In Their Own Words: Student Debt Stories from Texans
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, Texas borrowers owe more than $94 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 Texas is above 3.1 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, 55% 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, Texans who graduated from public or private 4-year colleges owe more than $26,800 in student loans: the 33rd 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 Texans 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:
“The first in my family to attain a graduate degree, I did so only by borrowing heavily (my cumulative student loan debt exceeds $200,000). Average pay in my profession is approximately $40,000. Twice I have had to place student loans on forbearance due to inability to pay. My monthly payment amount, supposedly based upon income, exceeds my monthly rent on my apartment–over $800.00 per month. There simply is no way to afford this, and I know that my story is by no means unique. We must do something about this NOW. College costs keep increasing every year–even at public universities and colleges, and the student loan companies are the ones profiting, rather than college/university students like myself, who mistakenly believed that a higher education was the key to success.”
~ Brian S.
“I went into my masters program thinking I would come out with a great job – but the recession happened, and it has taken me nearly 10 years to get where I should have been 5 years ago, maybe even more. Because of the recession, I was immediately unemployed after my degree and searched daily for a year before getting a permanent, paying job – and it was basic administration, which wasn’t ideal for someone with a masters degree…I worked hard, but I didn’t make much, and during my phase of unemployment I had to defer loan payments. This meant that over those tough years I had to struggle to pay the high loan payments. It was hard, trying to stretch a poor salary to cover loans on top of rent in an expensive foreign city, and even now I feel the effect, having to pay off a loan bill that is in fact higher than what I borrowed because of accrued interest. What really gave me a better quality of life and standard of living was the Income Based Repayment schemes set up in the Obama era. It meant I could save more, and contribute more to the economy; but it still meant I could be responsible for my debt and pay off what I owed. If those schemes are weakened or taken away, it will mean people who invested in their future, because they have been told that’s what they should do, will actually wind up struggling. What is at risk by reducing Pell Grants and Perkins loans (the latter on which my undergraduate education depended) is making university affordable and pulling those who work hard out of poverty; by reducing IBR programs, you risk hard-working Americans lowering their standard of living and being unable to contribute to the economy; and by taking away incentives like the public service loan forgiveness, you encourage fewer people to take up much needed roles in education and service. Education is only getting more expensive, meaning there are fewer opportunities for regular American kids who want to excel, who want to be a part of society, work hard and contribute to the greater good. We cannot shackle another generation to crippling student debt and assume that all will be well.”
Problems with student loan companies:
“Interest accrued on loan debt is extensive, forcing repayment over 30 years plus spouse’s student loan debt is equivalent to our mortgage. I will not be able to retire given that I will be 73 when the loan is paid in full. Due to the amount of interest accrued on the principal Navient will not lower my payments any further. I am hopeless about my future. Only death will relieve me from my debt.”
~ Andrea H.
“I have been disabled for quite some time and have not received any income at all. As much as I report it to Navient and Sallie Mae, they don’t care. I constantly get bombarded with mail and phone calls and threats. I am at my wits end. I am physically unable to work and now have cancer. What can I do to stop this? They are bullies.”
~ Cebrina S.
“My debt for completing my degree is so high and my income so normal that I make the payments I can afford (after being without a job three time after graduation)…I will NEVER be able to pay off my loans. I owe more each month than the month before. You can’t pay off a debt like that.”
~ Michael B.
Victims of predatory for-profit colleges:
“My student debt started even while I was a student at Wyotech. Like many other students, I was forced by Wyotech to take out a personal loan through Genesis Lending and I had to start paying not even half way through my schooling. After attending Wyotech I realized how overpriced it is based off of the education I received. The fact that they have manipulated records and treated students unfairly is not OK. I hope something can be done and students can get refunded or at least be given some type of financial help.”
~ Jorge R.
“I’m in debt almost $20,000.00 through this [Corinthian] school and they didn’t even have the resources for job placement,i had to find my own job, not to mention they are invisible to a lot of companies because they are not accredited and the 832 hours i went for the electrical trade, doesn’t even count toward my journeyman test in a few years. I don’t know how i got into that program but they some how got me into the program and financing in the same day I applied, I have 3 kids and I’m still struggling to pay the bills, and the genesis loan had me in collections because Corinthian did not follow through with the job placement, I graduated in 2012, will I be able to get relieved of this debt?”
~ Jeremy A.
“My son went to ITT technical school. They never fulfilled their promises of finding him a job, etc., and they went out of business. I co-signed on one of the loans. He is up to his ears in school debt with nothing to show for it, and I am paying off a loan which I can barely afford to do…I only work part time now, my salary is less than half of what it used to be, and I am stuck paying for this worthless, high priced loan!”
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 Texans and for the rest of the country.
Posted on 17 September 2018