Carrington J. Tatum, a first-generation college graduate who’s passionate about reporting that makes a real difference in the lives of marginalized people, decided to walk away from journalism because of his student loan debt.

My journalism degree was more expensive than my wealthier classmates’ degrees because I couldn’t afford to pay in cash. But that’s a common theme with American systems. Poor people pay high prices. Rich people get discounts.

When I first moved to Memphis, I lived in a place that offered cheap rent in exchange for little security and the sound of gunfire. I wrote a story about how gun violence is the leading cause of death for Black males aged 15 to 35. So as a 24-year-old Black man, should I have to risk my safety just so I can afford to do journalism?

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.