In Their Own Words: Student Debt Stories from Georgians

This is part of an ongoing series by Higher Ed, Not Debt highlighting student debt issues and personal stories across several states.

The student debt crisis in the United States continues to grow, and the impact of the crisis is being felt across the lives of 44 million people across the country. Totaling at $1.5 trillion nationwide, student debt has a significantly debilitating effect on the lives of students and families. It presents a fundamental issue that majorities of the public want to see addressed.

Collectively, Georgia borrowers owe more than $53 billion in federal and private student loan debt. While data on the total number of federal and private student loan borrowers is limited, we at least know that the total number of federal student loan borrowers in Georgia is above 1.4 million, according to the office of Federal Student Aid. Including people who only took out private loans, the total number of borrowers is expected to be higher.

In 2017, 57% of BA graduates in the state incurred student debt from an ever-increasing price of higher education – their financial futures foreclosed upon due to this debt. On average, Georgians who graduated from public or private 4-year colleges owe more than $28,600 in student loans: the 25th highest average in the country.

However, this debt doesn’t just come from college tuition and fees alone. In addition to the holistic costs of the college experience (housing, food, transportation, materials, etc), students may find themselves deeper in debt because of predatory practices by student loan servicers. Hundreds of thousands of borrowers are subject to the exploitative practices of student loan companies that increase borrowers’ debt burdens through sloppy servicing and deceptive counseling practices.

Others are victims of for-profit college scams. After the uncovering of widespread fraud and abuse among some of the largest for-profit college chains, defrauded borrowers are still left holding the bag.

To best show the real affects of the student debt crisis, we want to go beyond data alone. We want to share some the stories that Georgians submitted to us that illustrate the many ways that student debt is impacting their lives, and their calls to fix this crisis.

The debilitating impacts of student debt:

I’ve been paying my student loan since 2006. Total amount paid back around $30,000.00 the amount of that towards my principle is only $6000.00. That is sickening. That is NOT the American dream. I am a teacher of 22 years in an inner city school and will retire before the ten years therefore I can not benefit from the public service loan forgiveness…I will retire in 8 years with a huge debt that l can’t pay after teaching inner city kids for 30 years.
~Cristi J.

I graduated from college in 1993 and I am still paying on my student loan. Until they came out with the [Income-Based] repayment plan I could not afford my payments. I support a loan forgiveness for student debt. I will be paying this student loan back up to the day I die just because of the interest that keeps accruing.
~ Carlotta H.

Problems with student loan companies:

As a retiree I am still being victimized by these predatory practices. $145 is being taken out of my Social Security benefits every single month, regardless of how that might negatively impact my ability to live. Meanwhile corporations can file bankruptcy after victimizing their workers and walk away from their debt. ENOUGH!!!!
~Sydney C.

I’m in debt about [$57,000] and I can’t even get into my field of work. I am a single parent of four trying make difference in my kids life. Now Navient is trying make me pay almost 650 a month in loans fees. I can barely take care of my kids. I tried to finish my Bachelors [from Corinthian Colleges] with another school but I can’t because my finances have finished. So I’m lost….HELP PLEASE.
~Shaantrel R.

I have been being garnished for my student debt for the past ten years (on and off). The state maximum is 25% of my income. Who can afford that? And to set up minimum payments with my loan holders is a nightmare…First I don’t even know who owns all my loans cause they have been bought and sold so many times. Second when you do finally get a hold of someone they want you to pay everything your past due on. I can’t help but laugh to keep from crying when they ask if I am prepared to pay the past due of $12,000, or some other ridiculous number. If I had that kind of money I would be paying my debts already, not letting it pile up, but the assumption is that we are just all trying to get away with not paying it and that is not the case. I want to pay them I want to be done with them.
~ Jessica C.

Victims of predatory for-profit colleges:

In the early ’90s, I attended a 2-yr school that was shut down a year later due to financial aid malfeasance. They were stealing money from students and leaving them holding the bag…As a result, many of us lost our chance at being able to go back and to college and even though [the for-profit school was] found to have committed Financial Aid fraud, their students could not only not finish their studies but were left holding the bag on the bills – loans that were never cancelled, nor was the money taken refunded to the students who were billed for it…. Mine is more than 25 years old and they have not removed it to this day, even though there were court records, documentation, the whole nine. Mine should have been cancelled and taken off my records over two decades ago and it still has not been done to this day.
~ Shereen G.

I was ‘conned’ into ITT Tech in 2008 at their Kennesaw campus.They promised me ‘All the tutoring I needed.’,yet seldom delivered. After I graduated in 2010,their promise of helping me find a job turned out to be a lie also. Then they talked into re-enrolling into another program,but before I could finish it my health went down. I currently live in a nursing home in southeast Ga. and have a 64k debt which I am default on and cannot payback.
~ Hubert B.

I elected to attend Everest because of the flexibility and promise it provided: flexibility to choose evening classes and the promise to be guaranteed a job…I struggled to attend every night, given that I was a single mother to my then infant child while working part time in the morning. Paying for daycare and in school tuition through Genesis Lending was difficult so I relied heavily on the promise to a better job and higher income. Paying thousands of dollars is difficult. Especially, having to pay the loans upon completing the course without the fulfilled promises is simply unfair. Students who invested money into Everest, like myself, or any Corinthian College, did not get their monies worth; and should be entitled to a full refund to potentially invest that money into a real education.
~ Gladys J.

These people could be your neighbors, your co-workers, they could even be you or members of your family. Their stories are relatable, and therein lies the problem: too many people are suffering under student debt, and more will if we don’t tackle college costs and crack-down on predatory practices by industry. We must solve this student debt crisis for Georgians and for the rest of the country.

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