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With Thousands in Student Debt Still Hanging Over Her, Dentist Says College Isn’t Worth It

By: Manny Otiko, IVN
Los Angeles, CA — For years college, has been the pathway to the middle class. But that seems to be a declining possibility as many students are frustrated with rising college costs. Dr. Marsha Mouton is a perfect example of this situation. She went to college to become a dentist in the 1980s and more than 30 years later, she still owes thousands of dollars.

Mouton graduated from the University of St. Thomas and the University of Texas. She left owing $54,000 and had loans with a 12% interest rate. Several years later, the loan has been resold several times and she still owes $54,000 and the payback is more than $180,000. A couple of years ago, she was contacted by a law firm and told she owed another $11,000. And that loan has now ballooned to $77,000.

Now, with this debt still hanging over her head, she’s facing the consequences. She can no longer accept Medi-Cal patients because she’s on a student loan default list. She also has difficulty getting another job because of the outstanding loan and depends on the income from her practice which shrank during the coronavirus-related shutdown.

Mouton says she regrets going to college. She pointed out that she had some family members who worked for UPS and retired comfortably. In her mind, a college education is simply not worth it anymore.

“I’m still struggling to make it,” she said. At 60, she’s given up on buying a home.  

She’s trying to work with her loan creditors, but they’ve only offered to forgive about 10% of the loan. That works out to be about $3,000.

“The interest is still more than the principle,” she said.

Mouton says the higher education industry has sold many people a lie. She said people are better off getting regular, blue-collar jobs and not being saddled with thousands of dollars in debt.

“Even my friend who was a travel agent has bought a house and has a retirement fund,” she said. 

Mouton admits that she was sold on the idea of being a dentist because back in the ‘80s, dentists made seven-figure salaries. But a lot has changed since then. Now, because of HMOs, dentists make more than $100,000 a year.

“When I graduated, doctors were making a lot of money,” she said. She also pointed out that salaries haven’t kept up with the rising cost of college.

Mouton said she was initially excited by the Biden administration’s proposed student loan forgiveness program. However, Democratic legislators are struggling to try to get that through Congress.

Mouton says that she won’t qualify for programs geared toward younger student debtors.

Student debt has ballooned to a trillion-dollar problem. According to a Student Borrower Protection Center factsheet, student debt holders default at a rate four times higher than mortgage holders.

During an Ethnic Media Services conference call on this subject Kat Welbeck, a civil rights counsel at the Student Borrower Protection Center, said college debt affects Black and Latino students even worse, because they tend to borrow more money. In addition, she pointed out that Black and Latino students tend to have higher debt burdens because their families don’t have the financial resources to pay for college. 

Unfortunately, this creates a vicious economic cycle and prevents them from creating generational wealth.

Crushing student debt can keep Black and Latino students trapped in a social bracket.

“Black and Latino students take longer to pay debt back,” said Welbeck on the call. 

Inland Valley News coverage of local news in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.

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