In Their Own Words: Student Debt Stories from Nevadans

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, Nevada borrowers owe more than $8.58 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 Nevada is above 302,600 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, 49% 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, Nevadans who graduated from public or private 4-year colleges owe more than $22,000 in student loans. While this average is the 2nd lowest average in the country, the the burden of student debt is a factor for how this amount affects people’s daily lives and financial health. Measuring household incomes, savings, and how many Nevadan households have cash on hand, Nevada ranks 48th among states and the District of Columbia in resident prosperity according to the Prosperity Now Scorecard. 

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 Nevadans 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 am 57 years old due to the inflation I was forced to go back to school after 25 years, and even though I completed my education I am worked for 6 years and now find myself unemployed. I have a son that is 23 years old and has decided to place his education on hold also because he can see the stress of trying to pay a $50k student loan. The FAFSA Grant really doesn’t give enough funds to continue education and it seems that students are forced to either not work to receive the full amount, but if a parent works they receive very little. This disappoints my son and he sees a dim chance that he can complete his education. I will be never be able to pay my student loan and I hope there is some hope that I can retire and not leave this huge debt to my children.”
~ Teresa S.

“My student debt started with a for-profit school which was closed a year after I left for fraud. Unfortunately, because I had already figured out they were a scam & left, none of my debt was forgivable, as was the case for students still in the school when it was closed. I could not afford my student loans and the credit card debt I had accrued trying to stay in school, so had to declare bankruptcy, but of course none of my loans were dischargable…I returned to school to finish my BA, hoping that would make me employable. When it didn’t, I returned for an accelerated M.Ed. a year later. I was seeking employment this entire time and would have gladly quit school or cut down my caseload, but I had even very few interviews, despite seeking a variety of work, much of it much lower pay than I had been earning. During this time, I lost a house I had put a $100,000 down payment on and any hope of having children. One of the reasons I decided I could afford to teach, despite a massive pay cut from the last job I held, was loan forgiveness. I now have almost $100,000 in student loans, will have to borrow to afford to do my student teaching (no pay) in the fall, so that I can get a low-paying job as a teacher…If the income-based and/or loan forgiveness plans are cancelled, as seems likely, I will likely be forced into default. Because of this, I cannot marry my (disabled) fiance, because we can’t afford to have his credit tied to mine.”
~ Trebor G.

“The PELL Grant changed while I was in school, so suddenly I was relying solely on student loans to go to school. My school also required full coverage medical insurance in order to be able to go full time; my total monthly income in $121.00/mo I couldn’t afford insurance and didn’t qualify for medicaid. I couldn’t stop going to school because I couldn’t afford to pay back the loans. I have now gotten my bachelor’s degree and I am no closer to being able to be able to pay on my loans than I was before; I am now going to graduate school to defer my loans for another two years and hopefully then I will be qualified to get a job so that I can pay on my loans when I get done with school.”
~ Pat B.

Problems with student loan companies:

“I am in social services, I have never made enough to afford repayments and have been in and out of deferment and forbearance since 2002. I literally feel like I sold my soul to the devil – I had no idea how difficult these loans would be to repay (when I took them out ) and no idea that if I got married they would go after my husbands salary even if I am not working. This is a never ending nightmare…”
~ Linda G.

Victims of predatory for-profit colleges:

“I am a former student of Corinthian College (the name was Las Vegas College-Henderson Campus, now called Everest College-Henderson ) from 2007-2009 in Henderson, Nevada…I was told I would be in an internship and have gainful employment within 3 months of graduating – In classes, Instructors would announce job openings available to students — only if we had already taken certain classes –that was the criteria for eligibility for the job or internship – All questions I had, in any form, in relation to jobs, financial aid, funds for living expenses, etc. were shoved aside BUT, there was no issue when I was called out of classes to sign more loan papers -if I refused, I was not allowed to return to class until I signed the loan papers… I was a victim from 2007 to 2009 and still suffering from the acts of this college.”
~ Rita K.

“At Everest College I was lied to an as a disabled veteran that this field would be great for me,I was chased around with a clipboard minutes after viewing the campus to sign up for the program,,I was told multiple times they would work with my disability both in class and during externship ,,it was all a bunch of lies.At the time externship started I was told by Everest Career services to not mention a disability on my extern site.. I was lied to and told i was randomly selected to take a survey, and I was signing up for financial aid ,,,When I seen amounts of over $15,000 on the screen the financial aid rep. tried to tell me it was being used to pay for my books.”
~ Ricky W.

(From 2015) “I am about $30,000 in debt and still with the job I had when I first went to Everest. They have’t followed through with any of the job placements they said they would. They have only given me one minimum wage job offer. The classroom experience was good and the time spent was good at the time. I have been out for a year and I do not get follow ups like they said and I have still have not gone any where with my degree. Also, they stated all my credits would transfer to university of Phoenix but I only got about half of them transferred. I feel like this school is taking every students money and they do not care like they say they do!”
~ Christina M.

(From 2015) “I took medical assistant courses…I have $20,000 student loans and the [Corinthian Colleges] school never even started sending out my resume until I was out of school for 6 months. I never had one interview. I was told that if I got great grades, and had a good attendance record, I would be easy to place. Ha!! All they cared about was giving doctors free help. They allowed the doctors to treat the externship like crap. They wanted us to be professional, but we were told just to bite our tongue and deal with it. I’m not working in this field, and I feel that they are responsible for lying to me about the program. I’m even making more money at a casino than what I would have made in my field. They told me that I would be making a lot more. All lies. Now, I’m stuck paying for their lies.”
~ Susan M.

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 Nevadans and for the rest of the country.

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