Data show otherwise

Americans are “literally being crushed,” by student loans, according to Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

President Joe Biden’s spokeswoman made the comment Wednesday during a press briefing.

NBC News’ Peter Alexander asked Jean-Pierre about other Americans who were not getting a $35,000 handout, the average amount given as part of Biden’s ongoing bailouts.

This one is for “public service workers like teachers, nurses, or law enforcement officials; or are borrowers who were approved for relief because of fixes we made to Income-Driven Repayment,” according to the White House.

“We’re talking about folks who are in debt, who are literally being crushed, who are literally being crushed,” she said.

“They’re not literally being crushed,” another reporter said.

“Financially. Okay? Is that okay with you?…crushed financially,” Jeanne-Pierre said.

“They’re trying to get their lives back on track,” she said, justifying the latest bailout.

Her statement is not true literally, figuratively, or financially.

Higher education finance expert Mark Kantrowitz suggests one way to figure out the affordability of student loans.

“There is a simple rule of thumb you can use to determine how much student loan debt you can afford to repay after graduation,” he writes. “If your total student loan debt at graduation, including capitalized interest and loan fees, is less than your annual starting salary, you can afford to repay your student loans in ten years or less.”

Data show that “teachers, nurses, or law enforcement officials” generally make, just on their base salary, enough money to cover their debt.

A February 2024 report from Mission Research Institute compiled data on the median debt of different public service workers, including cops, nurses, social workers, and teachers.

Debt loads were higher for the last two categories, and lower for police officers.

For example, the median debt for police officers for their bachelor’s degrees was in the low $20,000s.

But the median debt for counselors was in the $40K to $50K range.

Teachers had similar median debt for their bachelor’s degree, but had higher debt, as expected for their master’s degree, in a range of about $30K to $40K. But teachers also generally get salary boosts for a graduate degree.

Still, that debt is manageable.

In my state of Indiana, the median salary for a teacher is $58,000. That does not include any extra money made during the summer, teaching classes, tutoring, or working other jobs. It also does not include the benefit of retirement plans, health insurance, and other remuneration.

Nor does it include household income, which is the more important number.

The National Education Association data show this should not be a problem for most teachers. The lowest-paying state, according to their research, is Montana. (Montana has the 12th lowest cost-of-living, however. So a teacher in Montana is not necessarily poor).

Teachers, on average, make $34,476 starting off. That is more than the median debt for a bachelor’s degree in education, and is even more than the median debt for some master’s degrees in the same field.

And teachers, generally, handle their money well. A 2023 study by financial expert Dave Ramsey’s company found teachers are in the top five careers for millionaires.

In other words, they aren’t being crushed – literally, figuratively, or financially.

Nor are nurses. Entry-level nurses, according to 2019 data from Cross Country Healthcare, were making an average salary of more than $50,000. Nurses also have opportunities for overtime and moonlighting given the skills. The median wage for nurses, as of May 2023, ranges from 71K for schools to nearly 100K for government agencies, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In contrast, the median bachelor degree debt for a nurse is around $22,000.

Police officers, too, make more than their student loan debt. Only 1.3 percent of entry-level police officers even have a bachelor’s degree as is, according to Mission Research. The median debt for police officers, according to the report, is around $22-23K, for a bachelor’s degree. Meanwhile, the starting salary for police officers is often in the 60s to low 70s, depending on where someone works.

Morgan County Sheriff’s Office in Indiana starts its new sheriff deputies off at $62,000 per year and even a school resource officer for Lebanon Schools in Indiana makes $46,800. The starting salary in Greenwich, Connecticut is $74,403, and $85,280 in Aurora, Illinois.

The lowest 10 percent for all police officers make around $45,000 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nurses, cops, and teachers provide valuable services and they should be fairly paid.

But they are not “being crushed” in any sense of the word.

MORE: It is possible to pay off student loans with work and financial discipline

IMAGE: White House/YouTube

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and an M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.