Harrel, who has been a teacher for over 20 years, now teaches special education classes at a prison.
Lori Harrell, 60, is a teacher with a bachelor’s degree in education as well as two master’s degrees, but she advised her son not to go to college.
“I went to school when I was coming up because parents said you either go to school or get a job,” she told Insider. “But the advice I gave him was that you don’t really need to go to school unless you know exactly what you want to go for.”
Harrell, who was a public school teacher in New York for over 20 years, is approaching retirement. But with $155,000 in student loan debt, she doesn’t know how she can afford it.
Lori has been working as a special education teacher at Wyoming Correctional Facility in Attica for the past four years. Before that, she used to teach special education classes to middle and high school students. However, she decided to switch to a government job so that she would have a more secure pension and better benefits (such as health insurance) when she retired.
Debt has been a real problem for Harrell over the years. She’s found it hard to keep up with her payments, and the loans themselves have been prohibitive.
“When I was raising my son as a single parent, it was about taking care of the rent, food, him, his activities, and those kinds of things,” she said. “It never got to the place where I couldn’t feed him or myself, but it was hard.”
Early on in her career, Harrell said that student loan companies estimated her salary to be $30,000 more per year than she was actually making. Even now, decades later, she still hasn’t reached that income.