Election Issues

How Artists Are Pursuing Their Dreams While Balancing Student Loan Debt

By Chris Riotta | August 8, 2016 | SOURCE: Mic | PHOTO: Shutterstock/Instagram

Krystal Metcalfe knows how to command a stage. Her energy is electric and her bluesy, infectious vocals help crowds transcend the stresses of their days. But when the 29-year-old singer kicks off her heels and settles in for the night, she can't even depend on watching Netflix — she's still mooching off her parents' account. "There's definitely no guacamole in my Chipotle," she admitted in a recent phone conversation. The crippling burden of her student loans haunt her when she's off the stage.

By day, Metcalfe is a recruiter at a marketing company in Chicago. Mic spoke with her while she was on break, holed up in one of her office's storage closets for privacy. By night, she's chasing her "superhero career," one that involves performing across the city with her band, working on her forthcoming debut EP, and trying not to think about the upcoming bill cycle. It's a struggle she shares with many artists across the country who have money tied up inAmerica's current student loan crisis. Metcalfe's situation recently inspired her to release a fuck-you anthem to one of the most notorious providers in the country, Sallie Mae. 

It's not just the small niceties Metcalfe and her husband can't enjoy: "My husband and I both have jobs, and it's not like we're sitting around asking for anybody to help us," Metcalfe said. "But when out interest rates are over 7%, and the cost of education is constantly soaring higher and higher, that's where the issue lies: What are we supposed to do to take care of our daily lives while trying to live your best life?"

She doesn't have an answer. No one really does. The $1.2 trillion student loan debt bubble continues to expand, affecting over 40 million Americans and their families. 40% of student-loan borrowers fall into a state of delinquency within their first five years of repayment, and the majority of those still currently paying loans are in their 30s. And it's only getting worse.

Stories like Metcalfe's have found their way into an unpredictable election year, with both leading presidential candidates addressing student loan debt to some extent throughout their campaigns. While former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has offered up a comprehensive plan to tackle the crisis, real estate tycoon Donald Trump has said he'd do "a lot of great things" for people like Metcalfe suffering from the unbearable burden of crushing student loan payments. 

"I want to be a full-time musician," Metcalfe continued. "But sometimes you have to take care of the responsibilities first while you keep working towards your goal."

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