Loans got me into journalism. Student debt pushed me out.

A first-generation college graduate, Carrington J. Tatum, seen here visiting I AM A MAN Plaza in November 2021, made the difficult decision to walk away from journalism, in part, because of the burden of his student loan debt. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

I’m the first person in my family to graduate college, but I didn’t want to go. I didn’t know anybody with a degree. I couldn’t understand what college was, what you do when you get there, and what it was for. I didn’t see why I couldn’t just start a business and hustle my way to being rich.

My mom convinced me to go, even if I wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I’d have something I could fall back on. Plus, she remembers all the companies that denied her job applications simply because she didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. Even if it meant working several jobs while raising me by herself, she believed that if she could get her son into college, I would be guaranteed one of those high-paying jobs that would make life a lot easier for me than it was for her.

Around that time, I also started writing columns for the

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