Staeheli earned $15,000 in 2005, mostly from substitute teaching. She also works at a minimum-wage job doing phone surveys. With the $700 rent and utilities for her two-bedroom home eating up most of her income every month, she says she feels like she barely makes it.
“It is stressful,” she said. “It’s stressful that you’re always watching the money. I do a lot of shopping around.”
Staeheli, 54, is raising her 19-year-old son in her home on Spokane’s North Side. As a young woman she dropped out of high school and had a family, but she went back to college as an adult, earning a teaching degree at Eastern Washington University in 1997.
Though general statistics show that income increases with education, that hasn’t happened for Staeheli, who hasn’t been able to find a full-time teaching job and now owes $60,000 in student loans and back interest.
“I regret getting a college degree, because it hasn’t helped me a bit,” she said.
She’s unable to even consider meeting the minimum $300 payment on the loan. “There’s no way,” she said.
Living on such a sheer margin, Staeheli’s affected even more than others when gas prices go up. She now spends $45 to fill up her ‘92 Olds Cutlass – a subject that came up in her prayer group.
“That’s a nightmare, I tell you,” she said. “We prayed about that one.”
- Shawn Vestal