I Am A Student Loan Voter

i am a student loan voter

Sign Here and Declare You're a Student Loan Voter



Student loan borrowers have done the right thing — working hard to get their education or job training and taking on the personal responsibility of paying for it. But $1.3 trillion in student loan debt is standing between them and a fair shot at the middle class. We need to get serious about real, common sense reforms to treat these hard working borrowers fairly before the crisis becomes a full-blown economic catastrophe.


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Student Loan Debt Stories

Saul’s Story

Saul had a great start at the University of Wisconsin, but when his tuition jumped and he couldn't afford it he dropped out and joined the U.S. Army. While serving our country in Afghanistan, he had to make sure that his student loans were paid.

Miles’ Story

Miles attended one of the poorest high schools in Milwaukee before getting accepted to one of the greatest universities in the world, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Now, he has another obstacle to overcome: massive student loan debt.

Kira’s Story

Kira just turned 30 and decided to stay in Madison, Wisconsin after graduating with close to $60,000 in student loan debt. She has dreams of being a foster parent and serving the community with public service, but that debt may hold her back.

I couldn't keep my house and make more than interest only payments at the same time

Kristen, Alabama

The stress of my children possibly not being able to eat has caused me to not pay in order to put food on the table

Natosha, Alabama

Student loan debt is a growing problem that needs to be solved as soon as possible

Rachel, Alabama

So far the only thing that has come out of my Master's degree is the mounting debt that I can't even begin to touch

Susan, Alabama

I am stretched to the limit and my health has begun to be an issue

Christy, Alaska

I received a call telling me my mother was in a plane crash ... I didn't have any money saved for such emergencies

Norma, Alaska

I've paid back the amount borrowed, and still owe the same amount as the original loan

Carole, Arizona

If I had it to do all over again, I think I'd have been a plumber

Dale, Arizona

I still drive a car from 2001 and will most likely never own a home

Dr. Rhonda, Arizona

There has to be a better way to manage this than hiking student loan interest rates to an outrageous level

Ellie, Arizona

I love my career but if something doesn't change, I'll never be able to pay off my loan

Erin, Arizona

How can an older unhealthy retired person live with a debt forcing me to live in another country in order to live at all

Jade, Arizona

I'm saddled with a lifetime of debt with no visible way to pay it back

Jim, Arizona

I thought I was going to make a better life for myself, instead I'm living a nightmare

Kay, Arizona

My life has been hell ever since I took out a SMALL loan

Louise, Arizona

I borrowed $10,000 for school in my 20s ... I'm now 63 and STILL paying this debt off

Morgan, Arizona

Only $1.97 of the payments were being applied to principal

Suzanne, Arizona

Things were different in the 60s

Edward, Arkansas

I'm literally one pay check from being homeless, and will be so for the rest of my life

Milinda, Arkansas

The thought of trying to raise a family while trying to pay loans is terrifying

Aaron, California

It is so painful to think that my two little children do not have a dime saved towards their own education

Alejandro, California

I'm a university professor, and my existence seems to amount to nothing more than paying off debts

Andrew, California

A heartless Sallie Mae phone employee said to me 'even if your son dies in the army, you're still going to have to pay'

Ann, California

I would pay the rest of my life if the payment was reasonable and possible

Audrey, California

If my car dies I don't know if I could get a loan to buy another

Bonnie, California

I wonder now if his education was worth the cost

Carrol, California

The thought of dating scares me because I am ashamed of the debt I have put myself in

Cassi, California

I have taught them that a college education is the only way out of living poor; I don't know that they believe me

Christine, California

I was still raising 2 girls, teenagers now ... It got to the point where I could not afford to give them what they needed

Christine, California

I have completely given up the idea of pursuing Psychology

Claire, California

I will most likely have to move to another country when I retire where I can live on a much smaller retirement

Dan, California

Since when did the United States become a loan shark? I'd have fared better with The Mob

Daniel, California

I have been accruing interest since 2008 and now is the first time that I have been notified of the amount of interest

Debora, California

Student loan debt has destroyed my present and any possibility of a good future

Edgar, California

But when we do retire I don't know how we are going to be able to continue paying on these loans

Elizabeth, California

How do we prepare for retirement when our student loans will follow us into our 70s and 80s?

Gina, California

I am now 42 years old, and I would like to just give up

James, California

We are revising our future

Jane, California

We are educating the wealthy ... Students from middle class families are being shoved out

Janet, California

I'm only grateful the interest isn't in the double figures

Janet, California

It seems to me that it should be illegal to threaten to cut off access to health care to collect a debt payment

Janet, California

Let's get our priorities right

Joan, California

I also urge groups to take up the fight to lower the interest rate on the parent loans

Joe, California

For most of the years since I graduated in 1996, I have not earned enough to make payments on my student loans

Judith, California

The University of Phoenix is a diploma mill taking advantage of people

Judy, California

I am so angry at them for not warning students and for happily screwing up everyone's credit

Katherine, California

It rules my life ... Everything revolves around paying my student loan bill

Kathleen, California

There came a time in my life when I thought that I could do better for myself and the family that I always dreamed of

Kenneth, California

At a time that I should be saving for retirement, that money goes to the government in the form of student loan interest

Kirt, California

I am harassed daily by collection agents

Kristoff, California

I don't own anything not even a car and rent

Laura, California

Luckily I was so broke that I qualified for deferments

Lenika, California

I have paid around $850/month for my student loans for the past seven years

Leona, California

They can take the $200 out of my social security leaving only $800 a month to live on

Linda, California

My kids can't believe that I'm still a college student, at 52 years of age

Lisa, California

If I could tell anyone to avoid student loans, now, I would

Louis, California

I will never forgive or forget how these blood-sucking banks killed the future of my children

Lutz, California

Because of my student loan debt, I have been denied the possibility of ever buying a newer car or ever owning a home

Mary, California

My student loans seriously deteriorate my quality of life

Melissa, California

I live with my boyfriend and can't even afford to pay half his mortgage, let alone speak of utilities

Melissa, California

Times have changed and our country has gone completely stupid when it comes to education

Michael, California

I thought going to graduate school would guarantee both of us a shot at home ownership

Nadia, California

The educated are getting poorer

Nicole, California

That student debt has haunted me for twenty years now

Nicole, California

The last collector literally took half my grocery money for three months, in order to 'fix' things

Patricia, California

I had opportunities to buy a home thwarted because of the debt

Paul, California

Staying in school allows me to defer my student loans though they continue to rack up the interest

Paula, California

The banks got bailed out, but who is going to help the brighter minds of this generation if we don't get them some help?

Randolph, California

These loans get bought and sold for pennies on the dollar yet the amount they want me to pay has doubled

Renee, California

I make a monthly payment of $79.96 – out of my disability income!

Richard, California

I live in my friend's shop doing my best to also keep up with my loan payments to the best of my ability

Rick, California

I am happy I have an education, but the debt that comes with it keeps me up at night

Sandra, California

I am desperately hoping a miracle happens so I can figure out how to get out of this mess of debt

Sarah, California

If I were to get sick tomorrow they would have to roll me into a ditch and let me die

Sean, California

My life is over and I see no way out of this

Seyed, California

I was told to go to school, work hard and study ... To follow my dreams and everything would work out

Stephan, California

I completely forfeited a chance at the type of adulthood my parents enjoyed

T. Miriam, California

I attempt to foresee a future where I don't have to worry about student loans and can maybe afford to move out on my own again

Valerie, California

I am now in my mid-forties and could be paying off student loans until retirement

Wade, California

They called my work and said that I would be paying that no matter what

William, California

All of our income goes to paying bills to live and paying on our debt

Anonymous, Colorado

Why is educating our children and ourselves so expensive?

Beth, Colorado

I have failed my children because there is no way for me to afford their college education after paying for my own

Debbie, Colorado

Although I never foresee my loans being paid off, I'm happy to do what I love

Elizabeth, Colorado

Am 66, still working part time, can't afford Medicare

Jan, Colorado

I remain angry that those who wish to be of service to the community, do so at such a high personal price

Laura, Colorado

I took responsibilities of my loans when I left college and made paying them off my biggest priority

Lisa, Colorado

Would leave this damned country if I could because of the student debt problems

Steven, Colorado

I don't count on anything from anyone, except to be let down

Susan, Colorado

I was stuck with paying an amount that I don't think I owed

Suzanne, Colorado

I'm not sure how I am going to be able to feed my kids

Tiana, Colorado

These student loans have haunted me throughout my entire profession

Valerie, Colorado

This drain on society is leading me to drink ... But this is the price I pay for learning how to think

Chris, Connecticut

I have not been able to accomplish the American dream of owning my own home

Karen, Connecticut

Today, the student situation is much more difficult for education

Mario, Connecticut

Families have to go bankrupt for their children to obtain a higher education

Mary, Connecticut

Because of the interest, she working 3 jobs to pay it off

Peter, Connecticut

A dream should not cost $130,000

Tiffany, Connecticut

Before anyone judges me, they must first realize that completing my college degree has been a lifelong dream

Alyssa, Florida

If I default I understand they will take it out of my social security check, and I cannot make it financially if they do

Barbara, Florida

One of the most onerous experiences in the repayment of student loans has been the interaction with Sallie Mae

Boyd, Florida

By the time I graduated I could barely stand

Carole, Florida

I am trying to ask for forgiveness, but have not been successful

Collette, Florida

Not able to find a career in my new field, the loans became a huge burden

Cristy, Florida

I will never in my lifetime pay off my student loans at my income level

David, Florida

I am still trying to pay off my massive student loans from law school even after 23 years

Donna, Florida

Loans always should be adjustable to the circumstances

Helen, Florida

Panhandlers do better than I

Ileana, Florida

I don't foresee ever having this paid off and I'm afraid of wage garnishment

Jeffrey, Florida

They have made it almost impossible for her to graduate

Joanne, Florida

This debt hangs over my head and at this very moment

Karen, Florida

I'm trying to keep it at a minimum but it's getting so expensive I doubt I'll ever be able to pay it all back

Katherine, Florida

I can truly say that getting a college degree was the worst mistake of my life

Kevin, Florida

Student loan debt collectors were cruel, all because I wasn't paying back my loans ... I couldn't afford to

Kristin, Florida

I had to file bankruptcy to get an acceptable payment plan and consolidation

Lauren, Florida

My loan from 1975 is now over 10,000 and its crushing me

Lewis, Florida

I struggled immensely until I finally gave into foreclosure

Lisa, Florida

I was the first one in my family to go to college, and I did not know the full picture about student loans

Maria, Florida

Chronic pain adds to the daily financial struggle

Mid, Florida

In 2006 and 2008 I went on military deployments overseas ... When I came home I couldn't keep paying

Paul, Florida

I am 60 years of age and I don't know how I will ever get this paid

Randi, Florida

I've been living at home and filing deferment after deferment – depressingly so – in hopes that 'I'll find work soon'

Raymond, Florida

I am stuck ... I am about to be homeless

Rhonda, Florida

I just cannot afford to live and pay for a loan that I had been promised I could get forgiven

Rhonda, Florida

I'm not sure I would even be able to pay it before my life is done

Ricci, Florida

I owe over $150,000

Robert, Florida

Since then I have not had a job that has allowed me to pay back more than $1,000 of that

Sean, Florida

I am scared because I don't want the loans to go into default, but if we can't pay what other choice do I have?

Vicki, Florida

It's either going back to school or working to make money to live off of, or they will garnish my paychecks

Virginia, Florida

If they don't restore consumer protections to private student loans so I can file bankruptcy, I'll be leaving the country

Brendan, Georgia

Something’s wrong with our system

Cathy, Georgia

There‰'s nothing like paying that amount of money and getting nothing in return for it

Christina, Georgia

I would have loved to continue, but I just can not afford it

Cynthia, Georgia

My concern now is how can I continue to pay my student loan and the mounting medical bills without the part time job

Diane, Georgia

I did all this hard work for nothing and ruined my credit

Dixie, Georgia

I was diagnosed with Lupus as soon as I graduated and was not able to use my degree for 3 years

Doreen, Georgia

I have been disabled since 2008, but I want to work

Ellen, Georgia

This the biggest scam I have ever seen

Glenn, Georgia

The $750 check I wrote to Sallie Mae for years nearly shut down my ability to pursue a career

Janice, Georgia

My family knew nothing about student loans, most were still living in poverty

Kenya, Georgia

My concern was that student loans should be forgiven especially for those who chose to provide services to the most needy

Malikah, Georgia

Is this what I have to deal with for wanting to make a difference in our young and special needs children?

Md, Georgia

My interest is more than what I borrowed

Robin, Georgia

I will very likely die in debt

Sharon, Georgia

I have been paying his student loans for him

Shirley, Georgia

I do not have any benefits at all, so I live my life praying I never get sick

Stephanie, Georgia

By the time I pay student loans and credit card debt I would have enough money left to eat dog food

Tracy, Georgia

The cost of attending law school has definitely not been advantageous to me

Wanda, Georgia

I valued my education, as I knew I was going into debt for it! Just how much debt, I could NOT have ever imagined

Janel, Hawaii

Student loan is a major crisis causing many students like myself a problem to get an education

Troy, Hawaii

The student loans are coming due and I have no way to pay

Brenda, Idaho

Most of those are private loans, which do not give me the flexibility and payment options that the government loans do

Amir, Illinois

As everyone knows, the longer I am not paying the interest gets larger

Arlene, Illinois

The high cost of education has become all 'smoke and mirrors”

Barbara, Illinois

I anticipate my home being foreclosed on and see no end in sight to paying off the loans

Catherine, Illinois

He has found himself underemployed in an unrelated field

Christine, Illinois

They are unwilling to work with you on making affordable payments

Cindy, Illinois

Neither one is able to pay off these loans

Clarence, Illinois

I ignored the matter and was ignored until five or six years ago, when harassment started by various collection agencies

Craig, Illinois

I feel permanently shackled to that debt, and I feel cheated

Danielle, Illinois

As a veteran, a responsible citizen, a life long educator, I am very disturbed that I have no recourse to repay my loans

Douglas, Illinois

It is extremely difficult to save any extra money or even get out in front of the debt

Erik, Illinois

I have felt for a long time, I am better off dead than alive!

George, Illinois

I've had every intention of paying my student loan debt but, have not been able to due to supporting my entire family

Janice, Illinois

With no communication I was expected to give money to a bank who had just been BAILED OUT BY OUR GOVERNMENT

Lauren, Illinois

They make it entirely too hard for the kids to go to school and get an education

Lisa, Illinois

I am frustrated and sometimes depressed that it is taking me so long to get back on my financial feet

Lynne, Illinois

We are in desperate need of help and are falling behind because of all of this

Melissa, Illinois

However, nothing has been resolved regarding my years of payments

Norma, Illinois

I will never get my parent plus loan paid and will have to pay for it as a retired person

Patty, Illinois

It doesn't matter that that my previous years wages were well under the poverty level

Rebecca, Illinois

It is impossible for me to move out of my parent's home at the age of 34

Robin, Illinois

A way to get off of the streets and have a better life for myself

Rowynn, Illinois

Because I was the only student in my family to go to college it was hard to understand all the language on the paperwork

Scott, Illinois

I will still never be able to pay off my loans, I don't even make a dent in it now

Shannon, Illinois

I think about this every day, I pray for a windfall, but let's face it we're in serious trouble

Sherri, Illinois

Because I decided to go to college, I live the American Nightmare, instead of the American Dream

Wanda, Illinois

I can't live like this for much longer

Cathy, Indiana

I have yet to reap any financial or emotional gain from the 12 years I spent working towards a better life

Dartanion, Indiana

My degree cost $49,000 to achieve

Daryl, Indiana

So, I go back to being a truck driver for a living

David, Indiana

I really don't know what to do aside from desperately playing the lotto

Jonathan, Indiana

Should we have even let them go to college at all?

Nancy, Indiana

We have worked like slaves, only to realize, we are slaves

Susan, Indiana

I want to feel secure, just once

Wendy, Indiana

I am a single mother who cannot put her own daughter through college because of my student loan debt

Angela, Iowa

I live in absolute poverty and am treated less than a citizen

Crystal, Iowa

I need a better way than the current loan options

Donald, Iowa

No wonder I plan to emigrate!!

Mary, Iowa

I'm now working for a fast food ... I'm 61 years young and I don't know how I'm ever going to pay my student loan bills off

Richard, Iowa

I do believe that financial circumstances should not keep someone from obtaining post high school degrees

Sharon, Iowa

I borrowed from the devil and now it is clear that he has snared many more

Tom, Iowa

I want to pay my debts ... But I need relief

Clay, Kansas

We rent because we cannot qualify for a mortgage due to our high student loans

David, Kansas

Even with all of the penny pinching I still must ask my parents for assistance at times

Erin, Kansas

College was suppose to make my life better ... Instead it has only made it harder

Misha, Kentucky

I will probably NEVER pay off this loan, so I am screwed for the rest of my life for a degree I can't use

Philip, Kentucky

I feel I am being punished for trying to do the right thing

Donna, Louisiana

Student loans changed everything about my life and the life of my child

Linda, Louisiana

But my credit has now been ruined along with my good financial history and dreams of a comfortable retirement

Lynda, Louisiana

Though the school loan payment is manageable, the impact of having such high student loan debt on a credit report is not

Diana, Maine

Mine is one of those 'good old days' stories

John, Maine

It makes our financial situation tenuous.

Julia, Maine

They are simply not acknowledging the realities our young people are facing

Pamela, Maine

I am so stressed about this as I have always tried to pay but had circumstances happen beyond my control

Sandra, Maine

College was 'prepaid' by spending 4 years in the military during the Korean war so I had the GI Bill

Walter, Maine

I was certainly better off as a grocery clerk, but I wanted to make a difference

Anne, Maryland

Every penny that I make is devoted to getting myself out of debt

Arnold, Maryland

I am having a very difficult time repaying

Cindy, Maryland

They can write off the debt but I can't?

David, Maryland

I want to get the degree but I am afraid that I'd simply owe more money and still not get a job

Faith, Maryland

The cost has made me wonder if it was really worth all of the frustration and financial stress

Francine, Maryland

I can only get $50 food for my son and I for these 2 weeks

Kimberly, Maryland

With each consolidation my loans became unsubsidized, and the inflation game was on

Adrienne, Massachusetts

I am in the hole for almost $200K and when my daughters are done with school

Carmen, Massachusetts

After all, I just wanted to work and take care of my 3 kids

Catherine, Massachusetts

In 2008 I received my PhD ... While this was a proud moment, it came with a loan of over $160,000

Col, Massachusetts

Unable to pay bills so I am filing for bankruptcy

Eileen, Massachusetts

I will be paying off my Stafford Loans for the ten years after I graduate

Kathryn, Massachusetts

Soon I will find out the damage

Leslie, Massachusetts

The debt has been a yoke around my neck

Ronnie, Massachusetts

I do not make enough to pay any each month

Amanda, Michigan

We have long since realized that the American dream will not exist for us

Bambi, Michigan

I have been unable to find employment despite three years of constant attempts to find work

Christine, Michigan

Instead, the prime years of my adult life were spent struggling to pay off student loan debt

Dr, Michigan

I am terrified of what my loan debt will be when I graduate

Jenna, Michigan

It sure as hell would be nice to have had a clean slate when I graduated from college

Jess, Michigan

No matter how hard I try, I can't get ahead

Judith, Michigan

I can't even begin to consider paying my student loans making the wages I do right now

Justin, Michigan

If it isn't Sallie Mae on my answering machine 5 times a day, it is someone else who didn't get paid

Kathy, Michigan

I was informed that I could not keep my job if I didn‰'t also have a master‰'s degree

Larry, Michigan

I did see the results of the GI bill that was enacted after WWII

Mary, Michigan

It feels like we were pitched and promised high-speed Internet, yet really only received a telegraph with morose code

Michael, Michigan

I will never be able to pay back my student loans during my lifetime

Sarah, Michigan

Unfortunately, the thing that I saw as the way to all this has actually ended up being the greatest hindrance on my life

Heather, Minnesota

My only debt is my student loans

Jillian, Minnesota

I now fear that I may never earn enough to pay my student debt in my lifetime

Julia, Minnesota

More debt added to more debt

Kimberly, Minnesota

At my age, going for a degree seems redundant

Lynette, Minnesota

And I'm still not using my degree

Mary, Minnesota

Some 35-plus years later some collection agency has come after me for this loan

Phil, Minnesota

When I was young and naive, I clearly didn't realize how crippling it would be for my future hopes

Shawna, Minnesota

Looking back my contributions could have been much greater if the rewards for higher education were more practical

Tamara, Minnesota

I just can't believe that I still owe $14,000 when I have been making payments

Terrie, Minnesota

The system was set up to exploit people like me

Tanya, Mississippi

Now, when I decide to retire, I'll be collecting social security and paying it right back to the government

Bonita, Missouri

I am unemployed and have used up my savings to stay afloat

Don, Missouri

We just want to feel an ease in our debt so we can provide better for our family

Erin, Missouri

I do want to pay them back ... I don't need a 'get out of jail free' card

Jessy, Missouri

It is rough to pay every month

Lindsley, Missouri

I will be dead before it's paid off and no one cares

Marie, Missouri

My business failed ... My health failed ... Then for years I was underemployed

Michael, Missouri

Obtaining a higher education has become a new form of indentured servitude

Cory, Montana

The idea of living on the street here in Montana is suicide

Diane, Montana

Our economy depends on education

Richard, Montana

Most of the time, I had to work 2 jobs just to pay the bills and still could not make a living

Tina, Montana

I began then being able to repay some of the now $15,500 loans, when Hurricane Katrina and all of its happiness struck

Tommie, Montana

Try to avoid private loans, they will feel like they are sucking out any effort you try to make to improve your life

Chris, Nebraska

My mother tearfully asked if I wanted to see my parents living in the street because of loans they couldn't afford

Allison, Nevada

So she is in limbo like so many others in this 'lost' generation

Gale, Nevada

The debt makes me feel like I went to school later in life for no reason

Kristopher, Nevada

My wife has student loan debt of about $160,000 and the best job she can find pays $11.00 per hour

Vince, Nevada

The collection agencies throughout the years would call and make threats to me such as, 'you should drop dead'

Bonnie, New Hampshire

We'll literally be retired from our jobs and will be still be making student loan payments

Melissa, New Hampshire

I still owe the Department of Education more than double the original amount

Sharyn, New Hampshire

Let me paint you a picture of my life as a victim of Sallie Mae private loan

Alejandra, New Jersey

They have threaten to take my mom's social security to satisfy the debt ... My mom is 84 years old

Andrea, New Jersey

I could only afford to rent in the poor housing sections with high crime

Angel, New Jersey

I work up to 18 hours a day at two jobs just to make ends meet

Bill, New Jersey

We have a combined total of $200,000 in student loan debt that we will be paying until we are in our mid 80s

Charles, New Jersey

Student loan debt is the worst thing I could have chosen to do but it was the only option

Dennis, New Jersey

I lost my family, my own clinic, and my American dream and, I am still trying to pay of a debt that is going on 26 years

Frank, New Jersey

Why does the U.S. have the most feudal system in the world when it comes to funding education?

Gary, New Jersey

It seems as if I'm paying towards nothing, because the amount that's applied to my balance is so minimal

Ivory, New Jersey

The programs for private loan consolidation are few and far between

Krista, New Jersey

The children of our future will suffer

L, New Jersey

I remain underemployed, only able to secure part-time work

Lisa, New Jersey

I can't imagine facing what our young people are forced to face now just to have a shot at a decent life

Carol, New Mexico

This seems to me a stark contrast of economic governance, against democracy

Craig, New Mexico

It is a shame that I have spent a life living at the mercy of this debt

Deborah, New Mexico

I am very frightened that once I receive Social Security they will take it from me and I will be living on the streets

Deborah, New Mexico

I was harassed for repayment while I was still in graduate school

Doreen, New Mexico

My only hope of paying my debt is death

Estevan, New Mexico

They seize my federal taxes each year and can't even give me an accounting of where it has been applied

Jeanie, New Mexico

I know the work I do is valuable

Katherine, New Mexico

I will not be able to pay it back until I die ... Is that what they are waiting for?

Laura, New Mexico

I feel like I am on a financial tightrope

Marsha, New Mexico

It meant a lot of work, and a lot of sacrifice

Raymond, New Mexico

I am currently owing about $69,000 in student loan debt and I am not done with school yet

Sarah, New Mexico

I tried to apply for the forgiveness program and I was told that I didn't meet the requirements because of one loan

Tracy, New Mexico

I never had anyone helping me pay for school, so loans were the only way I could afford to go

Amberlynne, New York

I began with nearly $45,000, and today still owe almost that exact amount, even after 15 years of payments

Barbara, New York

I have deferred a few times, not because I didn't want to pay, but I couldn't afford to with the hourly jobs I had

Carlito, New York

I can barely make ends meet without student loans so I have to apply for deferments every year

Darren, New York

She can't even afford to finish a College education

Diana, New York

Every month I have to choose which prescription I am going to go without

James, New York

I first had unemployment deferments, then, after cancer diagnosis, medical deferment

Jeanmarie, New York

I accrue over $800 in interest every month – that's more than my rent

Lianne, New York

Today's student loan market has created a new form of indentured slavery for many students

Megan, New York

I am now 31 years old, starting a family and don't have enough money to put a down payment on a house

Meghan, New York

I understand this is my responsibility and I have to pay it off but I feel robbed

Michael, New York

I'm hoping things will turn for the best for everyone and myself who are struggling with this problem

Michael, New York

Maybe I should start playing the lotto. It may be my only hope to get ahead of my student loan

Nikaury, New York

It makes one heartsick to calculate the interest required for the loan

Patrice, New York

Even after a professional degree and a full time job I'm still asking family and friends to spot me a few dollars

Paul, New York

I am a Decorated Combat Veteran ... I don't own a home, I have little to no savings

Robbie, New York

I am now $100,000 in debt and I am basically just paying the interest

Stacey, New York

I have to make a choice to eat or pay my mortgage

Cheryl, North Carolina

The loan payments are about to start

Debra, North Carolina

I'm barely able to make the monthly payment

Debra J., North Carolina

I am now 70 years old paying a Student Loan that I could not possibly pay off

Joann, North Carolina

It's terrifying and I live with the constant stress and fear of indigence in my old age

Kathryn, North Carolina

My 'investments' in my future have turned out to be nothing more than shackles

Kristen, North Carolina

I landed some part-time teaching jobs here, but have never made enough to pay my bills and make the full loan payment

Margaret, North Carolina

We both earned various scholarship monies but we still had to borrow

Mark, North Carolina

I have no place to turn to find a solution to the student loan

Rebecca, North Carolina

We declared bankruptcy in 2008

Rebecca, North Carolina

I'm now 51 and the loans have spiraled hopelessly to over $300K

Suzanne, North Carolina

I went back knowing that I would have to face the horrors of student loans

Yolanda, North Carolina

The school promised me job placement assistance, but this was misleading

Ben, Ohio

I had to choose between keeping my house, or keeping my health insurance

Christy, Ohio

I have written a congressman, and the President ... Nothing has worked

Christy, Ohio

I have my dream career but now I am at risk of losing everything I worked for

Diana, Ohio

Without student loans I would be doing quite well ... That's the hardest part of all

Drew, Ohio

I do wonder where the end is to this crisis

Helen, Ohio

Although we would do anything to help our children, it has put us in a financial bind

Joan, Ohio

It is becoming harder for senior citizens to even exist

Katherine, Ohio

I was the first person in my family to go to college ... It should be something to be proud about

Kerry, Ohio

I don't know if I will have enough money for my retirement if and when it comes

Kim, Ohio

This is VERY hard on my barely surviving small business

Lydia, Ohio

Forgiveness of student debt in the US would continue the economic growth, pumping money into the economy

Marie, Ohio

I literally begged and pleaded with them to work with me so I could pay back my loans

Pete, Ohio

I want to pay back my loan as I'm grateful that I was able to get my Master's degree, however, I'm not able to do it

Sharon, Ohio

I could not afford to pay on my student loans and deferred them as much as I was allowed with interest building

Teresa, Ohio

I feel I was taken advantage of by the private industry and even by universities

Theresa, Ohio

It is obvious that I will never be able to pay off my student loan

Christopher, Oklahoma

About 10 months later I suffered a spinal injury and ended up being fired for being unable to do my job

David, Oklahoma

And I have four months to do it before I'm unemployed ... Thanks a lot, Washington

Doug, Oklahoma

Trapped in a downward spiral

Gary, Oklahoma

As we searched for scholarships and grants, it became obvious student loans would be needed

Gary, Oklahoma

The sad part is I cannot even use the degrees I earned

Linda, Oklahoma

I don't mind paying the money back so that others can go to school, too, but the problem is life happens

Lou Ann, Oklahoma

I hate and despise Sallie Mae and the profits that they have made off the backs of people like me

Nancy, Oklahoma

Buying a new car seems only possible if we win the lottery

Rachel, Oklahoma

I was at a point that payments far exceeded my ability to even make a monthly payment

William, Oklahoma

The amount simply keeps growing ... I will never be out of debt

Daniel, Oregon

I believe in being responsible for my decisions and debt ... I also believe that I need help

David, Oregon

This supposed education that was going to improve my life did nothing but burden me with very unnecessary debt

Kevin, Oregon

My debt is so crushing that I can't afford to buy anything more than food and necessities

Miriam, Oregon

I have to work two jobs in order to make my student loan payments and still be able to pay the rest of my bills

Regina, Oregon

I'm happy with my life, but it isn't the easiest

Shaindel, Oregon

I am 75 and still pay student loans

Sharon, Oregon

I am old ... I need to retire, but I can't afford to

Sharon, Oregon

I am afraid to answer my phone

Stacy, Oregon

I do not get ahead in payments ... This is now 10 years later, after getting my teaching certificate

Susan Kay, Oregon

Somehow, we used to know how to manage affordable educations without crippling our children's futures

Ann, Pennsylvania

How ironic that the key ingredient to a thriving economy has become something that will pull our economy down

Annie, Pennsylvania

If I pay my student loans every single month on a level strategy, I will be 65 before my loans are fully paid off

Brian, Pennsylvania

I would go back to school, but it is too expensive

Carly, Pennsylvania

I am a disabled man on a limited income paying off three student loans

Daniel, Pennsylvania

I don't want to get married because I don't want to pass the financial burden on to a husband

Elizabeth, Pennsylvania

I have thirty thousand dollars in unpaid medical bills because of the bullying

Elizabeth, Pennsylvania

The work was difficult; I was certainly underemployed

Ethan, Pennsylvania

Under today's conditions I would not be able to get a higher education

Eugene, Pennsylvania

I have found out that I must go back to school ... Doing so, I jeopardize my entire financial and emotional well being

Gabriela, Pennsylvania

I don't know what to do at this time I am completely overwhelmed

Gloria, Pennsylvania

I see no possibility of getting my loans paid in my lifetime

Jacquie, Pennsylvania

Now paying 23% of monthly SS income on these loans

Jennifer, Pennsylvania

I have a wonderful education and a 'good' job but I still live paycheck to paycheck with nothing to pay for my loans

Jenny, Pennsylvania

I wish someone had sat me down properly and really explained the high cost of loans

Jessica, Pennsylvania

Their grades were good, but they had to drop out because we could not afford to continue

Laureen, Pennsylvania

My husband and I will have to work until we are in our early seventies to pay off these debts

MaryEllen, Pennsylvania

I am $188K in debt

Michael, Pennsylvania

I know I will never live long enough to pay this bill, but right now I have no choice but to pay them the way I am

Patricia, Pennsylvania

I would have been informed before I applied for the loans to go to college

Rebecca, Pennsylvania

We loved what we did so the hardships were worth it

Sandra, Pennsylvania

When my student loans come off of deferment, what am I supposed to do?

Tina, Pennsylvania

The job market is still so dismal it may take years for me to obtain a position and salary commensurate with my education

Wendelyn, Pennsylvania

Education shouldn't be a business; it should be a journey about betterment and preparation

Ulises, Puerto Rico

It makes me wish I never went to college to educate myself

Nicole, Rhode Island

Companies don't want to hire someone in their 60's so again I am struggling with my loan payments

Maxine, South Carolina

The greed of law schools is destroying the future of hard working law students who go to law school

Troy, South Carolina

I had a heart attack and open heart surgery ... My debt was never forgiven

Hazel, South Dakota

This lapse in the schools not offering counseling including how to get money for college seems a bit shady to me

Kathy, South Dakota

We are not sure if we can have children or build any kind of a savings due to the enormous amount of loans I have

Alicia, Tennessee

Any sense of relief or happiness or freedom I might feel is being overshadowed by my obligation to begin repaying

Alyse, Tennessee

They even gave me failing grades on the 2 missed exams while I was hospitalized with a very bad infection

David, Tennessee

I will still be paying on my student loans when my son goes to college

Latonya, Tennessee

I have 5 different working handicaps and nobody will listen to me

Phyllis Ann, Tennessee

I'm ready to work, but the system is not willing to get me started

Angela, Texas

It does not seem fair that I am worse off than I would have been if I had decided not to return to school

Barbara, Texas

We are coming up with a plan of attack

Charles, Texas

My balance after paying 6 years is still around $130,000 ... I am barely making the payment

Dimas, Texas

I cannot afford the enormous payments that will be due as I am almost unable to walk ... If it continues it will kill me

Fred, Texas

Every term end I get 4-6 or more calls from Sallie Mae demanding payment, threatening default

Fred, Texas

I observed music students' struggle with the cost of undergraduate education

Henry, Texas

I sacrifice leaving my son, family, life in the US, every other month to work for 28 days in order to have an income

Jacqueline, Texas

I feel the government has preyed on the young and naive for financial gain

Jamie, Texas

I will turn 62 this year ... I borrowed $56,000 total but my current student loan debt is $156,000

Kathleen, Texas

I am 52 years old and will die with my student loan debt

Kellen, Texas

If anyone knows how to accomplish loan forgiveness, please let me know ... I cannot find anyone who will even talk to me

Kenneth, Texas

I am currently a PhD student for the simple reason: to keep food on the table and a roof over my head

Laura, Texas

I am a honor student and all I have so far is a lot of debt

Lesley, Texas

My GI bill had expired and the Air Force would do nothing for me ... They said they were not responsible for their officers

Lew, Texas

I would like to buy a house and a new car, start a family but have to put it off because of my tremendous debt

Michael, Texas

I have over $150,000 in student loan debt

Patricia, Texas

Usually, I'm overqualified

Rebecca, Texas

I feel that I am being targeted because I happen to have a job

Renee, Texas

I will be paying for my student debt long after retirement age

Richard, Texas

Meals on Wheels bring lunches, and we do not even have enough to donate to for them

Sandi, Texas

We can't enjoy the fruits of our higher education

Shawn, Texas

Insurance goes up, coverage goes down, and at 55 now you start needing such

Thomas, Texas

Now that I am over 50 what are my prospects of a good job to warrant such an expenditure in education?

Tom, Texas

I have always strived to meet my financial obligations, but cannot continue to pay my student loans

Angela, USA

Regular hard working people suffer through a mountain of debt

Chris, USA

I don't know how you stay in the US with this loan debt

Hannah, USA

My debt has gotten larger each year ... I now owe almost 50% more than I borrowed

Meredith, USA

I am losing sleep about this and don't know how I am going to repay this

Shirley, USA

I have yet to touch the principal and will be making payments until someone sends them a death certificate

Paula, Utah

The payments they want me to make are bigger than any income I can make in this state

Ben, Vermont

What we need today is what we had in the 1950s & 1960s: strong state support of higher education to make it affordable

Walter, Vermont

I was told that the only way forgiveness of the loan would be if you're handicapped or dead then you can't pay it back

Deborah, Virginia

Something went wrong between my 1965 and today

Ed, Virginia

My life has been devastated by this 'investment'

Jelena, Virginia

So I will have to defer my payments once more in order to eat and feed my children

Johnel, Virginia

Now, at 58, after raising 2 sons on my own, and now myself disabled with leukemia, there is still no relief

Karel, Virginia

I went to school to avoid poverty, but here we are worse off than many of our peers who didn't go to college

Keisha, Virginia

Are we turning into a developing nation?

Langdon, Virginia

The US Dept of Education did not care and neither did the student loan lender

Pam, Virginia

I found a job working for less than $10 an hour and never realized my loan payments went into effect asap

Steve, Virginia

I worry about losing everything just for a degree

Susan, Virginia

Student loans have literally and single-handedly destroyed my life

Tiffany, Virginia

Although I live in rent-supported senior housing I was refused the expected rent reductions

Anita, Washington

For years I received harassing phone calls at home and work because I could never make the minimum payment

Bruce, Washington

I have not owned a new car, or new clothes, or had money to take a vacation – before and after this student loan debt

Catherine, Washington

My loan is almost equal to my house payment! I may have to chose which one to pay

Eileen, Washington

All my years of working hard and planning for a well-needed rest as I age, are gone

Ellen, Washington

My granddaughter owes about $30,000 in student loans

Enid, Washington

I have not ever been able to make the minimum payment on my student loans since graduating

Jennifer, Washington

I find it amazing that I am eligible for food stamps but not loan forgiveness

Kim, Washington

I have been paying loans for 20 plus years

Patricia, Washington

My private student loan is locked at 3.6% while my federal consolidated loans are at 6.8% ... How is that possible?

Robert, Washington

In order to get a monthly repayment amount I could make I had to do a 30 year extended repayment plan

Sean, Washington

A 30k loan has become 130k loan

Shahram, Washington

I owe more than twice the principal ... This is usury ... This is extortion

Steve, Washington

I'm currently on Social Security and I feel like the government is ganging up on me regarding this debt

Njeri, Wisconsin

I'm 27 and my student loans forbid me from living in a safe neighborhood

Alexandra, Wisconsin

I had 3 jobs and even volunteered as a guinea pig at a local drug testing lab for extra money

Anitra, Wisconsin

I don't want this hanging with me 'til the day I die and then my son is left to deal with it

Ann, Wisconsin

That 'American Dream' seems to be dead

Barbara, Wisconsin

There needs to be a better way to pay off the loans

Celeste, Wisconsin

I don't see how I can get this paid off in my lifetime!

Cheryl, Wisconsin

It's really scary to be older and not have many options anymore

Cheryl, Wisconsin

Ever since 1994 through today I have not missed one single college student loan payment

David, Wisconsin

We postponed getting married and having children; there was no way I could be off work and not default on my loans

Diana, Wisconsin

I will never have children as I cannot afford to feed myself

Heather, Wisconsin

I still will not be able to save any money for my future nor will I be able to contribute to the economy

Jessica, Wisconsin

But I am still losing my home to foreclosure in about a month

Karin, Wisconsin

They both would love to get their Master’s Degree, but are afraid of being more in debt

Marilyn, Wisconsin

I came to this country to live the American Dream

Virginia, Wisconsin

I have looked into trying to purchase a home but not while my student loan debt is still out there

Jodell, Wyoming
I couldn't keep my house and make more than interest only payments at the same time
Kristen, Alabama

Starting with a bachelor's degree in 1993, then a Master's degree in 1996 and another Master's in 2010, I am now almost $100,000 in student loan debt. Not to mention the then $25,000 student loan I cosigned for an ex-boyfriend in 2004 to just to get him out of my house...which is now greater than $40,000. I was taught from the time I could learn that I would go to college. I get that Bachelor's degree, but I'm not one of those lucky people, like those with whom I went to my small private college (which I mistakenly thought would afford me a better education and therefore a better career), whose parents could "get them in the door somewhere" or hire them themselves. I had no connections. So I decided to go to graduate school. At the time it seemed like a sound investment in my future. Fast forward about 15 years, another Master's degree seemed like my only viable avenue to anything better than the barely $40,000 a year job I started in 2001. I started working for my state government a year before a republican governor started his two terms in office and froze raises for the duration. They're still frozen today. In the past, I believed student loans were an investment in my future. Now I see them as a greedy racket, only serving to make money off people who are desperate to make a better life for themselves. Only because of my most recent Master's, I was able to combine all the loans into one and qualify for hardship forbearance. Once the forbearance period runs out, I have absolutely no idea how I'll pay for it. Before I received the forbearance, on a regular repayment plan, my payment would have been between $700 and $800 a month. I made a choice in 2002 to buy a house, a decision I do not regret. In 2008 I filed for bankruptcy, which is the only reason I've been able to keep my house. I couldn't keep my house and make more than interest only payments at the same time. If I had been able to include my loans prior to 2008 in my bankruptcy, which is designed to provide RELIEF, my financial future would be much brighter. Instead, no matter what my income becomes, I have a lifetime of student loan payments to look forward to. I take responsibility for the loans I incurred for my education, ill advised as they were. But the interest that has been compounded on these loans is criminal. It takes advantage of those trying to be self-sufficient by making us no better than indentured servants.

The stress of my children possibly not being able to eat has caused me to not pay in order to put food on the table
Natosha, Alabama

I started my college education with the hopes of becoming a counselor with the US Armed Forces. Although I had a child I wasn't going to let anything stop me. Well after 3 years of schooling and many student loans, I am struggling to pay them down. I currently have over $20,000 in student loans and as a single mother my family has gone without in order for me to pay student loads. The stress of my children possibly not being able to eat has caused me to not pay. I was offer the opportunity to consolidate my loans and I did so however I get calls all the time telling me I owe money and am late. I was diagnosed with depression because of the stress. There have been many days where I just couldn't manage. I can't buy a home for my kids because I can't afford to move out my parent's house.

Student loan debt is a growing problem that needs to be solved as soon as possible
Rachel, Alabama

After graduating from high school in 2005 I enrolled in college determined to get my degree in Communications and become a news reporter. In the 4 years that it took me to obtain my degree I racked up $45,000 in student loan debt that will take me numerous years to pay back. I recently consolidated my loans and although I have a full-time job at a call center I am on the income based repayment plan and pay $10 per month on the loans. Meanwhile, the loans continue to gain interest since I am no longer enrolled in college and I know that being on the IBR plan I will be paying on these loans well into my old age. I would encourage any individual who is about to enroll in college to consider grants and scholarships and working to pay for school out of pocket because student loan debt is a growing problem that needs to be solved as soon as possible.

So far the only thing that has come out of my Master's degree is the mounting debt that I can't even begin to touch
Susan, Alabama

I was older when decided to go back to school. When I was still going to a two year college my husband left me with 2 teenage daughters still at home, and 2 children grown and on their own. When I finished the junior college and was ready for a 4 year college, I couldn't leave my 2 daughters at night after being away from them all day at work. So I decided to try an online college. I chose university of Phoenix, which was a great chose except the outrageous tuition. I was 50 when I earned my master's degree and $72,000 in debt. That same year my daughter gave birth to a 2 lb baby boy. We spent 3 months at a hospital 300 miles away from home and the debts starting rising. When we were finally were able to bring him home, his mother just couldn't handle the responsibilities of a premature baby. She left him with me for 2 years. I was working an hour away from home and raising a baby with special needs. I loved him so much and would do anything for him but once again the expenses started mounting. I starting deferring the loans in order to make ends meet but the interest mounted. We went through down sizing with my company and I had to take a cut in pay. It has now been 6 years since I finished school and my financial situation has not gotten any better. This past week I was given notice that my job with my company was being eliminated. Now, I don't know what to do. I was told years ago that the solution to so many of my problems was to go back to school and earn my degree. So far the only thing that has come out of my Master's degree is the mounting debt that I can't even begin to touch.

I am stretched to the limit and my health has begun to be an issue
Christy, Alaska

In 2000 I found myself with a new baby from China and a failing abusive marriage. After my divorce I realized I would have to go back to school at the age of 42 in order to get a degree that would help me get a job that paid well enough to raise my child. I was living on the coast of Oregon and could not support myself. I sold my house and had enough money to live on and pay for the first year of college but after that I relied on student loans and credit cards. What a mess. I graduated from the U of O in 2006 with a BS in Psychology. I then moved back to Alaska where I could raise my daughter with the support of my family. Unfortunately things don't always turn out the way we think they are going to and a month after I arrived home my elder sister died in a car accident. The whole family was devastated. While grieving I went to a program called 9-star and got help writing cover letters, resumes, money to buy a suit for interviews. I was completely broke and 50000 plus in debt. I applied everywhere I could think of that could use my skills. By the end of October I finished the month with 15 interviews in two weeks and landed a job with Southcentral Foundation as a Clinical Associate working with people with severe mental illness. The cost of living in Alaska is high and I have had my student loans deferred or in forbearance because I was unable to pay them. I got help with credit counseling to pay off my credit card debt and have some of it wiped out. I still was unable to pay on my student loans. I found myself living in a duplex with my elderly parents paying rent to provide part of an income to them as they have aged I have begun to help them more and more. My father has the beginnings of Alzheimer's and my mother has aneurysms in her brain, both are extremely unsteady on their fee. I have spent many a night in the emergency room after one of them has fallen. I am the only stable offspring, my younger sister is going through a divorce, my younger brother who lives with my parents has severe major depression and no job, and I have another younger brother who is an alcoholic living in their garage with his wife who has severe arthritis. My income is stretched to the limit providing for various things for all of them. I do not feel resentful about my parents care but is is very hard to help my sister with food every other month and also make sure that the alcoholic brother does not abuse my parents. Around summer of 2007 or 2008 I enrolled in a master's program and accrued another 20, 000 or so of debt. I have been unable to finish this, and only have an internship, 4 classes and a master's project but hesitate to accrue more debt. I am stretched to the limit and my health has begun to be an issue, with menopause, chronic fatigue, and disintegrating disc disease in my back. I am 54 years old and the support I thought I would get from family has not happened I have the role of parent, caregiver and breadwinner. I need help the pressure that I fell in killing me and I find myself once again talking with my student loan s to get them into forbearance again what happens when this runs out I just don't know. Help please.

I received a call telling me my mother was in a plane crash ... I didn't have any money saved for such emergencies
Norma, Alaska

After graduating from college, I found a job with a subsidiary of State Street Bank working as custody administrator. Between paying rent and the daily expenses of just living I had to ask for a deferment on my loan as I was not making enough. One night, I received a call from my sister telling me my mother was in a plane crash and there were no survivors. I didn't have any money saved for such emergencies. Some friends of mine donated money so I could purchase my ticket to travel home. Home was across the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the globe so around $1,800 round trip ticket was a significant amount of money. While I was home one of my relatives told me that my island was short on teachers and the government was recruiting college graduates to fill the need. I applied for a teaching position before I left my island. Upon returning to the States, I continued to work and made my student loan payments on and off. After a couple of months, I was notified by the Ministry of Education of Palau that they want to hire me to teach at the local high school. I was told that since Palau was an under developed country I would be able to get my student loan forgiven. It was not the case. I was informed by the Department of Education that because Palau was no longer a U.S. Trusteeship that my years of teaching doesn't count. So here I am in 2013 still paying on $55,000(with interest & penalties) with no end in sight. Currently, my salary barely covers rent, car payment, student loan and daily living expenses. I'm 44 years old married with 2 kids and renting a 2 bedroom apartment because we can't afford the closing costs and all other expenses associated with home ownership. The only hope I have is my faith in God!

I've paid back the amount borrowed, and still owe the same amount as the original loan
Carole, Arizona

When I retired from the Army, I used my GI Bill funds to pay my mortgage, etc., while I went to a private, for-profit university near my home. My student loans are so high that I'll be paying them until I die. One real problem is interest. Some of my loans were subsidized before consolidation. Now, the interest owed is more than the original loan amount. And the private loan I received from Citi Student for one term at the online, private Grad school is another example. I've paid back the amount borrowed, and still owe the same amount as the original loan. There ought to be a law.

If I had it to do all over again, I think I'd have been a plumber
Dale, Arizona

I had a real long trip through college, due to supporting my son without any child support from his deadbeat mom, and as a result, racked up a lot of loans. I finally got my CIS degree in 2001, right after the dot bomb, when all those jobs moved to India and other off-shore locations, so it took 8 years to finally find permanent employment in my field. I worked as a temp in the IT department at the college that issued my degree the whole 8 years. It was only after my last raise as an hourly employee that, in inflation-corrected dollars, I finally surpassed the hourly rate I made delivering the Asbury Park Press as a teen. To be fair, I had a *lot* of customers in a very small area, but still, LESS PAY THAN A PAPER ROUTE???? In any case, after they saw me starting to get interviews elsewhere, they "found the money" to hire me as a permanent employee, but low-balled the job title (on top of their low-ball pay rates vis a vis "real world" pay for those titles) so that they could pay me as little as possible. I'm still trying to pay off 2007 and 2008, when Sallie Mae came knocking and told me I had no more economic hardship deferments left and suddenly my income was smaller than my outgo. It didn't matter that my economic hardship was not only still there, but getting worse as inflation ate every raise I got as a temp and someone overseas got the job I should have gotten.... My principal balance ballooned from $42k or so to (currently) over $60k during that time – at which point I started interest-only payments – and there it sits. I'm roughly 50% further from paying it off than the day I graduated, and I still don't know where I'm going to find the money to pay the increased principal + interest payment once they kick in. If some kid asked me today, I'd advise against college, unless he/she was going into a field that's not easily outsourceable..

I still drive a car from 2001 and will most likely never own a home
Dr. Rhonda, Arizona

I am grateful for all of my years of education, but even after budgeting tightly AND selflessly serving as an instructor/administrator of higher education for over a decade now, I still drive a car from 2001 and will most likely never own a home – as I must travel to wherever the job leads, anyway.

There has to be a better way to manage this than hiking student loan interest rates to an outrageous level
Ellie, Arizona

It took my wife and I over 25 years to pay off my student loans from professional school. My family could contribute nothing, not $1. We were always behind in everything & were unable to save for our own children's college education because we were still paying for mine! Luckily I was in a field of reasonably high earning & we were able to pay for our children's university education as they went but had no savings for it. I felt tied to that debt for most of my adult life and I was. I feel like I have given back a great deal to my community in free care and spent 4 years in the Indian Health Service. No loans were forgiven, only deferred. There has to be a better way to manage this than hiking student loan interest rates to an outrageous level and strapping down the most vulnerable. How can I get a mortgage on my house for 2.75 %, yet my daughter, who is just now starting grad school may be strapped with loans at nearly 7%? This makes absolutely no sense and works against reason. These days, even a graduate degree does not guarantee a high paying job upon graduation. With many young people barely making minimum wage after graduation (if they are lucky enough to find a job!) strapping them with high interest loans to pay back is just plain stupid. We can do better.

I love my career but if something doesn't change, I'll never be able to pay off my loan
Erin, Arizona

I am a teacher in a low income, Title I school. I have taught at this school for 13 years. After I graduated, I found that there was no way I could afford to support my family on my teacher salary and pay my student loan so I kept going to school hoping that my salary would increase by the time I had to pay. My debt is over $75,000. I have had my pay frozen by my district for at least seven of the years I've worked. My income of $40,000 supports my family of four. I cannot afford to pay my loan and take care of my family. President Bush made promises about teachers in low income areas getting some of their debt removed and President Obama increased the amount, but because I began school a few months before those promises went into effect, I cannot receive those benefits. It is very discouraging. I love my career but if something doesn't change, I'll never be able to pay off my loan.

How can an older unhealthy retired person live with a debt forcing me to live in another country in order to live at all
Jade, Arizona

My first student loan was back in the 60's before Pell grants and such. After graduating, I taught for a year (teachers having the lowest salaries of all professionals) and then went to live in Spain, which was a developing country at the time. I did not make enough to pay my student loan, but fortunately, my father received an inheritance and paid it off for me. Without that, I may have gone into default given I was not working and getting paid in US dollars. However, I was involved in significant education al service. Now, many years later, in my 50's, I took out another student loan for my doctorate degree. I had 4 children to support so I needed the financial aid. Unfortunately, I went through a lot of personal traumas and tragedies, and paid my loan whenever I was in a position to work, which half the time I was not. Now I am 68 years old, living on very limited 'social security, as my life savings and homes were all lost in the economic catastrophes starting in 2008. I have serious health issues and had to resign from my position, but turned 65 before I could get declared as permanently disabled. As a result, I still owe on my student loans, but can't pay them. I have repeatedly asked for them to be forgiven, given my age and health problems. They only give me deference, while the debt increases with interests on the unpaid loan. I live in Mexico now, as I cannot afford to live in the USA with such a small SS benefit, and having lost everything I had built up during my professional lifetime; and I will never be able to pay off this debt. Now, that's my story. As for my children, my son, who is now an architect, has an $80,000 student loan debt, which is unconscionable but the schools in the Northeast are expensive. My daughter, who graduated from Colombia College Los Angeles, is also in debt, but only for half that. So I ask: how can the young people create a future already burdened with such a heavy debt, adding up to the cost of a humble house, and how can an older, unhealthy retired person live with a debt forcing me to live in another country in order to live at all??

I'm saddled with a lifetime of debt with no visible way to pay it back
Jim, Arizona

My story is not unusual. I was encouraged to apply for loans as a non-traditional student working on my undergrad and graduate degrees. The money was easy to obtain and upon graduation I started paying according to a set monthly schedule. I worked for 6 years at my job in Texas and when it played out due to corporate downsizing i.e. get rid of the old birds, I moved to Arizona with my wife and worked for two more years until the bottom fell out of the economy in late 2008. I haven't worked since then being, in my opinion, a victim of age discrimination. I've aged out of the workforce, defaulted on my loan and continue to struggle. Going back to college was the worst mistake I ever made. I'm not one to shrug off his debts but it's either that or not eat. As a result I'm saddled with a lifetime of debt with no visible way to pay it back.

I thought I was going to make a better life for myself, instead I'm living a nightmare
Kay, Arizona

About six years ago I fell and was hurt bad enough I ended up losing my job and my house. I tried find another job, but by then I was in my mid fifties. After much thought I decided the best solution would be to return to school to become a paralegal. I attended classes at Lansing Community College and received my associate degree in December 2011. The entire time I was enrolled there I was reassured I would have no trouble finding a job in this field. What I wasn't told was that in order to get a paralegal job I must also have at least two or three years experience and the degree. I haven't been able to get my foot in the door yet! Currently I'm working part-time at Target for minimum wage. I could have done that without the paralegal degree. Now I have no chance of ever retiring. Some days I feel like I might as well be dead. For the rest of my life I have this dark cloud hanging over me. I thought I was going to make a better life for myself, instead I'm living a nightmare.

My life has been hell ever since I took out a SMALL loan
Louise, Arizona

I applied for and received a small loan in the amount of $3,200.00 in 1986. Soon after that I was in a car accident and had to have major surgery, out of school and no chance of working for quite a while. I attempted to make payments but missed a few. When I went back to work my loan was due in full. I contacted them but found the loan had been sold. I still owed $2300.00 but now I had another $1500.00 attached because of the sale and ALL of it was due. This went on like this for 20 years! I have paid a total amount of $7200.00 and still owe over $5,000.00. The loan has been sold three times with large amounts of money attached each time. In 2002 I became permanently disabled with a grand total of $720.00 a month income. I am still being hounded by these "loan" companies and this is still regarded as a 'government student loan. My life has been hell ever since I took out a SMALL loan.

I borrowed $10,000 for school in my 20s ... I'm now 63 and STILL paying this debt off
Morgan, Arizona

I borrowed $10,000 for school when I was in my 20s (this was around 1978 or so). I got a job in SE Asia and had arranged with a friend to pay my loan payments. I sent her money but alas – she never made the payments. 22 years later, I came back to the US only to find a debt of some 60 grand or so – after much negotiation, the debt was reduced to around 24 or so thousand – at 8.25% interest! I am now 63 and STILL paying this debt off. It is crazy. I don't have a job. My SSI isn't going to cover payments! If I could have had it reduced back to the original amount with a reasonable interest rate, it would be paid off by now! I have a temporary forbearance, but I don't know how I will ever get this paid off.

Only $1.97 of the payments were being applied to principal
Suzanne, Arizona

I, unfortunately, listened to my then spouse's advice on student loan debt. That's no one's fault but my own. I should have done my research. Right after I received my Master's Degree in Sociology, my spouse terminated our marriage and I became a single mother. My household became a single earner women's waged household. I worked a full-time and two part-time jobs. One of those part-time jobs was strictly dedicated to paying my student loan debt. I was able to pay consistently and on time under those working conditions, even though only $1.97 of the payments were being applied to principal. Then a series of bad luck and financial set backs left me no choice but to forebear my payments many times. I am currently unemployed and have been for two years (I'm 59 years old and female so it's hard to find a job right now) and have no way to pay this loan nor relieve myself of this loan burden. Additionally, due to accrued interest, I now owe twice the amount of the original debt. I am in a jam with this loan with no way out until I get another job. Any help for relief of any kind would be greatly appreciated.

Things were different in the 60s
Edward, Arkansas

I have a happy story to tell. I graduated three times, 1961, 1963, and 1968, which was before the bankers decided to batten on the student community. So I emerged from my education debt free – I'd actually been PAID to attend school by graduate assistants in two cases. Things were different in the 60s.

I'm literally one pay check from being homeless, and will be so for the rest of my life
Milinda, Arkansas

I finished my Bachelor of Social Work degree in May 2008 and immediately continued on for my Master of Arts in Gerontology. My husband and I had planned for me to be assisted by him while paying for all of this, as we knew it would be expensive. We didn't plan on his dying of cancer, December 27, 2008. Currently, I am paying $785.45 per month on my student loans. These loans are consolidated – and I will be paying this until I'm almost 63 years old. Right now, I need to have $1100 of work done on the shocks of my car. I can't afford it. I can't afford a vacation; I can't afford to get sick, and when my daughter has her second child this fall, I am not going to be able to go and be with her. I was led to believe in my collegiate training that I would have a good job that would allow me to pay for my degree. That was a lie. I live paycheck to paycheck, and have to work a small second job to have groceries in the pay check cycle of my student loans. I'm literally one pay check from being homeless, and will be so for the rest of my life. Retirement?? I'm going to have to work until I'm 75 to be able to retire. Right now, I can't save anything.

The thought of trying to raise a family while trying to pay loans is terrifying
Aaron, California

It wasn't as though I didn't have opportunity after college. Unfortunately I chose a career in art. I was good at it, and all my life people preached to me to do what I love, so I did. I had great contacts and they hooked me up with work when I could get it. It paid well enough per hour, but it was freelance, and there just wasn't enough to get by, in addition to being stiffed on payments from clients. After two years of this, still unable to make enough to move out of my parents' house and being repeatedly turned down from minimum wage jobs, I left to another city. Now I have a full time job at a restaurant, and I can't afford to make interest only payments on my loans. The debt grows, and I try to hoard away what money I can for when my loans default and making rent payments will suddenly become difficult. I've reached my 30s, and I've scheduled an appointment to have a vasectomy because the thought of trying to raise a family while trying to pay loans for the next 50 years is terrifying. The most frivolous thing I do with my money is to take time off work and travel to visit my family, but even that can't be done very often. I try not to think too much more about what the future holds.

It is so painful to think that my two little children do not have a dime saved towards their own education
Alejandro, California

At age of 34, the writing was on the wall. Outsourcing was taking a toll in the company I was working for; a company of some 300 employees dedicated to the design, manufacturing, marketing, and support of an electronic product widely used in computers. The experience forever will remind me of Ross Perot's warning of a giant sucking sound caused by jobs going overseas should NAFTA become law. Our manufacturing lines in the greater Chicago area were the first casualties; I had initially been hired to oversee the quality of those lines, but shortly before that happened I had been able to make a lateral move to the Engineering department. Had I not had that opportunity, I would have been among the first wave of lay offs – the entire Quality Assurance department was gone shortly after the lines shut down. For a moment, I thought perhaps that would have been the extent of the damage. I thought "maybe it won't be too bad if we only lose the lower waged manufacturing jobs...." But it didn't end there. Month after month I witnessed the shut down of many of our suppliers, solid state electronic suppliers, electronic component vendors, plastic fabricators, battery suppliers, would pull up stakes to relocate to Mexico or the Far East. Much of the work that I had taken pride in doing was now being done overseas. I knew my job was not going to exist for much longer, so I decided to return to school and pursue my Bachelor's degree at age 34. I had to start from scratch as many of the credits I had would not transfer to my chosen track: Nursing. I availed myself of every opportunity to save on my school costs by moving into my mother's garage, finding a path that took advantage of a full two years of community college credits that I could then transfer towards my Bachelor's degree. Along the way, I realized that my plan was imperfect, the public schools had a huge backlog of competent applicants that made waiting lists of two years or more common; so I decided to attend a private university in spite of eye raising tuition costs. I felt that at age 37, I just didn't have the luxury to wait for an open spot at one of the State Universities. Each semester I was there, I assured myself I was doing the right thing by taking out these loans; I had little choice after all – I would either complete my program or I would not – and "having nearly earned a Bachelor's in Nursing" would not increase my marketability in this new field in any way. Thus I signed the promissory notes. I assured myself that this was the right thing because I knew that this was a very good investment in my future. I thought the loans would be handled in an ethical way; I could not imagine that I would be subject to usury, and wanton changes in loan repayment agreements that seem to come at least once a year since I started repayments. Today, it has been six years since I began repayment, and the principal in my American Education System loans seem to actually have grown! It is so painful to allow myself to contemplate the unfairness of these terms. It is so painful to think that my two little children, aged 3 and 5; do not have a dime saved towards their own education because I'm so busy trying to pay off my student loans. It is so painful to contemplate at age 44 I receive a statement every month stating my IRA account has $200, and I cannot save another dollar towards a dignified retirement. It is so painful to receive calls from my family members who have also suffered great economic setbacks related to the pummeling of the middle class, asking for help from me, as they see me as a success story; having been first to graduate from college with my Bachelor's and working in my field – something that apparently does make me very lucky today. I hope sharing my story will somehow in some way change the laws that allow such unfair lending practices that I never imagined could have ever been allowed in this great country so well known and loved for opportunities and the dream of climbing up the social and economic ladder. These student loan companies are putting the rungs in that ladder completely out of reach and widening the gap between rich and poor. That company I left 10 years ago is now just a shell used for the warehousing of product that is shipped from Mexico and the Far East, completely stripped of it's once robust workforce. When I worked there, I remember how happy I was, I so truly enjoyed my job; I would have stayed there forever.

I'm a university professor, and my existence seems to amount to nothing more than paying off debts
Andrew, California

My combined debt from Master's and PhD programs stands at approximately $94,000 (comprised of both private and public loans). I drive a car I bought new in 1994, and cannot afford to replace it. I was a renter of apartments and houses until 2010, when I realized as rents increased every year I could no longer afford to live that way. At age 39, I decided to buy a house, but having no savings or assets to liquidate for closing costs, I had to have my parents "gift" me the money to pursue this goal. My mortgage payment is half of what I was formerly paying in rent, but it is roughly the same as my combined student loan payments. Ironically, I can deduct the entirety of my mortgage interest on taxes, but only a total of $2,500 of student loan interest (and in the year I bought a house, that interest amounted to over $8,600). I zero out my checking account nearly every month, and have nothing in savings. I'm a university professor, and my existence seems to amount to nothing more than paying off debts.

A heartless Sallie Mae phone employee said to me 'even if your son dies in the army, you're still going to have to pay'
Ann, California

Our twins began college in 2007. One got a full scholarship to Stanford U. and the other took out student loans for his college. My husband co-signed for some of those loans. My husband died in 2008 and my son and I are suffering from the wrath of Sallie Mae. I pay at least $1000. a month and still am being charged $30.90 a DAY interest! My son has to join the Army just to get help with paying off this endless loan. I'm 66 and a retired teacher. A heartless Sallie Mae phone employee said to me "even if your son dies in the army, you're still going to have to pay". The Congress has to take away Sallie Mae's unfair power!

I would pay the rest of my life if the payment was reasonable and possible
Audrey, California

I'm 43. I owe $320,000 in student loans. I only borrowed about $100,000 – the rest is capitalized interest. Every year that my debt is deferred adds about $20,000 to my total. Payments, currently in forbearance (Thank you Lord!) are about $2000 a month. My income right now is $3000 a month. (Thank you Lord, for my job!) This is a 30-year consolidated loan. Interest is 6.5%. Total amount to pay-off: $750,000. I will be 73 at the earliest when my loan would be paid off. At that point I can start saving for a house. Joke. How did this happen? Started college in 1988. Finished with a BA in 1992 with only $4,500 in loans (and a degree in Humanities. Mistake #1.) 1992: What to do? My family is POOR. Any income went back to help my family. No job, so decided on graduate school for Journalism? (Mistake Number #2) Borrowed $40,000 (??) for graduate school. (Mistake #3.) (Deferred first little loan while in grad school.) After the first year, I already owed about $20,000 (more money than I had ever seen in my life) – I felt overwhelmed and hopeless already – how can I ever pay this off? I decided to stick it out and hope for a good job at the end. (Mistake #4) Degree in Journalism in 1995 – hello Internet! Journalism jobs in short supply. Left school, loans deferred. Tried selling real estate, teaching college, working in cafe. Money in short supply. Got loans consolidated. Loans deferred/forebeared (thank Heavens!) but accruing 8% interest this entire time. By 2001, loans with interest capitalized were already over $100,000. I still saw no clear way in my future to pay those loans off. Decided, at 31, to go to Law School. (Mistake # 5). Figured that would at least get me a decent paying job in the end. (Mistake #6.) Picked a cheap, local school with no job network or reputation. (Mistake #7) Did well, graduated in 2004 and found a law enforcement job in another (more expensive state.) My job is not really related to my education. I have a job finally! I pay all my bills on time every month. I am responsible and frugal. I rent an apartment. I drive an old car. I mean old – 1981. But I sit with $320,000 in debt – growing by $54 a day. And I feel like a complete and utter failure. I cannot move forward in my life – marriage, house, etc. until this debt is paid off, but I do not see any way to pay it off. It's more than most mortgages. If my amazing lender ever stops granting me forbearance, I don't know what I'll do. I don't see how I can make these payments. I work for an employer such that if I don't pay my debts I lose my security clearance and will be fired. I cannot even declare bankruptcy to get rid of them should my life fall apart. It will take a lottery win to pay this off. I'm 43 and my "career" is not going to pick up at and send my income into the stratosphere. This is probably the best I will ever do. I'm 43, and my chances of marrying into money do not seem very likely at this point. I am actually afraid to get married to my boyfriend of 8 years because I'm afraid the rules will change and he will be liable for my massive debt as well. Or that a change in my family circumstances will make my lender decide that I can pay $2000 a month for the rest of my life. We are not planning on any children. Where would they live? In this third floor one-bedroom apartment? Who is going to care for them while I work? We can't afford to pay nannies, etc. We have no family to help out with down payments for houses or child care. The hardest part about this whole student loan thing is that I feel a great sense of SHAME and GUILT that I "got myself" into this situation and that I am unable to pay for MY debt. But I WOULD pay if the payments were less! Or if the interest would stop! I would pay the rest of my life if the payment was reasonable and possible. But anything less than "full" payment just makes the lenders laugh in your face! I get no sympathy from anyone unless they too have student loans. I know I made stupid decisions, but I didn't know what else to do! I was 22. No job prospects, no family connections, not even especially attractive. I was the first person in my family to even go to college. I thought (we thought) college was the answer, the miracle, the path to success. I had no idea about money, finance, debt, career choices or even what it really takes to be successful in life. I thought college was the answer. I was smart; I was good at school; I thought it would work out in the end. Maybe I should have joined the military, like a lot of "poor" kids do. Maybe I should have just tried to find a rich husband somehow. Maybe I just should have accepted that I was poor and always would be and not get any "uppity" ideas about college and "lawyering." Or maybe I am just a loser. Weak and stupid. Afraid of hard work. I know what most people think: It's my own fault. I ruined my own life. I was stupid. And now I have to PAY, forever, whatever the costs, whatever the sacrifice, regardless of the injustice of the system. And because I don't pay, then I feel like I am a fugitive, hiding in the shadows. I feel guilty and ashamed, like I MUST pay my debt somehow, at whatever personal cost. I should work three jobs. I should forgo EVERY purchase; I should live with five roommates in a ghetto apartment; I should sell my hair, my teeth, my blood. Sell all my blood, and maybe a kidney as well. (Actually, I think I would sell a kidney if it would pay off this horrible debt.) But because I don't, I feel like I must be weak and worthless. I am ashamed of my story. I do not tell my story often. How could I be so STUPID?

If my car dies I don't know if I could get a loan to buy another
Bonnie, California

I went to graduate school because after 30 years in my field I felt I had a lot to give to students and wanted to teach at university level. Unfortunately, my timing was terrible. I achieved my MFA in 2008, just in time for Wall Street and the big banks to crash the economy and to take almost all hope of achieving my dream with it, along with a huge amount of educational funding. So instead of having a decent paying professorship at a university I have struggled for years doing freelance jobs, making less than I did in the 1970's, using almost my entire retirement savings to survive. Things are looking up with a teaching job as an adjunct at a community college, but so far it is only one class and that along with my freelance work still does not bring me above a poverty level income. I am deeply in debt on credit cards, as any car repair or other emergency and indeed at times, groceries, have had to go there. With that and my students loans, even though I have tightened my belt to the point I have a Scarlet O'Hara waist, the only way I will be able to retire is to die and I will be paying off this debt to that day. I have no health insurance (adjuncts do not qualify). If my car dies I don't know if I could get a loan to buy another and if I don't have a car getting to work will be almost impossible.

I wonder now if his education was worth the cost
Carrol, California

I am 67 years old and am helping my 30-year-old son repay his student loans, the largest of which, at $55,000, is in my name. I have been told that if that loan goes into default my Social Security will be at risk, so I pay that one. He pays on all of the others. My son graduated from college in 2008 and began immediately to repay his debt, but it will be many years before either of us will be debt free. The loans for his education are a burden to both of our families, and I wonder now if his education was worth the cost.

The thought of dating scares me because I am ashamed of the debt I have put myself in
Cassi, California

I am currently struggling to pay off over $60,000 of student loan debt. I graduated just four years ago this past week. I will be turning 27 in a few short weeks. At this time, I am living with my sister while she is finishing up college. I have been having a hard time affording basic living expenses since I graduated, besides the $300+ that I am supposed to pay each month for the next 25 years. I am blessed to have a supportive family that does their best to help me out where they can. At the same time, they have their own financial battles. Starting out at college, getting my degree to better my education for the future family I dreamed of having, was where my focus laid. Taking loans out was the only way my family and I could afford to go to college. I did not expect America to fall into a financial crisis, and to be at the height of this at the time of my graduation. I now had my degree, but unemployment was at a record high across the nation. Even still, I have not been able to find a full time job to afford the simple necessities of life. The thought of even dating scares me because I am ashamed of the debt I have put my self in, that I would not want to ask someone to marry my debt. I never imagined that at this age, I would be living back with my family, exhausting all my efforts to better myself to contribute to a better tomorrow for all.

I have taught them that a college education is the only way out of living poor; I don't know that they believe me
Christine, California

I am a 45 year old divorced mother of 8, a full-time student, currently a Sr. Undergraduate, recently on the Dean's list, my major is Psychology with a concentration in Human Services, Currently my student loan debt is $36,998 and I'm also paying out of pocket for this year due to the student education cuts Obama put in place. The student debt amount is going to go up because I need to get a high enough education to get a semi-decent paying job. I'm unemployed, living in the Central Valley of CA and getting ready to move our family to a different state where the cost of living is cheaper, the housing market is stable and there is a much better opportunity for finding work. I must continue my schooling, a B.A. will get me no where in the field of Psychology. My goal is to get my Master's degree in Counseling Psychology to work with women who have been through domestic violence just as I have. The ultimate goal is to become a therapist, with a PhD but I will have to cross that bridge when we get there. I was taught that education is the only avenue that promises a better future, but it has been a struggle. I also have a portion of my daughter's student loan to pay back since she received her A.S. degree under the age of 21. I battle with credit all the time, I don't own a car, I can only rent a home for our family, My children rely on state medical until I can find work, and I haven't had any dental coverage in years. I am determined to continue my college education, because it's not my goal to work some menial job or two or three; that pays minimum wage and never goes up, for less than full-time and no benefits. Students definitely need a break in the amount we have to pay for higher education. I have 3 children in college right now, and 5 more coming up. All of which I have taught that a college education is the only way out of living poor, but right now, I don't know that they believe me. We live in low-income housing, cannot afford a car, can rarely afford to take the bus. I'm schooling online to keep the costs down, and still be able to be home in the afternoons when my children get out of school. I have faith, and I have hope, that somehow this will all pay off one day. By putting my family first, and choosing to be a mom, above being a business woman, I've started college later in life, and I can't imagine it being any easier for younger people.

I was still raising 2 girls, teenagers now ... It got to the point where I could not afford to give them what they needed
Christine, California

I started back to school in 1982, got my AA and then went, with my 2 young children, to UCSB to get a bachelor's degree in Developmental Psychology. I took out Perkins loans until I got my BA, then stayed at UCSB (family housing was relatively inexpensive) for my MA in Education, with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education. I was a single mother, working weekends cleaning houses and offices and sending my kids to their father and his family in Lancaster, CA, so I could work full time during the summer, thinking that would help me reduce the need for loans. At first, I was going for my MFT so I could provide individual, group and family therapy once I got my license. This required another MA – in Clinical Psychology. I used loans to supplement my grants on my way to the BA; I did the same for my MAs. By this time I was working full time, going to school full time and doing an internship. The loans I took out added up, of course; at the time they were not adding fees or anything. I started paying my loans after I got my second MA (in 1992) from Antioch University. Different people bought my loans (I never knew why, I just figured banks buy mortgages, so why not student loans? When the payments got too high, I asked for some forbearance and they would not give me any; they wanted me to pay close to 1500/month. At the time my rent was 1200/month (including utilities and such. I just couldn't make it; I needed a new car so I could commute between Lompoc and Santa Barbara where my job was. The representative for the people that held my loan suggested I get a smaller place, apparently not knowing that California's rents are expensive and I moved to one of the cheaper places within an hour of my work. The representative told me to consolidate my loans into a Ford Foundation loan, which I did, after being told that my payment would be affordable, because of my income and living situation. I was still raising 2 girls, teenagers now. It got to the point where I could not afford to give them what they needed because of the hours I worked and the amount of money I was paying out in gas, etc. every month. To my discredit, I stopped making payments after I asked Ford to lower my payments and they would not; they too, expected over 1500/month. I just could not do it with my pay rate. They told me to borrow money, get a 1 bedroom house (with 2 kids?); drive a cheaper car (I had a 1983 Honda that was paid off! It got good mileage, and. I was afraid they would say to give my girls away. I have been working in Lompoc as a social services worker since 1997; we live in an impoverished part of Santa Barbara County and I serve, as a child welfare worker, our most needy families. Just this year, they cut our pay and benefits so other staff would not get laid off. We've given up meat, primarily for health reasons , but also because I costs too much. Now I am facing retirement in 4 years; I have nothing to my name except a car and books and furniture. I'm living with a roommate and paying about 1500/month with utilities and food. The last time I asked to have my payments lowered, or the money I've paid in interest count as paying off the principal and they said no. I am currently paying back (via wage garnishment – the only way I could pay them something twice a month without getting nasty grams. The representative from William D. Ford, stated that I was paying 35 dollars a day in interest (that was 4 years ago; I shudder to think what I am paying now and I will never get the principal paid off at this rate. I am terrified I will not be able to live after I retire. I buy thrift sale and garage sale clothes, shoes and furniture. I save the real money for gifts for my 6 grandchildren for Christmas and birthdays. By the way, I am, by no means, suicidal. I have a great job, with periodic pay cuts, cause government workers get paid too much. However, I could understand, in my darkest moments, why someone would. There are plenty of people worse off than me, but when I'm lying in the dark, thinking about my future, I get scared that I won't be able to afford food or housing in the next few years. Does it count that I am serving the poorest of the county every day? Does it count that I am on 24 hour call because folks trust us with the safety and well being of our children? I'm sorry if this story is a mess. I'm actually a writer, too, and I just feel so strongly about this, yet I'm not sure what to say. I've written my congressperson and senate person and they are so overwhelmed with letters like mine, I don't blame them for not getting back to me. Thank you for listening.

I have completely given up the idea of pursuing Psychology
Claire, California

Student debt is currently my biggest burden. While in my junior year at Palo Alto High School, I took my first Psychology class, and fell in love. I knew that was where my educational goals were going to be focused. I immediately started my pursuit of my undergraduate degree in Psychology after graduating in 2004. I found a great school for me and with the help of school loans I fulfilled my dreams for my undergraduate degree. Throughout my time at Chapman University, my family, friends and most importantly, my professors encouraged me to continue into graduate school; professors specified that I should focus on a Master's degree, at minimum. As my passion for psychology continued, I researched schools, and immediately advanced to an accelerated Master's program at the University of San Francisco. I never took a break, I never worked full time to earn money to pay ahead for the education I pursued, so all throughout undergraduate and graduate schools I had the help of federal and private loans to make my dreams come true. I graduated, in August 2010, with a 3.95 and loved the educational experience I had. Then came job offers with my degree and the need to fulfill hours towards licensure my goal was to find an internship; I was offered 6 with incomes from $18,000-$20,000, which was not enough to survive. So I immediately had to find an administrative job to at least make $35,000 a year. I had always worked part-time since age 14, but still did not have experience to enter into positions that would allow me an income to support the costs of my loans. I have been forced to borrow money from family members and use ALL of my free time to apply to jobs for a paycheck, so that I can now afford the monthly payments towards my school loans. I never imagined myself chasing money/a paycheck. I currently work full-time but I have yet to find an income to support myself (and my dog) in the Bay Area and maintain the high payments for my loans at the same time. I pray every day that I will soon find a job that can support these loan payments, but this year, at age 27, I have completely given up the idea of pursuing Psychology. I live at home, and really regret not taking a break to learn about people who pursued Psychology (like me) made it after school. These loans have taken that dream away from me, as I cannot support myself while gaining hours (because my industry does not support me for he loans I acquired to gain the education necessary to pursue hours) or support myself in general. My generation was let down right as we completed our higher education and then we were falsely encouraged to go further (into debt) with our education. Graduating from Chapman in 2008 I witnessed the weakest economy in my lifetime, and it has not become much better. When I graduated in 2010 from University of San Francisco, I spent 2 years trying to find a site to get part-time hours while I maintained a full-time job. No one could take the few hours I had to offer and turn that into 3,000 face-to-face hours I need for my MFT License. In 2013, I have given up psychology and my pursuit of a career in the industry; I can only hope I can find a job in another industry, but facing so much rejection and explanation of over-qualification I am discouraged each and every day. Student debt has taken my dreams away from me, and is something I am not certain I can handle without any of my applications being accepted for positions that will afford the payments tied to my loans. It's sad to say that I try to encourage all of my younger friends and family members that the time we are in now, it's not time to go to college, it's time to go to work and get years of experience in an industry to grow within companies, not from education. I never thought I would discourage anyone from education, something that drives me personally. Student debt is ruining so many lives, including mine. My student loan debt has far exceeded my income potential and I have yet to discover the ability to support the high monthly payments. I have only prayer and hope that the solution will present itself from all my efforts soon.

I will most likely have to move to another country when I retire where I can live on a much smaller retirement
Dan, California

I borrowed to get my PhD, hoping that I could move up the career ladder. I am a public high school teacher. I have had nothing but pay cuts the last six years (as health premiums rose). I have lost my home, had to file bankruptcy, and now face the probability of a $1000/month pay cut – I only take home $4400/month now. I cannot pay all of my bills now and that's with a bankruptcy. I am in my mid 50's and realize I will never again own a home, have a 15% reduction in my retirement due to the inevitable garnishment. I will most likely have to move to another country when I retire where I can live on the much smaller retirement I'll have. I can't even save for my 10 year old's college. Wall Street has gotten the biggest bailout in history while we have been given the shaft. If they hadn't tanked the economy, there would be more jobs in my field and more good paying jobs. There are not. The social contract has been broken when only the rich get the bailout and the rest of us are told to shut up and keep paying our student loans and mortgages. This country is beginning to look more and more like a sham, a pyramid scheme. I am beyond disgusted.

Since when did the United States become a loan shark? I'd have fared better with The Mob
Daniel, California

I borrowed approximately $22,000 in the 1980s at 9% interest. To date I have repaid approximately $50,000 but still owe approximately $28,000. So in other words I've paid back more than twice what I borrowed, yet my principal is currently $28,000, thousands more than I originally took out. I'm on track to successfully repay my debt over and over and over and OVER until I die. Since when did the United States become a loan shark? I'd have fared better with The Mob. Can we PLEASE get a reasonable cap, so that people like me can stop being cheated?

I have been accruing interest since 2008 and now is the first time that I have been notified of the amount of interest
Debora, California

The thing that really makes me mad is I have been accruing interest on the loans since 2008 and now that I've graduated is the first time that I have been notified of the amount of interest that has accrued. I think the loan originators should be required to notify us monthly or at least quarterly as to the amount of interest that has accrued. They are certainly notifying via email now that I have to pay. Also it is JUST TOO EASY to accept these loans. Only one click on your computer, and you have that money in your bank account.

Student loan debt has destroyed my present and any possibility of a good future
Edgar, California

I am one of the masses suffering with student loan debt. I cannot afford the monthly payments set forth by Sallie Mae, and they will not work with me. I graduated in 2009 and the job market was in a crash. I managed with credit cards to get by but only delayed the inevitable. Now I am in the process of bankruptcy but Sallie Mae laughs at the process as they are fully protected by the law since bankruptcy will not discharge student loans. The reality that I do not qualify for undue hardship yet can not afford to pay my student loans is sinking in more and more. This is a debt that will follow me for the rest of my life and it sounds like even after I pass away. I will never own a home, be able to afford a decent car, and I will continue to live paycheck to paycheck. There is no more economic future for me, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, this is my reality now, student loan debt has destroyed my present and any possibility of a good future.

But when we do retire I don't know how we are going to be able to continue paying on these loans
Elizabeth, California

My husband and I have over 100,000 dollars in loans for our students (3 children) and we have to put off our retirement. But when we do retire I don't know how we are going to be able to continue paying on these loans. Several of them are over 10 years old and we don't qualify for the loan forgiveness. If after 10 years anyone could get loan forgiveness, we would probably be able to make it.

How do we prepare for retirement when our student loans will follow us into our 70s and 80s?
Gina, California

It disturbs me that middle-aged people still suffering under extreme student loan debt seem to be ignored in this debate. I have many friends still struggling under enormous student loan debt, our interest rates tend to be higher than they are now, and we have no hope of ever repaying our loans. How do we prepare for retirement when our student loans will follow us into our 70s and 80s? My specifics: between undergraduate and law school I borrowed approximately 112K. It's a fiction that all lawyers make a lot of money. 107K was consolidated and the remaining 5K was repaid quickly and may have been Perkins loans. I cannot remember. I exited law school earning approximately 28K and had to use deferments for a while. This causes interest to be capitalized with the principle. I paid $1100.00 a month for over a decade. In total I have repaid approximately 140K, but I still owe about 120K. My interest rate is 9% and even though rates precipitously decreased over the years, I am not allowed to refinance. I feel hopeless as it relates to my student loans and am certain I will die with a large student loan debt. The #1 mistake of my life was higher education.

I am now 42 years old, and I would like to just give up
James, California

I finished school in 1998 from UNT and borrowed $16000 on two private loans. I also had $6000 in federal loans from the years of 1995-1998. I have never finished paying them off, and I've been paying dearly ahead over the past 5 years. All my lender does is keep pushing the due date forward in time... So it is now 15 years later, and almost 20 years since I took out my first federal Stafford loan. I am now 42 years old, and I would like to just give up and have my loan balance forgiven. I despise the fact that my money goes into lobbying my congresspeople. That money should be going back to us students, not for Wall Street speculation.

We are revising our future
Jane, California

I feel lucky I owe less than so many others, just under $8,000. I also have no idea how this will ever be paid off. I was laid off, with no severance pay, and my husband and I live on Social Security. It is hard for "seniors" to find a job – much less a decent paying one. Something will work out. We are revising our future. As much as I appreciated returning to school, and loving every minute, I wish I never went back. The financial stress can be overwhelming at times.

We are educating the wealthy ... Students from middle class families are being shoved out
Janet, California

I am a parent of two who has seen the effects of the student loan crisis. My son has a law degree, graduated in 2008 with over 100,000 in student loans. He is practicing law working under contract position from another lawyer with no benefits. He has to borrow money from me to afford to live modestly. Making interest payment on his loans and not being able to get ahead at all. This feeling of hopelessness is chronic. A depressing state of the educated graduates. My daughter sees his predicament and does not want to further her education only to end up with so much debt. This is the way the US is down their citizens. I work for UC Berkeley. They look for non-citizens to pay higher tuition. We are educating the wealthy. Students from middle class families are being shoved out.

I'm only grateful the interest isn't in the double figures
Janet, California

I became an RN in 1980. In 2009 I finally graduated with my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing. The last several years I was chipping away at my degree I was also rehabbing an injury, so took out student loans to ease things. In between one semester and the next the rules changed, and the interest on my loans went from 3% to 6-9%. Had I been able to keep working in hospital this would have been manageable, but now that I'm working in Home Health I can't keep up. I've a car that needs thousands in work but I can't afford to get rid of. I've two credit cards and some accounts all gone into collection, and, since home care is so dependent on government reimbursement, we're not getting raises, but pay cuts. I've just been treated to a $2.50/hour cut this month, third in 6 years. I may never be able to pay this $50,000 in debt off, as I'm 62 this June and it just keeps growing. I'm only grateful the interest isn't in the double figures. I've got further education I'd like to pursue so that I can teach nursing. I rent a room from friends and cook in a crock-pot and a 4-cup drip coffeemaker. I mend my clothes & have sold my books. & still I know I'm better off than some. But this is very, very discouraging.

It seems to me that it should be illegal to threaten to cut off access to health care to collect a debt payment
Janet, California

My husband was struggling with severe but undiagnosed diabetes while finishing his bachelor's degree. One week after completing his degree he ended up in the intensive care unit. We finally had a diagnosis and treatment for the numerous illnesses that slowed down his schooling, requiring him to withdraw and re – enroll if he got too sick to complete a term. His student loan debt ballooned to over $100k, and we really had trouble making the payments right after he got out of school. He received more than one phone call from Sallie Mae (private) that was very rude and intimidating. I particularly remember Memorial day weekend 2012, he received a phone call that was particularly abusive. The caller was threatening to garnish wages although he had just told her he was unemployed, and we needed to pay health insurance premiums because he needed insulin. The caller was so abusive that I called back and asked for the employee. Throughout my phone call, she was either talking so fast that I could not understand her or yelling and screaming at me over the phone. I made written complaints to the CFPB, and to the California Attorney General's office. I wanted to see if a recording was available of the phone conversation, so that I could meet with an attorney to see if we had legal recourse. I got nowhere. Both CFPB and California Attorney General's office dropped the ball. I still have my file with employee name and ID number, letters of complaint and so forth. We had made out a payment plan and the phone thug actually called us a few days before the payment was even due. It seems to me that it should be illegal to threaten to cut off access to health care to collect a debt payment.

Let's get our priorities right
Joan, California

I have been working and paying my own way since I was 17 years old. No help from parents, a sister with health problems, and a father who declined to share income info for student aid application. College was more affordable in1974 but it still took me 10 years to get my BS working full time, paying rent et al., taking 3 years off to earn union salary w/ benefits so I could return to school and pay my own way which I did for my BS degree. Even that opportunity is no longer available due to decline in union jobs and hollowing out of middle class incomes and work opportunities. At 40 years old, Graduate school required a 25K loan. I budgeted and paid for text books in cash to keep my debt lower. When I rec'd grad degree I returned 9K of loan that I had not spent as I did not want big debt. Then, federal gov't handed off my loan to private company ACS at 4 or 4.5% interest (reasonable!). I've been paying monthly ever since. I owe about 3K, which I hope to cash out soon. At 47 years old in a boom economy my remaining 15K student loan debt made it impossible for me to qualify for a residential home loan hence and I had to settle for a condo. And, my only car purchase since then was Used, and, paid in cash. I am thankful for the government loan programs that helped me pay for my degree. I have been religiously paying it off ever since and sincerely believe people should – but at low as possible interest rates. It's only fair for both gov't and citizen. And, yes, in the best of all worlds it would be nice to have public education be free as it once was in California. Let's invest our tax dollars in our children's educations and not in corporate welfare where companies are seeking ridiculous write-offs as well as off-shoring their profits and dodging the IRS. Investing in education front-loads the opportunity of all those willing to invest their time and talents. It is inexpensive insurance against joblessness and a sure fire antidote to crime due to poverty, and negates the necessity of building expensive prisons at a cost or 40K annually per prisoner. Let's get our priorities right – invest in education, offer student loans at low interest, and help educate the future workforce for a brighter future for all families.

I also urge groups to take up the fight to lower the interest rate on the parent loans
Joe, California

My three youngest children each has a student loan to payoff. The two youngest graduated 2 1/2 years ago and this spring. Each has about $25K in debt. The combined parent loans for my children total $275K. I took on these loans and will pay them off. But I believe the interest rate of 7.9% is far too high. The banks are making a lot of money on parent loans. Reducing the parent loan interest rate would save me a substantial amount of money that would be put back into the economy and stimulate growth. I whole-heartedly support efforts to keep the student interest rate low. I also urge groups to take up the fight to lower the interest rate on the parent loans. If my parent loan debt amount is ten times bigger than my children's student loan debt, isn't that a much bigger problem?

For most of the years since I graduated in 1996, I have not earned enough to make payments on my student loans
Judith, California

I returned to college when I was 50 and my children were grown and on their own. I completed my B.A. at Smith College (in the Ada Comstock program for non-traditional age women) and then received a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Sonoma State University. I have done important work as a Parenting Coach for clients referred by social workers at Child Protective Services, as a Family Advocate in a respite center for homeless women and children, as a Family Coach for families whose teens are involved in the juvenile justice system. Because my income has never fully supported me I have also worked as a nanny and as a part-time school counselor. For most of the years since I graduated in 1996, I have not earned enough to make payments on my student loans (determined by the Department of Education, Student Loan Division). In the years when I could, I made regular monthly payments. I am 73 years old and owe as much now as I did the year I graduated. I continue to work (I am an in-home support counselor for a foster family agency) and do not earn enough to make payments on my student loans. I have been told that when I stop working and am being supported entirely by Social Security (non-taxable income), after 20 years (20 YEARS!!!!) my loans will be forgiven. I have labored in the small not-for-profit agency world since 1996. I have earned very little while doing work that helps children, families and our community. And yet I have consistently earned less than I did as a secretary without a college degree. Although I continue to work, I have been approved for Section 8 HUD housing. I have 2 degrees, nearly 20 years' experience and am living on less than $20K/year. I see now why people become investment bankers and corporate lawyers – they do little for our society, but certainly make their own lives easier.

The University of Phoenix is a diploma mill taking advantage of people
Judy, California

I attended the University of Phoenix hoping to realize a life-long dream of obtaining higher education with the advantage of a flexible schedule. However, the higher education was anything but and phenomenally disappointing. The University is a diploma mill taking advantage of people (many not particularly bright and woefully immature), and graduating people who have no business taking up space in a class. I expected to learn something and be lifted to a higher mental caliber. Like so many Americans caught up in the economic chaos the last few years and being laid-off December 2008, at the age of 58, I felt that along with realizing the dream to further my education it would be the only possibility for me to gain employment again. After speaking to a friend enrolled in the classes, I decided I would investigate University of Phoenix. I contacted the school and spoke to a counselor. While not necessarily aggressive or relentless to pursue enrollment, they were aggravatingly persistent – add to that a delivery closely akin to coercion and filled with promises. It was a one-sided conversation saying that by enrolling I would be attending (with guarantees of a credentialed institution) a highly regarded school within the educational community. The education itself I was told would stretch my intellectual ability and relevant knowledge, as respected professionals taught the classes. This was a guilt strategy used by the counselor to reinforce that without attending there would be no employment future for me. Advised that my monthly payback would be under $50.00 a month, and feeling that it was reasonable and something I could perhaps manage, given my long-term unemployment status, I enrolled. I was told that they were also available to help with gaining employment. Not once. I did apply to their local campus (Sacramento, CA area) for a job but was declined an interview saying that I was not qualified. Please note that I have been a marketing brand manager, director of operations, etc., and an executive assistant to the senior vice president of a major telecommunications company. The position I was applying for was for a lower grade administrative position. How could I not be qualified? Was age the deciding factor? Perhaps it was a function of a person with half a brain infiltrating their organization and seeing the truth? I have no idea. While I only continued long enough to earn an Associated Arts degree (with a couple of classes, perhaps three, into the Bachelor’s program), I had, from the beginning, questioned their operating model. No SAT tests were administered and I found myself taking classes with, for the most part, people who should be retaking a portion of high school or attending a vocational/trade school. Nothing wrong with either, but when paying exorbitant prices one should expect and receive something of value and not be placed in a group that is incapable of at least bringing the basics to class. That sadly also includes many of the instructors employed by the university. The first few classes were useless but costly. Although the end grades were part of the degree, in the final analysis courses such as US/101 INTRODUCTION TO UNIVERSITY STUDIES, give a new meaning to people not being ready to pursue their education and a vehicle for University of Phoenix to gouge the pockets of their students. In two words; remedial and unethical. I stopped attending upon realizing that although a 3.87 GPA, some might consider worthwhile and meaningful with all A and A – grades, it was useless in the real world coming from the University of Phoenix. Then I received a notice from the lending institution that my monthly payback would be over $240 per month, questioning the $50 per month I had been told upon registration. A lie and a vehicle to enroll students. Add to that I had been told that being unemployed I would be eligible and receive Pell Grants. Not the case at all. Not once was a Pell forthcoming. This denial is not the fault of the Pell Grant itself but the University of Phoenix for making unrealistic promises. The university also has an extremely high turnover rate of counselors and financial advisers. I had no less than four in each category. I understand change but this speaks more to their own internal operations and confusion. The constant changes, for a student, is disconcerting with the student having to get the one employee up to speed; not why anyone is paying such high costs. My time, if only as a student, is equally important and to expect a professional working team is not too much to ask for or expect.

I am so angry at them for not warning students and for happily screwing up everyone's credit
Katherine, California

I have been disabled since 1994. Convinced to go to school and really wanted to get an education to get off of ssdi and be independent. Told by a counselor that is worth it. Unsupported by disability department after transferring to state university. Tried working part time, but have 3 small kids; I couldn't do both. Took out student loans by advice of financial aid dept. and told it would solve the problem of childcare. it did, at a cost. Struggled through years of college, had to accept some failures because of family and personal health challenges. One class away from graduating but cannot finish because I cannot afford the 500$ fee to retake a class. Can't afford the 100$ to have diploma reevaluated for graduation. I have three teens now, no degree and 2/3s of debt owed is interest only! I am now in my late forties, no job, on disability still and I haven't found a job. If I tried to pay the 600$ month student loan bill, I would be evicted, homeless and hungry and so would my children. Any human services agency or assistance requires you to make under 25k a year and my husband makes slightly more combined, we don't qualify for extra help with anything. We live in a really expensive city and haven't family to help. How can we pay this? I want to get it out of the way but since I have no recent work history, age bias and disability bias, coupled with the lack of experience in the field to face while looking for jobs, how will I ever be able to get that job? It's frustrating to feel like the school sells degrees and loans and then dumps students without support, there is no" you almost got your degree alumni assoc." there simply isn't any support for the almost impoverished communities, only the dead broke can get help and the average family can't, because they evaluate need based on gross not net after bills are paid. I was desperate to finish what I started and even more desperate to stand on my own in this world, the financial aid department lied to me to get me to sign off on a lifetimes worth of stress and false hope. I am so angry at them for not warning students and for happily screwing up everyone's credit while raising fees and the cost of books, charging athletic fees for people who can't use the athletic services, charging for a locker for those who can't carry their books otherwise etc. etc. basically forced to sell the farm for a useless attempt at education. I could go on and on at how the education system and loan agencies are fleecing the average citizen.

It rules my life ... Everything revolves around paying my student loan bill
Kathleen, California

I worked in scientific research with just a Bachelor's degree I obtained without student loans. At age 40, I was approached by recruiters from my State via an email campaign and conference outreach tables. The State was offering $40k in loan payback/forgiveness fro people to get a teaching credential in math or Science. You teach in an under-performing school for 3 years and you could get $40k paid back/forgiven. I was looking to get my Master's and this seemed like a great opportunity so I quit my job and enrolled. I supplemented my income during grad school by substitute teaching as the work lent itself to my studies at the same time. Now my school had TERRIBLE advising. First, there was NO financial aid officer. One lady who barely spoke English put packages together and sent them to us well after the first term started. I was shocked and dismayed my package was NOTHING. This was NOT what I signed up for. In addition, the program I was in was for 30 units to get a credential followed by THREE classes to complete the Master's. 2 years later and $90k in student loans later, I completed the credentialing. I was quickly offered an academic appointment at a university for $60k/year. Our local school district only paid a new math/science teacher $42k/yr. I accepted. And immediately began the arduous task of paying $1000/month on student loans. After 2 years I was told I must complete my Master's in order to maintain my academic appointment. The university offers tuition. I contacted my grad school and was told the courses I completed could NOT BE LEVERAGED towards a Master's. Not 3 classes left. But an entire 30 units more!!! To the tune of likely another $25k!!! This is just not an option. I tuned to the option of quitting my job and going to a K-12 public school for 3 years to clear $40k of my loans. Only to find out that I was totally DUPED by the State. You actually have to get your credential and teach in a "new teacher" program with a mentor for 3 school years and THEN clear your credential, THEN the clock starts ticking on the 3 years you need to get $40k forgiven. All the while, trying to make $100/month loan payments on a public school teacher salary. Makes no sense. I barely get by. One check goes to rent, the other to my student loan. Even though my work is eligible for several student loan forgiveness programs, only federal loans can be considered. Mine are private. I drive a 12 year old beat up car, rent a ghetto apartment with used furniture, wear hand me down clothes, and have ZERO disposable income. $20 is a fortune to me. As a single mother, I am ineligible for any assistance like school lunch, PE uniforms, bus pass, etc because I do have a job and my income exceeds the limit. I had to declare bankruptcy to clear only $25k in car loan and credit card debt in order to make ends meet. I am in year 3 with 4 more to go. I accept I went into grad school without a clear understanding of the small print. But I also blame my school for allowing me to star with empty promises, poor advising and NO FINANCIAL AID officer. I try not to think about what I could do with $00k – buy a house, send my kid to college. I try to remember that without my graduate studies, I would be making $40k/yr at my old job and likely have credit card debt. I would not have an academic appointment at a university making $60k/yr. It rules my life. Everything revolves around paying my student loan bill. Thanks for the opportunity to share. I know I am not alone. Ideally, I would find an institution willing to let me leverage the 30 units I completed towards a Master's with no more than 3 courses to supplement what I have done already. Along with a grant or scholarship or through my own university's professional development department.

There came a time in my life when I thought that I could do better for myself and the family that I always dreamed of
Kenneth, California

Hi, my name is Kenny and I would like to thank you for this time. Well, ever since I was old enough to work, I have. There came a time in my life when I thought that I could do better for myself and the family that I have always dreamed of. Neither one had happened up to this point. I needed a push, well it came in the form of another lay off. The lady that I wanted to marry , she to wanted more for us and I agreed to the same, thank GOD for that. So at the age of 42 I had my reservations about being able to handle the load, I was terrified to be honest, but didn't tell her or her child Sean, what a great kid he was, I mean is, well I have not seen either one for years. Why , well I passed the entrance test to college, wow how about that. At this point I thought maybe this could work for us. Let me shorten the story because its to hard to write about, sorry. Anyway I was getting very good grades 4.0 presidents list, deans list and I was halfway thru information tech classes, when the school did not come thru with there promise, that was to give me what I paid for , like a instructor and computer, that's when I stood up for myself, not the right thing to do. The school kick me out and told me that I would have to never return to college. Needless to say that, fuc it

At a time that I should be saving for retirement, that money goes to the government in the form of student loan interest
Kirt, California

I graduated in 1993 and had originally borrowed about $35K. Over the years the banks were very happy to grant me deferments, forbearances, etc. Until now, at age 52, I find myself now owing over $200K. Meanwhile I have repaid over $100K. I work at a non-profit hospital as a physician assistant so I recently 'refinanced' into the direct loan program in hopes of someday taking advantage of the public service forgiveness program. I had hoped that my interest rate would drop from its original 8% to something closer to todays lending rates but because my loan is so 'old' it didn't qualify for any rate reduction. So I have an 8% loan on $200,000. I will never ever be able to pay it. At a time that I should be saving for retirement, that money goes to the government in the form of student loan interest. Thank goodness for the income based repayment plan. If I had to pay the $2,500 per month 'normal' payment I would be in default. I struggle with the IBR payment as it is.

I am harassed daily by collection agents
Kristoff, California

I am currently $250,000 in debt from grad school and still unemployed. I have never been able to make even one payment on my loans. I am harassed daily by collection agents. I am homeless, own nothing and have come to accept that I will never own a car or home in my life time due to the massive mountain of debt and my ruined credit. Something needs to change.

I don't own anything not even a car and rent
Laura, California

I don't know how I'm going to pay off loans. I have been working a public service job but with the low wages and high cost of living, I can't make the monthly payments. I don't own anything, not even a car and rent. I despair over how I'm going to be able to pay especially with the capitalized interest! Please help!

Luckily I was so broke that I qualified for deferments
Lenika, California

I graduated from high school in June of 1995. I registered for school in the fall because I wanted to jump right in to college so that it would not take me that long to finish and get my degree. I started out as a Biology Major at SF State but the large classroom size and impersonal relationship between professor and student because of classroom size was overwhelming for me. Heald College commercials play constantly on television. They sell their institution so well with the solicitation of small classroom sizes, degree in 18 months or less, financial aid available, and help with job placement that I was practically sold on going to that institution before I even got there. All I could think of was that I could still be in the Medical Field, maybe not as a Physician, but at least I would still be able to help patients and I would have a degree. Little did I know that the financial aid they were talking about was not financial aid at all, but was a student loan. The tuition was so expensive that a Federal Pell Grant or SEOG Grant would never pay for tuition. I was awarded both grants because I had an excellent GPA. I never saw a dime of any money that Heald College received for me. All of the money went to Heald College, but at the time I was young. I was only 18 years old and didn't realize I could have gone to a Junior College for much less money in the same amount of time and receive the same degree. Heald College promises people job placement in the commercials. When you get there the "sharks" (that is what I call the recruiters) swarm around you and tell you everything you want to hear and it all sounds great. Almost anybody can get into the institutions because they don't require one to even have a HS diploma. Only when you have enrolled, applied for your loans, signed them over to Heald College, and have almost completed the course do they tell you " We cannot promise you a job as we do not place you. All we can do is help you with your resume and give you job leads!" Well you can imagine how shocked one is when told that. I was confused when I was told they could not place me because when watching the commercials then back in the 90's they advertised job placement assistance. So not only was I lied to but also I was swindled as well for over $14,000 which is what I owed for my student loan for education at Heald College once I completed the program for Medical Office Administration with and Associate of Applied Science Degree. Once I graduated all they did was send me emails of job announcements and allow me to use their computers and fax machines. Most employers will not take people with no experience, especially when you are in the Medical Field. After 3-4 months of intense job search I was finally hired at UCSF Medical Center in the Orthopedics Dept. but I started out at the lowest level even with and AA degree. I worked for several months and then became pregnant with my second son. My first son was born during the time I attended Heald College. So now I am a single mother with two children and I wanted to be home for my newborn baby so I decided to become a stay-at-home mom and open up my own childcare facility at home. I did that for the next 3-4 years until my sons were able to attend pre-school. After which I tried to get back into the career I went to school for but I was rejected by employers looking at my resume which showed my education at Heald College and the other jobs I had since age 15. I could not understand why I couldn't get a job. I thought it was because I had been out of the Medical Office for so long but then I started asking some of the employers why I was not being considered for open positions. They all replied that I did not have the right experience for the job. I was confused because I attended "college" and had a degree. I figured what more could they want. So I worked odd jobs, was unemployed for long stints of time and had to get on public assistance with my children because I had to care for them some type of way. Then the student loan repayment letters started to come asking for hundreds of dollars that I just did not have to give them because I was barely able to take care of my family. Luckily I was so broke that I qualified for deferments. In 2008 I went back to Heald College thinking that I could at least brush up on my skills and get a degree in Medical Assisting as they offered that now and that field was booming. So again I attended Heald College because at this point I figured "what more damage could be done to my credit?" I went back for a few months and was able to get an AA degree in Medical Assisting. So now I had the AA in Medical Administration and Medical Assisting, which I thought, made me more marketable to employers because they were now looking for candidates who had both front and back office experience. I knew Heald College could not place me and they had changed their commercials to say they don't place you but can assist you with job search. What I did not know was that the credentials I would receive and have to pay $6,000 for would not qualify me for any jobs in Medical Assisting and I had to pass a state licensing test to be a certified MA which is what most employers were requiring as well as a phlebotomy certification. Heald College does not provide either of the two and definitely does not pay for you to get either of these certifications. Not only did I have to pay $6,000 for the Head College education, but also I had to pay for phlebotomy certification, which is about $2,500, and the state licensing test is about $200. So because I was unable to pay for these certifications, and no employer would hire me even with two AA degrees from Heald College I am still unemployed, on cash aid and food stamps, with over $25,000 in debt because the interest is almost as much as the student loan. I am struggling because no employer respects or considers Heald College education as qualified. Some people do get luck, but most don't.

I have paid around $850/month for my student loans for the past seven years
Leona, California

I just turned 39 and am in debt over $100,000. I worked all through school but had to take out loans for tuition and other expenses I couldn't cover. I did not have health insurance through school and lived very meagerly. There was no way for me go through school without taking out that much in loans. I have paid around $850/month for my student loans for the past seven years and am on a 30-year repayment plan. It is truly debilitating. I work full time and am still working on getting my business going. I just got a loan from a friend to start my business. I live alright, I drive a 25 year old car, I can afford to go out to eat sometimes, but honestly, if my loan repayments were lower, I would give more money to the economy. Truly. It is difficult for me to understand when others who don't have big debt and who work full time struggle because I feel like it would be so easy to survive comfortably without the debt. I understand what happened and that ultimately we are responsible for what we borrow but honestly I would have reconsidered borrowing money had I known that my financial life would have ended up this way. I have friends who didn't go to college and don't have debt and live great lives with extra income. Although I cherish my degree and my skills, I do envy that debt-free or even minimal debt lifestyle.

They can take the $200 out of my social security leaving only $800 a month to live on
Linda, California

I made my first student loan while I was in a private seminary in 1998. My computer and printer had both crashed and I needed money to purchase new ones. At that time the interest rate was in the 4% range. I was working full time in Silicon Valley as a paralegal in a computer start-up company owned by Intel and SAP. The charge for a private seminary was $375 hour and I was able to pay the tuition on my salary but that was all. I was living in a 5th wheel trailer in order to pay living expenses. I made a second loan when I elected to move into an apartment because the trailer parks I had to live in were not safe. I moved to four different parks as each incident would happen-peeping toms, break-ins, flooding, refusal to empty the toilet tank on a holiday weekend, etc. In 2000 my company closed and I moved to Austin, Texas and there was not a seminary close that accepted my CA credits so I had to drop out of school. Before I could start paying on the loan my paralegal job in the Austin start up software company evaporated when they lost their funding and closed. I went into deferment. I changed businesses from computer software to the mortgage industry. The next two mortgage companies I worked for closed shortly after starting with them and I continued having to go into deferment.. By that time the interest rates had risen to 8% and in 2006 I started getting notices from Netnet that I could lock in that interest rate if I transferred my loan to them. I did and then my company closed and my mother died. I had to move to OKC to settle her estate and could not find work in OKC even though I took medical courses and tried to change careers once again. I have remained in deferment while the interest continued and now my loan is at $20,000. In August, I will have run out of deferment ability and will have to start paying the loan back at around $200 a month. I am almost 70 and living in another trailer on $1,000 a month social security. Netnet will not work with me to lower the interest rate and I have been told that they can take the $200 out of my social security leaving only $800 a month to live on. I will have to sell the trailer and buy a smaller travel trailer and stay nights in a truck stop. This is a scary thing to imagine happening at my age. I have worked all my life, paid taxes, tried to better myself only to wind up on the streets. I am college educated, am a certified paralegal, certified mortgage banking intern, certified CNA, CMA, and have taken medical coding classes. I am willing and able to work but can not find a job at my age. in any state. I desperately need a break on my loan. I depend on the Lord for my existence. This is the truth even though it sounds like a good novel. I am living this every day.

My kids can't believe that I'm still a college student, at 52 years of age
Lisa, California

What started off as $10,000 loan borrowed as an undergraduate over four years to attend the University of Southern California, increased to $20,000 after finishing graduate school at the University of California – Los Angeles. The $20,000 in student loans has now ballooned to almost $100,000 due to the capitalization of interest during deferments. I still have not secured a position that pays me enough money to make the required student loan payments. Because of that, I have been forced to take defer making payments by taking classes on a half-time basis for the last 25+ years, thus the huge increase in total amount owed. This is the only thing I could think to do in order to have enough money to pay my mortgage and monthly household expenses. My kids can't believe that I'm still a college student, at 52 years of age. The income contingent and income-based student repayment options look at income and family size, but don't account for expenses. Disposable income is what should be used to determine the repayment amount. I want pay back what I borrowed, but $100K and I only took out $20K. That's insane. I can't do it. And when I retire and I'm on a fixed income, I will still have to pay back my student loan. How am I supposed to do that? I have bought one car in the past six years and it's not a luxury car. My daughter, who attends a local community college because I couldn't afford to pay for her to attend a 4-year college/university, drives a 1995 Geo Prizm to school and work. I haven't taken a vacation in years and don't see taking any in the foreseeable future. I so hope that legislation will be passed to help me pay back what I owe and rid me of all the interest that has accrued over time and allow me to live a better life. Thank you for listening.

If I could tell anyone to avoid student loans, now, I would
Louis, California

If I could tell anyone to avoid student loans, now, I would. I first got them through Wells Fargo Student Loans in 2002. I was thinking about getting a Master's in Sociology from San Jose State at that time. The first semester went fine. But the second semester turned into a bad time, as my mental conditions worsened. The doctors had thought I was bipolar II and then I. Over the years I also had a dream of teaching. In '06 I went back to Sonoma State and after 1 1/2 years, got my teaching credential. But that job did not work out either. Why it did not is a long story. But what is pertinent is this: I was paying up to $500/month back in '07 through '09 to Wells Fargo. When I could not pay anymore they closed the private loan as a "bad debt" and referred me to a collections agency. The last schooling I had gotten National Loans, which I believed were unsubsidized. Ok, so then in '11 I had to deal with a majorly harassing collection agency from AZ. They used scare tactics. They said, "There's a lot we can do in CA" etc. Finally I was able to get my doctors to sign off on the paperwork to get the loans "Forgiven due to Total and Permanent Disability". I thought I was off the hook, right? NOOOOO. I now have $6400.00 I believe to pay the IRS, and that was because the NLSC sent me a form that said the $25K was income for 2012. So just because you're lucky enough to get the loans forgiven, know that you are not off the hook. You will owe the IRS 1/4 of the loans forgiven. To this day, I surely wish I had never gotten them. I think forgiving the debt through the IRS, so disabled people do NOT have to pay outrageous taxes should be a next point you should go after. One way or another though, you ARE going to pay. And I cannot negotiate with the IRS. Very frustrating.

I will never forgive or forget how these blood-sucking banks killed the future of my children
Lutz, California

I am higher middle class. Education for my children is important. We afforded private kindergartens for an early head start. This cost depleted my family of all rainy day and future college savings. Through the great recession, and no fault of my own, I got into $100,000 consumer debt mainly through lack of medical insurance medical cost and credit card institution using usury of 20% and more in interest. When I was finally working, I paid over $2,000 per month in interest. The result and long-term effect was one more family broken in divorce. I will never forgive or forget how these blood-sucking banks killed the future of my children. I will not take a penny of their money to enable my children to start debt free their own life and teach them never ever to take any loan no matter how affordable it looks and how reasonable it might look Here is the reason why: If you take the money and invest it yourself you can cash flow – now risks are everywhere. Assuming it will take a year or two to earn more money and build up a cushion you can go – pay as you go – afford your education and finish debt free and you have a stock to start your family with a rainy day fund which you should grow before you buy anything like a car or a house on credit. Universities must change their operation motive. If they operate as for-profit and profit maximization, then they don't belong into the landscape. They are for prestige and not education. We must separate the intention. We can invest and provide free education with the long-term effect the medical and legal costs are coming down, as the services don't require paying for extreme interest rates. In the end it is society that pays the cost.

Because of my student loan debt, I have been denied the possibility of ever buying a newer car or ever owning a home
Mary, California

As a single mom, I went back to school in 1988 so that I could support myself and my two girls. Originally, I borrowed less that $20K to complete my education (I have a professional teaching certificate.) Due to the economic crisis, year after year I was unable to get employment in my chosen field and was only able to teach for two years (2001-2). Because of this I have been able to pay on my student loans. I have tried to get reduced payments only to be told that as I have already consolidated my loans this solution is denied to me. Now, my loans are over $100,000 with payments that, as a senior citizen over retirement age, I will never be able to pay off. My one possibility of doing so was taken from me when I lost my home due to foreclosure when my mother, who shared my home with me, died suddenly. As you can see, at 68 years of age, paying off my student loans is impossible. Plus, because of my student loan debt, I have been denied the possibility of ever buying a newer car or ever owning a home again. There is more but this is the worst of it.

My student loans seriously deteriorate my quality of life
Melissa, California

I paid my own way through college. Despite substantial grants, scholarships, and usually working 30-70 hours per week on top of classes, I still racked up quite a few loans. Then after school I mistakenly elected to join Teach For America. Result: more loans, less money. When I moved back after that, I had no choice but to move back in with my father because I can't even afford to make my student loan payments, not to mention housing and living expenses. Now I am currently unemployed and I can't find a job that will pay enough money to cover my loan expenses each month. Most of the time it seems like I'll never get out of under this shadow that is hanging over me. I can barely afford my used car payment and I'll never be able to afford even rent with my loan payments, and I definitely would never be able to purchase a home. My student loans seriously impact/deteriorate my quality of life.

I live with my boyfriend and can't even afford to pay half his mortgage, let alone speak of utilities
Melissa, California

I will not ever have children, get married, or own a home. I am 33 years old and had to get my parents' help to get my last car. I don't have health insurance. I make less than $30K per year, typically working 3 to 4 different temporary jobs throughout the year to supplement my permanent, hourly on-call position. Still, life in California is far better. In Wisconsin all I could find was an hourly gig that paid $8.35 an hour. Back there I shared a house with 3 other households (not roommates mind you, but single moms and their children. There were 7 to 9 people living there at any given time) in a 4 bedroom house in Milwaukee. I owe $135K on my student loans at this point. I am on the income based repayment plan, so I'm paying about a quarter of the interest on my loans. They grow daily. I live with my boyfriend and can't even afford to pay half his mortgage, let alone speak of utilities. If it weren't for a "sugar daddy" I'd probably be on the streets. I know I am an EPIC failure and if only I'd just chosen the right major I'd have been fine. Retirement? Pffft! I'm working until I'm dead.

Times have changed and our country has gone completely stupid when it comes to education
Michael, California

I went to college starting in 1971 after I got out of the Army. I had the benefit of the GI Bill and always had a part time job (30-35 hours a week). After graduating with a BS in Civil Engineering I was immediately hired full time as an entry level engineer where I was working as a student. At the time there was a lot of work for engineers because Congress had passed the Clean Water Act funding many wastewater treatment plant construction projects. I don't think that I accumulated more than $4-$6K in debt, which were in low interest loans made possible because of another bill passed by Congress (if memory serves). Times have changed and our country has gone completely stupid when it comes to education.

I thought going to graduate school would guarantee both of us a shot at home ownership
Nadia, California

My mother died of cancer when I was seventeen. My father remarried and abandoned the home. I had two younger sisters ages 9 and 7 and a 5 year-old brother that relied on me and to avoid them going into foster care I asked the court to be their guardian. I was able to go to college and I was able to complete undergrad and walk out with virtually no debt, because I worked full time, found scholarships and paid as I went through school. However graduate school (a psychology doctorate program with a Master's built into it) was more expensive – costing about 70,000 total for tuition. While I am grateful I had the opportunity to obtain federal loans to complete a psychology doctorate I cannot believe that I am unable to purchase a home. Since I was responsible for my siblings I took out the maximum loan amount and walked away owing $165,000. Of course the amount is much higher now, due to interest accrued when I was unable to pay. My husband has a similar debt story; he completed three graduate degrees and has debt well over $300,000 (with interest still accruing) despite having scholarships as well. My husband is an attorney, has an MBA and a Master's in tax law. However he has been unemployed for the past year and had only been employed intermittently by two different firms that downsized and let him go prior to the past year. we considered purchasing a condo, however the bank has specifically told us that the combination of our debt significantly limits our purchasing power. I have a job at a children's hospital and am in private practice. My income alone is about $140,000. This income should allow us to purchase a home, but our combined monthly payments are $3000. While student loan repayment plans can consider your mortgage and dependents when structuring your repayment plan, since we have neither our expected monthly payment is at the highest bracket. I am disappointed because I thought going to graduate school would guarantee both of us a shot at home ownership. Now it seems like we will be renters for life. Desperate for help

The educated are getting poorer
Nicole, California

I just applied for consolidation of my $150,000 student loan debt that I acquired from getting a 4-year degree at a public university and then a 3-year law degree from a private university. Half of my law school tuition, which accounts for over $125,000 of the loan, was actually paid for with scholarships. I am now an attorney in California. I have applied for the income based repayment plan, which will start at an estimated $150 a month. I currently make $2300 a month working at a nonprofit not in my field. The year I spent working at this job before my loan consolidation does not count toward the 10-year public service loan forgiveness plan because my loan was not yet consolidated. My monthly expenses are as follows" $1,200 for rent and utilities, $350 for transportation; $400 for food, and now $150 for loan repayment. That leaves me $200 for other expenses. That remaining amount must cover all medical and dental bills (I do not have health insurance), twice yearly car insurance payments of over $500, annual bar dues of $500, and other unexpected expenses (of which there is always one or more). I do not have an entertainment budget. I do not take vacations. My social life has suffered. I am always worried about money and my vegetarian diet is low on fresh produce because I cannot afford it, as food budget is the first to take the hit. I get sick often as a result but do not go to the doctor because I cannot afford it and do not have health insurance. Because of my income, I do not qualify for credit cards with over a $100 credit limit. I will never own a home. As a 30 year old attorney I am in the worst financial position of my life. I have no hope for coming out of this. I have sent out over 200 resumes and have not gotten a single interview in my field, despite having average to good grades, receiving honors, and being the Executive Editor of my school's official Law Review. By the time I have paid the monthly payments for 30 years, I will have paid over $100,000 on the interest of my loans and $0 toward the principal of the loan, at which time the loan will be forgiven. My circumstances are typical and illustrate why America is no longer the land of opportunity. The educated are getting poorer. If I make the decision to have children, I will encourage them to go to trade school and take a job such as a plumber or carpenter. These jobs provide security. I wish my parents had done the same.

That student debt has haunted me for twenty years now
Nicole, California

In 1992 I took out a student loan to get my teaching credential. I was never able to find a job that paid regular teacher's pay. Instead I started teaching in preschool, which paid about one-third what regular classroom teacher's received. In any event, although I loved my job and realized the very important need for the best teachers to teach preschool, I never made enough to repay the loan. Because I taught at a low income preschool, I should have qualified for the student loan forgiveness program, but was denied that benefit because my school "wasn't on the list!!" That $5,000 is now over $30,000 with interest and penalties, and growing everyday. I am retired now and living on a low fixed income. That student debt has haunted me for twenty years now. I have lived, and still live in poverty. I would tell anyone considering a student loan to think long and hard before doing so. If you do take out a student loan, be sure to study something that is sure to make you some money – don't even think about teaching.

The last collector literally took half my grocery money for three months, in order to 'fix' things
Patricia, California

Gentlepeople: My student loan story should qualify me as your "Student Loan Poster Child" should you have one. To make a long and miserable story short: 1. Our Financial Aid office at the University of West Los Angeles was run by a wonderful gentleman named Henry Blunt at the time I matriculated there, circa 1992. 2. Unbeknownst to me, Henry retired, sometime in 1995 I believe, and his position was given to a woman named Laura Smith. 3. Laura Smith changed the way that things were done in the Financial Aid Office, without any actual or constructive notice being given to the students (or, at least to me, and I checked my mailbox diligently.) 4. Bottom line, one day in 1995, on a Saturday morning, I received a phone call from DOE. I was informed in that call that my loans were in default. 5. I said, "That's impossible. I'm not even graduating until 1997." 6. Investigation that following Monday indicated that Laura Smith had NOT been filing the necessary paperwork on time, had NOT told me about this change in her work habits, and Ms. Smith was too busy watching The Oprah Show on TV to do much work. (This incident I reported in a letter to the Dean.) And yes, due to her incompetence and sloth, I was in default with DOE. 7. A gentleman named Ray Dominguez was brought in to work on my file so that I would at least be able to graduate. Mine was not the only file upon which he worked. 8. Since 1995 I have tried, unsuccessfully, to tell my story, and to get my situation rectified. All that I have gotten for my efforts is bounced from one bill collector to another, each one promising to "fix" the matter for me. The last collector literally took half my grocery money for three months, in order to "fix" things, and things remained unfixed. 9. I now have a bill collector, "Coast Professional" after me and I have been truthful with them, i.e., that I have had two hospitalizations in the past 1.5 years, and that I am working for $10.00 less per hour than I used to earn pre-recession, so I am a pretty broke (and broken) human being. 10. Back to Laura Smith – she was subsequently terminated, but no happiness there. The damage was done and I can't seem to undo it. I can't seem to convince DOE that it was THE CHANGING OF FINANCIAL AID OFFICERS AT THE SCHOOL that caused my problems, and NOT any negligence on my part. Nobody at DOE can, or will, comprehend the preceding sentence. 11. The compound interest and penalties on my loans now have me owing over $300,000 for an education, which should cost about $80,000.00. 12. My credit is ruined, and frankly, I now regret that I didn't sue the school for negligent hiring and negligent supervision. Laura Smith, the incompetent Financial Aid Officer, has singlehandedly done more damage to my life than any other person that I've ever been involved with on any level, and all under the "supposed" supervision of the University of West Los Angeles. (The school, incidentally, lost its WASK accreditation a few years after the incidents which I'm reporting here.) 13. I have no idea how to straighten this matter out. Perhaps you can help me. I will happily provide documentation from the former Dean, and other people in administration at the school to corroborate my claim. 14. In summation, this awful mess literally came out of the blue. As stated, I had no idea Henry Blunt had retired or been replaced, I had no idea that my paperwork was not being processed, I had no idea of anything until a Saturday morning in 1995 when I got the bad news that I was in default, and I have remained in default since then, and I have no clue how to fix this. 15. Any assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for reading this.

I had opportunities to buy a home thwarted because of the debt
Paul, California

I earned a degree in Chiropractic in 1988. Throughout my 4 years in school, I was assured that the school loans were a necessary and easy part of a great career awaiting me. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It was an absolute struggle and a lost cause. I probably needed to borrow twice as much money to even start a practice, with no promise of success. I walked away from the field in a couple of years in abject poverty. I ran into a few classmates through the years. They all told me that the field is a complete struggle. It took 13 years before I could even begin to start making payments. I initially borrowed $50,000. The debt has risen to an astronomical $240,000. There is absolutely no way to pay it back. I had opportunities to buy a home thwarted because of the debt. I will rent forever. I waited until I was 36 to buy a car, to replace the dilapidated heap I was driving. The dealership overlooked my school loan debt. Most places I visited did not, and showed me the door. It's an absolute tragedy you treated worst in life for assuming a school loan debt, as opposed to frivolous spending on boats, vacation, clothes. I could have done 10 years of drugs and prison, and have been given a clean slate. I am not behind on any other bill (energy, rent, credit card, water, etc.) other than the school loan. I am a responsible person, and I deserve loan forgiveness. I made a horrible financial mistake, setting me back decades, before I even had a chance to leave the starting blocks. Because of the specificity of the training, I had no marketable skills. After 7 years of college, I basically started as a high school graduate. I am now 50 years old and have been paying some money on or struggling with the school loan for 25 years. Because I was paying under forbearance, I have received no credit towards 25 year loan forgiveness. Which means I could spend another 25 years choking on this horrible mess.

Staying in school allows me to defer my student loans though they continue to rack up the interest
Paula, California

In 2004 after leaving my husband of 33 years, I left my home with nothing except a $20,000 debt on a credit card and my clothes. I started school and I was suddenly compelled to become a Registered Nurse. I had a part-time job, which allowed me to go to school. I started from the beginning and it took 6 years to get my RN license. During those 6 years, I received financial aid and took out federal student loans and 2 personal student loans with one being co-signed by a friend. I had to borrow the money in order to supplement my income of which approximately one-third went to health insurance, which was mandatory. I also still had two teenagers, which I was supporting. At first, I did not feel these loans would have been so bad to repay, except when I graduated nursing school in 2010, there were no jobs for new graduate RN's due to the economy having taken a huge nosedive. Because the economy still has not yet recovered, I still do not have a nursing job and I continue to go to school for my bachelor's degree in nursing and continue to take out student loans though I believe after this semester I am at the end. Staying in school allows me to defer my student loans though they continue to rack up the interest. I eventually had to go bankrupt with the credit card, as they no longer would accept the payments I could afford. I did get a full time job in a hospital as a medical assistant making one-half of a nurse's salary. Working full time and going to school half time leaves me little time for anything else. So now I have: no house (I live in an apartment), no job to go with my degree, no money to buy anything, bad credit, and I see no way out. My student loans total approximately $140,000, which includes the interest that they capitalize. I am now three years out of nursing school and in much worse shape financially than if I had not gone to school at all!

The banks got bailed out, but who is going to help the brighter minds of this generation if we don't get them some help?
Randolph, California

I only attended college for a minimal amount of time to qualify for a police career, but my nephew has a Master’s Degree from Penn State. He is a marvelously intelligent person who was an intern for Senator Feinstein. He now has $108,000 in debt for his student loans. He is engaged to a wonderful college educated girl who also has a large student debt. These young people cannot think of buying a home or new car because of the crushing debt heaped upon them by these student loans. The banks got bailed out, but who is going to help the brighter minds of this generation if we don't get them some help?

These loans get bought and sold for pennies on the dollar yet the amount they want me to pay has doubled
Renee, California

I cosigned on my daughter's private student loans in 2002-2006. In 2008 the company I worked for went out of business and I had to take a job making about 1/2 of what I was making. My daughter graduated in 2007 and could not find employment for 2 years. My ex husband (who had originally agreed to help pay these loans) was unemployed and lost his home. I went bankrupt in 2009, but of course can not discharge these loans in bankruptcy court. I have been paying one of the loans with Wells Fargo $550 per month since 2009. I am being sued by National Collegiate Trust, which bought one of the loans. I am really having a hard time. I will never be able to pay these loans, can't save for retirement, can't get married (or they will come after my husband), can't own a car, and I don't see an end to this. The loans keep accruing interest and penalties. These loans get bought and sold for pennies on the dollar yet the amount they want me to pay has doubled. They got a bail out. I did not. I really need some help

I make a monthly payment of $79.96 – out of my disability income!
Richard, California

I am a 62 years old, student loan debtor, who's still paying an outstanding balance of around $6.000. I'm unemployed, and my sole source of income is SS Disability/SSI, with combined amounts to $ 970.00 per month. I make a monthly payment of $79.96 – out of my disability income!! Around 5 years ago, I submitted an application to have this student loan dismissed, based on my disabilities and being unable to work, along with it I also submitted affidavits from two physicians, but it was denied twice!! It seems to me, that if their rules with respect to disabled debtors are stiffer than the SSA, than they shouldn't have rules at all!!

I live in my friend's shop doing my best to also keep up with my loan payments to the best of my ability
Rick, California

For years I have done my very best to keep up with my minimum payments on my student loans. Whenever it was possible, I would always pay just a little more than minimum in order to be that much ahead of the interest. Unfortunately, due to losing my job twice in the past eight years because both companies I worked for went out of business, one of which having been in business for 112 years at the time it closed its doors, I have lost all gains that I have made in repaying my loan. Because of incurred interest, my principle payback has now far exceeded the original loan. I am still unemployed, since 2010. The longest I have ever been so. I have exhausted all of my forbearance options with Sallie Mae. I live in my friend's shop, working freelance CAD jobs, and doing my best to not only improve my living conditions, but to also keep up with my loan payments to the best of my ability, out of fear that one day they will seize what little money I am able to save in my checking account. I understand completely that I am responsible for this debt. I signed for these loans in order to get a good education. I owe this money. I do not dispute that. But as I approach the age of 50 within the next year and a half, I would very much like to return to the land of the living by finding a steady secure job and move back into an apartment and pay this debt off once and for all. As it stands now, mathematically, it seems this will never happen. I am tired and frustrated.

I am happy I have an education, but the debt that comes with it keeps me up at night
Sandra, California

I have $60,000 in school loans. My credit has been impacted dramatically. I have not been able to begin paying my loans. I have had to defer them and place them in a forbearance state. My husband is unemployed and my oldest daughter is soon to begin her college education. I don‰'t know how I am going to do it. I have not been able to buy a house and my car purchases I have needed a cosigner and or a family buy them for me and me making the payments. Student‰ loans made it easy to obtain an education, but have hindered the American dream life. I can‰'t own a home or save for my children‰'s education. I am happy I have an education, but the debt that comes with it keeps me up at night. I believe that a teacher who teachers special education and a math or history subject should be helped with the loans, for the reason that we teach in subject areas that are in great demand and difficult to do. .

I am desperately hoping a miracle happens so I can figure out how to get out of this mess of debt
Sarah, California

I graduated from a prestigious private photo arts school, which was really over priced for the degree acquired. I graduated with a mountain of debt totaling $200,000+ from Sallie Mae and couldn't find a job for 3 months and when I did it barely paid me anything and I couldn't afford to start paying on my loans right away. I deferred my loans for as long as I possibly could because I couldn't afford to pay them. What I didn't realize though was that during that time the interest on my private loans was at 14% and my federal were at 5%. I wasn't able to start paying on the loans until about 3 years ago and when I reviewed how much I owed I was shocked to learn that my debt had almost doubled and I now owe a staggering $396,000. My current monthly payment is $1,940, which I sometimes get help from dad (who is the cosigner on several of my loans) but I usually end up paying it by myself, which is really challenging and I often barely make it. Also that payment is primarily just paying interest and barely any of the principle debt, so basically I can pay this insane payment for the rest of my life and I most likely will never pay my loan off. I currently work three jobs (only one of which is within my field of study for which I have my bachelors degree), I generally work 60+ hours per week. I cannot get married or have children till I find an answer for how I am going to rid myself of this debt. I am desperately hoping a miracle happens so I can figure out how to get out of this mess of debt. I strongly support all efforts, from bankruptcy for private loans, to debt forgiveness, or even just lower interest rates. Thanks for hearing my story and keep up the good work fighting for the people

If I were to get sick tomorrow they would have to roll me into a ditch and let me die
Sean, California

I came out of school owing $33,000 in 1995. An 8% interest was average in those days. I was glad to get the money since my family had none. I thought school would be the answer to my problems. It quickly became the biggest problem I would ever have. Had I understood that signing those papers meant I would be paying $500 a month for the rest of my life, with no chance of paying the loan off until I was a very old man and had paid something like seven times the original loan, I would never have done it. My current outstanding balance is $43,000. I pay $6000 a year to Sallie Mae and only $1000 a year disappears from my balance. $5000 a year goes up in smoke as so called 'interest payments. If you look at money spent alone I paid the $33,000 amount back a long time ago. I have never had health insurance and will never be able to purchase a home or a new car or a 401k. If I were to get sick tomorrow they would have to roll me into a ditch and let me die. I am now 43 years old and there is no end of my struggling in sight. Unless I win the lottery, Sallie Mae has ruined me. This is my reward for having a family member die in every major war since the revolution. Yay America!

My life is over and I see no way out of this
Seyed, California

I had about 400,000 dollars debt. I have an M.D., M.S., B.S., and an A.A. degree. Yet working as a security guard. Things are so bad that a judge in bankruptcy case allowed my private loans to be discharged. Now I am left with about 200,000 dollars debt. My life is over and I see no way out of this. I can't get marry, can't have a new car and can never buy a house. I wish there was any loan forgiveness.

I was told to go to school, work hard and study ... To follow my dreams and everything would work out
Stephan, California

I went to a very good school for the profession I wanted to pursue. It is highly selective and very difficult to make it through. I graduated with a 3.8 GPA and I am very proud of the degree I received. But it was very expensive and very demanding. Frequently, I was at school from 8 am until 11 at night. This left very little time for a side job. We often had requirements to meet on Sundays for school for eight hours so I would work on Saturdays and Sunday evenings. My parents had no money. My father had a serious medical condition and my mother was a secretary. So I took out student loans. Now it is 7 years since graduation. I have two sets of loans-my government issued public loans and private loans from Sallie Mae. Sallie Mae is an intractable company that gives me zero leeway to change my loan payment. Monthly I pay $500. This represents a quarter of my income, a sizable amount. Consequently, my Direct Loans are at the same amount or greater than the day I left school as I barely have enough money left over to live much less pay my loans or pursue my career. Currently, I am saddled with $90,000 in debt that I never expect to pay off. I make far less than what I was told by countless counselors, parents and teachers, that a typical college educated person would earn. I was told to go to school, work hard and study. To follow my dreams and everything would work out. I have yet to see that. Now they tell people not to go to college unless you have the money already and that college is not for everyone. That is a dramatic change from when I was raised. Why, if we as a country are interested in the education of our public, which is our greatest resource, why are we making that education so difficult to get? Why do we hamstring our college graduates with ludicrously high levels of debt? Why has the cost of an education grown so much faster than the rate of inflation?

I completely forfeited a chance at the type of adulthood my parents enjoyed
T. Miriam, California

There is no way I can explain briefly how this debt has impacted my life. Perhaps I can give a taste by saying: Because I was poor and ambitious at age eighteen, and fell victim to promises not just from loan companies but also from my high school advisors, I completely forfeited a chance at the type of adulthood my parents enjoyed. Having health insurance, owning a home or car, and getting married and having children – these are all luxuries for people like me. I would be most grateful for the last two: my dream is to have my own family.

I attempt to foresee a future where I don't have to worry about student loans and can maybe afford to move out on my own again
Valerie, California

Coming out of college in 2004, I had about $22,000 in student loan debt that I ended up consolidating. However, even for the first year that I was making regular payments, it seemed like I was only paying interest on them. I had a full time job, but I still had to live at home because San Francisco (my family's hometown for 6 generations now) is so expensive. Then, I was able to save some money and travel low-budget internationally while still paying my loans. When I came back and started looking for a new job & life path at the end of 2006, the economy was in turmoil and the job market seemed flooded with people who had higher degrees or more experience. I spent the next 3 years working multiple part time jobs and paying rent. I had to get forbearance because I couldn't afford to pay rent and loans. I ran up credit card debt just to live. I already lived on very little money, but my lifestyle was still not sustainable. By the end of 2009, I had to move home yet again and changed my repayment plan to ICR so that I would only be asked to pay what was deemed affordable...which was $0. So, I was able to breathe a little easier knowing that my debt was on hold, but still growing due to interest. In 2010, I got a better job and started making strides in my career. By that time, my first priority was paying off credit card debt, which you can't put forbearance on. That took me nearly a year. Now it was time to get serious about student loans. I have put myself on an aggressive repayment plan, hoping to be debt free by 2014. However, the interest continues to accrue and I still don't make that much money. So, here I am, 31 going on 32 years old, living with my family (whom I am SO grateful and lucky to have) while I attempt to foresee a future where I don't have to worry about student loans and can maybe afford to move out on my own again. I've never owned a car or even thought about buying a house. I spend most of my money on groceries, transportation, maintaining my health (without health insurance) and helping my family.

I am now in my mid-forties and could be paying off student loans until retirement
Wade, California

I worked in production without a completed education for more than 25 years until I was laid off for the third time and wanted something new. I am now in my mid-forties and could be paying off student loans until retirement if the jobs are not enough to pay back the loans. There has to be some relief from the financial burdens that students are saddled with in order to serve professions more effectively.

They called my work and said that I would be paying that no matter what
William, California

I have over the last year went with out and that includes paying my bills on time as I had over $500.00 dollars taken out every month and the progressive agency that the federal government gave the okay to lean on me did not care and were very nasty, when in fact, they called my work and said that I would be paying that no matter what and that they would get the money out of me and would have it taken out of my paycheck through Human Resources with or without my okay. I have not had a raise in over 6 year as I work for the County of Ventura, and would have not gotten my MBA if I would have known it would do me no good!-I have applied thru the County for at least 3 dozen jobs and have yet to get hired. At this point I have turned 64, and all I am told I am lucky to have a job and how good I am but there is room for advancement!

All of our income goes to paying bills to live and paying on our debt
Anonymous, Colorado

My husband and I have about $122,000 total in student debt between us. I have a master's degree in social work and he is a high end auto technician. He is 36 years old and I am 31. Although we have relatively high income for working people, we are unable to buy a home, have children or save for retirement because all of our income goes to paying bills to live and paying on our debt. We also accrued credit debt when were in school that we are still paying although he finished school in 2008. One of my husband’s loans has a rate as high as 11.25% from Sallie Mae. I have a variable rate loan that is tied to the T-bill rate and I never really know what the rate will be. We are unable to consolidate either of these loans because they are private. We have paid over half the principal balance in interest on the Sallie Mae loan in recent years because of the repayment structure Sallie Mae uses. I have had to fight repeatedly to get the correct interest rate on my consolidation loan with Nelnet and believe still that I am being ripped off through manipulation of my repayment. I originally signed a note on consolidation during my post graduation grace period with a company called Chela who was bought by Nelnet apparently before my loan was finalized even though I signed over 6 months before the sale to Nelnet. Nelnet forced me to sign a new note at the much higher rates that my loans went up to after Chela did not disperse the funds before my grace period ended. Then Nelnet has been charging me the wrong interest rate (different from the note I signed with them) for the past 5 years and even though I have paid almost $17,000 since my loans went into repayment in 2006 my principal balance on my revised disclosure since the interest rate correction is only $600 less than the original amount I agreed to repay. So in 7 years of repaying I have made only $600 in progress on reducing my principal and paid $16,500 in interest. This is partially because I was forced to defer my loans during two different years and the interest accrued then was capitalized. But I have no way of knowing if my payments were accurately applied over the years or accurately recalculated following the interest rate correction. We are interested in looking into advice from a lawyer on whether Nelnet has behaved legally but cannot really afford anything but a free consultation. My husband I believe we will die paying these student loans unless we can afford to move to a standard repayment plan and even if we can do that we have no idea how we will ever afford a home or to start a family while paying the standard payments for 25-30 years.

Why is educating our children and ourselves so expensive?
Beth, Colorado

My name is Beth, I believed in education and our country. Now, I am 52 and my personal student loan debt is over $100,000. I raised three children as a single parent the majority of my life. I myself did not have a college degree and only a GED, yet I never received help from our government. I worked sometime three and four jobs to make sure my kids were in good neighborhoods and schools. When it was time for my oldest son to go to college, I had saved some money but not enough. We started taking out loans in 1998, some in his name and some in my name. In 1996, I had gone back to school and was working full time. I was fortunate that my company was paying the majority of my school. In 2001, my middle child (daughter) entered college; so all three of us were in school at the time. I owned a nice home, and have been a homeowner since I was 27. I had a great job, with good medical and worked for the same company for over 11 years. I felt I would be able to help my kids through college and my company was covering most of mine. I have always paid my loans on time, no complaints. My first son graduated, as has worked as many as three jobs at once. His loan debt is so high he can't even get a car and no way a home. His girlfriend of 8 years is the same way. Now they both have decent jobs but have to live by family to borrow cars, and rent. My daughter is in the same situation. Everyone decided to go back and get a Master's hoping that this would increase their job salaries and chances to make it; this just increased their debt. My youngest son just graduated and he has to live with me because he can't afford to make it on his own, and pay back his loans. He does not have a car either. After raising three kids (no government help or bail out) I have good credit (went down this year due to my debt in student loans) and all four of us are college educated. The problem is this; the job market has changed dramatically. I use to make double what I make now, and because I moved to take a job I am struggling to get a home at 52 because of my student loan debt. My parent loans are at a super high rate, and I had to take them out because that is how the school explained it. I had the credit and my youngest didn't. Therefore, after he was two years into his college I had to take out loans for him to complete. By the way, my ex-husband owes over $350,000 in child support and the courts did next to nothing to help me collect in over 21 years. This went to Supreme Court and I have a judgment – just no money! So, I have been a good citizen: 1. Raised three law abiding kind citizens of the US, who work hard everyday to try and make it in the world. 2. Pay my student loans and some of theirs when I can, we all try and help one another. 3.Have not asked the government for help, just worked hard my whole life. 4. Don't own a home, live with my boyfriend and my youngest son because we can't afford to be on our own. 5. At 52, I am in debt and making less than I have ever made. Last time I made this little I was 27. 6. I gave at least 10,000-13,000 a year for each one of my children's educations for over 12 years. I am $104,000, Chris is 110,000, Broke is 65,000 and Stephen is 75,000 in debt. NONE OWN HOMES and only me and my daughter have cars that were given to us as gifts! I spent the past two years working for our Governor in Colorado, I believe in the US and our country but this is so sad that we are all struggling this way. Why is educating our children and ourselves so expensive? Why by educating my children so they can work, am I worried that I will be homeless? Thanks for your time!

I have failed my children because there is no way for me to afford their college education after paying for my own
Debbie, Colorado

I continued my education because I wanted to become a professional, an expert in the field of psychology. I was encouraged by my school to get my master's and my Ph.D. because I was told I would earn more. I truly have benefited from all of the education. However, I am also over $100,000 in debt and I am scared to death of the loan repayment. I feel as though I have failed my children because there is no way for me, as a parent, to afford their college education after paying for my own. I have no job right now, and the prospect of paying back my student loan is very daunting. I truly feel immobilized by this!

Although I never foresee my loans being paid off, I'm happy to do what I love
Elizabeth, Colorado

I grew up in a lower middle class family in Wyoming. Eager to leave the state, yet with only around $8,000 that I had saved from serving tables, I decided to take student loans to pay for a degree in Video Production, the only thing I've ever wanted to do. I went to a large private institution specializing in the arts in Colorado. It was expensive and difficult for me to even pay for the extras outside tuition, especially with no help from parental units or grants, and quickly my savings dried up. I took a job tutoring at the school to help, but ended up taking additional loans for housing and supplies. When I graduated in 2007 with an Associates Degree, I was left with $59,000 of student loan debt. Fortunately, I was able to get a job immediately working on commercials for a large advertising agency, but it was a job without benefits and making only $10 an hour. I was forced to put my loans on forbearance and deferment by my lender who said it was that or pay the fee they requested monthly, which was more than I made. In 2008, as everyone knows the market crashed, and many of the video companies that hire in Colorado laid people off. I was fortunate to not get laid off, but the company I worked for paid me essentially as an "office overhead" expense and would not consider even a slight pay raise. For two years, I went through the vicious cycle of forbearance until I was finally able to get a better paying job in my industry (around $30,000 a year which doesn't seem like much, but to me was a huge increase). Yet, the damage by that point had been done, leaving my grand total at $78,000 from my original debt of $59,000. Even so, my lender was still requesting more than I could pay, but after many calls did finally offer me a different plan: a four-year interest only plan. Now every year on my tax statement I get the glaring number from my lender, around $6,500 of interest paid ($2,500 is the most you can write-off on taxes but they calculate it out for you anyway). Very little of my payments go to the actual principle, but in the last 3 years or so, I've made it to about $75,000 still owed. I don't blame anyone but myself for getting a liberal arts degree that doesn't pay well with student loans. I chose to do this. But I always work very hard, sometimes 90+ hours a week to continue to follow my dreams. Sometimes I think of all the things I could be doing if I would have just settled in my position as a server, which I made more money doing then I do now, but in the end, I don't regret it. Although I never foresee my loans being paid off, I'm happy to do what I love. It's just a different type of servitude in the end.

Am 66, still working part time, can't afford Medicare
Jan, Colorado

I owe, and will forever owe, about $10k. One class was not put into the loan and Colorado wants now $4k for that single $800 class and has taken all my tax returns for the last 10 years. I've been paying for 10 years on the $10k and it is 1/2 paid off at $108/mo. Am 66, still working part time, can't afford Medicare B of course and will soon have to use 1/8 of my monthly income for this, or 1/4 if they double it, when my job concludes this year unless I find other employment. I didn't get grad degree in the end anyway.

I remain angry that those who wish to be of service to the community, do so at such a high personal price
Laura, Colorado

I'm a 56-year-old non-traditional student in a Master's program. I work as much as I can as a counselor for family members who struggle to support loved ones with an addiction. Seventeen years ago I was involved in a near fatal car accident, which left me alive yet unable to resume my life as it had been. I was a single mother of two 11 and 9 year old girls. I cleaned houses and was taking a couple of courses at Front Range Community College to see what I might be interested in. Then came this accident that changed my life. I became addicted to pain management medications and through that struggle decided to become a therapist and help others. Today I am drug-free, although I live with levels of pain that vary from day to hour. Many of the questions in your survey seemed ironic as I have not been able to but a new car for well over a decade or, been able to save for my retirement, which looms in the oh so near distance! I have been struggling and in debt ever since I entered school! I have a closed head injury, as well as other physical and mental limitations. I was told I may not walk again but I do. Although, today I live each day contending with my limitations, I have worked hard to create a blessed life. For me school was a vital part of my mental rehabilitation as I was able to grow new compensatory neural net. On this issue of student debt, I remain angry that I, and others like me, who wish to be of service to the community, do so at such a high personal price. I'm not an extravagant person. Luxury to me would be the ability to afford the health services that ease physical pain for me such as massage and acupuncture. There are also treatments that would increase my cognitive abilities, as well as, lessen the anxiety I experience from constantly dealing with my mental and physical limitations. I can't afford health care and although I believe in universal health care I'm not sure how I'll pay for it next year! And I doubt that the services I so desperately need will be covered. My previous experience was to be offered addictive pain medications that would in the short term slowly lower my quality of life, numbing my senses, and eventually kill me. I will NOT take drugs. To date, the level of holistic rehabilitation I've achieved is due to my turning away from pharmaceuticals offered by managed care health institutions. Currently I watch my daughter struggle with her decision of whether or not to return to school to achieve higher education, which I believe is everyone's right! She remains undecided because as much as she would like to follow in my footsteps, she's watched my financial hardship over the years that affected her directly when she was younger. I very much appreciate this opportunity to tell a piece of my story. I hope it's helpful.

I took responsibilities of my loans when I left college and made paying them off my biggest priority
Lisa, Colorado

Like many other high school students who had yet to understand the concept of "value for money", I opted to go to the absolute best school that I could be accepted to. I went to the University of Pennsylvania because I had worked so hard through high school and felt that I deserved to go to the best undergrad business school in the country. My family was far from being poor (according to the school's calculators for need of financial aid) and far from being able to afford the $40,000+ annual tuition. It was no problem because I was able to take out as much as I needed in student loans. The exorbitant cost didn't faze me at all because I was so caught up in the promises of high-paying jobs on Wall Street that if I went to this school and did well, the loans would pay themselves in no time. $113,000 in student loans later with only a Bachelor's degree and only an average GPA, I realized that the speech the admissions officer gave was only going to be a relevant for a select few people in my class. I was able to secure a job in a consulting firm that paid decently, but considering the other analysts in my class who went to lesser-known colleges, I realized that I didn't need to go to the more expensive college to realize the same job opportunities. Those sobering realizations aside, I took responsibilities of my loans when I left college and made paying them off my biggest priority. I employed many money-saving techniques and didn't take on any more debt. No cars, no mortgages and most importantly no credit card debt. I prepaid my loans as much as possible, which unfortunately left almost no money for savings. This plan was going well and though I'd feel bitter about my peers who weren't saddled with such loans, I kept plugging along and tried my best to keep living within my means. I came to a depressing realization though when after struggling in my career for a few years, I realized consulting was not the career path for me. It was harder and harder to go to work and I realized the only reason I was there was to pay off my astronomical student loans. By my calculations, I would have had to work there for 5 more years, which in retrospect, doesn't sound like a lot, but I had already hit my boiling point and couldn't stand the job or the people anymore. I dreamt of starting new and going to college all over again. Then I decided that my real passions were traveling, cooking and writing. So instead of prepaying my loans as I had always done, I started saving as much money as possible so that I could quit and start a new life. I was able to save a decent amount of money and I probably could have paid off my student loans by now, but instead I made a trade-off and decided that pursuing a career I loved was more important and I've been working towards that ever since. It's been almost 2 years since I quit my safe and stable job in consulting. My loans could be nearly paid off by now, but when I look at all I gained, experiences traveling the world and finding my life partner, I don't regret a single thing. Of course, I do wish I wouldn't have gone to such an expensive school, but I do realize that every mistake I made in my early years did lead me to this point in my life and I am quite proud of where I stand now. I still have $72,000 left in student loans to pay off and I haven't been late with one payment. I'll keep pursuing my dreams of sustainable travel until that point where I can't pay my loans. As much as I'd hate to, I would then go back to my old career because I understand that this financial mess is my own to fix. Thank you for reading.

Would leave this damned country if I could because of the student debt problems
Steven, Colorado

Obtained a terminal degree had to pay out of state tuition. Loans with Sallie Mae and Nelnet tried to consolidate but they deliberately left out parts of the loan. Now knowing this and assuming it had been done properly I defaulted on loans-their tricks blew up what had been a 58,000 debt to well over 100,000. They made no attempt to negotiate, when I left reservation job (8 years teaching AIHEC) NNC, SMC called and harassed making it hard to keep the new job. Brought loans out of default. Rolled the loans into Federal Direct program and paid with no problems until Obama/USDOE moved these to servicing by GSMR spent 6 months not having payments credited, not knowing what to pay and etc. Contacted USDOE consumer protection office they stated there was not a 'legal problem.” As a professor I find it sickening that I have to teach students for future careers knowing that the systems I work for have little or no concern that higher education due to student debt is now social subjugation and as such higher learning is no longer the elevation that people like Ruskin, Washington, Dubois and Pell worked so hard to build. Would leave this damned country if I could because of the student debt problems.

I don't count on anything from anyone, except to be let down
Susan, Colorado

I was sold on University of Phoenix back in 2003. I had been to some community college in the past, and was employed as a CNA since 1994. UOP convinced me to sign up and get my degree in Human Services/Management, promising I would get a better job with that degree. I was dumb enough to fall for it. Over the 4 plus years I attended and took classes online, UOP kept raising their tuition and changing my degree requirements. I finally got so disgusted and quit, leaving me $60,000 in debt (and still working as a CNA). My credit is forever ruined. I live in a small trailer and am on food stamps. I drive a 19 year old vehicle and can never have anything nice. I have health issues and hope to go on disability, since there is NO WAY I will be able to ever pay this off. I have horrible luck, so I don't count on anything from anyone, except to be let down.

I was stuck with paying an amount that I don't think I owed
Suzanne, Colorado

I went to the U. of Alaska in the mid 70's to mid 80's. I had Pell Grants, Work Study money, and NDF loans. At times I could defer the payment by continuing to take classes. Eventually I paid off my loans (I THOUGHT). In 2000 we went to refinance our house in Boulder, CO. I had owned homes in Anchorage and in Colorado before this refinance. All of a sudden, a Student Loan amount of $2,000 showed up on my Credit Report and we could not refinance until it was paid off. I had saved all my school paperwork over the years and called the State of Alaska about this unpaid amount. They said I had paid off everything except this amount. I was stuck with paying an amount that I don't think I owed and the amount was 20 years old. They agreed to take $1,000 and call it paid. So I paid the $1,000 so our home refinance could go through.

I'm not sure how I am going to be able to feed my kids
Tiana, Colorado

I am a single parent of two children. I decided to go back to school to hopefully be able to get a better job to support them and give all of us a better life. I also want to prove to them that if I can do it so can they. Just in three semesters at my local community college I have already racked up around $10,000 in student loan debt. Watching that amount continue to rise every semester is frightening. Part of me wants to give up now because I know by the time I have my Bachelor's from a university that amount is going to be astronomical and I'm not sure how I am going to be able to feed my kids, provide for them, purchase a house and a new car while I'm paying off 10s of thousands of dollars.

These student loans have haunted me throughout my entire profession
Valerie, Colorado

I graduated from graduate school in 1997, and had to file bankruptcy in 1998 after attempting to make payments that took up 1/3 of my take home pay for about 18 months. The bankruptcy gave me a break for 5 years. During that time my balance went from $60k to 83k. Since then, I have only made high enough wages to pay them back for 2 years out of the last 10. I am serving a 3-year contract at my place of employment because it is located in an under-served area. It paid the original $60k while I am still stuck paying $550 monthly on $46k interest that had built on that originally owed balance. I can't buy a new car for another 3.5 years after I have completed another contract to get the remainder paid off. My car is over 10 years old and I want one more new one before I retire in a few years. I bought a manufactured home a couple of years ago because they are so much cheaper so that I will have a home of my own after I retire. These student loans have haunted me throughout my entire profession.

This drain on society is leading me to drink ... But this is the price I pay for learning how to think
Chris, Connecticut

I graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor's degree in Music. I spent all of 2009 looking for a job and by the time I actually found work, forbearance fees, interest, and penalties brought my debt to over $80k. Over the last few years I've gotten to the point at my job that I make enough to cover the payments of over $800 a month (barely) but I'm not working in music, I have no savings, and I am struggling with depression because of my financial situation. I am a songwriter and I have written a song about my struggles with overcoming student loan depression. It's called "Drowning in the Red" and it is on YouTube. Like the song says, "This drain on society is leading me to drink. But this is the price I pay for learning how to think. I'm getting deeper as the interest still accrues, this is just modernized indentured servitude."

I have not been able to accomplish the American dream of owning my own home
Karen, Connecticut

My story begins like this. I am a 39year old mother of 3 and wife. I have been trying to get this situation taken care of for years now. I tried to go back to school so that I may get a better paying position so that I am start to pay down my debt but because I chose to stay home with my baby when he was first born, I was denied the opportunity to finish my degree. It is not fair that people who are not even American citizens can get a free education and I have been paying my taxes since I started working at the tender age of 15. I am not saying that I don't want to pay my student loans off, but once I consolidated my loans which were spread all over the place (a whopping 42,000), and placed with the department of education how much I will owe has since doubled because of my trying to do the right thing and have all of my loans in one place(this amount will balloon to 84,000) by the time I have finished paying them off. I have not been able to accomplish the American dream of owning my own home because of this. I have worked and gone to school at the same time and still I am in the same situation. There must be some type of way that we can work through this. I just don't get it. I have been told that I must go to college from the time I could stand up and I will have these bills and possibly pass this debt onto my children once I am laid down to rest. This is supposed to be the land of the free. NO, IN ALL ACTUALITY WERE ARE ONLY AS FREE AS THEY WANT US TO BELIEVE.

Today, the student situation is much more difficult for education
Mario, Connecticut

No loan. I started undergraduate in 1963 (age 30), and was fortunate could combine studies with full time work, part time studies. Fellowship, assistantships in graduate school, worked more hours and days at them than were paid. I found academic job after graduation. In retrospect, I can talk about some luck in some of these regards. Today, the student situation is much more difficult for education, and general people's well being is not a socio-political priority at all, to the detriment of the whole society. Such a scandal.

Families have to go bankrupt for their children to obtain a higher education
Mary, Connecticut

I am a parent of a student. She is carrying a student loan debt in excess of $20,000. I am liable for $35,000 in Parent Plus loan debt. I don't understand why American families have to go bankrupt for their children to obtain a higher education and perhaps have the opportunity to have a simple life, basics like food, clothing and shelter! I am so ashamed that congress is only greed based. Why not let just a little bit go to the 92%. Is that asking too much?

Because of the interest, she working 3 jobs to pay it off
Peter, Connecticut

It’s not my debt, its my granddaughter, she graduated from Bryant U, with a 58,000 debt, which is now 78,000. Because of the interest, she is working 3 jobs to pay it off.

A dream should not cost $130,000
Tiffany, Connecticut

To whom it may concern: This will be brief. Growing up in inner New Haven, I dreamed often of going off to college to pursue a promising future for myself. Music is my love and passion. I am a professional opera singer and voice teacher. Little did I know that my dreams would be deferred due to mounds and mounds of accrued interest applied to my student loans. The debt has almost tripled to $130,000. After the economy turned for the worst in 2008, I went back to University of Michigan to pursue a doctorate and more loans were added. This year, I transferred to begin studies at Manhattan School of Music and unbeknownst to be, even more loans are starring me in the face. I will not give up on my dreams even at the ripe age of 42 years old. One can only hope that my country will stand up and do the right thing by its' citizens. A dream should not cost $130,000. I need help. Thank you for listening and providing an outlet for others and me in my situation.

Before anyone judges me, they must first realize that completing my college degree has been a lifelong dream
Alyssa, Florida

I went back to school in my early 40's, had to stop, then continued, and will complete my degree in my mid 50's. I have at least six different loans with varying interest rates. I have no problem responsibly paying back my incurred debt, but wonder whether I will find adequate employment to pay them back timely; after all, I am only ten years away from retirement age. Before anyone judges me, they must first realize that completing my college degree has been a lifelong dream. Now that it is very near, I will graduate with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration in December 2013. I am excited yet skeptical. I incurred nearly $50,000 in student loan debt to achieve my dream and the only way I will be able to pay this debt back is to find a job suitable to my newly acquired degree. I have several things going for me, I live in a 55+ community and my rent is very low, I drive an older car that I maintain well to keep it running well, my children are grown and self-sufficient, and I have the support of my long-time live-in companion who earns enough to provide for both of us. He is not, however, responsible for my debt. For me to pay my debt off within 10 years, I need to earn a minimum of $2,000 per month gross. My home state of Florida is notorious for extremely low wages and, of course, is a right to work state. I am doing everything within my power to ensure my employability; for example, WorkNet, a state and county agency, offers classes that I am taking to prepare myself to write the best resume, conduct efficient job searches, and become a stellar interviewee. These efforts will only pay off if the prospective employer will hire older workers such as myself to fill a full-time position. As I stated earlier, I want to repay my debt. I would certainly benefit from being able to consolidate my various loans into one loan with a very low rate when the time comes for me to start paying down my debt. Wish me well; I have every intention of succeeding.

If I default I understand they will take it out of my social security check, and I cannot make it financially if they do
Barbara, Florida

I went through a divorce after almost 30 years of marriage. Had 2 younger children still at home. Eventually he stopped paying child support & I decided I had to do something to make more money so went back to school. I graduated in 2000 and have been paying on my student loan, but for many years could only pay the minimum, (interest) so the base amount never went down. I am 69 and would like to retire. But with that debt hanging over my head, not sure if I ever can. I have paid about $16,000 over the years and still owe close to the original amount. If I default I understand they will take it out of my social security check, and I cannot make it financially if they do.

One of the most onerous experiences in the repayment of student loans has been the interaction with Sallie Mae
Boyd, Florida

I graduated with a BA from UCLA in 1972. My annual college costs from 1967 through 1972 were approximately $1500-$2000 per year, including room and board. I earned the majority of each year's expenses by working in the orchards or automotive garages in the summer and graduated debt-free. After 1972, the Governor Reagan put an end to free tuition in the University of California system. My three children all have a mountain of student loan debt, much of which my wife and I are helping them with. My middle daughter will have a $90K tab waiting for her after she finishes her PhD. All three are looking at a very uncertain job market. The bottom 40% of this country have only .3% of the wealth. The bottom 80% have only 15% of the wealth. The top 20% have 85% of the wealth. The basic economic issue throughout our economy is the disparity in wealth distribution, which is reflected in the sub-issue of education, health care, and general living standards. This theme needs to be a part of your efforts to bring economic equality to higher education. One of the most onerous experiences that we have had in the repayment of our children's student loans has been the interaction with Sallie Mae. My elderly father was paying one of my son's loans with a monthly automatic deduction from his retirement account. Sallie Mae began sending my father's checks back uncashed. No one at Sallie Mae could figure out why. By the time my wife and I became aware of the issue, the loan was in default. Even though we had the uncashed checks and even though Sallie Mae had records of the checks being returned, Sallie Mae would accept no responsibility for triggering the default. Sallie Mae has all the administrative flavor of an exploitive loan shark operation. The story of student debt in this country is the story of wealth distribution. It is the story of 80% of the population being taken to the cleaners. This is the backstory that your noble efforts need to illuminate. Thank you for fighting the good fight.

By the time I graduated I could barely stand
Carole, Florida

I'm living a nightmare! I was told that the interest on student loans would be low and the payments would not be too high. Well, what a crock that was! But the worst part of it is this: In my last semester of school I developed a terrible back problem. By the time I graduated I could barely stand. I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, spinal arthritis, and I have 3 degenerated discs. I never made it to work in my field of study, because not only would it have required standing for some length (which I cannot do), but it was impossible for me to walk from the parking lot to the inside of the building. So here I am....stuck with mountains of debt....and I can't even work! I have no idea what I'm going to do. The payments are more than $600 a month and I have no way to pay them. I am living on $1058 a month from social security. I applied for disability but have been turned down twice. I just set up a request for a hearing, but that takes months. My loans are in excess of $91,000!!! I may have to go o debtor's prison!

I am trying to ask for forgiveness, but have not been successful
Collette, Florida

At that time I was attending Anthem online college back in 2006, I went under my maiden name. I got married in 2007. I attempted to go to their online school to better myself being a single black mom of 3, which one was always 90% ill. I only took on a part time job at Boston market being a catering driver trying to survive at that time. I wanted so much so when they contacted me concerning going to their online school for a AA certificate in medical coding and billing, I jumped on the chance to raise my kids better, but my son’s health or my own didn't stand the test for me to attend the online courses. I got dropped but left with a huge debt to pay still to this day. I am trying to ask for forgiveness, but have not been successful. I still have my books and stuff from that class. I have even tried over the years to get back in because if I am going to be stuck with a debt that big I figured why not go to school and actually get it but they never let me back in without wanting money. So, I am left with that huge debt, no degree, and my health still flip-flops. Thank GOD my son’s health is better, but as for me I had to drop my classes at the college here in Daytona because of my health. I had surgery in April, and thank GOD I can work the job I have.

Not able to find a career in my new field, the loans became a huge burden
Cristy, Florida

I was 43 yrs old before going to college. My whole life I was trained on the job to complete tasks to produce an outcome. During the 2001 – 2003 crash of the banks I had over $8k in a roll over IRA, from loosing my job of 12 years. After steady growth, It dropped to $4k in six months. To avoid any further loss, and unable to find a secure position as I once had, I decided to get some personal benefit from the remaining capital and enrolled in a Technical College. Not having the Full tuition I had to apply for student loans. Confident in my new path, I agreed to the terms in the financial aid office. Not able to find a career in my new field, the loans became a huge burden. After losing job after job, my degree was in Computer Networking, by the time I walked off the stage with my hat and scroll, the products I learned on were, outdated and irrelevant in the current task field. I felt too old to learn that fast. After only three yrs of paying on the debt, I defaulted. I have not worked for a corporate position for over 6 years. I have slowly grown a new realm of exchange of time and service for myself with a tight community. I babysit, work in gardens, collect seeds and exchange them with friends. I design, consult and implement food forests for neighbors, day cares and community spaces. While I do not participate in the consumptive ideology most of our nation is grappling with, I see no future that has me engage in the demands of that bankrupt system that we so fervently believed in, just a decade ago. Currently, I co-house and get a reduce rent for growing food for our housemates. I own no vehicle. I do not watch tv. I am entertained by my friends, children and community. I stay close to home and create paradise.

I will never in my lifetime pay off my student loans at my income level
David, Florida

I graduated from a Florida state university in 1995, when I was 34 years old. I will never in my lifetime pay off my student loans at my income level. I have never found gainful employment in my chosen/degree field.

I am still trying to pay off my massive student loans from law school even after 23 years
Donna, Florida

I am still trying to pay off my massive student loans from law school even after 23 years. No, all attorneys are not loaded and most have a hard time paying their loans. Most time, these monthly payments are akin to another mortgage payment, and unless you are pulling in six figures – which I never did – it's almost impossible to pay the loans. Because I was unable pay the full amount of the monthly payment, interest on the loan skyrocketed. Also, while you are still in school, and most likely not employed, the interest is still accruing. Because I only had to take out loans to cover tuition and books and not living expenses, my initial loan amount was around $40,000. However, due to interest accruing all those years since I first got the loan, I owe more in interest than what I initially borrowed. This should be criminal, but it's not. Something needs to be done to reign in these predatory practices, but I guess our "compassionate" Republican-led Congress doesn't really give a rat's petoot about this. Too bad. They really should.

Loans always should be adjustable to the circumstances
Helen, Florida

As one progresses thru life, financial circumstances change. At times better. At times worse. Loans always should be adjustable to the circumstances. Thank you for asking.

Panhandlers do better than I
Ileana, Florida

Hello: After 30 plus years, unemployed; I registered to obtain my AA, in order to increase my chances of being employable. I attended college online as well as attended some classes on campus. When I first began, I was told due to my age I did not qualify for government grants and had to apply for loans. Which I did. However, the school I attended had stated I could receive my "diploma" as a certified Medical Assistant and could continue online studies to obtain my AA. My unemployment was exhausted in April of last year, so I had to drop out of school in order to survive. Since, I have had to sell my vehicle, and am consistently borrowing from "Peter to pay Paul", have debts of loan repayment, which again I cannot afford to do. I have applied for several deferments as well as debt forgiveness, and am still stuck with my school loans. If things don't change some time soon, I will homeless. Between paying for rent, electric, water, phone etc... AND now student loan repayment... I am considered way below poverty level. Panhandlers do better than I.

I don't foresee ever having this paid off and I'm afraid of wage garnishment
Jeffrey, Florida

My loan is still on going. I graduated in 1985 and at that time was making $17K a year working for an institution of higher education in Florida now 26 years later I'm only making 53K a year. I know it is a debt that I have to repay but I assumed that working for government (higher education) and my spouse being a teacher that I would see some relief but I have not. I got married in 1989 and then made the mistake of consolidating my loans with my spouse in the hopes that it would lower our payments but that turned out to be a mistake. Since consolidation the loans now belong to me and I cannot un-consolidate those loans. I have been making payments of $100 a month, which is all that I could afford but my loan payments are $900 a month. My wife had owned the home and had asked if we could refinance the mortgage. Once I did that then now I'm on the hook for a mortgage as well $303,000. The refinance was done through Countrywide and we are upside down own more than what the house is worth (house worth 175,000) we got no monies out the deal. Since we were never in foreclosure we could not use all the help that other homeowners had available. So our mortgage payments are $2240. My wife is 68 and just retired a year ago and I'm 55. I don't foresee ever having this paid off and I'm afraid of wage garnishment. I have a car that is a 2003 and my wife is a 2004 both paid for.

They have made it almost impossible for her to graduate
Joanne, Florida

Actually, this is not my story of student loan debt since I was in college at a time when tuition fees were reasonable and I could earn the money at a summer job – even for the private university that I attended. (I graduated in 1963, later earning a master's degree on a full scholarship and then in a public university, which I paid for myself.) This is the story of my children's student loan debt. My son finished his work for an RN through the public university system and a series of generous grants, but my two daughters, who attended a private college out East during the 1990's, still had outstanding loans, the first of which I paid off about a year ago. My other daughter decided to return to college, and so her Sally Mae loan was put off, but I had it down to $2,000. (I’m wondering if that would meet the 10-20 year forgiveness mark, so that it would not longer have to be paid.) The point is that the situation has gotten worse for the daughter who returned to college. Now a senior in the public university system (UH), the financial aid department has withheld $3,000 in grants and aid, which has caused her a considerable amount of stress. They will not let her register unless she enters a payment plan, which she has, borrowing money to do so. In short, they have made it almost impossible for her to graduate. Then they will come down on her for the loan money. It's unconscionable! When they were attending college in the past, they were not harassed for payment until they graduated. Isn't there a law guaranteeing this?

This debt hangs over my head and at this very moment
Karen, Florida

I was from a poor family, but smart enough to get into a good private college. I am also L.D., and it has created issues with working at higher paying jobs. I worked in non-for-profits for many years at 50 I have still not made a dent in my student loans, consolidated at a robbery of 9%. I will most likely be dead before I am able to pay of my $20,000.00 on which I now owe over $40,000.00 and if I am able to pay the debt off will be fore $90,000,00. I have given back to my community in more ways then I can mention, but I have nothing. I am unable to purchase a house, buy a car, etc. This debt hangs over my head and at this very moment. I am behind on my student loans. I am over my head. It is outrageous.

I'm trying to keep it at a minimum but it's getting so expensive I doubt I'll ever be able to pay it all back
Katherine, Florida

I've owed over 50,000 for years now in Plus Loans for my daughter that is not counting what she owes for her Master's. Now because of technology I've had return to college because my Practical Nurse certificate is no longer useful everyone wants a degree. I'm trying to keep it at a minimum but it's getting so expensive I doubt I'll ever be able to pay it all back? I drive a used car live in a house I can't afford and get food stamps because I don't have enough money and forget health insurance. I can't even think about that! But I'm not giving up and I'll never give in WE all are stuck in this mess unless you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth like most Republicans! Thanks for asking

I can truly say that getting a college degree was the worst mistake of my life
Kevin, Florida

I graduated tech school with a degree in computer science and $12,500 in GSL debt in 1992, and became disabled shortly thereafter. In 1994 my doctor sent a form verifying my disability to TX Guaranteed Student Loan Corp., and I was told my loans were "offset." Two years later the US Dept. of Education began collection activity, claiming they never received the forms. Despite my wife's tax refunds being 100% garnisheed (which led to our divorce in 2000) and my SS Disability being garnisheed 15%, I now "owe" somewhere in the neighborhood of $33,000. I don't have access to the loan documents (ex kept 'em), can't establish any kind of credit, and am disqualified from any kind of student assistance to retrain for employment. I have NEVER, despite repeated requests, received an accounting of my balance. I've estimated that well over $20,000 has been paid toward whatever my balance is. I can truly say that getting a college degree was the worst mistake of my life.

Student loan debt collectors were cruel, all because I wasn't paying back my loans ... I couldn't afford to
Kristin, Florida

My debt started 20 years ago hoping for a better life. Life was rough then and without a GED or an education a decent job was impossible to find. After getting my GED I decided to go to college to help myself. Life got in the way, a child, divorce...etc. off and on I went to school. Mounting up student loan debt as I went along. Before I knew it 10 years had passed and I was still only making less than 8 dollars an hour. I couldn't pay my loans back, medical bills surmounted and providing for my son was impossible. The phone calls started from the debt collectors. I filed bankruptcy but the student loans couldn't be included. Student loan debt collectors were cruel saying things like I was a deadbeat, loser...all because I wasn't paying back my loans. I couldn't afford to. I felt there was no hope. Today I have an AA but close to 100 grand in student loans from interest and other fees. This was less than 30 grand I took out, probably less than 15 but I don't remember anymore. I am able to pay back my loans now and if I could pay the original balance off right now and be done with it I would. Even that with a modest 10 grand would be fair but where my loans are at now is insane. I always tell students DON'T do it...don't take out student loans ... the feds don't have laws to help you if you cant pay them back. They are like the mafia and cap you at the kneecaps for their money. I kid around but it is metaphorically true.

I had to file bankruptcy to get an acceptable payment plan and consolidation
Lauren, Florida

When I was in addiction treatment, 1983, I decided I wanted to be a counselor. I passed my GED and went to vocational Rehabilitation. They paid 2,000 dollars for my addiction studies. I got a job in psychosocial rehabilitation for 18,000 per year and paid for my prerequisite courses at Miami Dade. Maligning 18,500, I went for my undergrad. At the Union Institute where I started to use school loans to pay and sublimely my income. This was 1994. I last made 50,000 per year with my Master's and license paid for with school loans. I deferred payments and accrued interest equaling the principle. I had to file bankruptcy to get an acceptable payment plan and consolidation. I had 300,000 in student loans including interest reduced to 200,000 plus. If I earn more they take more for the rest of my life. 400.00 per month my best offer yet, 24 years in this field, not as marketable as I used to be, recently fired for not keeping up with electronic charting.

My loan from 1975 is now over 10,000 and its crushing me
Lewis, Florida

I went to Manhattan School of Music in the 1970's. I considered it a great honor because I had only studied music for a year or so before I went to audition. I took a loan of about 4,000. I went there and graduated, I then went to Texas to teach and then went to Ball state for a master's in music playing in the Austin symphony and worked hard in Indiana playing in many orchestras but the loan kept going up in interest and I was falling further and further behind, then the loan was sold and sold and sold to various lenders, each one charging a higher interest and now in spite of continuous efforts to pay ( I am on a automatic payment plan now) my loan from 1975 is now over 10,000 and its crushing me, I have no money to do anything more than survive but a musician needs to constantly upgrade his/her equipment, i.e, better bows instruments etc but there is no money for anything but food and rent and all summer I frequently need to use a credit card to EAT! This loan is crushing me and killing my credit report in spite of decades of my best efforts at paying it. I never ever catch up no matter how hard I try!

I struggled immensely until I finally gave into foreclosure
Lisa, Florida

Out of college, I worked with my family to get on my feet. I then became a teacher. I struggled to begin paying back my loans right away. I fought default several times and eventually consolidated. I have worked as a teacher for the last 12 years in a public school with very little raises and increasingly greater expenses. After I had my first child, my husband left and I was left with the house and my daughter. I struggled immensely until I finally gave into foreclosure. I worked still to make sure I got into loan rehabilitation for my student loan debt and the state did not uphold their end of the bargain. They were suppose to shop my loan out to another private company and instead, I just kept making payments to the state in a never-ending cycle. I moved on to a new relationship and had a baby. When I was out of work for only 3 months, the state said it would garnish my wages when I returned to work – I didn't have a choice – even though I had been faithfully paying this loan. I ended up allowing my house to foreclose amidst the housing bubble bursting and not being able to sell and moving in with my fiancé. I filed bankruptcy – after paying student loan and my daughter's insurance, my paycheck was somewhere around $900 bi-weekly. The state was garnishing a full 11% of my income. Now I discharged all of my debt and can start over. Except, I now don't know if the state will continue to garnish my wages instead of try to work with me. If I could pay a reasonable amount, I could save money, buy a new house, get a safe car since mine has been wrecked and move forward and be a contributing member of society. As I have contributed to my state by being a teacher in the public schools, I think I deserve another chance for new payment plan that allows me to rebuild my life. The state also takes 3% out of my paycheck as a forced contribution for "retirement." Basically, my income has continued to decrease as expenses have gone in the opposite direction.

I was the first one in my family to go to college, and I did not know the full picture about student loans
Maria, Florida

I was the first one in my family to go to college, and I did not know the full picture about student loans and how if you do not major in a career path that will make enough money to pay off quickly, you will be in debt for a long, long time. I graduated with my Bachelor's back in 2003 and I couldn't get a job in my field (education/Spanish). I had to go from one job to another, and finally I decided to go for my master's because even though I would need to use student loans, maybe at the end I could get a job that was worth the money to pay both the undergraduate and graduate loans off. So in 2009 I started my master's and graduated in 2011 with more debt and again, instead of being offered more money or my job helping me, I was let go of my job and had to switch careers again. It has been 10 years since I graduated with my bachelor's (when I first got into loan debt) and I only make 30k a year and I see jobs that make more than mine with just a high school diploma and experience. Something needs to change! I know that I will be paying loan debt for a long time without seeing the benefit. Students get in debt and then cannot afford to pay it back because they expect you to get a high paying job right away, so the only way that you see a way out, is to go back and try to get another degree for a different career path (and at least it gives you a break on paying so much back to the loans for the time being) but then you get out with even more debt and still no better paying job... it is just sad and disappointing.. I feel at times like it was a waste to had gone to college :-(.

Chronic pain adds to the daily financial struggle
Mid, Florida

I am without savings, without 2 401Ks, without the ability to cover a simple surprise, and struggling to pay off debts created while trying to keep the increasing student loan debt paid. The final chapter of my student loan debt story was filing the insolvency form 982 with the IRS to have the cancelled student loan debt taxes of $9,700.00 be cancelled. It was approved. Four years ago, I became increasing disabled when my workplace became extremely hostile. I went on long-term unemployment, filed for disability, and was approved to keep both the unemployment (my work search records were detailed and easily verified) and the back pay for disability without loss. I did not apply for deferment of the student loan debt until my long-term unemployment benefits ran out. The lenders ... kept sending me financial hardship forms instead of the unemployment form. The rest of the creditors have refused to work with me to lower the interest rates, and I have zero dental insurance being on Medicare, which is automatically taken out of my social security disability check each month. My jaw is in tremendous pain, and there is no hope for me to get it taken care of. Chronic pain adds to the daily financial struggle. No new car, house repairs are few and far between, and yet, I share my story in hopes that it will help others to know they are not alone with this horrible life-time student loan debt sentence.

In 2006 and 2008 I went on military deployments overseas ... When I came home I couldn't keep paying
Paul, Florida

I enlisted in the armed forces in 1980. I started going to college in 1991. I began my schooling at the Community College of Vermont in the summer of 1991. I took one course that was paid for through a govt. program called Aces. I passed and hoped to move on through that program. Unfortunately, after that I was told the program was being discontinued because of a high instance of student fraud. I had a choice to make of either wading through miles of red tape to continue school or apply for student loans. I chose the latter course. I was now motivated to become the first person in my family to earn a college degree. In June of 1995 I received my Liberal Arts associates degree and hoped to move on for my B.A. in history. I chose Norwich University because A) It was military. B) I liked their ADP program, which fit neatly into my schedule. At the time, in addition to school I was working a full time job (working 40 hours and only getting paid for 35), a part time job (another 20 or so hours) and honoring my National Guard commitment. In looking into how to get financial aid I was told that there was none available. It was a non-traditional program and the govt. had no idea how to help pay for my credits. The answer was more student loans (and hope for the best). In Jan. 1998 I received my B.A. I had no idea as to how I would pay back the now over $50,000 I was in the red for. By this time I was only working one job and still in the Guard. I asked around and I couldn't find any help with my debt. That same year I moved from Vermont to Virginia. I continued my military commitment there and still couldn't find any help in paying back my loans. I ducked the issue for as long as I possibly could physically although it bothered me constantly. Again I asked around at my Guard unit etc. and could find no help with my problem. And even when I refinanced I still couldn't pay consistently. After Sept. 11, 2001 the military was offering new recruits a full college education for free but someone like me, who had already served many years and now had 20 years in could get no help. In 2006 and 2008 I went on military deployments overseas, first to Kosovo and then to Afghanistan. Both times I was able to begin paying on my loans. Unfortunately in both cases when I came home I couldn't keep paying. As a result I began getting hit with late charge penalties. Those penalties wiped out all of the money I had just paid in. I had essentially gotten nowhere. I refinanced again. I retired from the National Guard in 2011 after 30 good years. I moved to Florida last December. I still have no idea how I will ever pay off my student loan debt. I am now 56 years old and I guess I will die owing that money to the government.

I am 60 years of age and I don't know how I will ever get this paid
Randi, Florida

I spent my life working at menial jobs. I had nothing but a high school diploma and barely made enough money to live. I finally got a chance to go to college and began the long road. I graduated from college at the age of 46. I worked as a teacher but found a struggle to make it. With the legislators constantly aiming at teachers I found it difficult and was told by administrators I would be better served by getting my Master's degree to go into Ed Leadership. To say the least now I owe somewhere around $76,000 and I make a measly $37,000 a year. With prices constantly going up, gas always jumping 20 to 30 cents while declining only a penny at a time, is it no wonder one can't make ends meet. I drive 65 miles each way to work because I was cut from my position in our county because of budget cuts. The principal actually works to get rid of any teacher with a few years experience and especially with a Master's degree because she will spend less of her budget with first year teachers, or teachers who are not already certified. I have lived with my mother for the past year and rented an apartment prior to that but in order to move closer to my job it will cost me more than I can afford. Up until Feb 15th of this year I actually drove my mother's car because I had to file bankruptcy and had nothing. While they don't discharge student loans I will end up right back where I was because I cannot afford to live and to pay the high payments of my student loans. With the amount of money I make I cannot pay rent, utilities, phone, car, insurance, gas, maintenance on my vehicle (it was used when I bought it), groceries, clothing for work, health insurance, and retirement fund. I am 60 years of age and I don't know how I will ever get this paid. I have been a teacher for 15 years. I see no light at the end of the tunnel.

I've been living at home and filing deferment after deferment – depressingly so – in hopes that 'I'll find work soon'
Raymond, Florida

I don't have a massively tragic story to tell in the sense that I owe $85,000 and am struggling with monthly payments or whatnot, moving from refrigerator box to refrigerator box. No, mine is a bit different... I'm currently 29 years old. And, due to this wonderful economy, unemployed. I graduated with a Bachelor's in Broadcast Communications in 2008, with the total bill amounting to approximately $35,000. Between my graduation and last Fall (of 2012) I've been living at home and filing deferment after deferment with Sallie Mae – depressingly so – in hopes that "I'll find work soon." That's what I told myself for 4 years. In the Fall of 2012, I made the decision to go back to school, again, for a second degree. Because I've been unable to find a job that offers a living wage, I've come to the conclusion that it's really the only way that I'd be able to keep my head above water (and my sanity as well). And the great thing is that, in the process, I'll be putting myself even further in debt, but... I've reached the point that it feels like there's no other way. Because of all this debt and economic uncertainty, I still haven't bought my first car, and stuff like renting an apartment (let alone buying a house) and having health insurance are things I can only dream about... and I'll be turning 30 later this year. I can only hope I'll be able to find gainful employment in 2-3 years when I've completed this degree, because I have no idea what will happen, or what I'll do, if I can't... Thank you, for giving me the opportunity to tell my story.

I am stuck ... I am about to be homeless
Rhonda, Florida

I have already told you part of my story but today things have changed a bit. I received notice from the owners of my Duplex that they would like for me to vacate the premise. I have been given no reason, just a thirty day notice to leave. I would like to buy a house but when I filled out an application to be approved, I was told my school loans would hinder me from accomplishing this goal. It seems because I have allowed the loans to go into forbearance I am not qualified to own a home. I could be free and clear of most of these loans if I were allowed to have them forgiven but because the rules would not allow for the loans to be forgiven because I had to have NO loans before the year 1997. I graduated December 17, 1997. It seems I am stuck. It seems that I am going to end up homeless because I cannot afford to pay first and last and deposit on a rental nor can I afford to make a 500 dollar a month payment on a loan that should have been forgiven, as I had been promised would happen. In fact I had been promised twice. Once when I received my Bachelor's degree and once when I received my Master's Degree. Neither can be forgiven until I get the loans paid off before and up to the year 1997. I am stuck. I am about to be homeless. All due to loans and a landlord who did not like me asking to have things fixed and would not pay rent till they did. I am really tired of everything falling onto my head when they should not have been and truly I would have been better off without a degree in anything and stayed on welfare.

I just cannot afford to live and pay for a loan that I had been promised I could get forgiven
Rhonda, Florida

I was going through a divorce; single parent of two small children, when I decided to go back to school to become a teacher. I was living in low income housing, on food stamps, receiving help with day care and off and on Medicaid for my children. I worked as a nursing assistant and received loans as well as grants. I was told that I could receive loan forgiveness if I worked in a Title I school in a high need field. My degree was Special Education and I moved to Florida to work in two Title I schools. The problem came with when I graduated. I have applied three times for loan forgiveness and while I am told I qualify in all areas, except for 1 I cannot get loan forgiveness. The area I do not qualify is when I graduated. It seems I must have all loans that were taken out before 1997 paid off before they will forgive the rest of my loans. I graduated December 17 1997. I have gone for years without a cost of living raise. I went on to get a Master's degree hoping I could get this forgive or at least assistance on the loans and I still cannot. I cannot afford to pay the loans and my basic bills at the same time. We do not go on vacations or fun things because we do not have the money. I currently work my job teaching, do Saturday school and am a Hospital home-bound teacher just to make ends meet. When I thought I was finally going to make enough to be able to pay things off and things met with a raise last spring due graduation and another raise in the fall from the school board, but those disappeared thanks to Gov. Scott going back on the contract and taking money from our checks and the Taxes being reinstated that had been suspended. I now make what I have made for years, without child support to supplement the household. I still work in a Title I school. I still work in a high needs area; Special Education. I probably always will because I have fallen in love with my school and my students. I just cannot afford to live and pay for a loan that I had been promised I could get forgiven. Something has to change quick and in our favor. Please help!

I'm not sure I would even be able to pay it before my life is done
Ricci, Florida

I was a college drop-out. Between the ages of 20 and 38 I followed my 'bliss' and lived poor, close to the land and found my spiritual path. I was frustrated by the barriers in my attempts to work with people because I lacked 'proper credentials.' After much persuasion I took the leap to go back to school and earned both my undergraduate and graduate degrees by age 41. I am 57 now, and have a successful career as a public service therapist, with a small practice on the side. My student loan debt is STILL over 33,000 most of it the cost of my private graduate degree at the prestigious – and expensive – School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I rest my hopes that after 10 years in the public sector, I may be eligible to discharge the remainder of my loan. All these years, and still so much debt. If I still have to pay it, I'm not sure I would even be able to pay it before my life is done. I did what many people do; attempt to improve my financial stability and economic future by pursuing a professional career, with all the right letters after my name. I chose a human services field because I believe in what I do. I live modestly. We must become more aware of how people acquire the education and credentials to improve their lot in life, and find better ways to deal with student loan debt.

I owe over $150,000
Robert, Florida

I have had to finance my undergraduate and graduate education with student loans. In addition, I went back to school to get another degree relying on loans again. I owe over $150,000.00 and I am currently in repayment and I hope to take advantage of the Loan Forgiveness Program since I am a secondary education teacher. However, I believe even the IBR repayment program is too steep. Florida is a poorly paying state for teachers. I have given up my planning period over the past several years in order to receive additional pay for teaching an extra class. Repayment should be based on net pay, not gross. After rent, car payment, car insurance, student loan, cable/Internet, cell phone, electric, and groceries, I have barely enough to carry me to the next pay period. I don't have any extra money to save or invest. I cannot see retirement in my future as long as I'm enslaved to this debt peonage. I have no problem paying back what I owe and taking advantage of the terms of the Loan Forgiveness program, but the Department of Education should at least structure the payments based on reality and the high cost of living in the Greater Miami area rather than viewing me as a mathematical formula. In my opinion, people who serve their communities through public service jobs should have their student loan debt completely forgiven. This problem has grown too big while the federal government profits off of student loan interest payments. The Obama administration looks more interested in serving Wall Street interests rather than the people who are trying to survive in cities and towns that they serve throughout this deeply indebted country.

Since then I have not had a job that has allowed me to pay back more than $1,000 of that
Sean, Florida

I left graduate school in 2000 with a modest (considering the cost of graduate school) $50,000 debt. Since then I have not had a job that has allowed me to pay back more than $1,000 of that. Deferments and forbearances have made it possible to postpone payment until I had a job that would allow repayment. The amount of accrued interest has taken the total up to $120,000 in debt.

I am scared because I don't want the loans to go into default, but if we can't pay what other choice do I have?
Vicki, Florida

I was still going to school to finish my degree up until last year. No one told me that you cap out at $55,000 for Federal loans. That is where I am right now, and I still have 50 credits to go to get my Bachelor's degree. I went to a school because they accepted all of my previous credits from 20 years ago and I didn't want to give up my credits from earlier in my life. I didn't realize that I would never make it to even receiving my degree. The school keeps calling me wanting to know why I don't take out personal loans to finish! I can't afford to! My credit is shot because I don't have a job and show $55,000 in student loans. I have to stay home currently because we have a 6 month old and a disabled 4 year old. Therefore, we have to rely on just my husband's income which barely covers our monthly expenses. I am currently having to pay on one of my loans and really can't afford the payments, but don't have any other options. The other major majority will be due starting in October and they will be around $600.00 a month. We won't be able to pay that at all! My husband makes $34,000 a year for a family of 5. We had to get a van a few years ago to transport our daughter and her wheelchair. I don't know what we are going to do because in October all my options for deferment will be exhausted. I am scared because I don't want the loans to go into default, but if we can't pay what other choice do I have? I contacted a lawyer, and he said I would have to be dead or on life support to be able to discharge in a bankruptcy. Things need to change, because it shouldn't take this long, or be this difficult to finish your degree, let alone as expensive as it is!

It's either going back to school or working to make money to live off of, or they will garnish my paychecks
Virginia, Florida

I received my loan through University of Phoenix, and when I wanted to stop classes at just taking the four. I couldn't reach my academic advisor or my financial advisors. I had to talk to other financial advisors before I could get to mine. I was told if I withdrawal before notifying them. I would have to pay the school and the department of education back. I told my advisors that I have been calling and wanted to withdrawal from this University and it was within the 30 day period. So after, I was told how much I would have to pay back and how it wouldn't be due until after I graduate. Long story short, I finally got to withdrawal and owed $8.000 for 8 classes. Since, I am a preschool teacher making $8.00 an hour with no raise and trying to find another better paying job, or work two jobs, My husband hasn't had a job since May 2012, and were making 550.00 biweekly in unemployment. I am paying $500 for rent, a $300 light bill, cable for the kids to do homework and my husband to look for a job, and go to these back to work seminars, that the government requests to keep getting unemployment, insurance $141.00, a car payment of $313.65. I can't even pay my loan amount of $65 per month. I can't get help from places to help pay for lights because we make too much, and food stamps says we make too much so that's out. My husband has diabetes and we can get help with his pills, but for how long, and clinics don't really see new patients for months or not at all. My husband needs to see his doctors, and home remedies help at times. I can't get insurance for him because he isn't working, he has share cost, but its crap because the hospitals, private physicians and doctors, and even public clinics can't use it. I am currently paying $15.00 per month for my kid's premium with healthy kids. I have insurance, because I am working and my job offers no insurance. I just cannot afford to pay back even $65.00 per month with what I am making it on and keep sane. I can't buy a house, or pay my debts that I was paying without a second income, or more money from my job, I am 30 years old and have no house except to rent, a loan of $17,000 and I just did a deferment so I could try to pay $500 for a class, so I could make more money. Really, it's either going back to school or working to make money to live off of and trying to pay back loans, or they will garnish my paychecks, and Income taxes at the end of the year. I was thinking of becoming a teacher and applying for the TEACH Scholarship just so I could get some help on my loans, I am at my wits end because all schools want to do is say that you won't pay back as much, and you have six months to pay it back after you graduate, No school wants to look at the person have people apply for grants and scholarships that the school offers, or give a bonus out thanking them for choosing the school to help with tuition. It would be best if schools offer financial aid, grants, scholarships, bonus package, or tuition plans. By the way, tuition plans you pay out of pocket for school but you have like 3-4 payments to make before class ends in order to stay in class. Which is helpful. That's my story what's yours!

If they don't restore consumer protections to private student loans so I can file bankruptcy, I'll be leaving the country
Brendan, Georgia

$400,000 in student loan debt. $350,000 is private. Obviously can't make the payments to the private lenders but cant file for bankruptcy. Cant: go to dentist, buy clothes, buy car, buy home, buy a new computer despite my career depending on it, get married, move, save anything for retirement buy anything other than food and pay rent. Basically if they don't restore consumer protections to private student loans so I can file for bankruptcy, I'll be leaving the country to start over in a country that actually values college graduates.

Something’s wrong with our system
Cathy, Georgia

I was the first emancipated minor from the state of Ill. by then Governor Otto Kerner. I was 16yrs of age and had been working according to Il law illegally since age 14 to support myself. My father was a disabled Veteran & captain in the Army. Although I continued in high school during the day, I worked nights and weekends to pay rent, by clothes and food. NEVER was I told due to my father's status I could have received financial help for school. An abused, raped, beaten child, I continued to pay my way. I got married to get custody of my sibling who was also being abused. It was 1994 I entered the college world and student loan debacle, still working full time and getting an education working in an Urban school system in GA. I had strokes, MS, and cancer. I had to defer payments, and I'm now 66yrs of age on a fixed income and broke paying almost 500 a month. Something’s wrong with our system.

There‰'s nothing like paying that amount of money and getting nothing in return for it
Christina, Georgia

Although he had no background in computers, and although the market is flooded with unemployed web designers, my brother was not discouraged from signing up to study web design at the age of 55. At first, he was approved for student loans from Sallie Mae, and the loans covered both his schooling and his living expenses since he was not employed. But then, for reasons unbeknownst to my brother, he was switched to using Chase Bank for his student loans. He was approved for one loan with the bank being fully aware that my brother was not employed at the time, but when it came time for the next loan, Chase told him they would not approve another loan without a co-signer. When my brother asked me to be the co-signer on his loan, I had my doubts about doing so. But I had a good job as a legal secretary and $10,000 didn‰'t sound like that much to have to deal with if I had to help him pay it back. I didn‰'t have much time to seriously consider the consequences of co-signing the loan because my brother had waited until the last minute to ask me ‰'" if I didn‰'t co-sign his loan that day, he would miss out on being able to register for the next quarter. So, against my better judgment, I went online to Chase‰'s website and filled in the signature block for the co-signer portion of the loan application. I tried repeatedly to access the terms of the loan so I could print them out and read them in full, but every time I clicked on the link to the loan terms, their system froze up and I couldn‰'t access that information. During the interim while my brother was in school, I started reading about the student debt crises and about how Congress had allowed the bankers to write the new laws governing Stafford loans. The banks wrote some of the most draconian laws ever written governing loans, where if the loan goes into default, the borrower can‰'t get a business license for his profession, can‰'t receive tax refunds from the government, can‰'t write it off in bankruptcy and can even have their social security retirement benefits docked. When it came time for the next loan my brother needed to continue his studies, I had lost my job of 12 years and I told him I could not co-sign any additional loans. My brother was forced to graduate with an associates‰' degree and an incomplete education. Needless to say, he could not find any job related to his field of study, or any job period for at least a year after leaving school. He finally was hired as a security guard making minimum wage. Since he was no longer in school, his loans all became due earlier than they would have. My brother had borrowed close to $50,000 just to complete 2 years of school and wasn‰'t even making enough money to pay his rent and other living expenses. So, even though I am unemployed myself, I have had to take over paying the loan I co-signed in order to avoid my credit rating ruined, making it even more impossible to find a job. Or worse yet, Chase could even take the house I‰'ve owned for 35 years! My brother will be paying on these loans for the rest of his life and will be relegated to a life of poverty if his social security retirement benefits are docked (actually folks who only have social security to depend on in retirement are already relegated to living on the edge of poverty, having it docked will probably render him homeless). I feel that my brother was lured into signing up to study something he had no aptitude for and had too many people in that field. I also feel that he was baited by Chase bank approving the first loan without a co-signer, then demanding a co-signer on the second loan. At that point, he had to continue in school or he wouldn‰'t be able to pay the loans he already had taken out. So he had no choice but to continue taking out loans. Since the interest rate on the Chase loans is 12%, these 2 years of worthless education will cost us both around $150,000. There‰'s nothing like paying that amount of money and getting nothing in return for it, especially as far as I‰'m concerned. Did I mention that after Congress let the bankers write the new student loan laws, many of these same members of Congress became stockholders or board members of private colleges and are making a lot of money off the misery of student borrowers? And the schools are receiving kickbacks from the banks for every student referred to them for a loan. This means that instead of providing advice in the best interest of the student, school counselors are now only looking out for the school‰'s bottom line. Instead of bettering our lives, getting an education has ruined our lives and we are now debt slaves with no future!

I would have loved to continue, but I just can not afford it
Cynthia, Georgia

I had to drop out of seminary after only one year of study because of my student loan debt of $41,000.00. I would have loved to continue, but I just can not afford it.

My concern now is how can I continue to pay my student loan and the mounting medical bills without the part time job
Diane, Georgia

I am a 63 year old female. I worked for thirty seven years in low income schools. I retired and began working part time to pay of my $75.000.00 student loan debt. I have paid on the student loan for seven years and the balance remain the same. Recently I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and just recently had a tumor removed from a bone in my left hip. I live in constant pain, and these conditions will not allow me to continue to work part time. My concern now is how can I continue to pay my student loan and the mounting medical bills without the part time job. I am not asking for anything for free, just help with my student loan.

I did all this hard work for nothing and ruined my credit
Dixie, Georgia

I was trying to become a daycare teacher. I went to school online. I am 63 and on social security disability for my bi-polar illness. I researched schools in 2004-2005 and only found one that would accept me without money down. It was Strayer University. They didn't offer an Associate's Degree but only Master's in Education. I first had get BA and only options were Business or Math (which is my worst). After a year of taking courses for something I didn't want, Kaplan called me and offered Associate's so transferred credits. I had a 3.96 GPA! Lack one term (2 courses) to get my degree but ran out of financial aid. Still have Pell Grant. I live in HUD housing so could only go to school part-time online. Went from 2005-2009. Now, I am being sued by 3 lenders and going into default. I did all this hard work for nothing and ruined my credit. I am broke by middle of the month and cannot afford payments. Found out from Legal Aid that I could be taken to court and have 15% of my SS check taken monthly. What, now I don't eat or have a phone or Internet? Only way I can get them discharged is for a psychiatrist to fill out paperwork that I can never work. Cannot get a psychiatrist because they are no longer taking Medicare patients. Wish I had never gone to school now.

I was diagnosed with Lupus as soon as I graduated and was not able to use my degree for 3 years
Doreen, Georgia

I was diagnosed with Lupus as soon as I graduated and was not able to use my degree for 3 years. Debit piled up and I am just able to get my life back and see the light. I consolidated my loans and was getting ready to change to standard payments. Now, I may not be able to keep up and possibly go into default if the loans keep rising. Something need to change fast.

I have been disabled since 2008, but I want to work
Ellen, Georgia

Schools attended: University of Georgia Gainesville State College, Brenau University – BS, Athens Technical College, Capella University – MS. I cannot get any more loans, have one private loan, and am very distraught. I am going to have to finish a paralegal degree to get work, and finish the last year and a half to earn my PhD in I/O Psychology. I am 47 and a single grandmother of two, have three disabled children, and my youngest child is 16 with two years left in High School. I inherited a home in 2008 that is paid for but needs repairs. My credit is not good anymore, and I have been disabled since 2008, but I want to work.

This the biggest scam I have ever seen
Glenn, Georgia

I am currently a student just 6 classes shy of earning my B.A. and have exhausted my FASFA. I believe by that listening to the student advisers at the University I attend and taking their advice I am in this situation. Now that I only have advanced 300 and 400 course left they suggested I try to test out or take the online courses for the 100 and 200 courses that I was advised to pay full price for and sit for. This the biggest scam I have ever seen and why Universities are allowed to get away with this is ridiculous. IT SHOULD BE AGAINST THE LAW. I now owe the government money for an education I never finished.

The $750 check I wrote to Sallie Mae for years nearly shut down my ability to pursue a career
Janice, Georgia

Thank God, it's paid off now, but the $750 check I wrote to Sallie Mae for years nearly shut down my ability to pursue a career in public interest law. In my role as a non-profit contract lobbyist I frequently engage graduate student interns. They all want to know how to become a lobbyist, whether one needs a law degree to get into the work, etc. First answer is no, a law degree is not required however if you do decide that you need a legal education go to the cheapest ABA accredited institution you can get into because the student loan debt will strangle you otherwise and foreclose your career options for decades if you fail to heed this warning. The only thing that preserved my ability to work in the public interest was fact that I had married young and my husband had a decent job with health benefits.

My family knew nothing about student loans, most were still living in poverty
Kenya, Georgia

I attended school and acquired my first student loan debt at Ohio State University. The amount was $5,000 and it was for only one quarter. The second quarter, I was told in the middle of the term that I needed to pay the school $2,000 to stay enrolled and receive grades from the classes that I was working so hard in. I am not from a college family. I am the first person in my immediate family to attend college and am the only one who has a college degree. I am only the second person in my entire family to go to college and graduate. My family knew nothing about student loans, most were and are still living in poverty. I had to leave school because I was classified delinquent in 2005. Fast forward to 2009, I decided to try to fulfill my life goal of receiving a Bachelor's degree in a different manner. Through online college. I was approved of student loans every term except for the last. The schools tuition went up it seems every term. The last term, I had to take out a private loan as well as pay out of pocket. At the end of the my educational journey, I owed over $30,000 in student loans. I found out I was pregnant a few weeks before I graduated. Of course it was not expected so I had to try to balance a new baby on top of a large debt. I received forbearance as long as I could until they told me they could no longer allow it. They gave me the amount I had to pay and I let them know up front that there was no way that I would be able to pay that amount. They did not want to work with me. So I tried to keep a roof over my and my child's head and food on the table. I still have yet been able to begin to pay back my debt. And it is not because I don't want to but because financially I cannot handle it as a single mother going through a divorce and on the verge of losing it all.

My concern was that student loans should be forgiven especially for those who chose to provide services to the most needy
Malikah, Georgia

I was born and raised in South Carolina, the 7th of 10 children. My parents struggled to put us through school. My chosen field, like so many of my older siblings, was education. I continued on with my Master’s and completed my doctorate at UCLA in 1992. My graduate and postgraduate studies were through the Affirmative Action Program and student loans. Upon completion, I chose to work inner city or in the urban communities where the need, to me, was most critical. I was allowed to write off some of the loan debt but was refused the rest. Currently, I still have close to $70,000.00 pending in student loans. It is no secret that educators make less than any recognizable profession. Ironic, wouldn't you say, since they are the backbone to others' successes. Subsequently, my commitment to the hard work in urban American classrooms and communities caused me to become ill. I had thyroid cancer. After my operation and upon my recovery, I continue to be of service to the most needy. I wrote to student loan commissioner in Sacramento, in Washington, D.C. as well as to Congresswoman Maxine Waters as I was working in Watts, California her district at the time. My concern was that student loans should be forgiven especially for those who chose to provide services to the most needy. Needless to say, my plea fell on deaf ears. I am now 70 years old and have no way of paying back $70,000.00. I can barely pay my mortgage. I have gone through postponements and forbearances, at this point in my life, I am not sure of my status. What I do know is that I have given all my life to teaching others in order that they may have a better life. Therefore, I support 100% the forgiveness of student loan debt. Incidentally, I wrote to President Obama when he was elected for his first term and expressed my concern for student loan forgiveness. Since my retirement, I have become a Certified Life Coach; I am now volunteering my time to coaching battered women and girls with the intent of empowering them.

Is this what I have to deal with for wanting to make a difference in our young and special needs children?
Md, Georgia

I have been burden with student loan debt all my adult life. It seems like I cannot get ahead financially. I am earning my doctorate and owe more on school loans than what I make a year as a special education teacher Is this what I have to deal with for wanting to make a difference in our young and special needs children? It's not fair!!!!

My interest is more than what I borrowed
Robin, Georgia

Unbeknownst to me coming from parents that didn't go to college, how would I approach college and pay for it. I enrolled into DeVry Institute of Technology formerly known as Ohio Institute of Technology for Electronic Data Processing, (EDP). I couldn't receive Pell so I got a loan because this was 1977 the monetary amount escapes me but I only went one trimester did not complete it after obtaining a foot injury. I didn't go back to school until 5 years later. Interest was building up, I fell into default, and my 1981 tax return was taken, yet it NEVER showed up as payment towards my debt and I have called to inquire through the years but all I get is a pass the buck chase with no show of this payment. My interest is more than what I borrowed effects credit. I learned of a consolidation program so I could go back to school and that is my story... at least the beginning of the student loan nightmare.

I will very likely die in debt
Sharon, Georgia

My story is simply a story of stress. My loans are now due; my first payment became due in March 2013. The payments are around $400 a month, which may not seem like much to some; however, my mortgage is $500 a month, so my student loans are almost equal to my house payment, and I live on a fixed income. My total student loan debt is roughly half of the total purchase price of my home. When I chose to return to school and earn my degree, I thought I would get more help from the Pell Grant, as my income is approximately $100 a month over poverty level. I didn't see how wrong that assumption was until I was close to achieving my goal of a degree, and the stress set in. I had hoped to continue on to earn a Master Degree, but realized I couldn't even afford my Bachelor Degree. I have been out of the work field for almost two decades and am at an age when most are considering retirement; I have little hope of finding a job to increase my income, let alone being able to physically do it. I know my degree was earned more for my personal satisfaction, the sense of accomplishment, compared to those who earn their degree in order to be competitive in the job market today, but now also understand I will very likely die in debt. Now I wonder if my desire was worth the burden I face, and the headache it will be for my adult children, upon my death.

I have been paying his student loans for him
Shirley, Georgia

My son has been unable to find a full time job after the job market crash a few years back. He works part time but does not make a substantial amount of money. I have been paying his student loans for him as he has 1 child and has to pay that child's nursery fees – which are exorbitant and a real struggle for him.

I do not have any benefits at all, so I live my life praying I never get sick
Stephanie, Georgia

Graduated from HS when I was 17 so my first semester of college I was 17, pretty young. I am a first generation American and the first of my family to go to college and graduate. So no one in my family really guided me as far as finances, loans, GPA, school decisions, nothing. I was first in line to figure it all out. I went to Oxford College of Emory University for my Associates degree and then Emory University for my Bachelor's in Anthropology and Human Biology. Even with financial aid, paying for a private school where their average for school attendance is ~$54k a year I am ~$85k in debt for my four year undergraduate education (which nowadays is equivalent to graduating from HS, yay). Straight out of school I worked as a server, then as a bank teller at Bank of America, so clearly nothing too glamorous. After applying to over 100+ job positions in Atlanta, I eventually through a friend got my current position as a contractor for a "Big 4" company doing data entry for the alumni relations department, so no benefits, no holidays, no paid sick days, nothing. And I make $12.50 an hour, so compared to my education I am beyond underpaid. I make around ~$1500 a month and over $700 goes to student loan payments. Not including all my other living expenses like gas, food, car, credit card, city parking, etc. I obviously have to live at home because after loan payments I'm basically living below poverty line. So I went and got a top notch education and now I'm making less than people I know from HS that never went to college. That's awesome! I changed my major and career plan a semester after we had to declare it, but in order to graduate in 4 years and have financial aid cover me I took summer school classes 3 out of my 4 summers in undergrad. I still have not finished my pre requite classes because I work 40 hours minimum a week and spend at least 10 hours commuting to work a week so I decided to take a break this semester from post-bach classes at Georgia State, not to mention the rising costs of public university tuition that I clearly can't afford with the debt I have already accrued. So due to my current financial situation because I have to pay my loans and am underpaid it continues to postpone my capability to finish pre requisite classes to get my Master's for Physician Assistant. Again, I do not have any benefits at all, so I live my life praying I never get sick. I can't think about pretending to afford anything other than necessities, so no new car, no apartment for myself, no new clothes (which I need), no going out to eat or anything recreational with friends. Nothing other than paying loans and hoping the rest is enough to get me to be able to pay my expenses for getting to work (gas) and paying for parking at work, and covering my cell phone bill, etc. So that about sums it up. Its awesome! For sure...

By the time I pay student loans and credit card debt I would have enough money left to eat dog food
Tracy, Georgia

Well to start off I admit I took out too many private student loans and didn't read to fine print. I am paying over $1000 a month I have a roommate. Two years ago I became overwhelmed with the loans increasing so I went to see a lawyer and he told me by the time I pay student loans and credit card debt I would have enough money left to eat dog food. I busted out crying. I left his office determined not to file BK. I got another part time because I'm smart I have a Master's degree I can do this. In April 2012 I filed BK7!! I lost my full time job in June in 2012!!! Part time job made cutbacks!!! Private continues to call and I still don't have a full time job!! The American dream of an education was and had been a nightmare for me!!'

The cost of attending law school has definitely not been advantageous to me
Wanda, Georgia

When I finally got to law school in 1989, I was a married stay at home mom with 3 children under the age of 4 and pregnant with the 4th. Trying to find money for law school was impossible, so we opted for student loans. When I graduated from law school in 1993, I chose to move into government work as a prosecutor because the hours worked best for my young children. Fast forward, 3 of those same 4 children are now graduated college students and the 4th has just gone back to college. I am no longer married, now have five children and still have a debt of $100,000 added to the student loans that I co-signed for my children. My credit is so impossibly damaged, that I cannot purchase a home, instead renting a home. The cost of attending law school has definitely not been advantageous to me, and I often wonder if I should have chosen a different profession... It's disheartening to think that I have not been able to get any assistance at all.

I valued my education, as I knew I was going into debt for it! Just how much debt, I could NOT have ever imagined
Janel, Hawaii

I graduated with my Master's in speech pathology in 2000 with what I thought was a staggering amount of debt at $65,000 dollars. Then upon consolidating my loans another $20,000 that I had not accounted for showed up for a grand total of $85,000. In the 13 years since I have been paying on them they are now at $89,000. I have taken on the attitude that I will die with this debt. The sad part is, I WORKED my way through college! Since my lower, middle-class parents who owned a hardware store could not afford to help me, I financed my undergrad and graduate degrees. I would only receive enough in loans to cover tuition and books. I paid rent, utilities and my car payment with my work earnings. I was the exception then, a student who worked full time. I had a job that required a Bachelor's degree but had been promoted with my experience and efforts so that I had health insurance – but I was obligated to keep up with a full time work load. Somehow, I did it and graduated. I resented those students who didn't have to work and was disgusted by those I saw partying and dropping out. I valued my education, as I knew I was going into debt for it! Just how much debt, I could NOT have ever imagined. I was careful to not take out any subsidized loans until graduate school. I did that only because once I started graduate school and all of my internships, I wasn't able to work. I recall my department chair at my university warning me that my debt was looking like that of a law or medical student – but what could I do? In the year 2000, I found myself graduated with my Master's – my father had passed away right before I graduated and I had a little ($16,000) inheritance when I moved to Hawaii for my first speech pathology position. I am currently on maternity leave after having my first child – the interest is ticking away. Over the last 12 years I had only paid my interest and kept my $85,000 in loans right at $85,000. Now, they are crawling up to $90,000. I am disconnecting from caring about this tremendous debt. I must say it is worth it to spend time raising my child but why must I choose? It is sickening that I am in this much debt for a job that clearly can't pay me enough to clear my name. I actually worried about disclosing how much debt I am in for my education to my fiancee. Luckily, he can look past it but it is definitely a stressor. My name is NOT on our mortgage and we have put off our marriage because of this debt that I do not want him to take on. Instead I am unhappily married to my profession, chosen at the age of 19,and the strapping $90,000 I am in debt for it. I will NOT encourage my daughter to go to college right away as I will NOT be able to help her and I do NOT want her to experience the weight of this debt.

Student loan is a major crisis causing many students like myself a problem to get an education
Troy, Hawaii

Student loan is a major crisis causing many students like myself a problem to get an education of choice, not only we want, but I believe we deserve to have for free like the president and his family.

The student loans are coming due and I have no way to pay
Brenda, Idaho

My story is a little different but the end result is the same. I am on social security disability and I went to college to get a degree (I still believe in the American Dream) so I could go to work. Well, I have student loans only for my associate’s degree. I haven't found a job yet (I am trying). The student loans are coming due and I have no way to pay. I have a 2002 car that needs repairs and I can't buy a new vehicle because I have student loans. I cannot buy a home because I have student loans. Social Security disability doesn't pay very much and I am sick with worry how to repay.

Most of those are private loans, which do not give me the flexibility and payment options that the government loans do
Amir, Illinois

I have over $80,000 dollars of student debt. Most of those are private loans, which do not give me the flexibility and payment options that the government loans do. It is ridiculous that private student loans get the same bankruptcy protection that public loans get, yet they do not have any of the flexibility of public loans when it comes to repayment options.

As everyone knows, the longer I am not paying the interest gets larger
Arlene, Illinois

When my son started college Direct Loan had us sign up for the larger part of his loan as a parent plus loan. My son took on a smaller part of his 4 year college loan amount. My son graduated and is paying off his loan portion. Myself and my husband started paying off our portion until I lost my RN management position and due to economy and I think age discrimination I could not find a new job starting Dec of 2011. I asked for forbearance and got it. Then in November 2012 I had to apply for medical disability and got it and am paid monthly less than half of my regular RN salary and my husband is retired and on fixed pension. Then in April of 2013 our loan is sold to Great lakes and they are demanding us to start paying approx. 900.00 per month. I told then of our situation and they gave us 3 additional months and then expect full payments. I do not intend to not pay back but hopefully they will allow us a smaller monthly amount as I cannot afford 900.00 a month until I get a job again. As everyone knows, the longer I am not paying the interest gets larger as our interest made my payoff from 100,000 to 107,000

The high cost of education has become all 'smoke and mirrors”
Barbara, Illinois

I prefer to tell the story of my grandchildren's personal debt. My grandson graduated last year cum laude from a well-renowned university He has secured employment, but he cannot foresee being able to leave parents' home for the foreseeable future, as his payments for his education are about $800 per month and he had been granted a $40,000 scholarship. Tuition costs MUST come down. My granddaughter same family enters university this fall (she was granted a $50,000 scholarship). Even with these awards, they both will be saddled with these ridiculous payments for several years to come. The high cost of education has become all "smoke and mirrors.” I was able to put my 3 children through institutes of higher education for much less money in the 80's and 90's without them being saddled with extreme debt after graduation. What happened? I, personally, don't think institutions of higher learning should be more than $5,000 per year for tuition. If they need more money, than they can get funding from BIG Business. The middle-class has been used and destroyed for the past 25 years – NOT a good thing!!! A middle class has been what has set the USA apart from the rest of the world – do we really want to regress? Thanks for allowing me to vent!

I anticipate my home being foreclosed on and see no end in sight to paying off the loans
Catherine, Illinois

Because of my student loans, I can no longer afford my mortgage and basic living expenses. I anticipate my home being foreclosed on and see no end in sight to paying off the loans. I consolidated the loans and once all scheduled payments are made, the total payment will be double the original loan amount. This is very stressful, not fair and very painful.

He has found himself underemployed in an unrelated field
Christine, Illinois

My school loan was made back in the late 60's. When I graduated, I was able to find employment in my field of education. The pay was not great but the job offered health benefits for me and with an additional cost benefits for my husband and daughter. Over ten years I was able to pay off my loan. The time frame for repayment for my husband who also had a school loan was the same as mine. That was back when the amount of a loan was not as great as those taken at this time. College costs were more affordable then. My husband and I were lucky to be able to pay our loan so quickly (although at the time it did not seem to be quick). Both of us were employed in the field we had studied. Now I fear that is not the story. Huge loans must be taken by students in order to complete an education. So they graduate with huge debt. That issue is made far worse because there are not enough jobs within certain fields, which makes obtaining a job in their field difficult. My son has found himself in that position. His loan was not as great as some because we did pay for his undergrad degree in full and partially paid for his graduate degree. Unfortunately, he has found himself underemployed in an unrelated field for four plus years after his graduation due to the recession and the fact that congress has done nothing to promote job creation. His is a situation faced by many grads. That is a shameful disgrace. College degrees should be a right for everyone who qualifies and should help advance their career in their chosen field. Many will find themselves repaying much more than they borrowed due to substantial interest payments and might never hold jobs within their field of expertise. I am thankful for what I have had and wish the same for recent college graduates.

They are unwilling to work with you on making affordable payments
Cindy, Illinois

I continue to struggle with my student loans. Due to the bad economy and unstable income monthly, I can barely make enough to pay for necessities yet my student loan is my biggest expense. With $250,000 of federal student loan and $40,000 in private student loan, my entire paycheck goes to paying interest. I can't afford to live on my own. At age 37 and I am still living at home. Due to the high interest in my private student loan, will be in debt for the rest of my life. My account was charged off because of unemployment two years ago and I missed two payments. Now my private student loan lender are charging my 3.25% per day toward my full loan amount. The lenders don't care they are all about the money. They can care less if you are homeless. All they want is their money. They are unwilling to work with you on making affordable payments. At 3.25% daily interest of $40,000 loan, how is anyone ever able to pay anything off? I will be taking public transportation and continue to struggle to pay for things.

Neither one is able to pay off these loans
Clarence, Illinois

My son has over $100,000 in debt and my daughter also has over $100,000 in student debt and neither one is able to pay off these loans. Interest compounded on principal over the years makes the debts even larger with fewer resources to address loan payments.

I ignored the matter and was ignored until five or six years ago, when harassment started by various collection agencies
Craig, Illinois

I went to school in 1982-1983. I had $7,500 in loans, which I paid a little on, but never made much money so it was not a priority, though yes it should have been. In 1991 my life fell apart and I entered a mental health outpatient program for six months and have not held a job since. My income from SS has ranged from $6-12,000/ year in the past two decades. I ignored the matter and was ignored until five or six years ago, when harassment started by various collection agencies wanting one loan for $2500 plus $4,000 in penalties repaid. Since I get food stamps and live on mostly potatoes, I never responded to them.

I feel permanently shackled to that debt, and I feel cheated
Danielle, Illinois

It took me seven years to finish college and earn my bachelor's degree. Even though I worked full-time and went to school at night, I still had to take out loans to pay tuition. As a liberal arts major and a bookstore employee, I did not earn much even after graduation. My biggest problem is the high interest rate that I am stuck with. I consolidated my loans a year out of school to save a half percent, saved another half percent, I think, switching to ACS, but now I am stuck at 8.5%. Many people were able to consolidate around 1%. Doesn't seem fair. After staying home with my kids, partly because of the high price of childcare, and struggling to make ends meet, which resulted in many deferments and forbearances over the years, I now owe $12,000.00 more than I did to begin with. I was not able to pay/borrow for a graduate degree, I feel permanently shackled to that debt, and I feel cheated. Seems arbitrary that I pay so much more in interest. At least with a mortgage, you can refinance. My husband earns enough that we have a house, and cars to drive, but we struggle to get by, live paycheck to paycheck, and that high interest loan payment certainly doesn't help.

As a veteran, a responsible citizen, a life long educator, I am very disturbed that I have no recourse to repay my loans
Douglas, Illinois

My student loan issues began when my wife and I were both doctoral students and we had three kids in undergraduate school beginning in 1995. My wife was at Loyola University of Chicago, I attended the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, my son enrolled in Indiana University, my two-step sons were enrolled in Iowa State University, the University of Illinois, and later one attended Monmouth College in Illinois. Juggling these large loans has been a challenge for a number of reasons. First, my wife and I have changed jobs a number of times. My work since 1986 has been as a school administrator in Oak Park, Palatine, Rolling Meadows and Wheaton. In all of these districts the schools had a fairly high enrollment of students coming from low-income homes. My work continued for two years as a Superintendent/Principal in central Illinois in a small rural school with students from poverty. My final position as superintendent in Joliet, Illinois in a school with 93% minority students and 81% students qualifying for free and reduced lunches. In about 1999 I received information that a number of firms were consolidating school loans so I called the vendor for one of my loans. When asked to move ahead with the agreement, I informed the contact that I wanted a quote for the rate I would be paying after consolidation. He said that would be coming in the mail. I informed him I did not want to the consolidation to occur before I saw the details. He assured me that nothing would happen until I received the information. As I recall a number of weeks passed and received in the mail my consolidated school loans, not as a quote, but as the completed consolidation. I was furious. I contacted the vendor who informed me he didn't know who worked with my case, but my paperwork was completed and I couldn't change my mind. I was stuck with the current rate. In the early 2000s, when a second round of student loan consolidations occurred at a very good rate, I could not apply as I did not have two loans, only the consolidation of the previous loans with no way to reduce the interest. Until my retirement in June 2012, I had been employed as a full time teacher and/or administrator for all but one year between 1978 and 2012. I understand there is forgiveness now for loans with individuals working for 10 consecutive years in public schools. I do not qualify for the any type of forgiveness, as I am no longer working. Of my years as an educator, 28 years were in school serving minority and/or students coming from low-income homes. My wife pays $169.37 each month. My monthly payment is $564.51. What is most frustrating is that I owe more than $70,000, I will be paying this off for the rest of my life, I do not qualify for a reduced loan interest rate or forgiveness of my loans following a long career in education. The banks failed miserably beginning about 2007. For the most part they have yet to suffer a penalty. They were bailed out by the U.S Government. As a veteran, a responsible citizen, a life long educator, I am very disturbed that I have no recourse to repay my loans. I am not unhappy about loan repayment as I did borrow the money. I am unhappy that the company holding my loan, ACS, is making a small fortune from my payments, which they will continue to receive from me for decades. Again I have no recourse. Home mortgages are down, the housing market finally is responsive to some individuals who lost or could lose their homes. I am stuck making payments that could be reasonable if the interest rate was significantly less. It appears that will not happen. This is a grave injustice on millions of former students, upon me, and on my family. This is not the way for a veteran and a lifelong educator to be treated. Banks are again given a free ride to fiscally rape students, former and current, Even if the government would pick up the interest the monthly cost would be less.

It is extremely difficult to save any extra money or even get out in front of the debt
Erik, Illinois

My student loan bill is by far my biggest expense each month: $1100. It is more than my rent, more than childcare for my young daughter, and more than all my other expenses combined. It is extremely difficult to save any extra money or even get out in front of the debt. I cannot afford a car so I ride a bike, I cannot save for a down payment on a house so I rent. I have no problem paying off what I borrowed for school. However, it is the interest rate that is crushing me. At 7%, almost all of what I pay each month goes to interest. When I started school everybody seemed to be consolidating loans at 3%, which seemed reasonable. By the time I finished school, consolidation at low rates was history. Over the past five years I have paid out almost $60,000 but my principle has barely budged. This is wrong. The interest rate on student loans should be pegged at inflation; nobody should be getting rich off of student debt.

I have felt for a long time, I am better off dead than alive!
George, Illinois

My student loan debt has grown to over $100,000 over the last several years due to accrued interest and capitalized interest being tacked on to it. Due to low paying jobs and unemployment, I have been unable to make sizable enough payments to pay it down. I have used hardship deferments and forbearance along with income sensitive repayment plans all of which do nothing to reduce the amount owed. It continues to go up, given my inability to make adequate size payments. I have even declared bankruptcy (twice) to try to get it discharged, but to no avail. Congress has exempted student loans from discharge through bankruptcy unless you are dead or totally and permanently disabled. The bankruptcies are now on my credit report and were declared for nothing. Even if a large student loan debt were discharged in bankruptcy, Congress has made it so the discharged amount is counted as income and you will be liable for the taxes owed on this "income" if the amount were allowed to be discharged in bankruptcy. This tax burden could be impossible to meet if you have no/little income and savings. I am one of a multitude of people who is unable to pay back their student loan and it could follow me into my social security years. Congress has also made it allowable for the student loan lenders to garnish your wages up to 15%, even though you need the money to live. They can seize any small tax refund you may qualify for and when the time comes they can take your social security payments or other federal benefits you receive for your inability to pay it off. This, to me, is Usury! The Income contingent repayment plan and the income based repayment plan both simply take too long a time before "Forgiveness" of the remaining amount is allowed. You will be on these plans for 20 years before forgiveness is allowed. I have felt for a long time, I am better off dead than alive! A huge debt you are unable to pay is a burden, worrisome, causes emotional turmoil, and physical ill health. I never did get my "second chance" to start over after my bankruptcy. I have been living in oppression for years and that is NO LIFE! I say if you are unable to pay back a student loan within the first 7 years of repayment, then the remainder needs to be forgiven, so you can get on with your life. This burden is one big reason why I never felt I could bring children into this world, as I never felt financially secure enough to do so. I remain single.

I've had every intention of paying my student loan debt but, have not been able to due to supporting my entire family
Janice, Illinois

I originally borrowed $ 7,500.00 in student loans. I can't tell you the interest they have added through the years. I've had every intention of paying my student loan debt but, have not been able to due to supporting my entire family. I filed bankruptcy and, even though the judge said that the student loan WAS dischargeable, it is still 'there'. Most recently, I was put on total medical disability after two heart attacks and CRF and yet, again, they yanked my federal tax refund, this year. I will wait until July 2013 and apply to have the loans discharged.

With no communication I was expected to give money to a bank who had just been BAILED OUT BY OUR GOVERNMENT
Lauren, Illinois

In 2007 I graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in English Creative Writing and Women's Studies. I received an invaluable education and I studied in one of the greatest cities in the world, where I now call home. In my years as an undergraduate student, and in the time since, I have accrued over $60,000 in Federal Student loans and interest and almost as much in Private Student loans and interest. I used all of my forbearance and have been trying to make payments when possible, but those usually apply to interest. I have succeeded in paying off one of my private loans, at 50% of the loan, to Wachovia, a company that bought out the original lender and was BAILED OUT BY THE GOVERNMENT. I defaulted on this loan because it was impossible to ever speak with anyone on the phone, and as a tax-paying citizen I found it inconceivable that with no communication I was expected to give money to a bank that had just been BAILED OUT BY OUR GOVERNMENT. I defaulted on the other loan from that bank. I am on the verge of default with Sallie Mae, but they have at least given me the courtesy of putting an intelligible person on the phone with me, willing to set up payments that nevertheless go only to interest in the long run. I have recently been in contact with the U.S. Department of Education about beginning payments on my loan. They have, until this time, been working with me on the terms of my forbearance, but that time is gone. At a minimum payment of over $600 dollars a month I will have the loan paid off in 11+ years. I worked full time until last month and have been actively seeking other employment. I now work part time. Since I graduated from college, I have wanted to return to school to receive a Master's Degree, however, I cannot fathom increasing my student loan debt any more and have put off my dreams of continuing my education. Plus at this point I do not think it will be possible to get a loan for further education. I rent an apartment with no possibility of buying a home because my credit is so low I can't even get approved for a credit card with the bank I have had an account with for nearly 12 years. A loan for a home is out of the question. I work in the service industry and can't afford health insurance. I will struggle to pay for my wedding. I want to start a family but will not raise a child without insurance or in my apartment with one bedroom that I share with four other people. I was extremely fortunate to have my father as a cosigner for my first few years of college, but after he got cancer and couldn't work and had cosigned loans for my two older brothers to seek higher education, I had an uncle that was kind enough to cosign and help me through the tough years but he has since passed. It is my desire to pay off my student loans in their full but it is not my reality. My education is something that I do not take for granted but the debt is so high it does not seem likely that without more income or a decrease in the loans/interest I will ever pay off either in my lifetime. Interest only payments are laughable, as these lenders need no more money than what I originally borrowed if they have the comforting fall of the government should they ever need billions of dollars. Where is my bailout?

They make it entirely too hard for the kids to go to school and get an education
Lisa, Illinois

My daughter is in school and will be until she gets done with her PHD, and she has debt in the excess of $90,000 and my son already owes over $20,000 and he just completed the first year of college and can't find finances to continue. We are not able to sign for him so we are trying to find financing for him. They make it entirely too hard for the kids to go to school and get an education and most times when they are done they can't even find a job in their field of study! I went to school to be a Medical Assistant and never worked as one and I had a small student loan over 30 years ago but nowadays a lot of our kids won't be able to attend college or will struggle with financing because the cost is so extraordinary!

I am frustrated and sometimes depressed that it is taking me so long to get back on my financial feet
Lynne, Illinois

I waited a very long time before I went back to school to get my bachelor's in Business Management. I waited until my children were grown and I wasn't sure what I wanted to get my degree in. I went to the University of Phoenix in Illinois from 2008-2010. I am working as a Pharmacy Technician part-time for $10.20/hour. This is really not what I want to be doing but I have to make a living. I think that the reason so many people are struggling financially now is that companies don't pay their employees a living wage and the present state of our economy. I have not paid anything on my student loan because I don't even have enough money to pay my monthly bills. I want to pay back my student loan but at this point am unable. I have joined a local Community Career Center to help me get that management position I so desire but that takes time too. I have been studying for my National Pharmacy Technician exam that I need to take within the next 2 months, which is requiring a lot of my free time. I need to pass this exam the first time because if I don't I will have to pay to take this exam myself, which I really don't have the money. I am frustrated and sometimes depressed that it is taking me so long to get back on my financial feet. I resent the people who say that people who are poor don't work hard to make a better life for themselves. These people have no idea what it means to struggle!!!!

We are in desperate need of help and are falling behind because of all of this
Melissa, Illinois

I am 37 years old married mother of 3 my husband and i had just started to go back to school. In 2010 I had not been working nor had he and we figured maybe bettering ourselves was the best option wee have struggled hard to get where we are as is. Yet the student loan debt keeps rising because the job market is not really out there, especially in our area. I myself have approximately 5 more years to go before my degree will be worth a darn to even get a job in the field of study I am going for. What has made it even more challenging is my health I have had 3 heart surgeries which have not been fun to say the least which has put me behind in my studies. also my other financial obligations if it wasn't for the student loans I would not even be able to continue school or support my family. we are in desperate need of help and are falling behind because of all of this. suggestions on this would be helpful.

However, nothing has been resolved regarding my years of payments
Norma, Illinois

Over the past 19 years I have made payments to five different entities. These include Citibank, IDAAP State of IL, Intuitions FL, Nelnet FL, and I am currently paying Ed Financial TN. My initial loans were $1,000.00 and $9,000.00. My account summary as of 05/21/13 reflects a balance due of $11,700.00. Each time my account was moved to a different entity, several thousand dollars was always added to my balance. Additionally, with approximately a $200.00/mo payment to Nelnet from 2000 to 2008, records show they credited $3.00 to $4.00/mo toward principle. I have filed two complaints with US Dept. of Ed. However, nothing has been resolved regarding my years of payments.

I will never get my parent plus loan paid and will have to pay for it as a retired person
Patty, Illinois

When my daughter decided to go to college in 2005 right after high school, there was no doubt in my mind that she would finish in 4 years but with her loans and our loans, the total is under 50K. Then in 2010 I lost my job of 32 years, and also my income to pay the loan off. I just got back to work in 2012 at a much lower paying job and I'm 55 years old now. I will never get my parent plus loan paid and will have to pay for it as a retired person. Sad but true...don't take out these loans later in life as you can never get them paid off.

It doesn't matter that that my previous years wages were well under the poverty level
Rebecca, Illinois

The biggest burden of the student loan is having not been told correctly my best options by the educational institutions. I did not get the best education for my money. However, I am well educated because I took the process seriously and have spent many years in the industry. However, in my particular career, no one is taken seriously unless they are licensed. Therefore, I cannot command a good wage or benefits. The blue collar jobs all but vacated our living area. My estranged husband isn't able to find a good paying job or even one with benefits. We re-financed to pay off debt when he lost his life long job and have since struggled to make the payments. I think everyone should pay their debts but on that note I think they should have good jobs available to them so that obtaining education can be later paid for. The government should be more pro-active in educating students on the likelihood of them ever succeeding and the burden of a government loan. I'm faced with the decision of continuing my education to obtain a license. I cannot get any grant money because I already have my bachelor's degree. It doesn't matter that that my previous years wages were well under the poverty level. If they are going to be throwing away money, they should at least put their money on someone that can complete an educational goal. If criminals' in our prison system don't have to pay for their up-keep and education why should a law-abiding citizen have to.

It is impossible for me to move out of my parent's home at the age of 34
Robin, Illinois

I have approximately $60,000 in student loan debt. Because of the debt and the fact that I defaulted on payments due to a serious car accident, I have been unable to finish my final year of school. My payments are extremely high and it is impossible for me to move out of my parent's home at the age of 34.

A way to get off of the streets and have a better life for myself
Rowynn, Illinois

When I was fifteen, I found myself on the street for the first time in my life. I came from an upper class and god-fearing family from the south. My mother developed serious mental health issues and began to hear voices. These voices became rooted in her faith and began telling her that I was possessed by biblical demons that were attempting to kill her. It was then that she threw me out of the house. Though still living on the streets I continued to go to school and had the highest marks in the institute. Later I was nominated to go to the UK as a student ambassador to represent the state of Texas. After graduation, I applied at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I was received on full scholarship the first year. At that time in my life I did not think to myself, "Going to an expensive art school will cause you debt." No I was thinking it was a means to an end, a way to get off of the streets and have a better life for myself. SAIC offered to pay off half of my tuition for me and all I had to do was find the other half. Loans. When I graduated from school I realized that it is true you cannot do much with a BFA. I applied at The Academy of Art University SF, and was accepted. They promised to help students to be goal oriented, professional and help to form their careers for success. After graduation the economy fell and there was no jobs. The jobs that were open that once required a Master's now require a PhD. So I find myself in the position that I have no choice but to continue school if I ever want to get a job in my field. (Running an institution such as a Museum or Art School or teaching). Often times I am able to get grants and scholarships but tuition is so high it never covers all of it. I have no family to ask for help and my husband is too ill to work. So I find myself a struggle full time student, who ranked at the top of her class, waiting tables full time and trying to take care of a dependent and myself. All through this student loan collectors are knocking on my door. I have no car, and I rent.

Because I was the only student in my family to go to college it was hard to understand all the language on the paperwork
Scott, Illinois

I'm the first in my family to earn an Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree. My brother and I are the only two of all my family members to have graduated high school. It has always been my dream to teach. I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was 10 years old. As my high school graduation approached, I didn't even think college was an option for me. It wasn't until about three years later. I went on my very first college visit. I was accepted and started the process of trying to fill out financial paperwork. Because I was the only student in my family to go to college it was hard to understand all the language on the paperwork. I signed the master promissory note. I didn't realize that I was signing myself up for life long debt. That was eight years ago. I now have earned a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in education. As the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, It was extremely difficult to find a teaching job. I worked as a grad assistant at my Alma mater making $7000 a year. I have accrued about $86,000 in student debt – Mostly federal student loans and some private student loans. It has been extremely difficult this first year of my teaching career. I cannot afford to live in the same city that I teach in. I cannot afford to buy supplies for my classroom. I had to purchase a used car because my current car was dying. At the end of the month, after all my bills have been paid, I have about $100 left. Pleas coincided helping fix this broken system. Thanks for hearing my story.

I will still never be able to pay off my loans, I don't even make a dent in it now
Shannon, Illinois

I went through 4 years of undergrad at a university with no loans and no debt. I went to vet school solely on student loans, I was lucky enough not to need anyone to cosign my loans. After graduating from vet school, the total of my student loans (and interest accumulating) was around $300,000. I am single, so I do not have another income to rely on. I also was unfortunate enough to develop several autoimmune diseases while in vet school. So even on extensive (expensive) treatment, I am unable to work full time. I am on income base repayment because I cannot afford to pay any more than that, as I have to spend much of my limited income on my health and medications. I do not live extravagantly – I still drive the car I drove in high school and I live on my family's land next to my parents. My parents technically bought my house (and it's on their land) but I pay the monthly payments, which is less than $400 a month and cheaper than anything I could rent. But I will still never be able to pay off my student loans. I do make more than my required monthly payment but I will still never be able to pay off my loans, I don't even make a dent in it now. I have consolidated all my loans but the rates are still so high, I can't even keep ahead of the interest.

I think about this every day, I pray for a windfall, but let's face it we're in serious trouble
Sherri, Illinois

My story begins with our son, Jim, and his quest to further his education. First of all, I now voice to all parents of college bound children that they should attend community college FIRST because although they may know what field that they wish to pursue, community college will give them the opportunity to get their required courses (English, math) out of the way AT A MUCH LOWER price tag. It will also give them the opportunity to take classes in their desired field to "feel things out" and make sure this is the direction they want to go. If they find they've changed their mind it is not as pricey as changing their major and basically having to start from scratch. We live in a rural area and I must say, the counselor at our high school was not educated enough or did not care to help the kids along with choosing a school or a career path or even how to apply to these schools, when paperwork needed to be done, etc. Also, my son missed two weeks of classes because the high school took three weeks to send his transcript!!! (They were waxing the floors!??) We are now $120,000 in debt for his loans, and he's told me that he will not be graduating until Spring 2015!!! I haven't even added the price of that to this figure!! Both my husband and I work two jobs to pay for this, but he was in a car accident on his way home from work one night and as a result has endured five surgeries now. He is an auto mechanic and I don't know how much longer his body will hold up. The bills from the surgeries, medicines and time off from work have used up all of the monies we set aside to pay for our kid’s college education. As a result of the injuries/surgeries my husband lost his primary job and our health insurance along with it. His new job covers him alone but to cover me would take about one third of that paycheck we so desperately need just to live. I have Crohn's and fibromyalgia and physically I do not know how much longer I will be able to do this. If I don't, we will have to sell our home. I think about this every day, I pray for a windfall, but let's face it we're in serious trouble. The student loan payment per month will be higher than my mortgage payment. Once the parents fill out the original student loan info and include themselves as a part of the loan process they just keep adding on to our loan. My son owes about $8000 but we owe (as of this date and as I said he still has about 2 more years to go) $116,800. I have no idea what we're going to do...I feel as though I am free falling and have no control. I called the school to discuss this but they told me that I should just leave it this way because if they transfer the info for future loans to my son that he will need a co-signer, etc. My husband and I would be the only possible co-signers and obviously we would not be good as our debt-to-income ratio looks like a bad cartoon. We will not have a happy retirement, because we will have to work until we no longer can – 2 jobs each – to pay for this astronomical debt. My son says he will help of course, but he will need to have a job to do that. The job market is still horrible...I pray every day for relief/some answer but I don't know where to go for help.

Because I decided to go to college, I live the American Nightmare, instead of the American Dream
Wanda, Illinois

If I had ever known that getting an education was going to be the one of the biggest mistakes in my life, I would have never done it. I'm 38 year old, my current debt by the time I was able to start repaying (July 2012) was $63,531.61 from $36,793.70. Unfortunately, is not that I did not want to pay for my student loans just that I had to pay for rent and food, this did not include health insurance for most of my adult life, including now. Right now, I would like to buy a house and start a family and that is not possible mostly for the compounded interest on my student loan debt. I went to college to try to make a better future for me and my family and because I decided to go to college, I live the American Nightmare, instead of the American Dream. I do not seem to understand how financial institutions borrow money from the Federal Government for not even 1% interest and we student pay as high as 7.68% interest and more. It also makes it even harder when you see people around who live from government assistance, getting free housing, free food and free health care and the government pays for everything and they have 2, 3, kids and counting. Then a person who decides to go to college in this country might not even be able to start a family. My name is Wanda, I'm 38 years old and due to my college education I live the American Nightmare.

I can't live like this for much longer
Cathy, Indiana

My job is minimum wage. I took loans out through a non-profit organization but they changed to a private funder and now they tell me they do not work with President Obama's new laws that would allow me to stop paying after 20 years. I am 57 with no retirement, and no savings. I rent a home and my cars are 20 years old. My daughter lives in another state and I am raising her son while my son finishes college. All of this is more than I can bear. My payments will rise every few months and my wages won't. I work at a university and I was told that we would not get a raise this year; the economy of course is too bad to raise our wages (more excuses). I can't live like this for much longer. I will never have anything to retire on and my children still need me. Please fight to help some of us who really need to be able to discharge our debt in order to live. I will be homeless if my payment continues to rise. I can't afford the increased payments, and my job won't keep up. I only make $12.00 an hour. I am working very hard to keep up but at 57 my life looks very bleak. I think prisoners are at least guaranteed housing but not students who put themselves through school to better their lives in this country. How shameful that the Republican's forced all of us into a debtor's prison, but again prisoner's have health care, education and housing, not students. We all need to march on Washington!!

I have yet to reap any financial or emotional gain from the 12 years I spent working towards a better life
Dartanion, Indiana

I started college at age 24 in 2002. I am five courses away from completing an MS in Engineering. If everything goes as planned I will have earned the degree exactly 12 years and $140,000 after beginning. Like many others, I am very concerned about finding a career opportunity within one of my fields of study. I have yet to reap any financial or emotional gain from the 12 years I spent working towards a better life for my family and myself. At 36, I am sure I will still be paying my loans off after 20 years from now. I am grateful that I was able to earn a higher education, but I would love for my family to benefit from the time I spent away from them.

My degree cost $49,000 to achieve
Daryl, Indiana

I was fortunate to graduate with not much student loan debt at all. My degree cost $49,000 to achieve. Between the GI Bill and Pell Grants, I graduated with only $7000 in student loan debt. This is why I believe we need to institute a program similar to the GI Bill for all Americans. Personally, I believe that public colleges should be free. The extra money I am saving is going back into the economy instead of banker's pockets.

So, I go back to being a truck driver for a living
David, Indiana

In 1982 I decided, that after some years of being employed as a truck driver and that type of employment was not right for me, that I would attend a state run technical college to get a degree in a trade. In the first year, I was able to enroll with GI Bill benefits, which then ran out in the next year. I was then able to get Pell Grants to continue. Over the following years while working a full-time job as a siding contractor with low income and attending classes in the evenings, I was able to continue on a full-time basis. Eventually, because of scheduling of classes needed to complete my degree, I was forced to switch majors in order to remain a full-time student. The major I chose had classes that coincided with the first major but, also others that were not in the first major. Even so, I saw that as a plus, to obtain the first degree while working on the second. Then I ran into the same problem again, scheduling of classes required for the second degree and the inability to stay at full-time student status. This all led to the point at which if I was going to get my second degree and Pell Grants wouldn't fund it, I had to take out a Student loan. Actually, I had two over the next two years in order to attend on a part-time student basis. In total I borrowed about $7800 to complete two degrees. In the last year before receiving my degrees, I was hit with a paternity suit that dated back to the late 70's that I was completely unaware of until then. Surprise, now I owe child support, back child support, DNA testing costs, while trying to support my present family and our medical costs. I was forced to declare bankruptcy on all this, except for student loans and child support. From that point on the county prosecutor confiscated any tax refunds and demanded payments on back support along with current payments. Because of state laws, those confiscations and payments took precedence over any payments due on student loans. After graduation and receiving my degrees, I comprehensively searched out all local companies in the fields pertaining to my training but was told over and over that I had no experience. A couple of those companies did offer me a job starting at $5 per hour for the first 3 months. There is no way my family and I can survive on that. So, I go back to being a truck driver for a living, which then leads to a divorce and more child support. All of these unfortunate situations precludes any possibility over some years of actually making any repayment on my student loans while the amounts owed, due mostly to the interest compounding annually, to just keep increasing to about 4 times the amount originally borrowed. I applied for all the deferments I could qualify for and went on ICR plan some time ago. About 4 years ago I had to retire at 65, partly because of no jobs available at my age and my health concerns. I have paid off any and all other debts I owed except this one. I have no credit, never able to buy a home, never able to buy a newer vehicle, and certainly unable to pay any on those student loans that just keep on increasing. I can't even get a loan now to buy another vehicle and the one I have now is over 24 years old. Sometime in the near future my loans will be forgiven per the rules but, then I will owe income taxes on the large amount that the loans have increased to over those years with annually compounded interest at 8%. The IRS will probably take my SS for that and I will be destitute. Or dead! In all truth, I've made some mistakes in life, yes, but do I deserve an end like this?

I really don't know what to do aside from desperately playing the lotto
Jonathan, Indiana

I have no stable job to pay off the loans with the Bachelor's degree I acquired, I recently quit the Hilton because the steward department I was overstaffed as soon as I was hired. They kept giving me less work hours that I took a second job at FedEx. But now even at that job I'm not giving enough money to pay off the apartment rent let alone both the Dept. of Ed loans and the private loans. Now my private loans are at default and I'm scared that I'll end up in prison because I have nothing to give and I'm going to suffer for it. I really don't know what to do aside from desperately playing the lotto. I just want this to end I don't care how.

Should we have even let them go to college at all?
Nancy, Indiana

Back in the day, I attended a private liberal arts college, got some scholarship aid and took out student loans. I had no support from family because their income was limited. I ended my undergrad years with $3,000 in debt, which of course was more in proportion to income back in 1972. Still, it constituted only 33% of my first job, in state "civil service" as an employment career counselor. Fast forward to 2013: My daughter already has 10Xs the loans I had: $30,000 and she is just finishing her sophomore year of college at a public university. In fairness, she chose an out of state university, but even if you adjusted for that she would be at $15,000 in debt now and at $30,000 by the end of her four years. THAT IS 10X's THE COST FOR MY UNDERGRAD EDUCATION. Unfortunately, she will not generate 10X's my starting salary . I was at about $10,000 per year, she likely will only command $40,000, even in similar work. SO her debt will be 75% of her starting earnings. My husband and I bootstrapped for years to get ourselves through grad school without help. This meant that paying off our more modest loans took about 10 years. How will this generation be able to do anything but pay off student debt? We did without a TV, a car, or even an electric typewriter back in the day. We waited until we were secure and in our 30's to have children. Will our kids have to wait into their 40's? States have pulled way back on support for higher education and in Indiana the politicians beat up on the colleges for what they have to charge in tuition, to make up the shortfall, yep, caused by the politicians. It is a vicious cycle and there are myths about why it is happening. The elephant in the living room is this: Why is it possible to buy a house at 3.5% interest, but student loans, both private and public are at twice that interest rate? As a matter of public policy: Isn't it better to capture the huge pool of talent and get our young people through the higher that will make them better citizens and higher wager earners/tax payers for decades to come??? Or are we capitulating to those who think banks and lenders should be able to do a business on the backs of the next generation? No one seems to be yelling loudly enough, and our young people simple accept the realities in front of them. THEY CANNOT REMEMBER A BETTER AND MORE SENSIBLE TIME Look to the United Methodist Church for some thoughtful foresight and leadership. They offer a 5/5/5 loan $5,000 at 5% paid back over 5 years. They also offer a 3.25% loan of $5,000 over five years if you begin repayment 90 days after taking out the loans. They are doing better than the federal government. Why? As a parent, I find myself in the quandary of fearing that our four kids are doomed to decades of debt with potentially less earnings due to the recession and the roiling impact on all sectors of our economy. Should we have even let them go to college at all? Yesterday I heard (on NPR) that 300,000 college grads are among the working poor in our nation. That is 6,000 college grads in every single state, who are not only not thriving, but who are now becoming a "burden" to the other "lucky" ones who graduated from college. WE need to do better. Restricting the interest rate on federal loans is the starting point. Bravo to the Obama Administration for at least steering students away from private lenders, who were asking for 15% interest in recent years. Greed and a lack of restrictions have begun to take a long-term toll on our society.

We have worked like slaves, only to realize, we are slaves
Susan, Indiana

I served four years active duty in the Navy, but I served after Vietnam, when most people seemed to hate the military. The GI Bill was eliminated and replaced with a paltry program called VEAP where the service member had to make contributions in order to receive any assistance at all. The grand total of assistance (if one contributed the maximum amount which I did) was $8,100!!! My total loan amount in 1992 was $33,000, mostly in Federal Direct Student Loans. I paid off my higher interest rate loan first, which was 5%. That balance was only $2500.00. I had consolidated all the other loan debt from my master's degree and one year of law school under the US Dept. of Education loan consolidation program at 3.25%. I am now 54 years old & am still paying the $10,000 loan for law school. My current balance is $7,305. I have been paying on all my loans since 1992, and have not missed any payments. How can I still owe so much 21 years later? My first few jobs did not provide any health insurance – I paid for that. I HAD to start saving money for retirement because I am single & do not expect to receive any inheritance. I also HAD TO EAT, FIND A PLACE TO LIVE, AND BUY A USED CAR TO GET TO WORK. By the time I made all those payments every month, there was next to nothing left for student loans. I have no children or other dependents. I couldn't even afford a dog until a few years ago. So I had to get my monthly payment reduced, and I have basically only been paying interest all these years. As of next month, my car and furniture payment will be paid off, and I will be able to triple my monthly student loan payment. I expect to pay it off within two more years. The elite of Wall Street and Washington cannot fathom why millions of Americans are so desperately bitter. We have worked like slaves, only to realize, we are slaves. There has been no American dream for us.

I want to feel secure, just once
Wendy, Indiana

I was 20 when I first went to college in 1992, because I was independent financially, and back then, you weren't considered an independent student until you were not claimed on your parents taxes for two years. My parents were never able to support me financially. So, I waited and then got my degree in 3 1/2 years while working part-time. I had accumulated approx. $40K in student loans. I worked in my field for 2 1/2 years and was not able to support myself the way I would like and didn't want to be trapped in a job all my life where I could afford only to pay my bills and felt I was in a dead-end job So, I decided to go back to school for a nursing degree where jobs were plentiful. And I knew that I would be able to afford to live more comfortably. I then had accumulated $68K in Federal loans and $13K in private loans. I have been paying $450 each month for 10 1/2 years and am nearly finished paying my private loan, but still have a balance of nearly $57K on federal loans. I am fortunate because I can at least make the payments However, I do feel as though my purchasing power is very low. I am able to make all payments on time, however I haven't been able to build up a savings account so if something were to happen, I would not be comfortable for long. I also do not have any children so I don't have that strain financially. I can't help but wonder how my purchasing power and of so many others could help this economy if we could get some assistance or relief after years of paying regularly and in some cases, making extra payments. I have felt so trapped most of my adult years due to the decisions I made in my 20's. But I thought I didn't have an option that I would not get ahead if I didn't get a college degree. So I feel lucky that I have my education, but I also feel it is so hard to be successful that by the time I get my loans paid off it will be time to retire and will not be able to retire comfortably. I want to feel secure, just once. I wasn't secure in high school, my parents were financially unstable and I felt like the only way I could get ahead was go to college, but at what cost? Thanks for listening....

I am a single mother who cannot put her own daughter through college because of my student loan debt
Angela, Iowa

I am a single mother who cannot put her own daughter through college because of my student loan debt. ($35000+) One third of my take home pay is my payment amount!

I live in absolute poverty and am treated less than a citizen
Crystal, Iowa

I'll be 50 this year. I have 180 college credits and no degree. I walked in to each of the 3 universities I attended with a 4.0 GPA. I have a brilliant mind that's being wasted as a part-time minimum wage retail clerk, all because of the way online schools are run. I know that I will never see the day when this will be wiped off because I saw that there's only a 1% chance the Student Loan Forgiveness Act will even be seen or considered by Congress. My story means nothing. I live in absolute poverty and am treated less than a citizen. I am told that I deserve nothing and that I am a lowlife for being poor. It's a domino effect. I wasn't allowed to complete university – see my Ripoff Reports – so I couldn't get a good job, now I'm facing Ch. 7 bankruptcy but it won't make the school loans or false taxes go away which doesn't make sense, because a bankruptcy is supposed to give you a FRESH start and a clean bill of financial health, but when they keep the two devastatingly large bills intact even after the bankruptcy, how in the hell does that help me?! I have begged for help from all levels of government and from all factions – from Congressional Representatives and U.S. Senators to the U.S. / Iowa / Illinois and Florida Depts of Education, and so forth. I've contacted the media (newspapers, talk shows and news stations) but no on was willing to listen, so in the end I have taken a crappy part-time minimum wage job, am attempting a Ch.7 bankruptcy and trying to move on under the radar of all the Goliaths after me for I've lost my slingshot and have no defense or voice. Here's a chronological in a nutshell: 1. 3 years old – parents divorced, father left. 2. 5 years old – mother marries 1st abusive stepdad 3. 7 years old – mother sends all children to abusive sitter 4. 9 years old – mother divorces abusive stepdad 5. 11 years old – still molested / abused; mother informed of my brilliance and need for special magnet school, she refuses 6. 12 years old – mother marries psychotic lowlife 7. 13-15 years old – run away from home as possible, can't attend school due to unstable home life. 8. 15-16 years old – spend a year in juvenile hall; family could care less. 9. 16-19 years old – live on streets / with friends – find odd / temp jobs. 10. 21 years old – get in head on accident with drunk woman – boyfriend was driving – massive internal injuries no real compensation 11. 23-28 years old – get a good job as data entry/receptionist; leave when downsized 12. 28-32 years old – have great job in real estate data field; ends on a sour note, but obtain dual GED/HS diploma during night school 13. 32-33 years old – attend Austin Peay State University for free; pd by most current stepdad (not the psycho) until he screws it up to ensure he doesn't have to follow through on promise 14. 34-35 years old – attend University of Phoenix online – find out their 'teams' mean I do all the work, the other people take the credit. – Large debt incurred for no true education 15. 46-48 years old – attend Kaplan University online – find out they lied about one payment needed and use that excuse to literally drag me through the mud. 16. 49 years old (2012) – Mom died, JobFox does an illegal blanket termination of all telecommute workers, absconds with last 4 paychecks, can't even attend own Mom's funeral or see her one last time, lose everything and Kaplan still contends that I am a lowlife loser that needs to pay for an education they denied me. 17. 49 years old (2013) – Learn that all online schools charge 3x the normal fees (i.e. the same IT class I took at Kaplan online for $1800 could be taken at University of California Berkeley online for $600!!?!!) and usually only for people who are poor and can get fed loans like me. Now in a crappy part-time minimum job, seemingly blacklisted for any position above retail clerk and not even at Wal-Mart or somewhere I'd get health benefits. I'm on Welfare (Food Stamps/Medical) and I have a bunch of creditors after me. My car is about to die and I have $11.00USD literally. The United States treats its citizens like me worse than an illegal alien and most U.S. government workers are proud to announce that to me. Hell, recently I called the IRS and found out they believe that a) the IRS is not part of the U.S. federal government (last I checked it was part of the U.S. Treasury...correct me if I'm wrong) so what are they, pirates? And b) that supposedly our taxes are NOT used for civil services, programs and projects but to pay the U.S. federal workers and ensure they have bonuses and perks (this is a true conversation had on 4/30/2013 – hopefully recorded on their end. And finally c) I was told that even if taxes did go to these mythical civil services, programs and projects, it wouldn't apply to me because although I'm a citizen, I'm an unmarried, uneducated, childless white woman nearing 50 so I don't matter and would not be qualified for any kind of help whatsoever. – These are the exact words of the IRS agent I spoke with! So you see the disease is not just the student debt, but all things connected with it. Had Kaplan online allowed me to complete my law degree with them, I could've found a position in a law office and paid off the debts I owe, but I have found that reverse discrimination is a key to what's happening to me as much as exorbitant costs, out and out lies and cover-ups. I don't expect anyone to ever hear my story, or care, hell they didn't care when the State of Iowa sterilized me, so why the hell would they care when I'm denied education, dragged through the mud, kicked in the face, spit on and left for dead in the gutter? You're right, they won't. Which is why I continue to work at my crappy part-time minimum wage job and am pursuing a bankruptcy because in the immortal words of Tom Petty and the Hearbreakers, "...even the losers get lucky sometimes." and with that false hope I live on :-)

I need a better way than the current loan options
Donald, Iowa

After being unemployed since 2008, I decided to go back to obtain a Master's degree by 2011. The state of Iowa encouraged me to go back to extend my unemployment benefits. Now I am almost 55 and still underemployed. While I have a Master's Degree in Business Leadership, I find employers unwilling to hire people over 50. I have around $40,000 in student loan debt, and would love to land a decent paying profession to pay the debt off. However, given the state of economy and poor career prospects, the only positions I found is Adjunct Professor positions. I overlap three different schools and teach up to six classes a year. I make around $12.000. A friend recently hired me out of the goodness of his heart and I remain severely underemployed. I need to remain current on my loans to be able to continue to teach at the college level. I need a better way than the current loan options.

No wonder I plan to emigrate!!
Mary, Iowa

I got my undergraduate degree back when loans were "cheaper" and paid a 3% and a 5% loan back, with intermittent deferments for times when I was able to return to school. I graduated in 1986 with my Bachelor's degree in nursing. During those times of deferment, I also had to pay tuition and fees and continue to work full time to support my family. My student loans are finally paid off, having just completed that process after well over 20 years of struggling. Having completed that process, I can now invest in what is required for my current position – a new car (this job requires vast amounts of travel), but I'm unable to afford to complete my advanced degree since I can't incur further debt, don't qualify for most loans and can't afford them even if I could qualify. I was able to buy a home during the housing bubble and still struggle to maintain the payments, let alone maintenance, with paying my tuition. I've finally given up my hopes of getting that advanced degree in spite of thousands of dollars invested in my education. I just can't afford that and having this relatively low paying position. Others with the credentials I have outside healthcare are not breaking their backs and breaking their budgets just to have a career they like and are good at. My income is regressive in spite of my growing value to the organization, (a 2% raise at the highest, while the cost of living goes up 3.5 to 4%) while tuition climbs ever higher. And I watch those who chose to chew up others and spit them out be able to gain income and bonuses while I still struggle? No wonder I plan to emigrate!!

I'm now working for a fast food ... I'm 61 years young and I don't know how I'm ever going to pay my student loan bills off
Richard, Iowa

As a kid growing up in Iowa during the '60s I was told, go to college, get a degree and then work for the same company until you retire! Wow! Have times changed. In 1991 I went back to school to get my Bachelor's degree, unfortunately for me, I choose to go to DeVry Institute of Technology, now know as DeVry University. Tuition was 225 dollars per hour by the time I finished my degree. Over all, I was, at that time, 1996, around 90 thousand dollars in the hole. In my last semester I found out that my degree was worthless because companies in Dallas, TX no longer needed people with the type of degree that I had received. Then in 2005, I decided to get a Master's degree in Management and that added another 20,000 dollars to my total. So now my bill was around 120,000 dollars. I finally found a really great job in 2008 and then the economy tanked and so did my great job. The interest on my student loans kept growing. I moved back to Iowa and am living in a small space in my brothers' basement. I'm now working for a fast food place and earn 7.70 cents per hour. I'm 61 years young and I don't know how I'm ever going to pay my student loan bills off. ACS, the company that holds my loans, has given all of the forbearance opportunities available, but now that time has run out. I tried to get set up for another type of delay but because of the new changes coming to health care I no longer can work 30 hours a week and ACS states that I have to work at least 30 hours per week. So now, my student loan debt is a little over 162,000 dollars. I want like to move into my own apartment but I don't see that happening when the Treasury Dept can take up to 15 percent of my Social Security which would leave me hard pressed to live on my own. Thank you,

I do believe that financial circumstances should not keep someone from obtaining post high school degrees
Sharon, Iowa

I was an education major at Purdue University on a National Defense loan. If I taught for 5 years and paid off half my loan, the other half was dismissed. After 2 years teaching, I went to the University of Michigan for my Master’s in curriculum. After 38 years of public school teaching, I retired in 2003 when I taught/supervised student teachers for another 3 years before having open-heart surgery. The National Defense loan allowed me to become the first in my family to get a college education. Knowing that if a pursued my career choice and made regular payments on my loan, 50% would be forgiven after 5 yrs./ 50% paid in. I felt my country supported me when I needed it most, and required me to make and keep my commitment. I don't believe post high school education should be free, but I do believe that financial circumstances should not keep someone from obtaining post high school degrees. Everyone should contribute to the cost of their education, and consider post high school schooling their job, not an entitlement nor a party! I do believe our attitude toward education has hurt our competitiveness/achievement compared others in the world. Those who value/respect education are most consistently the highest achievers and most successful during school and postgraduate. Thank you so much for your efforts!

I borrowed from the devil and now it is clear that he has snared many more
Tom, Iowa

Student loan debt succeeded at times in "ruining my life”, which I hope was the opposite of the intent of such loans. I borrowed for Law School in 1978 and it was a disaster. The School admitted many more students it could comfortably teach in later academic years, so 1/3 of the class were destined to not be asked to return. It became obvious that some were admitted with the sole purpose of getting their student loan money and then asked to leave. The criteria were Bar Association members in your immediate family (lawyers in the family), ties to the school in some form, or being a genius, if the other two criteria were not met. I was a pawn in this business scheme, masquerading as higher education. I later worked in the area of my undergraduate minor, much overtime, and repaid my college loans (small loans) and repaid one law school loan, but forced to default on three loans. The collections started, demanding full payment, when just weeks before the banks refused to take payments! Ronald Reagan elected and laws changed about the loans and collection. RR hated students and hated their debt even more. They added the excessive late fees, in order to create more incentive for the debt collectors. I was not paying and I was not certainly going to pay even more than I owed. The collection agencies, over the years, broke every law they can. I add that there are only weak laws protecting a debtor, with little or no punishment for their actions, and I could not claim bankruptcy. I finally attended Graduate School (in another area) in order to get a better career (so I could pay these debts). Even though I told them I could not pay as I was a student with limited resources (grad assistant pay), the collection agencies hounded me, waking me at all hours, calling associates, and threatening me physically and verbally. I have been threatened with death (more than once), and I was frightened by these animals. The stress by these lawbreakers, or collection agencies, added to the stress of obtaining a graduate degree and I took a leave of absence, with good standing. I never returned and worked at self-employment, in order to not have my tax return confiscated, because I was determined now to NOT pay them a dime. Forgiving decades of abuse from the federal government's strong arm collection agencies (which act no different than street loan collectors), and after my financial condition has improved, mostly due to my wife, I decided to negotiate a settlement with an agency about 5 years ago. I did and they refused to forward to me in writing, so I did not pay. I tried again and again, but they want my wife's financial information, which she refuses to forward, because even the IRS maintains that she is not responsible for my debts. I can not negotiate because of rules, so I will let it die with me, but I tried to pay many times in my life ...first the banks refused payments, then the loan shark feds, led by Ronnie Reagan, added tens of thousands to the loan and I refused to pay. I could not gain meaningful employment for decades due to this nasty loan, because I did not want for them to get any money from my paycheck. I borrowed from the devil and now it is clear that he has snared many more. The insult is that the USA gives billions in foreign aid to people that have never ever paid taxes, billions to risky investments by big banks gone bad, we spend trillions on wars that will benefit nobody, yet we can not forgive anything related to education! I have suffered physically, mentally, and largely wasted my life in some ways due to my own government, the same government that my ancestors paid for with their lives since the Revolutionary War. It angers me, as it is much larger issue than an unpaid loan. I would sue all the collection agencies for what they have done to me, but there is only a "one year": statue of limitations, yet no statue for student loan debt. This is very telling that the people of this great nation have lost control of it.

I want to pay my debts ... But I need relief
Clay, Kansas

My story? Well? Where to begin?? Before I write anything about my story I want to first acknowledge that I have never been the best manager of money. I have always and always will take responsibility for every financial decision I have made and will make. I blame no one else for my financial problems. I make no excuses. I was stupid in my spending. I also want to say that I am not looking for a bail out from the government to take care of my student loan problem. That being said my student loan is a REAL problem. I went to college at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, from 1984-1991. I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I got my B.S.E. in December of 1988 and went on to graduate school. I completed most of what I need to get my Master’s degree and then I encountered some mental health issues. I did teach school half time for one year. I and another teacher in the Emporia, Kansas, unified school district started the alternative high school program in the district. After the year of my contract with the district expired (and was not renewed) I became unemployed and moved back with my parents. I spent money very foolishly in college and came out owing about $30,000.00 and about $7,000.00 in credit card debt. That was the state of affairs in the spring of 1991. A short time after moving in with my parents I found a job working with the State of Kansas in one of their juvenile correctional facilities. When I began that job I worked with a consumer credit counseling service to pay off my credit card debt, which I did over a three-year period. While I was in that period I did not have to make any payments on my student loans. After I got done paying off my credit cards debt I began to pay on my student loan. In the mid 90’s I got in to credit card debt again and had to go through a bankruptcy. I have always felt bad about this and if I could go back and do it again I would not have chosen that route. While in the bankruptcy period I, again, did not have to pay on my student loans. When I came out of the bankruptcy I began paying on my loans again. So fast-forward to today. Since I got out of college I have paid about $11,000.00 on my student loans, most of that towards interest. I currently owe about $60,000.00 on my student loan and I am actively in repayment. All of my forbearance time has run out so I have to pay or go into default. I also owe about $12,000.00 in credit card debt. I have talked with a consumer credit agency and they have advised me at this time that they are not able to help me due to the nature of my credit card debt and the fact that I have a few of my accounts in a 0% interest rate period. I am current on all of my credit cards bills. I have a good credit rating. Having said all of that I cannot, on the income I make from my job, make all of the payments on both debt loads for much longer unless I can increase my income. I have tried to cut my expenses where I can. In July I am going to drop my satellite TV service when my contract is up. I stay pretty much at home and don’t do anything much for fun. I interviewed for two higher paying jobs with the state and did not get either one of them. I have several applications in for part time work but nothing has come of it yet. Now, to the crux of my problem. Without question I have to change my spending habits. I am where I am, in part, because of my poor decisions made over the last 25 years. As I said, I freely acknowledge this. But the problem I face has been greatly compounded by the fact that my wages have not kept up with the cost of living. I have worked for the State of Kansas for 22 years. I worked 18 years in the juvenile corrections facility I mentioned previously. I have been working at one of the state's hospitals for the mentally ill for the last 4 years. It is my best estimate that I have not had a pay raise in the last 8 years. Currently, there is legislation in the state house that may reduce my income further by taking away a longevity bonus that is awarded to state employees who have 10 or more years in. The amount was reduced last year and it may be eliminated altogether this year. If that happens I will lose about $900.00 in income. Last year I made less money than I did the year before. Right now I make $0.41 cents an hour more than a brand new person starting work in my same classification. My situation is compounded further by the fact that I am 9 years away from being able to retire from the state. It makes no sense for me to go outside of the state system for work. So the numbers just don’t make sense when it comes to being paid well and the timing of my problem makes it more difficult to leave my work for the state. What is even more troubling to me is that my years of state service have counted for essentially nothing when it comes to reducing the balance of my student loans. Under the new law, as I understand it, anyone who works in a public service field for 10 years and who makes 120 on time and in full payments can have the rest of their student loan balance forgiven. That is great for those who have just started working in a public service field. It is GOOD for me because, IF, I can keep up with my student loan payments I can have the rest of my loans forgiven by the time I am ready to retire. What would be GREAT for me would be for my 22 years to count for something as well. As I said, I’m not looking for something for nothing. I am not looking for a bail out. I have tried to pay my loans. I have tried to find higher paying jobs. I am cutting my expenses. I am looking for part time work. In short I am doing everything I can to pay my debts. I want to pay my debts. But I need relief. There has got to be more that can be done to help me, and others like me. I have written a personal letter to President Obama and sent him all of my documentation. I received a letter back expressing his concerns about the student loan debt problem in this country and the ideas he and others had to address them. These sentiments and ideas are all well and good but I need ACTION and I need it NOW. Please help me.

We rent because we cannot qualify for a mortgage due to our high student loans
David, Kansas

My wife and I graduated in 2009 from a traditional 4 year university at the ages of 47 and 37. The whole experience will cost us approximately $80,000. Going to a traditional 4 year college ($305 per credit hour) was the only way we could go because no other college offered classes for adult students. Now almost all colleges in my state offer classes for adult students. My wife and I drive our cars into the ground before we buy "new" used cars because we cannot afford brand new cars. We rent because we cannot qualify for a mortgage due to our high student loans. If I would have known that it would be that expensive for college and that I would have this much trouble after graduating, I would have had my wife attend college instead of both of us.

Even with all of the penny pinching I still must ask my parents for assistance at times
Erin, Kansas

Becoming a psychotherapist has been my dream until I was 12 years old, however no one told me I must marry rich to pay back the government. I owe $110,000 in student loans and have kept them in forbearance since graduation for Grad school. I believed I was intelligent waiting to have my 2 children until I completed my education. I was wrong, If I was to have children prior I would have qualified for pell grants. My oldest son has special needs and requires extra assistance and certain daycare. With my two children being 11 months apart, I pay over $20,0000 per year in daycare and make $22,000 (this is my personal highest gross income since graduation 7 years ago). My husband has grossed at the highest level $29,000. I am not a mathematician, but this does not give my family of 4 enough to live on and pay at minimum $550 to $1100 to my student loans. I pay all the same utilities, rent, food and yes shame on me I bought a new car (which had a lower interest rate than a used car) to assure my children's safety. I go without new clothes, make-up, food that I did not eat in college, and any extra activities. Even with all of the penny pinching I still must ask my parents for assistance at times, which makes me feel ashamed as I am the person with the highest degree in the family. I feel asking for government assistance is wrong as I am capable to work, everyday I get closer to applying for food stamps and Medicaid. I cannot pay and my loans have transferred 4 times, which makes applying for forbearance difficult so then I can have my limited wages garnished. I work with Low SES individuals and help them daily, but I still do not qualify for forgiveness. Something must be done. I did not get loans with the thought of not repaying them. I am more than willing. The issue is I must help my family survive and this is IMPOSSIBLE with how student loans are currently set-up for repayment. I appreciate your time. Please help us that truly want to take care of our debt appropriately.

College was suppose to make my life better ... Instead it has only made it harder
Misha, Kentucky

My student loans have put me in such a financial burden that I am constantly sick to my stomach and I feel like I'm going into depression. I can't buy a house; I have to rent at a discount just to be able to feed myself. This is not how my life was supposed to be, college was supposed to make my life better. Instead it has only made it harder. The worse one is the personal student loan I have, they won't do anything to help me. That payment itself is the equivalent of a house payment. I feel let down also by my financial advisors because I was not given the knowledge and advise when starting college.

I will probably NEVER pay off this loan, so I am screwed for the rest of my life for a degree I can't use
Philip, Kentucky

I graduated in 1992 with a B.F.A. I had plans to get an M.F.A., but paying for college had taxed my resources and I wanted to build up my finances before furthering my education. At the time, my student debt was about $8,000. I started to repay the loans when they came due. Unfortunately, I could not get a job using my degree, and was underpaid and underemployed for some time. As a result, I had occasional periods of late payments. Over the next few years, the original loan service Sallie Mae (to whom I had signed my promissory notes and owed my debt), decided that they were not making enough profit off my loan and sold it to a different service, increasing my interest rates and principle in the process. This happened at an increasing rate with several new services, each time enlarging my debt and making it harder and harder to pay off. In the subsequent years, I have never utilized the degree, and have had mediocre employment living on a tight paycheck to paycheck budget. I have had to make do with CHEAP used cars, a thrift store clothes budget, and making hard decisions at the grocers. Recently, in an effort to try to minimize my interest and principle and make my debt easier to pay off, I brought my loan to the Department of education, thinking that they would be fair and work with me in my 21 year effort to pay off the loan which had mushroomed to $28,000. This was a HUGE mistake. Instead of helping me, they made things MUCH worse. They increased my interest and principle, and then garnished my wages for even higher payments. Now I take home about 60% of my pay and barely pay my bills. I will NEVER own a new car, My tax returns are also garnished, so I never get ahead, I will probably NEVER pay off this loan, so I am screwed for the rest of my life for a degree I can't use. And I have become a financial burden on my significant other, I am depressed all the time, and have little hope for a better life,

I feel I am being punished for trying to do the right thing
Donna, Louisiana

I originally borrowed $81,000 for a Bachelor's and a Master's degree. I was a divorced mother of 2 with one disabled daughter and very limited family support. I was not receiving child support regularly so I could not depend on that. I worked as a secretary making $7 hourly. I decided that I could not live like that. I decided I owed it to myself and my children to pursue a better life. So against many obstacles, I earned a bachelor's and a master's degree. I was never really good in Math and did not particularly like science, so I pursued the most practical degree that I could within my limitations and interests. I had originally intended to pursue a law degree but when the time came I realized that law school and the practice of law would not be a good fit for me or my situation; therefore, I pursued a professional degree and am now a licensed professional counselor. I make fairly decent money 10 years into my career. However, getting to the point I am at now – I had to suffer with somewhat low paying and unstable jobs. And during this time, I had to put my student loans in deferment and forbearance. Because of this my student loan debt has gone from $81,000 to $121,000. In some ways my life is still the same, I still have a daughter who is disabled that I care for (an adult now) and still have very limited family support. I can however support myself and my daughter now at a decent standard of living. I have also inspired my children by bettering myself and taking them and myself out of a life of poverty. However, I regret the student loans that were necessary for me to get us to this point in life. I cannot sleep at night if I think about the student loan debt that I know I will outlive me. Thankfully, I never took any private funded student loans and thankfully I qualify for the IBR repayment plan, though at 15% cap (not the new 10% cap available now to new borrowers); payment at 15% cap is still a little stiff and I will have to face a huge tax bill on any forgiven amount 25 years from now. I am afraid I can never marry again if I want to because of my debt. I am afraid I will not be able to enjoy retirement ever. I did what I had to do to escape poverty and to not be dependent upon society in the form of food stamps and housing assistance. I feel I am being punished for trying to do the right thing for myself, my children, and for society.

Student loans changed everything about my life and the life of my child
Linda, Louisiana

I was married and had a baby at 17 years of age. I was the victim of domestic violence and had to leave my husband to save my life. I was a teenaged single mom with a High School education. I was written off as doomed to fail. With the help of student loans I got an undergraduate degree followed by a law degree. I paid off my student loan plus interest, paid for my daughter's 5 year college degree, paid off my home in an upscale neighborhood, and recently retired with virtually no debt. I am a model tax-paying citizen. Student loans changed everything about my life and the life of my child to our benefit and to the benefit of the society in which we live. I think the money loaned to me was a good investment.

But my credit has now been ruined along with my good financial history and dreams of a comfortable retirement
Lynda, Louisiana

I completed your survey but I am not the student. There was no opportunity to explain my situation. I'm hoping this will be read... I am a parent who co-signed on my son's student loans. Against my advice, he borrowed more money than I thought necessary. He was maintaining his home (and expenses) in Louisiana while attending school out of state. He graduated with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy but had extreme difficulty passing his licensing exam. He has never functioned well under stress and felt tremendous pressure to be employed and be able to start repaying his loans. During the two years it took for him to pass his license exam, we (his parents) spent an additional $20,000 (most of our savings) paying for forbearance, an intense refresher course, books, license, and state board exam fees. The pressure had such a devastating effect on our son. We paid over $2400 for psychological services. We were desperate for him to be able to obtain his license and be able to pay on his loans. During those two years, his loan balances increase tremendously (by almost 25%) as a result of interest. He is currently employed but struggling to make his loan payments. As a result, he fell behind for a short time. I have always guarded my credit rating. But my credit has now been ruined along with my good financial history and dreams of a comfortable retirement. I retired in 2008 and had carefully planned to have an "emergency" fund for unexpected expenses. That is now gone, along with my good credit rating. I could not even borrow $1500 for needed dental work. I did not benefit from a single penny of the loans, and yet my good name has been destroyed. I have been mercilessly dunned for this debt any time my son fails to make full monthly payments. I doubt that I am alone and feel sure other parents are in similar situations – for only wanting to help their child get an education. My son is very good at what he does but I don't see how he can possibly live long enough to pay off his student loans. And I certainly never expected to be in such a horrible situation at age 70!

Though the school loan payment is manageable, the impact of having such high student loan debt on a credit report is not
Diana, Maine

I owe for three college degrees, the most recent one for a PhD in counseling. As you might imagine, my student loan debt is high, over 200,000. I am in private practice as a psychotherapist and don't earn a fortune – though I didn't go into this profession for the money. I was fortunate enough to consolidate my loans under Obama's recent law that made it possible to take income into consideration when figuring loan payments. As a result, though my loan payment is manageable, the impact of having 200,000 in student loan debt on my credit report is not. I have always had stellar credit as has my husband. We are paying off our house and have about 11 years left, but even with that, we were unable to get a home improvement loan substantial enough to help us replace old, literally crumbling plumbing in our 160 year old house. My husband lost his job about 3 years ago and was unable to find a new one, so he retired early (which reduces his social security retirement payment by a lot). I am our only source of income. We are in our 50s and 60s and need to plan for selling this house in the next 10 years or so, as part of our retirement plan. However, even if we could sell it, having such high student loan debt on my credit report will prevent me from qualifying for a new home loan somewhere else. Lastly, our car is almost 10 years old, but I do not qualify for a car loan (used or new) because of my student loan debt. I drive over 50 miles round trip each day to work (we live in a rural area), and we simply have to hold our breath and pray that we will be able to repair any problems that arise with the car, for a very long time. In summary, though the school loan payment is manageable, the impact of having such high student loan debt on my credit report is not, and threatens our current as well as future financial stability, and overall well-being.

Mine is one of those 'good old days' stories
John, Maine

Being a retiree 77 years of age, mine is one of those "good old days" stories. The year I applied to college, my parents earned a total of $5,500. I went to a public high school in Baltimore, graduated in 1953, got my AB from Harvard in '57 and an MAT from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in '58. After teaching English in the Denver Public Schools for two years, I enrolled at the U. of Minnesota to earn an MA but ended up staying for a PhD, which I received in 1970. (By then I was teaching full time at Washington U. in St. Louis.) At every level of my education I worked and was aided by enough financial aid to pay my way without incurring any long-time debts. In fact, I graduated from each school debt-free. I believe this should be possible for any qualified student willing to work his/her way through College/graduate School.

It makes our financial situation tenuous.
Julia, Maine

My family did not have money for college. Even with scholarships and grants and work study plus under the table jobs I had to take out loans. I am married with kids in college. My husband is still paying off loans with no end in sight. It makes our financial situation tenuous.

They are simply not acknowledging the realities our young people are facing
Pamela, Maine

My story is the story of my children and me. They are both in their early twenties. They both graduated from college or university and each have $20,000 – $30,000 in student loan debt to repay. I have $60,000 plus to repay, accumulated from both children's tuition costs. I need to save all I can right now for my retirement. I am in my early 50's and see this debt hanging on to me for a long time. I qualified for Parent Plus loans while my children received UN-subsidized student loans. They could not even receive "subsidized" loans. My oldest child works full time but has to live at home because her salary is very low in a position of her chosen field. The other has been out of school for one year and worked at a non-permanent job, so far. He is living at home for now as well, and continues to work on certifications to better his income opportunities. This is a very tough situation for both of them. If they did not have us, they would be in deep financial trouble. And with talk of Congress raising the student loan interest rate, I shudder to think how much worse this will become for our younger generations. I am astonished the Republicans are dead set on raising this interest rate. They are simply not acknowledging the realities our young people are facing. This is just plain difficult.

I am so stressed about this as I have always tried to pay but had circumstances happen beyond my control
Sandra, Maine

After my children were gown I went back to school at age 45. I knew I had to learn to take care of myself after living with an alcoholic and pill addict. My passion was to be a counselor to help people no matter what their life problems may be. It took me over 5 years because I had to have a Master's degree. I took classes year round while trying to work part time. I ended up leaving my abusive marriage after 1year of classes so had only student loans to live on. I had to travel 60 miles one way to get to school and went two to three days a week for the entire 5 years. After graduating I left the area for two years finding a job in an impoverished area of Florida with very little pay. I was able to defer payment of my now $70,000 loans because my son was still in college. While still in Florida I was convinced to consolidate my loans at an 8% rate. I had to move back home to prevent my husband from selling our home that was purchased from my grandparents. I could not find a job in the area so decided to go into private practice taking one full year before making enough money to pay any bills. That was in 1998 and my student loan debt has grown and grown. Several times I have made payments for a time but would then not be able to do so. I have exhausted all deferments and forbearance options and have offered to pay an amount that was less than the required payment but it was not allowed – at this time my debt has risen to over $170,000 and I am 69 years old – I use my vehicle in my practice as I go to my clients homes so need a reliable mode of transportation. I have always had used cars not new ones for this. I am not able to have income based payments because I had one $3000 plus loan for my son. I am having health issues but feel that I cannot ever slow down as the last time I talked with my lender I was told that I had to find another job because I was not working 40 hours a week at my job. I currently work 20 hours a week which is all I can handle this time. I am so stressed about this as I have always tried to pay but had circumstances happen beyond my control to hamper my best intentions. My clients are comprised of Medicaid recipients with very few exceptions but because my home is located in a place tat is not impoverished I cannot get any relief in that area. It was always my desire to work with the less fortunate and I have made it my life work to do this – however, I am paying the price as I cannot afford my student loan payments – I cannot refinance them and I have no options left open to me at all. At my age its difficult – I have tried my best to serve my clients and feel that I have done so to the best of my ability – my clients' interests have always come first and will continue to do so – however, aim sinking under this debt that I have no way to pay off fully.

College was 'prepaid' by spending 4 years in the military during the Korean war so I had the GI Bill
Walter, Maine

I never had a student loan. College was "prepaid" by spending 4 years in the military during the Korean War so I had the GI bill, supplemented by working during vacations. I worked to pay for law school, going at night. It was never easy, but I graduated debt-free.

I was certainly better off as a grocery clerk, but I wanted to make a difference
Anne, Maryland

My story is atypical because I borrowed money to complete both undergraduate and post graduate degrees as a single mother in my late thirties and early forties. I now realize how foolish I was to borrow money for this purpose. I am now in approaching my mid-fifties with no hope of ever owning a home. I currently rent a tiny apartment that is the size of some people's living rooms. Additionally, I drive an eight year old car with broken AC and a broken driver's side window. All first world issues I know, but I work long hours as a teacher and stress over every penny I spend, as well as the ever growing demands placed on educators. It is a ridiculous way to live. I was certainly better off as a grocery clerk, but I wanted to make a difference as a teacher. When I worked for an hourly wage, I thought there had to be more. I had no idea what the true cost of that dream would be. It is a nightmare that keeps me awake at night, and keeps me from experiencing a full life. I am not able to support my adult children in their endeavors; heck I can't even invite them over for a meal because there is no room for them to sit! I can't travel, buy work clothes, afford to join a gym, or really even eat at a restaurant. I live more like someone who makes minimum wage than nearly $60,000 a year. I know that I made my choices, but I was not counseled about the facts of this loan nor was I able to visualize how much of my monthly income would be devoted to this debt. When I borrowed the money, the interest rate was 2%, but somehow, despite completing the paperwork purported to keep the rate at the lower one, interest on my loans jumped to 6.8%. I think this spike in interest in the largest factor contributing to the current problem. My biggest gripe with student loans, however, is that there is no counseling or assessment offered to borrowers. It is the only loan that I know of that does not require approval based on sane factors. I could not buy a car or house without approval based on income, credit history, and current debt to income ratio. On the other hand, I was able to borrow $75,000 when my credit was poor and my average income was less than $25,000 a year. Who in their right mind would lend me that kind of money? Only a lender who had no consequence for lending. This whole situation is completely absurd.

Every penny that I make is devoted to getting myself out of debt
Arnold, Maryland

This is a family story. My daughter took loans to go to grad school and then got fired, inappropriately and unexpectedly, from her job. This was in the Bush era, and when the economy went downhill there were no jobs for anyone although she was well educated and very qualified (after two years of unemployment, and VA refused to pay benefits, she did get an excellent job). She and her husband split up, he refused to leave her home or pay the mortgage. Meanwhile the phone never stopped ringing for the student loan payments and housing foreclosure people. So my wife and I paid what we could – thousands each month. Now all three of us are deeply in debt, mostly because of her failed marriage and legal costs, but certainly due to the student loan episode also. Every penny that I make is devoted to getting myself out of debt, and my wife is in the same boat. My car is 18 years old; I would like to replace it but for now I am grateful I have an 18-year-old car to drive that is paid off. I am 71 now and looking forward to my retirement years and travel. But the only travel I will do for several more years is commute to work.

I am having a very difficult time repaying
Cindy, Maryland

I had to take loans out to help my son get through college. I have somewhere around 58000 in loans, that I am having a very difficult time repaying. I have had them in forbearance many times, due changes in jobs (had to take a job with less pay), medical reasons, etc. I have been doing this since 2007.

They can write off the debt but I can't?
David, Maryland

I had to sign for a loan with state of New York and my interest rate is 8.5% The banks get the money lent to them at all most 0% yet we get gouged. They can write off the debt but I can't? Give me a lower rate if your going to make me live like a bum.

I want to get the degree but I am afraid that I'd simply owe more money and still not get a job
Faith, Maryland

I received a ma in education in 1995. I paid out of pocket for my BA, teaching credential, and my MA degrees. In 1995 tuition at Cal State Northridge, which is a public school was approximately $500 per quarter or semester. In 2010-2012 in an effort to obtain a MA in English so I could teach on the college level, I have accumulated a debt of $35000. And I still don't have a degree. That is a lot of money! Especially for a public school education when people are not working and not making a good salary if they are. I lost my house because I lost my main stream of earnings, which was as a real estate broker, when the economy crashed. That is why I was pursuing another degree but was not aware of what a shambles the higher education field was in because of the privatization of education. I've had to move cross country to move in with my daughter because with so much debt I can't afford to live alone on my retirement income alone. I want to get the degree but I am afraid that I'd simply owe more money and still not get a job. But I already owe more money than I can ever pay off and for nothing. I HAVE NOTHING TO SHOW FOR IT! I am in a tough situation possibly damned if I do and surely damned if I don't. I hang on to hope, as there is nothing left.

The cost has made me wonder if it was really worth all of the frustration and financial stress
Francine, Maryland

After working as a para-professional for twenty years and making less than $19,000 a year with 4 children I decided to go back to school. I had just become a single mother and found a degree job for $30,000. Once I received the job I realized that in order to keep this job I needed to get my degree. Over the next 15 years I accomplished my goal and earned a BA, degree in Human Growth & Development, a MS, degree in Special Education and a MS in Public Administration. Along the way I struggled financially because the money I received in grants did not cover all of the cost. I went to school in the evening and had child care costs. I had to student teach and needed to go to a part-time status on my job which led me to take out more loans to help pay my mortgage. When I finished my BA the bills started coming in and I tried deferring for awhile until I could catch up on my bills but I just could never catch up so I got back in school to defer payments. Graduate school came with a cost because there was no free loans only cash loans. Graduate school cost me over $40, 000 and by the time I finished school I was over $67,000 in debt in student loans. The the economy went downhill and my job put me on furlough. Now I had all of this debt and less income and the loans were due. Several loans have went into collection which has affected my credit rating and a few I have been able to defer. I thought getting a higher education would help me have a better quality of life. Instead I have been looking for work that will allow me to pay my debt but it has not happened yet and my student loan debt hangs over me. I feel defeated thought about getting back in school and get my Phd. but I am discouraged by what I have faced this far. It makes me understand why so many people do not go for a higher education it is like buying a home or some luxury car that is out of your reach. I thought getting a higher education was out of my reach but I went for it and did it but the cost has made me wonder if it was really worth all of the fustration and financial stress. Although, I feel a sense of accomplishment for finishing my education I also feel dispair that it really did not help me much but impact my quality of life.

I can only get $50 food for my son and I for these 2 weeks
Kimberly, Maryland

I am a single mom who worked full time while obtaining my bachelor's in business in 2006, & I am now one class away from obtaining my master's degree-which has to be paid for in cash & I cannot afford that). I thought by me getting a degree, a better job would be easier to get. I never had trouble getting a job, with a degree, I would get better paying ones...right? Wrong! The economy tanked & I have been stuck in my same job. I have acquired $124,000 in student loans. I can barely afford to keep a roof over my 12 year old's head & was struggling along, making ends meet & barely escaping eviction because of my financial situation – I am living paycheck to paycheck. The student loans were in forbearance, but that term expired & they started to come after me. 6 weeks ago, I received a notice from payroll that student loans were going to start garnishing my check $260 biweekly! My son & I would surely get evicted! I called Them in tears asking if that amount could please be reduced because my son & I would surely get thrown out...I sent them prior months eviction notice before the garnishment, so WITH that amount, I would not make it! They said they had been trying to reach me, but could never get me. But, I had no money to give them, along with my other creditors. I was just trying to survive. They said there was nothing they could do to stop the almost $600/month garnishment, unless I filled out a request for hearing & send my bills to them (collection agency) & they send it to the Dept. Of Education for review & consideration of possibly reducing the bi-weekly payments. That can take 6-8 weeks. Until then, I just paid my rent $150 short and will have to miss a few days of work because I cannot afford the gas or commute. I can only get $50 food for my son and I for these 2 weeks. I had to actually go to a food bank to get some free food to help us make it. I have always been good with stretching my pay, but having $267 per pay taken out, has really crippled me & my son's lives. I hope we don't end up in a homeless shelter & hope the Dept of Education will lower my payments. I know I have to pay the loans, but I am just hoping they can work with me so that I can still provide for my son. At least until I can get a better paying job, which has been very difficult in these times. I am just at my wits end, but will rob Peter to pay Paul because my son is depending on me. This has been a total nightmare & I cannot believe how cold & insensitive these people have been. I am now looking for part-time retail work. I thought this Degree would assist, but I now wish I had NEVER gone to school at all.

With each consolidation my loans became unsubsidized, and the inflation game was on
Adrienne, Massachusetts

Although, I am not a doctor, lawyer, or mad scientist. I have student loan debt that exceeds $100,000. How's it possible! Here's how. My subsidize $20,000 student loan was consolidated twice, and with each consolidation my loans became unsubsidized, and the inflation game was on. Now, to the tune $176,000. Sallie Mae, said it was me; we didn't unsubsidized your student loans, blame the other consolidating student loan broker!

I am in the hole for almost $200K and when my daughters are done with school
Carmen, Massachusetts

Yes, people call me Dr. on occasion and the title was earned. There were many long hours of reading, plenty of time doing research and struggled with loops the institution puts one through during the process. In March 2008, my dissertation committee called me Dr. and the moment was surreal. Since then, the denial of payments has been in the forefront of financial decisions. Two daughters are in college, mortgage & car payments, life's expenses, etc. What am I to do? When is the right time to stop taking the deferment or forbearance? I am in the hole for almost $200K and when my daughters are done with school, the debt will won't have more zeroes but it will definitely be more. All I can do is shake my head. The American Dream to be a college graduate, own your home and the picket fence can be achieved but the price attached is daunting. It seems there are detached promises.

After all, I just wanted to work and take care of my 3 kids
Catherine, Massachusetts

While married (I divorced in 1995) and mother to 3 I began studies for my BS degree in 1991, at 40 years of age. I wanted to begin studying and hoped to go on to obtain an MSW degree. I worked hard and did graduated in 1996 with a BS in Sociology from Suffolk University in Boston. I had $44,000.00 in student loans upon graduation; I felt that I would be able to pay off these loans over the next 10 to 15 years. After all, I just wanted to work and take care of my 3 kids. When I began working after graduation I was earning 22K working for The Boston Public Health Commission at Woods Mullen Homeless Shelter. I slowly realized that I would not be able to make any sizable dent in my student loan so in July 2000 I left public health and joined the forces of a large law firm. I remained there for 1.5 years until illness forced me to take leave so I could undergo treatment, (48 weeks), for Hepatitis C. I had benefit time to last 4 weeks, but after that time I wasn't earning any money. I did file for SS Disability and was eventually approved (1+yr after) and received about 10K in disability funds. However, by this time I was so behind in all my debts and also student loan payments. I did eventually return to work (2003), but at a very low paying job, so once again I was not able to keep up with the payments. Fast forward to 2013, and my balance is approx. $58,275.25, and I am nearing 62 years old. I'm looking at having my SS benefits garnished when I do decide to retire. Since 2005, I have been all my monthly payments, but my balance does not seem to reflect that. I'm really scared for what my life will be like when I retire, (which I'm in no hurry to do), and I must say I have less than $20,000.00 in my 401K. I appreciate being able to share my story with you. I'd love to speak more about this if the situation arises.

In 2008 I received my PhD ... While this was a proud moment, it came with a loan of over $160,000
Col, Massachusetts

In 2008 I received my PhD. While this was a proud moment, it came with a loan of over $160,000. While some may say I was foolish to take on such a loan, the institution I graduated from had continually assured me that I should be patient, and that I would find a job that would make having such a debt worthwhile. Indeed this justified their charging me an outrageous continuing fee while I was writing my dissertation. At the time I was not using their library or taking classes as I was living in another state. And, I was discouraged from taking a leave of absence – even while I was in the process of adopting my daughter and starting a young family. I have not been able to find a job in my field. The best I could find was an offer for a job paying 40K, which would require me to live away from my husband and daughter. It does not make sense to risk not moving my family when the chances of getting tenure seem so slim. After giving up on the job market, I have started my own business doing editing. I enjoy the work, but I barely make enough to pay back the nearly 1K/month fee for my loan. Every time I get a request for a donation from the institution I graduate from it feels like a combination of slap in the face and being laughed at. We would like to move to a town with a better school district so our daughter will receive the education she deserves and would value, but this is beyond our financial abilities. My husband and I need to do repairs on our condominium but have not been able to set aside money for this. I am unable to save for retirement. I believe in the humanities and higher education, but the cost for participating is unfair, to say the least.

Unable to pay bills so I am filing for bankruptcy
Eileen, Massachusetts

I have student loan debt exceeding $53,000. I am at retirement age. Unable to pay bills so I am filing for bankruptcy. I am filing for bankruptcy so I can attempt to make monthly payments. I am underemployed, once a teacher, now a paraprofessional due to budget cuts and teacher layoffs I am hard-pressed to make payments. Help!!

I will be paying off my Stafford Loans for the ten years after I graduate
Kathryn, Massachusetts

I am fortunate enough to have had my father pay for my undergraduate education, yet I am on my own for graduate school tuition. I will be paying off my Stafford Loans for the ten years after I graduate – while also likely struggling to establish my career in my fields of yoga instruction and dance/movement therapy. I am sure that this struggle will greatly influence my psycho-social well-being during that period. Therefore, for myself and others who will face similar challenges, I emphasize the importance of fair and effective legislation on this issue. Washington, we're all stepping up to the plate, now it's your turn to.

Soon I will find out the damage
Leslie, Massachusetts

I went into bankruptcy in 2007. The loan payment for school was never paid it was put on hold for payment. Now the 7 years are up and no conformation of the amount due, I had maybe less than 40k in loan. Soon I will find out the damage because I just got the finalization letter of bankruptcy. This will be a wake up call to the game of money.

The debt has been a yoke around my neck
Ronnie, Massachusetts

I graduated in 2000 with about $25,000 in college loan debt which I am still working to pay off. (Just about there.) The debt has been a yoke around my neck.

I do not make enough to pay any each month
Amanda, Michigan

I attended a community college the first two years of college to keep my debt lower. When I attended there was still such a thing as money granted for doing well on the MEAP testing. When I transferred to a four-year college I was able to live off-campus to save money instead of creating more debt to live in the dorms and be required to be on an outrageous meal plan. When applying for federal aid I was not granted enough money to pay for tuition. My senior year of High School my dad was laid off and my mom was a full time teacher. She was trying to help my brother (two-years older than me) and I through college. She had to work several other jobs as well as both my brother and I working to be able to afford tuition. Even though I was able to take measures to not rack up a lot of debt I still have over $20,000 in college loans. I obtained a degree in secondary education and the market for teaching is horrible and very little pay for beginning teachers. I pay my small private loan every month and currently am on an income based repayment plan, in which I do not make enough to pay any each month. Even when I worked 40 hours a week at $8.50 an hour as a front desk clerk I still was in the category to pay nothing back. This plan is convenient for me know, but I know it will not last forever. THE GOVERNMENT MAKES COLLEGE SO EXPENSIVE AND A NECESSITY TO GET A GOOD JOB THAT WE BECOME SLAVES TO THE SYSTEM IN ORDER TO REPAY OUR DEBT!

We have long since realized that the American dream will not exist for us
Bambi, Michigan

I owe just under $60,000.00 in student loan debt and I am not even done trying to acquire my Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Education. Since the cut off in federal aid is that amount I am paying the rest out of pocket. I do not have assistance from parents. My parents lost their house when the economy went into recession. I pay my own bills and live with my husband on our own. He also is paying on student loans and has not finished school. We are both terrified to try and get further loans of any kind because we owe so much already. This has made us postpone many life events, such as marriage, which we finally just did for under a grand because we couldn't afford more. We rent because we cannot buy a house with our debt and current low paying jobs. We have put off having kids because we don't want to be another strain on the welfare system. But, we are getting older, and we want kids so badly. We may have to look into what kind of assistance we can get if I do get pregnant. Its not how we wanted or intended this to happen, but what else are we to do. School is not cheap and we are not from wealthy families. Had we of had knowledge of what we where getting into when we started college things would be different. We were never made aware of available scholarships and grants and where not told how much aid money we could pull out or what our interest was until it was to late. We were just told to file a FAFSA and hand over the money to the school. The most I was ever told was that my payments would be $50 a month. Naively, I kept pulling out more aid money. I am not done with school. I am cut off from federal aid. I do not dare pull a private loan to finish school so I am stuck barely paying for one class a semester with eight classes left because I can't afford more when one with three credits when the class is a little over a grand with added fees and the added insult of textbooks that cost half that much. Five hundred dollar text books I could try to sell back if they didn't require a new edition every semester. My parents are getting older and I am terrified that we will have to help take care of them when we can barely take care of ourselves. I already help my parents out once and a while financially with prescriptions they must buy. My dad has now had two hip surgeries, one to fix a botched one and now can no longer work. My mother is legally blind. I simply feel like I am on a sinking ship with a giant rain cloud over my head that is fastening my decent. I was a kid when I started taking out these loans and I was straight out mislead on how to handle them and what my options really were. I am smarter now but I cannot go back in time and fix my mistakes. All I can do is pay for them now. I just never expected the cost to be so high. This is not just my story. Almost eighty present of the students I know are in that same sinking boat I mentioned. We are a whole generation drowning. We don't want to be burdens on the future. We don't want make the decision of food on the table or paying the student loan bill or having a beautiful baby snuggled in your arms or forgoing the opportunity of parenthood so we can pay our student loan bills. And, don't get me wrong, I know I made an agreement to pay my loans back and I would like to, but how? Interest rates double and anything paid means nothing. I can't afford to keep up on my medical bills because I am trying to pay for school. My actual health is suffering all so I can get through school. All I am hoping for is for the government, lending agencies and schools to realize we are more then a wallet. I and many other fellow students where never educated about and were straight out lied to about what to expect and what they were really getting into. All we ask is for a fair shake. We just want to live. We have long since realized that the American dream will not exist for us. It would be nice if they stopped adding insult to injury by raising interest rates. It would be to much to ask for loan forgiveness, I know. But how about a little compassion for kids who where just trying to better themselves and have found themselves practically starving and almost homeless trying to pay on our debts.

I have been unable to find employment despite three years of constant attempts to find work
Christine, Michigan

I lost my job in Jan. 2009. I subsequently had to file bankruptcy and lost my home of 24 years to foreclosure. At that time I owed $56,000 in student loan debt, partly my own and partly parent loans for my son's education. I have been unable to find employment despite three years of constant attempts to find work in or out of my field (architecture). Last year when I turned 65, I decided to consider myself retired. In 2012 I won a raffle through Sallie Mae and they forgave $23,000 of my loan debt. The IRS treats this as income and as a result I had to cash in the last little retirement account I had to pay the tax bill. Currently I live in low-income HUD senior housing. I am in an income based repayment program on my student loans and my required payment is $0 because my income is so low. However, the interest rate is 8.5% on my loans and the balance keeps rising. The current balance is $37,000 and after 25 years the debt will be forgiven, but then, at the age of 90, I will owe a huge tax bill on the ballooned student loan balance.

Instead, the prime years of my adult life were spent struggling to pay off student loan debt
Dr, Michigan

I thought a Ph.D. would provide a comfortable lifestyle with a savings for retirement, my own home, a new car and pay for my child's education. Instead, the prime years of my adult life were spent struggling to pay off student loan debt. Since graduating 24 years ago I lived from paycheck to paycheck. Now I'm going into my retirement years without a savings or a home. In reflection, earning a Ph.D. was not worth the time or money.

I am terrified of what my loan debt will be when I graduate
Jenna, Michigan

I just started my 3rd year of graduate school, and frankly, I am terrified of what my loan debt will be when I graduate. A friend did the math and she said if we were to graduate right now our payment would be $800 a month! In some states, that is more than a house payment! I'm scared to see what my payment is going to be when I do graduate!

It sure as hell would be nice to have had a clean slate when I graduated from college
Jess, Michigan

When I first started college in 2002, I was battling anxiety, depression, and panic attacks and ultimately ended up suffering from bulimia nervosa for three years. I was a full-time student and a yoga instructor part-time. I accumulated over $100,000 in federal and private student loan debt over the years, mainly due to the fact that I was barely surviving and not fully understanding the severity of my student loan debt. It wasn't until after I graduated in 2009, as a single mother to a newborn boy, that I began to understand just how difficult my life was going to be after college. My son and I live in subsidized housing because I cannot even afford to rent an apartment, because of my entire student loan payments. We also rely on food assistance from the DHS to keep us alive. All of my income goes to paying my living expenses (which are government subsidized) and my student loan bills. Fortunately, my father is helping me pay my loans because I am also a part-time graduate student and cannot afford to work outside of the home. I work from home and home-school my son, who is now 4 years old. I started my own business in 2012, selling yoga videos and writing instructional yoga books. I am pursuing my Master's in kinesiology, first of all to add to my credentials as a yoga instructor, but mostly, to keep a majority of my student loans in deferment. My son and I are fortunate enough to qualify to build a house with Habitat for Humanity, so, we will either begin building with them this summer or net. We just signed a contract with them and are very excited about this unique opportunity to give my family some autonomy and freedom from government control. It sure as hell would be nice to have had a clean slate when I graduated from college, though, so I could afford to purchase my own home and actually contribute financially to the growth of my local economy. With my student loan debt, that will never happen. I just pray that my son never has to help me pay off these loans after I die.

No matter how hard I try, I can't get ahead
Judith, Michigan

My loan debt has caused me tremendous mental, emotional & financial hardship. I'm in a manic depressive state caused by this debt. I am a widow, living on a fixed income provided by SSD. I am Bipolar & struggle with back problems from a car accident. I'm not always aware of things I do, where I am, decisions I make, etc. I loose time and sometimes find myself somewhere that I don't even know how I got there. I am fighting to keep my house right now & am even considering filing for bankruptcy. I feel like I'm fighting a loosing battle. I'm ashamed to say this, but I don't even remember applying for the loan. It was right after my husband of 32 years died from brain cancer. I have no recollection of almost anything for over 5 years after he died. No matter how hard I try, I can't get ahead. I was counting on my measly $500.00 tax return from the state of Michigan to help me with some medical bills. I just found out it is being garnished to go towards my student loan. I have been hospitalized for being suicidal in the past. This has not helped with the shit that's happened been in my life. I'd like to see what they could get out of me if I wasn't around any more? That would be a big Fuck You from me to them!

I can't even begin to consider paying my student loans making the wages I do right now
Justin, Michigan

I am 32 years old, have 2 associates degrees and $60,000 in student loan debt. I work full time as an RN and declared bankruptcy in 2009; and I am still drowning financially. One quarter of my pay goes to child support, and half goes to rent. I have never owned a home or a new car. I can't even begin to consider paying my student loans making the wages I do right now, and I am considering moving in with a parent 2000 miles away in order to start paying on my loans.

If it isn't Sallie Mae on my answering machine 5 times a day, it is someone else who didn't get paid
Kathy, Michigan

My daughter got her degree with the help of government student loans in the hopes of a career as an architect. After her sophomore year, the economy turned and the job market to architects dried up, so she changed to a different major and prolonged her college education. I signed for half, she signed for half. There are 60,000 in student loans that accrued, totalling $575 a month. She is not able to find work in her field and makes about $13,000 a year, so I am paying the loans. She can't afford a car or rent, so can't live on her own and we share rides to work. I have ruined my credit trying to pay my bills and these loans, if it isn't Sallie Mae on my answering machine 5 times a day; it is someone else who didn't get paid because SM is up to date. My property taxes are a year late, and I keep thinking about what I could do with ~$600 more a month. I went to college; paid my student loans, make a good living. I felt there is no better investment to make with my money than on my only daughter's future. I feel so defeated.

I was informed that I could not keep my job if I didn‰'t also have a master‰'s degree
Larry, Michigan

When I was 26 year old in 1979, I finished paying off my undergraduate school student loan. I'm telling you this so you don't think I'm some kind of irresponsible freeloader. Every job I held, after undergrad, required no more than the bachelor's degree I had earned, between 1971-75. During the late '90s, educational requirements were changing for the licensed social worker, mostly due to insurance company, third-party payer and state accrediting agency "increased standards." Increased standards required further education, in my case, a master's degree. Not holding a master's degree would not only exclude me from promotion, but, also, it would bar me from applying for a better job. The deciding motivation to return to school to earn a graduate degree came when I was informed that I could not keep my job, if I didn't also have a master's degree. I HAD NO CHOICE: I was forced to go to graduate school or lose my job or step down to a lower-paying job that would not provide for my dependents and me (I was caregiver to my elderly parents, at that time). Therefore, in 2002, at 52 years old, I began my graduate school education, part time, while continuing to work full time. At first, I tried to pay for school out of my paychecks, without borrowing any money, because I did not want to create a debt. But, school costs were so high that I discovered my job's earnings weren't enough to 'pay-as-you-go,' nor were employers willing to wait around, indefinitely, for me to more slowly acquire the MSW they said I needed to continue working in my field. I HAD NO CHOICE: I had to borrow money to complete my graduate studies. Six months after graduation, when loan payments became due, I began requesting and was granted forbearances to the maximum number allowed. Also, my MSW, while it was required of me, failed to provide me with the higher salary I had expected because that's what I was told I could expect. Consequently, I couldn't afford to make payments on my student loan with Sallie Mae. Then, their collections people, Michigan Guarantee Agency, began threatening me with garnishment of wages. I HAD NO CHOICE. I decided to pay what I could afford: $25.00 per month. And, that's what I've been paying them, every month, for the past few years. My credit standing is crippled by the delinquency of loan repayment reported by Sallie Mae, and I have a $70,000 student loan hanging over my head for the rest of my life.

I did see the results of the GI bill that was enacted after WWII
Mary, Michigan

I do not have a personal story to tell about my own student loan as I never tried to get one. I did see the results of the GI bill that was enacted after WWII. It educated the returning soldiers and many of them went on to become the leaders of our country after they graduated. The investment in their education paid dividends many times over the cost. I think it could be even more beneficial if applied to our current generation.

It feels like we were pitched and promised high-speed Internet, yet really only received a telegraph with morose code
Michael, Michigan

Well between my wife and myself we are 80+k in debt with student loans that can't even produce jobs in our chosen fields. It seems that the propaganda that is the educational system, should give loan refunds for a market and system that can't back what it sells. It feels like we were pitched and promised high-speed Internet, yet really only received a telegraph with morose code.

I will never be able to pay back my student loans during my lifetime
Sarah, Michigan

My story begins in 1980 when I entered the University of Michigan as a freshman. I put myself through college, on loans and working full time. It took me two years to declare myself financially independent as my parents were billed for part of my educational expenses but did not pay them. I received grants during that time but had to come up with the parental portion of my tuition myself. When I finally was independent, I only received loans from there on. I graduated with my BA, worked a low paying job for several years and then went on to grad school for my MSW, hoping to gain access to a better paying career. I of course accrued more loans in the process. Marriage came soon after and I worked 3 jobs supporting us as my husband finished his PhD. I raised 2 children after moving across the country to a place where my MSW and training were dead in the water (adult psychotherapist in Salt Lake City...no one went to therapy there) and had to change careers in the midst of a divorce – more debt for nursing school. Throughout all of this, there were years where loan payments were put on hold due to lack of income, raising kids on one income, etc. Now, I have over 300,000 in loans accrued – much of it from interest. I am 51 years old and each year my loans gain another 10,000 in interest. I will never be able to pay back my student loans during my lifetime.

Unfortunately, the thing that I saw as the way to all this has actually ended up being the greatest hindrance on my life
Heather, Minnesota

I grew up in a house where my brother and I were told we could do anything, that there was no limit to what we could achieve, that we should let nothing get in our way. Unfortunately, the thing that I saw as the way to all this has actually ended up being the greatest hindrance on my life. I went to a private college in Minnesota and graduated with a total of $50,000 in student loan debt. With my shiny new degree I went to meet the world head on, but with few jobs in general and even fewer in my chosen of field in teaching, I find myself, going to a job each day not because it makes me happy, but because I have to pay for that 'golden ticket' to happiness, which has ultimately caused me to close the door on my dreams and aspirations...for now anyway, because I remember that my brother and I did grow up in that house where we were told we could do anything, that there was no limit to what we could achieve, that we should let nothing get in our way.

My only debt is my student loans
Jillian, Minnesota

I am just finishing up Grad school in Education. I am a Nanny, and I make pretty good money, but I pay more than $1200 a month on student loans and should be paying about $1700 a month. I went to ASU for my undergrad and graduated in May 2007. After college my student loan debt from ASU was $180,000. After college I had my first job and got laid off 6 months later. Since then I have been a Nanny. I decided to go back to school to get my teaching license and my Master's in Education. My student loan debt is at $210,000. Which is crazy! I have mostly private loans from ASU, which totally suck and they are awful companies. For Grad school I only have Fed loans. I am in the IBR program for the Fed loans. It is very stressful. My parents were suppose to pay for half of my undergrad. When I graduated they were going through a divorce and three years ago my Mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. I am still renting a townhouse with my boyfriend, but there is no way I could buy a house with my debt to income. My only debt is my student loans. I feel like I can't enjoy life such as travel, shop or thinking about a wedding or babies because of my student loan debt.

I now fear that I may never earn enough to pay my student debt in my lifetime
Julia, Minnesota

As a single mother, I was working as an entrepreneur to pay off over $20,000 in student debt. As my business income would vary, I would have to take deferments for periods of time, and then try to catch up when my income was better. With the economic collapse of 2008, I was no longer able to sustain my business and closed it in the spring of 2009. I decided to return to get my Master's in occupational therapy, and was only accepted to a program out of state. Following my 2 year program, I am now $140,000 in debt, and finding that my entry-level positions will pay only $60,000 per year. I have a daughter entering college, who luckily received pell grants and scholarship money for music. When the pell grants end next year when I become employed, I am not sure how I will finance her education. I am finishing my final internship and looking for work, finding that I will have to move again to find a permanent position. I am currently in Minnesota, where the entry level positions are casual, part-time, or on call – which will not pay for my family or my loan payments. I have sacrificed to complete this degree in order to be employable, but I now fear that I may never earn enough to pay my student debt in my lifetime. I also need to buy a car and hopefully in my future a house. I don't truly know how this will ever work out for myself or my family.

More debt added to more debt
Kimberly, Minnesota

Returned to a community college this year, and I have already accrued over $4000 in debt for only 2 classes! I am seeking a 16 credit course/certificate for Communications Studies. Then I am transferring to 4 year college to complete my Bachelor's. More debt added to more debt. Doubtful if I will employment in this field, out of work for 11/2 years as of 2011. I have never owned a home or purchased a new car – at my age of 53 years old, with more debt probably never will. The Sequester /Federal cuts have reduced my unemployment benefits by 89%!!!

At my age, going for a degree seems redundant
Lynette, Minnesota

I have been a commercial artist since 1968. When I was 50, ten years ago, I realized in order to remain competitive, I needed to go back to school to learn computers. Now, 10 years later, I have a web certificate, and seeming no chance of a job in spite of my 4.0 GPA. I still have a $14,000 loan that takes all of my freelance income. At my age, going for a degree seems redundant. I don't have a car or bike and my house is falling down around me. That is where my income would go if I didn't have a loan to pay for.

And I'm still not using my degree
Mary, Minnesota

I was a stay at home Mom for 20 years. To try to make up for the "Lack of work experience," I went to college. Because of my location and situation I chose to do online courses. I majored in Computer and Network technology, and after graduation I was unable to obtain a position that used my degree. In the mean time I had loans totaling $30-35,000. Four years ago we lost our home, three years ago my spouse of 30 years decided to walk out and I was laid off (again). I finally found a job for less then what I made before, less hours and no benefits, and still not using my degree. Thinking maybe it was to broad a subject title I have chosen to go back again to school for a business management degree. Thus far I have increased my student loans by another $10,000. My loans have been in deferment since I graduated the first time in 2007 and accruing interest. I will never be able to afford a new car and will have to rent for the rest of my life.

Some 35-plus years later some collection agency has come after me for this loan
Phil, Minnesota

I got a GI lone back in 1973 I think it was for about 1900.00 and because we were so poor at that time with 5 in family that the lone was forgiven and told that there would be no payback so after I got through school got job and went on with my life we never heard from anyone because it was wrote off as far as we new so we never heart about it again was never on any of my credit reports never showed up at all even got GI lone for house later and other credit for things and now some 35+years later some collection agency has come after me for this loan and they say I owe 9000.00 now with interest and now I am on SS and do not have enough to hardly live on but they do not care I am trying to get out of this now and they are trying to make it hard as they can is that fair you think about this

When I was young and naive, I clearly didn't realize how crippling it would be for my future hopes
Shawna, Minnesota

I have about $65,000 in student loan debt. I expect to be paying this off for several more years (I'm 34 now). Unfortunately, I have no one I can blame for my student loan debt but myself, but when I was young and naive and 17, I clearly didn't realize how crippling it would be for my future hopes. I went to private school because it was a Christian school, and at the time religion was a big part of my life, but I now regret that decision because of the debt load I took on to go there. I have been fortunate to be well enough employed as to maintain a decent lifestyle, but I do have rather poor credit, have always driven cheap ''beater'' cars, often worried/stressed over money, and feel a bit of despair at the prospect of having this debt for life. It has definitely prevented me from living the life that I want, traveling, having a decent amount of savings, giving to charities, furthering my education, investing, etc., although I'm better off than others who live in true poverty, or can't afford school at all, or who are finishing school with very little employment prospects after paying the current exorbitant rates for tuition. Other countries have somehow kept these costs manageable. Can the U.S. try to learn how to rein in student loan debt? I'm not optimistic about the future of the U.S.

Looking back my contributions could have been much greater if the rewards for higher education were more practical
Tamara, Minnesota

My story is simple and yet somehow very complicated. After I graduated college with a BA in social work I was unable to find a career or even a job where I could earn a modest yet respectable living, instead I found jobs that paid enough to pay the daycare lady. "In order to make more money, a livable wage, I would need a higher education." So at 45 I am starting all over, no retirement, dependent on social support services; health insurance and food supplements. I was told that the people that make in this world are the people that go to school and work hard. I have done and continue to do both. I do not see that as being true. I went back to school to get my Master's degree hoping to find employment in my field. I now have over $100,000.00 in school loan debt. Six months after graduation my school loan payments will become due and are expected to be about 800.00+ a month. I highly doubt as a 45 year old, recent graduate that I will be earning enough money to pay my rent, bills, food, childcare, groceries, and health insurance AND be able to make my school loan payment. I am a person that understands how social services work, both from a social worker/ social services perspective and as a recipient. I understand why people in need get stuck and I desperately see a need for change. Looking back my contributions could have been much greater if the rewards for higher education were more practical. I would have had the job with insurance, saved for retirement, contributed to social security, and taxes, helped others find their way. Instead, I became a super smart client, a dependent of my state's services. While I am grateful the supports were there, what I went through, what every person goes through to receive said services is depressing and crazy making – for starters. It has become obvious to me why people get stuck. I am not sure what will become of my family and me once I am finished with school. The debt is overwhelming! The last thing I want is to remain a recipient of a welfare system because of Higher Education DEBT!!!!

I just can't believe that I still owe $14,000 when I have been making payments
Terrie, Minnesota

I borrowed totalling $5000 federal guaranteed student loans from between the late 1970s until 1982. I just can't believe that I still owe $14,000 when I have been making payments. Some years I did ask for a deferment because I couldn't afford to make the $93.00 payment monthly. $5000 to $14,000 (was more) 30 plus years later and I'm still paying. I am old now!

The system was set up to exploit people like me
Tanya, Mississippi

I graduated with an undergraduate B.A. in elementary education and went straight on into a Master's program for education finally graduating in 1999 with an M.Ed. and $53,000 total student loan debt. I moved to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi immediately upon graduation to help with my terminally ill father and found the first teaching job I could. It only paid $23,000.00 a year. I was a single mother with ailing elderly parents trying to live on this amount of money. There was nothing left over each month to make a student loan payment, so I began the great downward spiral known as deferment and forbearance. As I was unable to pay my interest on these loans, the interest began to be dumped back into principal on a quarterly basis. This was something I did not understand when I took out the loans. This was something the ramifications of which I could not fully grasp, but it began the "end" of me financially. To make a long story short, my loan began to grow exponentially. My salary did not grow proportionally. The cost of living also increased and my salary did not grow proportionally. I was never really able to reach a point where I could afford to make a monthly payment. After 10 years of using the forbearance/deferment provisions that Sallie Mae ENCOURAGED me to use in order to keep my loans out of default, I then owed 179,000.00 because of compounding interest into principal. So here I am almost 15 years post graduation. I owe 200,000 on my student loans. I have held a job consistently all that time working in a system that underpays me and blames me for all the ills of society. The little $10,000 "loan forgiveness" the government is offering teachers in title I schools is but a mere drop in the bucket to my mountain of debt. I am currently in chapter 13 bankruptcy. I still get no ultimate relief from the student loan debt from this measure, but I do get 5 years on a bankruptcy plan where my trustee pays the Student Loan folks a pittance and they leave me alone. When the bankruptcy is over, I will go into Income Based Repayment, but even at that, I will have to pay $700 a month on a debt that will not be forgiven for 25 years. I will be 80 years old at that point. I am ruined financially. Before the bankruptcy, I could not get a car loan, a home loan, or a credit card at a decent interest rate because of my extremely high debt-to-income ratio due to the loans, The fact that I had these student loans forced me to have to pay MORE money for the basics of life, like my mortgage and transportation. If the student loans weren't enough to bankrupt me (which they were) the other increased debt I had to assume simply due to the fact that I DID have so much student loan debt WAS the tipping point in bankrupting me. The system was set up to exploit people like me. The student loan folks don't make their billions of the little "low interest" student loans they offered. They make their millions off of the folks like me who took on debts they could barely afford to pay by offering these folks a "system" by which to avoid default by dumping that interest into principal each quarter. I now owe almost 300% more than I borrowed. What a profit ratio for the bank!!! What a racket on the American public.

Now, when I decide to retire, I'll be collecting social security and paying it right back to the government
Bonita, Missouri

I'm too old to be paying these enormous sums for deciding to go back to school and fulfill a dream I put off for over 20 years. It took a long time to get a Ph.D. on my own with only childcare funds coming to me while I worked for it. I did it while raising a daughter. Now, when I decide to retire, I'll be collecting social security and paying it right back to the government in student loan payments. I've taught only in land-grant, government backed universities and helped a lot of students with my experience and expertise. I think these loans should be called closed after a long time of taking huge chunks out of a paycheck that's not that big to begin with. It also makes me crazy to think that these loans are sold to super wealthy business/industry conglomerates. Are not "we" supposed to be the Government in a democracy? At the risk of sounding maudlin, the rich get richer and the striving keep striving.

I am unemployed and have used up my savings to stay afloat
Don, Missouri

Even when I was in school I paid on my student loan. Even if it was only a little amount. I wanted to get my doctorate in education, but had to give up because I owed too much in student loan for my BS and MBA. I struggle each month to make my payments and still pay for some living expenses. I am unemployed and have used up my savings to stay afloat, but approximately $1000.00 a month in student loans is choking me and I do not know what to do next.

We just want to feel an ease in our debt so we can provide better for our family
Erin, Missouri

I was a single mother of three not receiving child support. I decided to go back to school and although I was awarded the pell grant every semester, I had to support myself and kids while I was in school also. I did this to try to better my situation and take care of my children better. When I graduated school of Cosmetology I realized making money in this industry was not as easy as I thought it would be, still struggling financially I took a job outside the industry. My student loan debt is 35000.00. I met my husband who's ex wife had no credit when they were married and he got everything in his name. They filed for divorce, and when it was final they agreed he would keep all items since he had all debt. Divorce was final, he was at work and she cleaned out the entire house and took the car and moved to LA. He couldn't find her and with nothing to sell to pay off debt he had to file Bankruptcy. His debt is 78,000.00. We married, and his debt was not discharged in bankruptcy. So we had to start paying on our loans. They total about 600+ a month. Plus we have car payments, 4 kids now, he pays 800.00 a month in child support and we rent. It is hard for us to get ahead. We started the Dave Ramsey plan to eliminate our debt, but with over 100k in student loan debt it feels never ending. We can't save for a house and we feel under this debt indefinitely. My husband does not use his Master's degree because he makes more money outside of the degree he was awarded. We just want to feel an ease in our debt so we can provide better for our family. Soon my first child will go to college while I'll probably still be paying on mine.

I do want to pay them back ... I don't need a 'get out of jail free' card
Jessy, Missouri

I live under a constant cloud of worry due to my astonishing student loan debt. I went into debt with both my family and myself knowing nothing about the borrowing process or how to avoid being taken advantage of. The school told me I had to go through loan entrance counseling, which I did. However, it did very little to elucidate the true consequences of borrowing, the differences between private and federal loans, and the steps I would need to take after I graduated and had to begin paying the loans back. Yet my parents couldn't afford to send me to college, I was suffering from several medical conditions and could not work (I had a hard enough time keeping up with my course load in this regard), and all I kept hearing was that if I didn't go to college, I had no future. So I took the loans. I *begged* for the loans. Anything to get me through university. Now I've got over $100,000 worth of debt, a degree I can't find a job for, a job that doesn't pay me enough to push me over the poverty line, and a line of private lenders who will do only the bare minimum (if that) to help me pay back my loans. And I do want to pay them back. I don't need a 'get out of jail fee' card. I just want a payment plan that is manageable, that isn't making me live paycheck to paycheck, lose sleep, and borrow money from my parents (who really can't afford to lend it, as they will be entering retirement soon and need every bit of income they earn) who are driving themselves nuts right along with me trying to keep my head above water. I have to justify every dollar that I spend. I am 24 years old, and I can't see a future for myself anymore.

It is rough to pay every month
Lindsley, Missouri

I have over 70,000 in student loans between my husband and I. I come from low income family my mother was a teacher's aid and my dad did odd jobs. In my community there where not many jobs and my parents have a high school diploma raising three kids. My mother always preached the importance of education. So I graduated and received scholarship to play basketball at small community college. As much as I loved the game, I finished one year and struggle with do both. Still unsure what I wanted to do I went one more semester and quiet and did what I enjoy and went to cosmotology school graduated and work for seven years longing to get education. Now married with a son and struggle with both rent and just trying to make it and not ending up like my parents. Married now with a son and both self employed no insurance. I am my parents so I talk my husband into go back to school and we both finish and have went back and got our Master's so I fill very blessed for our education and I broke the cycle along with my husband twin brother and old sister we all have college education insurance and monthly student loan payment. It is rough to pay every month but I have broke the cycle and I feel my children will have it better then me and hopeful will not have student loans because I'm more educated and have educated him as my mother did on get education and studying so college won't be so hard for them. I've made education important and they also see and hear me talking about money student loans and how I can't do everything cause I have loans that have made my life better but also limit me and create lot of stress. Finally you don't get to pick and choice where you come from you just do the best you can. I can't help or fix the way my parents raised me or what they choose to do. All I can do is improve my life and my family's life.

I will be dead before it's paid off and no one cares
Marie, Missouri

My story started with going to a for-profit college and not knowing what that meant. I went to what was called allied college now called anthem all under what use to be called high tech institute now called anthem education group. They are changing the name to stay ahead of all the pending lawsuits due to fraud they commit the classes and the degrees mean nothing to anyone anywhere on this planet. I wasted so much of my time and now I owe over $60,000 to this place. They tell you the classes transfer and I find they don't even transfer within the school that makes me want to scream. My wages are garnished plus a pay a lawyer for another private loan that I was told I took out. The worst part is last month this law firm sent out a mass mailing to find hidden accounts I might have. What happened next was horrible and most don't know this is now become common practice. After the mailings go out to all financial institutions and they have located an account they take the money and now mind you this one account was not in my name but in my uncles name he had for me. It was a cd he had gotten for me in 1980 because it didn't not have pod which stands for pay upon death they were able to take, now I pay them $50 a month and another $350 from my wages. I will be dead before it's paid off and no one cares. I've thought about suicide several times just to get out from under it and get away from the embarrassment of knowing I went to this school its like being raped and have to replay the nightmare over an over in my head. I will never have my own home I'm over 40 years old and living with my mother. So if there is anyway to stop these schools I would like to know because I can't get my own state rep or anyone here in MO to help. This is consumer fraud in the highest. Thanks for reading this

My business failed ... My health failed ... Then for years I was underemployed
Michael, Missouri

I originally borrowed $50,000 to attend two professional graduate seminaries, one in Missouri and one In Oklahoma. I chose to attend graduate school because it was, in my opinion, the best pathway to success in the church as a professional minister/pastor. I was wrongly accused by my cousin and the church for child molestation and sexual abuse of my cousin. I could not prove my innocence and lost my ability to pastor and to make money, which caused me to default on my student loans and go through bankruptcy. I also went through a divorce that cost me over $100,000 in lost pension funds and paying off my wife's and family debt. My business failed. My health failed. Then for years I was underemployed and could not afford the exorbitant amount of monthly payments demanded for my student loans. Now, what started out as $50,000 in consolidated debt is over $400,000 and counting! Help! I'm drowning!

Obtaining a higher education has become a new form of indentured servitude
Cory, Montana

My story begins during my undergraduate years when I took out some small loans in order to fund my education. During subsequent years I had obtained a brief forbearance in order to suspend my payments. Later, I again took out loans to fund my graduate education. Following the completion of my training I was unable to find employment for some time so I again obtained forbearance. At that point I had failed to realize that only my initial forbearance was granted without interest accrual, additional periods would not be free of interest. I then realized what a problem this would be as my student loans ballooned far beyond the original loan amount. Later, although I had obtained employment some illness limited my ability to engage in work full time. When I began repaying my loans the capitalization of interest was actually outpacing my monthly payments so my loans continued to balloon far beyond their original amounts. At that time interest rates had dropped significantly so I contacted the Federal Direct Loans agency, with whom I had consolidated all of my loans, to determine if I could renegotiate my interest rate. That is when I discovered a second major hurdle to repaying my loans, the fact that once consolidated interest rates were not negotiable. I took it upon myself to accelerate payments in order to reduce my principal to the point where interest would not be accruing at a greater rate than my payments. Despite several years of repayment, at this point my loans are still near the amount I had originally borrowed. The fact that I've not made significant progress despite all my payments is disheartening to say the least. I'm not typically one to carry regrets but one clear regret at this point in my life is funding my education through student loans. If I had to do it over again I wouldn't. The benefits that those loans have offered have not been worth the disputable financial gains of a professional degree, and certainly are not worth the stress that my ongoing financial burden will cause me well into my retirement years. The large monthly burden of those loans significantly impairs my ability to save funds for my children's education. They have also indefinitely postponed my ability to save for retirement. Obtaining a higher education has traditionally been viewed as a route to improved financial security. I do not believe that this is the case any longer. Instead, it has become a new form of indentured servitude – service to the aspirations of our parents that their children have more financial security than they did, service to our own dreams for life long satisfying careers, and service to organizations that are reaping huge dividends from obligations formed during times of financial vulnerability. Obtaining higher education should be about the fulfillment of dreams. Instead, it has become a nightmare about trailing crippling debt and burdensome regret for the rest of our lives.

The idea of living on the street here in Montana is suicide
Diane, Montana

I graduated from law school in 1998 with a $60,000 student loan – I specialized in domestic violence & family law – for people with little or no income – after practicing for 10 years – 100 hour weeks & little sleep & little money – I lost my home & had a nervous breakdown – then tried to find a job outside of the legal profession – but the recession had eaten up even minimum wage jobs – Now with interest & penalties my student loan is – $166, 762.28 – NCO Financial Systems Inc. is trying to attach the little wages I have – $131.32 a week gross – I have no assets to speak of & no savings & live in a low-income studio apartment with my two dogs – the idea of living on the street here in Montana is suicide – others with unpaid student loans are struggling with families to get by – what else can I do to help get this bill passed?

Our economy depends on education
Richard, Montana

I paid off my student loans in less than ten years. I am an 'old guy'. But my children are selecting colleges based on finances more than on learning opportunities. Many schools have priced themselves out of the market. And I believe we are Upper Middle Class family. We put money aside in 529's for most of our children's lives and have enough to send them to an in state Public institution. This is ridiculous. Our economy depends on education. Yet we do not pay for it, at any level, like the best of our competitors pay. If we want to be No. 1 we are going to have to tax and spend like No. 1.

Most of the time, I had to work 2 jobs just to pay the bills and still could not make a living
Tina, Montana

I could never afford to pay my bills, student loans and take care of my child. I never went on section 8 housing, and tried to keep a position that had benefits to provide health care also for my daughter and me. I never defaulted on the loans. Most of the time, I had to work 2 jobs just to pay the bills and still could not make a living. I have never had a new car – they have always been at least 10 years old. I am now 54 years old and have remarried 10 years ago. We bought our house and I was just starting to pay on my student loans (which are now 65,000) I was just laid off my 9 year job May 3, 2013. So much for paying on the loans, I am not sure how we are going to make the house payment now. It will be harder for me to find a position at my age and I really do not believe I will ever be able to pay on the loans. I was never able to obtain a position in the fields I chose for a career and feel I was screwed by the last college where I studied – another story for another time.

I began then being able to repay some of the now $15,500 loans, when Hurricane Katrina and all of its happiness struck
Tommie, Montana

In 2001, I graduated from ITT Technical Institute in St. Rose, LA with an Associate's Degree in Electrical Engineering. I had the incredible fortune to have graduated with a two-year degree in a tech field right as the tech bubble of the 1990s burst. I was located a job, however, for various reasons, it did not last. Afterwards, I found myself in a flooded job market, with a premature child, and no way to make more than minimum wage. Left with no choice, I participated in what has to be one of the less dignified practices for an increasing numbers of my generation, I moved back in with my parents. I bounced from job to job there for a while, continuously putting the student loan debt, originally around $12,000, into deferment before finally finding a place as a security guard. I began then being able to repay some of the now $15,500 loans, when Hurricane Katrina and all of its happiness struck. My wife, now two children, and myself found ourselves heading north to live with her family in Montana for a bit. I was able to again find a job in security at a local mall, but the pay was nowhere near the $18 an hour I had been making at the shipyard in Louisiana, so once again, the loans went into deferment. After five years of wallowing in the cut-rate wages of Montana, I decided that the only thing left for me to do was to return to school. I am currently enrolled in Rocky Mountain College as a Computer Science major chasing after a Bachelor's Degree while trying to maintain enough hours to feed my second wife, my now five children, and myself. I have no idea of the total of my current student loan situation as I am quite frankly scared shitless of seeing debt piled that high, so I try to ignore it simply so that I can continue concentrating on completing my degree without the added stress that number would bring.

Try to avoid private loans, they will feel like they are sucking out any effort you try to make to improve your life
Chris, Nebraska

I have made the decision that this year all of my money is going to go toward student loans. I will set a side $40/month for gas, $20/month for food, I will not devote any of my funds for little luxuries, travel, entertainment, savings. I will devote the rest of my paycheck to my student loans. My original loan has ballooned from $50,000 to $55,000 with 70% daily accrued interested. My interest rate at one point was at 14% and there was nothing I could do about it. I wanted to buy a new vehicle, the bank would not loan me out any money because I already owned my loan company too much. I am living to pay off my loans. They are private loans. Please, try to avoid private loans, they will feel like they are sucking out any effort you try to make to improve your life. You will feel like your goal in life is to make that loan payment on time and for nothing else. It is very hard to enjoy life when all of your money goes to loans. At times it make me very depressed. I regret signing my life away at 18. I had no idea, my parents had no idea. They co-signed on my student loans and are still paying for them. I am so sorry I got them involved, I wish they weren't still paying for my two year associates degree. I want to go back to school to get a degree that helps people. I'm afraid I may never get to do that because not only do I owe so much money, I owe so much in interest. Its a bad uninformed decision I wish I could take back.

My mother tearfully asked if I wanted to see my parents living in the street because of loans they couldn't afford
Allison, Nevada

I lost my job to the recession in 2008. Although I was paying my own way through my Ph.D., I had made the mistake of asking my parents to co-sign a private student loan through Sallie Mae to get me through the first years. I had no idea that this was akin to making a deal with the devil. When I lost my job I lost my apartment and most of what I owned. I had to pay over $1000 to break the lease. I had to move in with friends, and was kicked out when I tried to work out a compromise for lower payments while looking for work. The stress of being an adult in my 40s who was basically homeless and unable to find work even with a Master's degree took its toll. I couch-surfed to a friend's home in California and while there was treated for severe thyroid problems. Despite dozens of applications in two states I found no work. I had no insurance and was too sick to concentrate on returning to school, though I tried as a long-distance student. When I had worn out my welcome in California and had qualified for Unemployment, I couch-surfed to Ohio. My thyroid became worse and I underwent treatment, including heart medicine and other pills. The stress of finding no work and abandoning my doctorate was horrible. Then my student loans came due. I soon learned that there is little to no mercy for people like me who have no resources and are caught in a recession. My parents are in their 70s. My dad has cancer. They began to receive letters regarding my payments. No amount of working with Sallie Mae kept them from wanting ridiculous amounts of money. I finally found work as a college instructor and eventually taught at three different colleges at once as an adjunct. If you know anything about adjunct teaching it is low paying, and most work – preparing lessons, grading papers, reading essays, etc. – is done for the institution for free, on the instructor's personal time. I was exhausted, but I had to pay $500 per month. There were times when I could not afford the payment. I had to borrow money to make ends meet for clothing, medical payments, and transportation. The calls and letters from Sallie Mae caused my parents to view me differently. When I earned my MA and was accepted into the doctoral program they were proud of me. Now I heard words like lazy, selfish, and uncaring. My mother tearfully asked if I wanted to see her and my father living in the street because of loan payments they could not afford. A terrible rift developed between me and my family that has never been fully repaired. I wanted to kill myself many times but I could never do so knowing my debt would be borne by my parents. Depression has yet to leave me. Sallie Mae has continued to raise my payments. In 2009 I moved in with my partner and her three children. I have helped raise the younger two boys ever since. But Sallie Mae threatens our stability with outrageous payment demands. We made the painful decision for me to move to Nevada in 2011 when I finally got my first offer for full time work with health benefits, solely due to a connection I had there. I had applied to so many jobs I had about 5 versions of my resume, some with the doctoral studies, some with the MA or just the Bachelor's. I was desperate. I cried half the way to Nevada because we couldn't afford to move together. I've been in Nevada ever since. I make $15.27/hr at a call center. I can't afford to finish my doctoral degree, despite only needing to take the comprehensive exam and embarking on the dissertation. I make about $1100 per paycheck. My partner and children arrived in 2013. My son grew tall and his voice changed, all without my being there to witness his transformation into a man. He understands that I came here for the work. My partner understands that I worked three jobs at once in Ohio and will work 20 hours of overtime per week here at the call center so that my student loan has the least amount of financial impact possible on my family. But the stress is unnecessary. It was caused by a broken and merciless student loan system that doesn't care about families and mental health, and doesn't care about recessions and the dearth of jobs. I now am paying $720 per month. I will never this loan off. That is a fact. I will never afford to finish my degree. I will never buy a house for my family. My life will be about robbing Peter to pay Paul. If I survive my parents, which I pray I go to spare them the fear of losing everything they own, my stress will lessen because I won't have to worry about them financially. That's an awful way to think of the end of life, but that is where I am. I hate that we ever discovered Sallie Mae. They were so eager to have us sign for these private loans, and I was so thrilled to start the journey toward a rewarding academic experience and career. My hopes have been dashed and the light has diminished for me. I hope and pray for the bailout received by the thieving banking institutions and the help received by so many homeowners. This would allow me to amass a savings account, invest in a home for my family, and contribute to my parents' last years.

So she is in limbo like so many others in this 'lost' generation
Gale, Nevada

I have a daughter who spent 8 years in college and obtained a Master’s in Biology. Here in Nevada, she can only find a part time job at all colleges. There are no benefits. She makes about $1600 per month and has a $40,000 loan. She can only afford to pay the interest on this loan. To get a Teaching Credential for High School, she would have to go back to school and spend another $10,000 in addition to the loans she has! That is simply out of the question. So she is in limbo like so many others in this "lost" generation. SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE TO HELP THESE KIDS!

The debt makes me feel like I went to school later in life for no reason
Kristopher, Nevada

The debt makes me feel like I went to school later in life for no reason. I enjoyed school would continue with a Master's and maybe a PhD but the cost keeps me from even thinking about it. No one cares, the rates are sky high and I know I will go into default and screw my family. What a waste.

My wife has student loan debt of about $160,000 and the best job she can find pays $11.00 per hour
Vince, Nevada

In 2003 I encouraged my wife to get her degree. University of Phoenix seemed like the best way. Five years later she has a multi-Master's degree in Business Administration, Human Resources, Marketing and Public Administration with a GPA of 3.97, student loan debt of about $160,000 and the best job she can find pays $11.00 per hour. Her background is spotless. Not so much as a parking ticket and has never bounced a check. I really don't understand why. But, if I had to venture a guess I would blame most of this country’s problems on the top 2%. America is much like the Golden Goose and the wealthy have forgotten that a Golden Goose that is not fed will produce no golden eggs. They also forget that when taxes on the rich were high, they were still able to get richer because the average person earned a living wage and bought cars and homes and all the other stuff the rich want to sell.

The collection agencies throughout the years would call and make threats to me such as, 'you should drop dead'
Bonnie, New Hampshire

I attended graduate school in order work for the public interest. I graduated in 1988, had two children and a husband at the time. I worked as a waitress to help pay my school expenses. I accumulated approximately $34,000 in student loans. I got a job earning $10.00 an hour after graduation. I consolidated my loans with Sallie Mae, but ended up defaulting due to my husband's (now ex-husband) unemployment and my low salary, and the refusal of Sallie Mae to base my repayment amount on what I could afford based on income and expenses. The Higher Education Assistance Foundation (HEAF) added approx. $10,000 to the principal of my loan after I defaulted. Therefore, the 10% interest on my loans accumulates on a $44,000 principal amount, even though I only borrowed around $34,000. Throughout the years I have paid what I could afford. The collection agencies throughout the years would call and make threats to me such as, "you should drop dead", 'you are scum", ‰'you and your family/parents should die‰' etc. The collection agencies refused to agree to an amount I could afford based on my income and expenses. For over 20 years I provided my financial information to the collection agencies. Despite all the payments I have made, my principal has never gone down, and my loan continues to grow. The Department of Education has tried to garnish my wages twice. In 2009 I filed for bankruptcy. Of course, this did nothing for my student loan debt. I work for a non-profit organization. I do not get raises; and due to health insurance costs my income has actually decreased by $2,000 per year. My student loan will never decrease because 10% interest compounds on $44,000 every month. Bankruptcy would have been the only solution if it was available to me. I will never, at 56 years of age, be able to pay this loan off or make enough money to live on and pay it back. I have been paying for over 20 years. This is a ball and chain around my life. I have put up with horrible abuse and threats from collection agencies during the past 20 years. I have all the paperwork to prove it! There should have been a way to pay back loans based on a person's income back when I graduated in 1988. The new IBR is not available to me because I am in default. The DOE claims I currently owe over $120,000!! Even if I could afford a house, I would not be able to have any property in my name due to this situation.

We'll literally be retired from our jobs and will be still be making student loan payments
Melissa, New Hampshire

I have two bachelor's degrees and a teaching certification and because my parents didn't have the money to pay for my college, I went entirely on financial aide. I currently have almost $80,000 in student loan debt and pay almost $600 a month. My wife is even worse off. She's got a masters degree and owes over $130,000. We pay more, collectively for student loan payments each month than we do our mortgage! We're both teachers so it's not like we're making tons of money and we have no opportunity to pay more that the minimum on the loans so they are not going anywhere for a long, long time. We'll literally be retired from our jobs and will be still be making student loan payments. And my payment is going to increase this summer if the interest rates go up. It is ridiculous to think that two public school teachers owe over $200,000 for student loans and just bought a house for $120,000. Something has to give. We need help!

I still owe the Department of Education more than double the original amount
Sharyn, New Hampshire

I myself have to-date paid back 24% more than the original amount I borrowed to go to college, but because of compounding interest and exorbitant consolidation fees added to my principal, I still owe the Department of Education more than double the original amount. People want to pay back FAIRLY what they borrowed, but the system seems, as Senator Warren puts it, rigged against us, making it impossible especially for those who are struggling financially but are making every good-faith effort to pay it off. What is needed is a reasonable cap on the total amount paid back over the original loan amount. Most, if not all, new proposals for student loan reform just kick the can down the road – making things better for future student borrowers but do nothing for all current student loan debtors (whether for private or government-backed loans), many of whom, like myself, have already paid back well over the original loan amount and are still paying off huge amounts of that capitalized interest compounded to principal. The total amount paid back ought to be capped at a reasonable percentage over the original loan (e.g. no more than 10% or 15% over). How much return/profit ought lenders (federal or private) of student loans make? 100%?! 200%?!! Is this in line with the original mission of the student loan program? If any new legislation would include removing retroactively all compounded, capitalized interest (from public and private loans), that would be a start to restoring fairness to the system.

Let me paint you a picture of my life as a victim of Sallie Mae private loan
Alejandra, New Jersey

Here is my web site about the horrible effects of Sallie Mae private student loan I was manipulated to use when I went to student at Full Sail University. Hi! My name is Alejandra, and I am a 25-year-old, single woman still living at home. Why? Let me paint you a picture of my life as a victim of Sallie Mae private loan. First, if you do not know much about Sallie Mae I will explain. According to The Student Loan Scam: The Most Oppressive Debt in U.S. History by Alan Collinge, Sallie Mae, the dominant student loan company in the U.S., was initially a government-sponsored entity until it was privatized in 1997. Its success stems from its large lobbying influence in Congress and its extensive university agreements whereby schools profit when their students borrow from Sallie Mae. Fortune magazine called Sallie Mae the second most profitable company in 2005, and its CEO topped the list of highest paid CEOs in D.C. As of 2007, Sallie Mae's top two executives together made more than 500 million. Universities often have "preferred-lender" arrangements with the universities and receive kickbacks. The national average interest rate is 12% for private student loans. Student loans are the only type of loan in U.S. history to be non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. They are also exempt from statutes of limitations for collection, usury laws, Truth in Lending, and Fair Debt and Collections. Borrowers wanting to consolidate their loans must use the original lender, if there only was one, giving them an iron grip. Further, only one consolidation is allowed, even if other firms are willing to take over. I wish I knew that when I walked into the Financial Aid office at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, to continue studying my passion in Recording Arts. The Financial Aid officer told me that I could only take out a private signature loan because I could not get any scholarships since I was not a Florida resident. (I am from New Jersey.) They had a Wells Fargo loan and a Sallie Mae loan, but the Financial Aid officer said I would have more benefits with Sallie Mae than Wells Fargo. So as a new 18-year-old passionate student ready to learn, I signed the Sallie Mae form to help toward my tuition and living expenses. I have a loving, hardworking single Mom, who is a phenomenal teacher, brought up my sister and me by herself and faced her own challenges along the way to make ends meet. My mom helped me out as much as she could with living expenses, such as food and small bills. Upon graduation, I received the information at my exit interview for financial aid, and I was in shock! I knew I had to pay my bill, but I never dreamed how they took advantage of me. I have paid $30,897.00 since 2008 and my balance has only gone down a few thousand dollars. Between the capitalized interest and interest on top of this entire balance is a killer! I have never been late, nor have I taken out forbearance when I was laid off because the interest would have been worse. I still owe $66,000.00. I work full time, earning less than 30K so most of my salary goes to my student loans, both private (Sallie Mae) and public (Federal Government). What was even worse, I was a victim just like the rest of my town of Little Ferry, NJ where we weathered the wrath of Sandy. My Ford Explorer, 6 months ago to the day, was floating in 5 feet of murky water along with the other 40 cars in the condo complex parking lot, where I live with my Mom. So I lost my car and now I had to get another one. So between the car payment, insurance and student loans, it has been difficult. I am a hard worker and very positive. I have set up a website with pictures of my documents because I do believe this would be included on a class action lawsuit. I will be 26 on July 4 and I am still living at home. I really need financial help. Any help from anyone, would be a blessing!

They have threaten to take my mom's social security to satisfy the debt ... My mom is 84 years old
Andrea, New Jersey

I am 54 years old and I do not expect to ever own a house or a car, nor do I want to. I had returned to school 8 years ago while I was working at a good job at a bank. I was doing quite well until our department closed and we were transferred to another department. A year after the transfer, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I took time off for treatment. During that time I was harassed by Sallie Mae for payment even though I was on disability. To make a long story short, I was eventually terminated from my job, after taking a second leave to get treatment for depression. While I was recovering, I did manage to go through a training program for Massage Therapy. I was collecting unemployment during that time so all my student loans were put into deferment. Anyone who receives unemployment knows that it is required that you accept any job that you are trained to do whether you are paid the less than your previous job. Well, I do work as an independent contractor and my income varies each week. Right know, I can't pay the 134.50 a month that Sallie Mae is asking for and they are threatening to put my student loan in default. I don't take threats to kindly, especially if they are empty threats. I have to make at least $217.50 each week in order for my wages to be garnish. They even threaten to take disability if I should ever have a cancer recurrence because as they say, they will be able too. Also, they have threatened to take my mom's social security to satisfy the debt. My mom co-signed for me on a private student loan. My mom is 84 years old. I will never own a home and I will happily rent. I owned a car for five years and with the maintenance, registration, and parking tickets, I rather rent and take public transportation. Sallie Mae will threaten you even if you don't have an income because as they say you took out the student loan. You owe $46,000, you're going to have to pay or we will default your loan and put you in litigation. Don't get sick or don't lose your job. They believe it is their right to take from you because they are the government and they can. Excuse me, I thought this was America. So now that they threatened to put my loans in default, I'm just will wait and see what happens. I'm sorry but I refused to be threatened, coerced or be made to feel bad because I can't afford the loan but Sallie Mae doesn't see it that way.

I could only afford to rent in the poor housing sections with high crime
Angel, New Jersey

In 1993 I wanted make a difference through art and couldn't qualify for any grants because I was told I made too much money at $10 an hour as a single 19 year old female working as a teacher's aid in a school for kids with learning disabilities and autism. I dropped to part-time and qualified for non and federal loans. The college I attended misled me – and in retrospect I am certain was getting a kick back from Sallie Mae. No one in my family went through college so I had no one to guide me and educate me on how loans worked. The academic adviser suggested I take as much as I could out for four years. I graduated in 2000 with an BA in Art and over $50K in loans – which I must add I worked part-time and paid some out of pocket, had I had two/three scholarships. Over $50k for an Art degree? I had to defer for awhile until I could get a job and Sallie Mae continued to tack on the interest which got up to over $70K – I made payments when I could and it all went to interest and not principal. I wasn't able to find work that could pay the bills so I went to graduate school and I got an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy and an Art Therapy certificate. I was awarded the President's scholarship each semester (one and a half years) to waive some of the tuition and I worked part-time too. I graduated in 2004 and I remained over $76K in student debt. I worked with Alzheimer's disease in a non-profit agency and as a rehab art therapist at $22 an hour (this was in the San Francisco Bay Area – one of the most expensive areas to live in, I could only afford to rent in the poor housing sections with high crime). While I was working at the Alzheimer's Association I made payments over the amount required and I received a letter from Sallie and Nellie Mae telling me to stop making payments because I was "ahead of schedule". They told me not to pay for six months. I was confused and not sure why but assumed they knew best. Well, my student loans were going down and after six months of not paying because I was told not to – my balance went back over $76K. I was furious. It's been since 2000 that I've been paying off over $76K of student debt, and in 2013, after consolidating in 2007 – I see no end, as it is still over $74K. I'm at a loss. I am angry; I work in Alzheimer's disease and make over $300 payments for the past ten years. Something is seriously broken in this system. Kickbacks, corruption. I have a BA in Art and an MA in therapy and art therapy... working to support and trying to end a disease that is also breaking this country. Politicians getting kick-backs along with CEO's, academic higher ups, and other diseased decision makers are making millions of dollars – our country is broken and seriously, disturbingly sick. I'm in a profession of a human disease and my only debt is a corrupt student "loan" that should have been more than half the amount and paid off years ago. This is my story of student debt. When will it end? Never...unless congress fixes the corruption. There is NO way my loans should have EVER been this much.

I work up to 18 hours a day at two jobs just to make ends meet
Bill, New Jersey

My first mistake was buying into the myth that in order to get ahead in this country one must go to college. At 18 years of age I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. They say that its okay to enter college without knowing what you are going for because you will be sure to find something appealing. So I took on my first student debt loans and embarked on a twisted nightmare. As I sit here today at the age of 27 I am still enrolled in school one class short of earning a B.A. in history with my graduate school looming as I try to become a history teacher. I have over $120,000 worth of student loan debt and the life ahead of me seems hopeless at best. I work up to 18 hours a day at two jobs just to make ends meet. I don't own a car and I still live at home with my parents with absolutely no foreseeable way of obtaining independence and starting a life of my own. I pay upwards of $1500 a month towards student loans, add on to that my small amount of credit card debt, phone bill, and the dismal health insurance I pay for each month, I barely break even with just enough disposable income to buy a cup of coffee each morning. I am one missed day of work, one illness away from falling behind on my debt obligations. I literally cannot afford to get sick. The stress of my crushing debt makes me lose sleep. I cannot enter into any meaningful personal relationship that may lead to marriage with a clear conscience. I feel it would be irresponsible for someone else to take on my personal struggle with debt themselves. In summation my student loan debt has crushed any dreams that I may of once had of traveling and experiencing different cultures, having a wife and kids and a family of my own, buying a house or owning a new car. Everyday is a stress filled struggle to make ends meet. College, I was told was the key to economic and social mobility. However; the reality of College and paying for it has set me so far back that I see no way of achieving any meaningful life achievements until I'm close to 50 years old. College was not worth it and everyday I regret making the decision to enroll in higher education.

We have a combined total of $200,000 in student loan debt that we will be paying until we are in our mid 80s
Charles, New Jersey

I quit High School in 1975 and joined the US Army when I was 17. I met my wife after my discharge from the service and worked at a number of retail jobs, my wife often worked as a waitress. We always wanted higher education and as our children were growing up, decided we would each go to college one at a time in the evenings – my wife went first. She completed her Master's degree and is currently post doctorate and then I went next back to school in the evenings and recently completed my Master's in Social Work and passed the License exam to practice Social Work in my state. My wife has a great job at a state college and while I am currently unemployed I have three interviews this week and two next week. As a result of my level of education I am sure I will get a decent job and be working in the next couple of weeks. I am grateful that at the age of 55 that I am even able to attain interviews when I look at others my age. However, we have a combined total of $200,000 in student loan debt that we will be paying until we are in our mid 80's. Our student loan payments are over $1,200 right now and consumes about a quarter of our take-home income every month. While we are grateful to have our education and the opportunities it has brought, we are straddled with student loan debt until well past normal retirement age.

Student loan debt is the worst thing I could have chosen to do but it was the only option
Dennis, New Jersey

Acquiring students loans was the only way for to go to college. I came from a one parent working family. Dad work nights and mom was a stay at home mom to take care of the kids and house. I have been paying my loans now for over 5 years and feel like I will never be able to buy a house for my son till I'm done paying these loans off. Cost of living seems to rise and my pay really doesn't help to keep up with rising costs. Student loan debt is the worst thing I could have chosen to do but it was the only option at the time to pay for higher education!

I lost my family, my own clinic, and my American dream and, I am still trying to pay of a debt that is going on 26 years
Frank, New Jersey

In 1984, I had the American dream in NJ. I developed low back pain and treated at a local chiropractor who cured me. I was so impressed, my wife and 2 children left the family, friends, job, and home, to learn chiropractic in Davenport, at the prestigious Palmer College of Chiropractic. I only had to borrow $20,000 from the GSL and upon graduation in Dec of 2012 I had three children and left Iowa with nothing. In 1987, I interned with an existing chiro practice in Mass while trying to develop my own practice in RI and had to go on forbearance because I could not afford the monthly payments and now with 4 children and a wife who could not work because she had to take care of the kids while I was working at various clinics. The stress, and financial difficulties, bankruptcy, and mounting debts led me to declare personal and business bankruptcy and in the end, loss of my wife and children of 19 years who divorced me and had the marriage annulled due to lack of due competence which means failure to provide a decent living situation. I now had child support and more deferments on my student loan, which was increasing with interest to a tune of $28,000 even though I was paying what I could over the last 25 years. My loan with the Dept. of Education GSL was consolidated by Sallie Mae and I have been paying monthly but at a reduced rate because I was unemployed over those years working FT/& PT in 4 states for 20 different chiro offices. My American dream quickly turned into the American nightmare, and, it is still going on after 25 years of erratic work history, 2 bankruptcies. one due to a business failure, the other due to a medical bill That I could not afford to pay and personal debt and child support payments. So, In 2013, I still owe about $28,000 and make monthly payments to Sallie Mae at $188/Mo. I am currently unemployed and t the age of 63, very few chiropractors call me for office coverage or to work as an associate, due to age, too much experience, or whatever. I am not blaming the system which was good enough to give me a small loan at the time, I did become a chiropractor and helped hundreds of people feel better in 4 states, but I lost my family, my own clinic, and my American dream and, I am still trying to pay of a debt that is going on 26 years. It has been a tough life.

Why does the U.S. have the most feudal system in the world when it comes to funding education?
Gary, New Jersey

Currently saddled with over $700/mo. in Student Debt, and unable to find employment in my field, in hindsight, my choice to return to higher education appears as a 'risk not worth taking.' That is a dysfunctional, tragic phrase to apply to higher education, or education at any level; in my opinion, a significant factor in the decline of Western Civilization in a number of areas. My student loan has resulted in a decline in my life style: Unable to purchase a house, and grinding work out month after month underwater, where the American Dream is visible only in refracted and distorted form. I'm a rarity, in that I returned to Higher Education in my 50's with the goal of increasing my employability, and my 'marriageability,' by increasing my chances to be a reliable source, if not a beacon, of financial stability. The $700/month debt burden that I currently face for decades plus, has meant a forced return to non-academic fields for survival, and one major step backwards in terms of financial stability. The cost of education and the system to repay loans is symptomatic of a have/have-not arrangement that perpetuates itself. The names Freddie Mac and Sallie Mae may sound benign, but they are carcinogens inducing overspreading malignancy for those of us trapped in the cancerous body known as our student loan system. There are a zillion solutions to this, the most obvious one being repayment based on ability to pay, or as a percentage of net income. Why does the U.S. have the most feudal system in the world when it comes to funding education? The answer is blowing in the wind.

It seems as if I'm paying towards nothing, because the amount that's applied to my balance is so minimal
Ivory, New Jersey

I went back to school to get my degree at the age of 40, and of course, I had no other choice but to take out student loans, in order to get my degree. I received my online Bachelor's degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix in 2006. I incurred a student loan debt totaling 37,000 plus dollars, and I received a bill from my lender a month after I graduated. I reached out to them to let them know that I couldn‰'t afford the required payment, and they offered me the graduate plan, in which I'm still paying up to this date (05/06/2013). I already had a full-time job, a home, household obligations, plus others bills I had incurred, and two children to raise. I did go back to school online in 2008 for one semester to get my master‰'s degree, but after one semester I quit, because the online course was more tremendous than the bachelor‰'s degree program, and I knew my debt would be more than I could actually afford once I was done. With me going for one semester I incurred an additional $5,000 to my 37,000 plus student loan debt, which totaled over $42,000.00. I have been paying the graduate plan amount for 7 years, and I've only seen a 1,000.00 difference off the principal amount. Every month when I go to pay my bill I get depress, because it seems as if I'm paying towards nothing, because the amount that's applied to my balance is so minimal. I don't know if I will ever be able to afford the regular amount, because I now have to prepare for my youngest son to go to college in the year 2015. I don't know if I will be eligible for any parent loans, being that I still owe so much in student loans and in other bills. My first born son went to community college by choice and he has incurred over $17,000.00 in student loan debt under his name. His loans are now in deferment, because he couldn‰'t afford the payment. It's been hard for him to find a full-time job, and there were times he didn‰'t have a job. So, hopefully he will find a full-time job that will help him pay off his student loans, being that he's still at home, and he doesn‰'t have huge obligations yet. I just pray that someone will hear the cries of the many people who are struggling to pay these student loans and give us a helping hand, by changing the laws in order for people like me and many others. We need to be release from these agonizing student loan debts, especially those who have been paying them for the last 7 years and up. I guess I will be in debt with student loan to the day I die at the rate I am paying them. And I guess my debt amount will be triple when my youngest son goes off to college, at least until he is able to take out loans in his own name. I can already see he will be leaving college with a tremendous amount of student loan debt, because school costs today is totally ridiculous. It‰'s a shame the children of today, have to endure so much debt, before they even start to life. What happened to this world? And what happened to the people in it? I know that God is not pleased with the greed and unjust that‰'s being done to the people who are not as fortunate as others. No child should have to leave college owing over $200,000.00. This generation of kids will never be able to purchase cars and homes, because their credit will already be overextended, especially if they can‰'t find a job that will meet their obligations. Thank you for allowing me to tell my story. And I am so glad; we have people out there like you that are proactive in trying to address an issue that has plague many of us for decades.

The programs for private loan consolidation are few and far between
Krista, New Jersey

When entering college I was not eligible for financial aid due to my parents’ income however they did not make enough to help me with taking out loans. Some of my loans are federal with low interest rates and affordable monthly payments. Unfortunately it was not enough to cover the cost of the tuition of the private college in NJ that I attended. I then was forced to take out private loans for the rest of the tuition. I had established credit due to a car in my name but it was not enough to keep my interest rates low. When graduating I was $80,000 in debt with my highest interest rate being 14.5 %. After 6 months I was required to starting paying. When I contacted Sallie Mae they informed me that my monthly payment for 15 years would be 1200 per month. I was unemployed and unable to afford such a high payment so I increased the number of years to 25, which lowered my payment to 850 per month but increased my overall payoff to over 200000!!! I am now making a wonderful salary and working for the state of NJ but the challenges with my loans continue. I luckily am able to afford my monthly payments but currently have to wait on buying a house due to being unable to pay both my loans and a mortgage at the same time. I have reached out to many banks to consolidate into one lower interest rate because my credit is significantly higher then when I applied. While conducting the search the programs for private loan consolidation are few and far between. If I continue to pay the monthly payment for the next 25 years I will be debt free in 2036 at the age of 49 after paying 211000 in total on the 80000 balance that I originally finished college with.

The children of our future will suffer
L, New Jersey

I obtained a private student loan for our daughter in 2007 for $31,000.00 in her freshman year with agreement not to repay until six months following her graduation. During her sophomore year I obtained a government loan for $15,000.00 with agreement to start repay in April of 2009. Government loan is $139 month and started repaying private loan in 2012 with monthly beginning at $457 but increased to $458 within 3 months. I believe this will continue to increase as rates change. Government loan will be repaid in 2018, and private loan will be repaid in 2037. For a $31K loan my total repayment for private loan will be $132,000.00, if I live that long. I've been without a full time job since 2009 but have found periodic contract assignments and collect unemployment. I was able to lease a new car in 2010, but lease expires 2013 and feel when applying for new car will be denied since private loan is now in affect. Loan repayment is astronomically high, specifically for private loan! Children are encouraged to go to college by parents, schools and society if they want to make it in this world. But if you're not fortunate enough to obtain a significant scholarship, grant or benefactor to help pay for it, the children of our future will suffer. This country's reputation as being one of the highest powers in the world will diminish. My grandchildren are on the cusp of graduating from high school and I fear for their future as well as the millions of others who cannot afford higher education even though they want to attend!

I remain underemployed, only able to secure part-time work
Lisa, New Jersey

There is a story that no one seems to have interest, and that is the millions of parents who took out student loans for their children to attend college. It was my expectation that my daughter would secure a job that would enable her to assist in the repayment of the over $150,000 loan. It was also my expectation that as a PhD, I would have full-time employment that along with my daughter's job would allow us to make steady payments on the student loans on her behalf, which does not include the loans she had to take out. Well I remain underemployed, only able to secure part-time work, and my daughter, although she has recently secured full-time hourly employment it only allows for a payment plan for the amount she owes. To make matters worst, during her final semester her father was diagnosed with cancer, and she was being tested for breast cancer causing an emotional downward tailspin resulting in her not successfully completing her studies, which makes her job prospects for a decent paying job that more challenging. The loan in my name is now in deferment until September 2013, but as a sixty-two year old, I am leery about my job prospects in this economy, leaving me extremely anxious about my future with such a large debt looming. I really don't know what I am going to do.

I can't imagine facing what our young people are forced to face now just to have a shot at a decent life
Carol, New Mexico

I graduated college in 1987, when tuition and fees were less than $300 per semester. I graduated with less than $5000 debt with no interest until 6 months after graduation and then it was very low. I paid it off quickly. I considered it a commitment then, but can't imagine facing what our young people are forced to face now just to have a shot at a decent life.

This seems to me a stark contrast of economic governance, against democracy
Craig, New Mexico

What good is a community of people who can't seem to understand one another? Is this not the primary reason for "higher-learning" to begin with? I think Jefferson had the right idea when he created the first free public university; school shouldn't be an industry, it is (should be) requisite. As for my own loans story, there really isn't much to tell. School is necessary, and no matter what, governments cannot take back the knowledge I've gained. I think the major hiccup in schooling, is the fact that it's been dubiously hijacked by financial incentives, which is a symptom for the overall sickness of capitalism. This seems to me a stark contrast of economic governance, against democracy, it's paired policy partner. If the rules of corporations or financial institutions seem able to supersede law that is by and for the people, how then are these two governing ideas complementary? So then what's my story? I'm not worried about going into debt, indeed I hope for it. The way that this government has treated it's people so far, it seems to me due justice to tarnish their credibility as they don't look out for mine. We will always have the fertile lands on which to grow, and I can't see NEEDING much more than that as a nation, rather than pretend we NEED aide or trade with the rest of the world; though I do understand this would make things a little less cheery. I would gladly pay back – in fact feel OBLIGATED to the utmost – the loans in which I've taken out, if I felt that the current administration cared at all about doing their actual jobs of public servitude. Instead, I see politicians excited to take up such a charge as if they've won the lottery, rather than have taken on a great burden. There is much too much wrong with this current system, enough to be a bit neglectful of ones own responsibility towards a system that seem without constraint, or good conscious.

It is a shame that I have spent a life living at the mercy of this debt
Deborah, New Mexico

I went to college to improve my life but I was about 32 years old. I am an African American female. I worked many administrative jobs before that but couldn't make more than 20K per year. I had no children, never owned a new car or a home because I couldn't afford it before or after. Unfortunately I went to a very expensive liberal arts college. The only way I could do it was to go into debt because I had no savings. Getting my degree made a difference, as I was able to become a trainer in organizations and make more money. However, with the cost of living and my debt it didn't make much of a difference in me being able to buy a home or a new car. I'm 62 years old and I currently have 200,000 in school debt. It is a shame that I have spent a life living at the mercy of this debt but I was unable to file bankruptcy and I certainly need some help to pay it off. Thank you.

I am very frightened that once I receive Social Security they will take it from me and I will be living on the streets
Deborah, New Mexico

I'm a 62-year-old woman who does not have enough money for retirement. I was laid off my job and realized I needed to return to school to learn new skills and to help pay for my school debt. I earned a Bachelor's degree in 1998 but the debt was too large and my income, though it had increased, paid my expenses but was not enough to cover the debt. I owned a 2001 Toyota Camry with no anticipation of getting a new car for another 5 years or unless the car wears out. I owe almost 200,000 in student debt and don't know how to get out of it. I rent a home that I share and probably will never own one unless someone gives it to me. I am very frightened that once I receive Social Security they will take it from me and I will be living on the streets, as I have no children or spouse.

I was harassed for repayment while I was still in graduate school
Doreen, New Mexico

I was harassed for repayment while I was still in graduate school. Then when I finished my internships, several loan companies called me wanting payments, all totaling more than what I made in a month as a part-time adjunct faculty at a local community college. I was continually harassed. I sent in a few payments, less than what was asked for by some of the companies. I made sporadic payments and ignored most of the companies' requests because their requests for payments were completely unrealistic. A congressional committee closed the Air Force military base my husband was stationed at, so we had to move. We got another military assignment. Our mail was forwarded but nothing came about my student loans. My husband decided to retire from the Air Force and we relocated once again. It was almost 3 years later that I heard anything again about my student loans by phone. At that time, I was a stay-at-home mom because my children had special needs and required many special services. Again the demands for repayment were unrealistic given our family's single income. I told the company trying to collect that I would be unable to repay and was given instructions for deferment, which I followed. Then I'd be harassed again by the company claiming I didn't file a deferment or abatement. I gave up and ignored the company, as they seemed not to want to help. I did briefly go back to work for 2 years, and my wages were garnished for loan repayment. When I was fired, I was unable to repay my loan on our family's single income. I was later notified that my repayment would be taken out of our refund from our federal income tax. In order for my husband to get his share of the federal income tax refund returned, he would have to file an Injured Spouse Form. This form has given us back some of our tax refund. However, in 2009, I filed our tax returns. IRS returned them saying there was an error. So I filed a tax extension because I didn't want to rush in the last few days before the 15th to find the error. In the summer 2009, the IRS started sending us billing notices saying we owed them money for not filing our taxes. But the extension was still good until Oct 2009. When we got those notices, I read that since we had a refund coming back we had 3 years to file. I contacted the IRS with that info but was rudely told we still had to pay the fees, although the extension still hadn't expired. When more IRS notices arrived with increased fees and penalties, more calls about this, but each agent acted as if I had never called before. They still said I owed the money, even though I said we had a refund coming for that year and had 3 years to file. Now after all is said and done, the IRS has put a lien on our house that we are trying to refinance to lower our mortgage. We will also have to hire a tax lawyer to fight this tax issue. I now know our tax return was targeted because I owed on a student loan that is about to expire in 2015. Our tax return is targeted because my share of our tax refund is paid to the Dept. of Education for my student loan. Currently, I am handicapped because my total knee replacement surgery didn't heal properly so I can no longer sit, stand, or walk for long periods of time.

My only hope of paying my debt is death
Estevan, New Mexico

I have been out of school since 1991. I had $40,000 plus in debt when I left school. I got out of school in the fist recession, so I delayed making payment unit I got a full time job. I paid on my student loan until the great recession/depression of 2008. During the depression, I lost my job, saving and any professional dignity that comes with making money. I am starting to get back on my feet, but now my loan has once again grown beyond $40,000.00. The student loan sharks have not allowed me a reduction in interest rates. Stuck at 8% interest, I feel this debt with be with me until I die and beyond. As our county becomes more and more corrupted by money in politics, a bad economy and plutocrats buying the system, my only hope of paying my debt is death.

They seize my federal taxes each year and can't even give me an accounting of where it has been applied
Jeanie, New Mexico

I came from a single parent home and therefore had to borrow money in order to attend college. Once I graduated, I got married and had a child. He was born with a deformed kidney and I was unable to work since he required round the clock care. I contacted the federal student loan office and told them my situation and asked if I could make a small payment until my son was well and I was able to go back to work. They said I could make whatever I wanted, but if it wasn't the amount they required, my loans would go into default. They did, and now my $25,000.00 loan is over $60,000.00. I went back to work and entered into their rehab program and made the required payments for the year they required. At the end of the year, my payment increased from $300 a month to almost $1,000 a month, which I couldn't afford, so they put me back into default. They seize my federal taxes each year and can't even give me an accounting of where it has been applied. With the taxes and what I have paid, I should only owe maybe $11,000.00, but with the high interest rates, interest and fees, I will never be able to pay them off. My parents told me that if the student loan program would apply all of the money paid and remove the interest and penalty, they would take out a loan and pay them off. However, all I get told is "that isn't how it works!" So they would rather get nothing than be paid in full. Something needs to be done.

I know the work I do is valuable
Katherine, New Mexico

When I was younger (I'm 58 now), I attended college and was able to pay my student loan back with the money I made. Loans were cheaper then and so was tuition. After raising four children, and going through a divorce, I reentered school – a graduate program in counseling. Although I did well, I worked only 1 1/2 years before going to another state to take care of my mother during the last year of her life. This happened during the recent bad economic times. I have been looking for work now for nearly a year and since I've been out of school and a licensed counselor, I have only been able to pay some of the interest on my loan. I haven't been able, even during employed periods, to touch the principal. The amount I owe has increased by 1/4 due to accumulated interest and I can't imagine how I'm going to pay it. The field in which I work has loan forgiveness and loan repayment programs for working in seriously underserved areas, (of which there are many) but there are not very many of these jobs to be had, and I have not been able to get one. I know the work I do is valuable to our society, even though it is not well reimbursed. While I'm commenting, this is a chance for me to say that the combination of very high education costs and a poor economy with high unemployment is a terrible bind for many people. I'm not too "lazy" to work at a grocery store or McDonald's, but if I did, I still wouldn't be able to pay my loan, the cost of which increases daily at 8%. My former husband and I are also paying on student loans for our kids. Personally, I would like to see the military budget dialed back and more of that money put in to investing in our own workforce, especially in the area of education. I don't see another way to remain an innovative leader on the world stage without that, no matter how much military might we have. It seems that our short-term solutions have completely hamstrung our long-term national security and health.

I will not be able to pay it back until I die ... Is that what they are waiting for?
Laura, New Mexico

My student loan debt has followed me around since 1997. It has hindered me from doing activities with my family that might stimulate the economy in other ways, like going on vacation. I am an educator in an impoverished area and I qualify for student loan forgiveness in every way except for the dates I received my loan. Every year I call the student loan people and ask them, "Do I qualify yet?" and the answer is always, "No." Every time I defer or forbear, the interest is capitalized and they sock it to me by adding it onto my loan. I see young, trust-fund babies working in the education field for Teach for America and they are working in this impoverished area to repay their students loans. Why can't I do that? Because I didn't receive my loans in their time frame. Now, legislators want to take my livelihood if students do not improve their scores. If I am deemed inefficient then the student loan people will get me again and I will not be able to pay it back until I die. Is that what they are waiting for?

I feel like I am on a financial tightrope
Marsha, New Mexico

With great humility, honesty, and desperation I am writing to disclose my formidable and desperate financial situation. Since being a graduate student beginning in 1997 and receiving a Master’s Degree in 1999, I have been unable to secure a viable full-time job in my career field as a college English and reading instructor beyond 25 hours per week even though I have applied for numerous positions at various institutions. Now, I am 61 years old and I am becoming doubtful of securing a full-time tenured position in my field due to my age. I have accepted the fact that I will probably have to work to at least age 67 or older to ever receive a beneficial retirement check. That means each and every day I wake up with the fear and disappointment of my inability to pay my financial aid debt and as I continue seeking hardship deferments, the capitalized interest continues to put this debt further and further beyond my reach. Currently, I am barely making enough money to pay my basic frugal living expenses, rent and utilities I work as an adjunct instructor at community colleges and universities on a semester-to-semester contractual basis, and the pay structure in these jobs often leads me to four to six week dry pay periods between contracts. I never know how many courses I will be teaching until the semester gets under way, so I find it difficult to plan a budget ahead. By the time I get paid, I am facing bringing my rent and utilities current, so I have very little money for to cover other larger debts. I feel like I am on a financial tightrope 24/7 and 365 days a year even though I am a hard worker and my skills are productive to society. I am not alone in this situation. Many of my peers are facing the same circumstances as well. In my wildest dreams, I am unsure of how I will ever be able to pay this debt in my lifetime and yet, I am so grateful for my education. My education has given me the ability to view and experience the world in meaningful ways. It has made me a better citizen in many different arenas. My country and community are at the forefront of my being. My education has allowed me to support three children through their educations, and two of them are student loan free. The third child is working to pay off his student loans and I am trying to help him and his young family. Furthermore, I am a skilled, experienced, and effective college instructor who has touched many lives through my classroom teaching and dedication to education. I came through college under a documented head trauma disability, hydrocephalus, otherwise known as water on the brain, but I graduated with a 3.8 GPA and Honors. My teaching endeavors are focused on GED, ESL, Developmental Studies in English and Reading, English Composition and Literature, and technical writing at the university and community college level. In other words, I have taught predominately taught over six thousand vocational and second-language learners job skills to enhance their abilities to become productive members of society. If I were teaching these skills in a public education arena, I would be entitled to discounts for my education and experience for working with minorities. Instead, I am teaching immigrant parents so they can secure career-level jobs, relate to our cultural traditions, and motivate their own children to become productive members of society as well. I would also be given consideration for working with low-income students who are desperately in need of workplace skills to advance their situations. Instead, I am giving my all and still face financial student loan duress. So my dilemma becomes a choice between long-term continued services for the benefit of many or seeking early disability retirement to eradicate this debt and live without fear for the benefit of myself. I want to keep teaching as long as I am able because I have a great deal to offer students, but I will never make enough to pay this debt so it will hang over me as a dark cloud of indignity forever.

It meant a lot of work, and a lot of sacrifice
Raymond, New Mexico

From the time I started considering higher education, around the age of 14, I realized the quagmire that existed with college education financing. So I planned ahead and worked hard to make sure that I had the funds to acquire the knowledge and take the classes I needed and wanted. It meant a lot of work, and a lot of sacrifice, but I am not under the yoke of those in society who are basically parasites, making their living off of the throttling of the public's efforts.

I am currently owing about $69,000 in student loan debt and I am not done with school yet
Sarah, New Mexico

I am currently owing about $69,000 in student loan debt to Sallie Mae and the government, and I am not done with school yet. I have two more years of school to go, and by the time I graduate I will probably owe at least $100,000. I have no idea how I'm going to pay it all off in a timely manner without sacrificing things such as a new car or health insurance.

I tried to apply for the forgiveness program and I was told that I didn't meet the requirements because of one loan
Tracy, New Mexico

My story is that of the person stuck in the donut hole of teacher loan forgiveness. We tend to be the people closest to retirement – the people who have the smallest amount of working years left to pay it off – people who make perhaps $1,000 too much to really benefit from the other programs. You see if you took your first student loan out prior to October 1997 you are not eligible for the teacher forgiveness program. That excludes just about anyone over the age of 30. I have worked in the special education department at a Title I school for 9 years. Last year when I tried to apply for the forgiveness program I was told that I didn't meet the requirements because of one loan I took out prior to that date. I am 49 years old and I owe $51,000. I have been paying on this for the past 9 years and still owe the original amount. I will be paying on this for another 20 years because I am on the graduated payment plan. If I wasn't on this plan, I would have to pay about $500 a month on my $50,000 salary. I've had a 1% raise in 8 years and my benefits take 20% of this salary, so I can't afford a different payment plan at this time – and am really not sure how I will afford it when it comes. It's just frustrating that young people who have the rest of their career to pay this off get relief and people who have a limited of time left in the employment pool get no relief. I am writing my representatives and anyone else who will listen – hopefully we can get this changed.

I never had anyone helping me pay for school, so loans were the only way I could afford to go
Amberlynne, New York

I started repaying my student loans back in 2007. From 1992 until 2004, I accumulated over $90,000 in student loan debt, for both undergraduate and graduate school. I was always told that if you got a good education, it would pay for itself, so don't worry about the debt. But when I finished my master's degree, I couldn't find a job that would enable me to pay it back in any reasonable amount of time. I deferred repayment due to economic hardship for 3 years, and the only reason I could afford to start repaying is because I married and my husband agreed to pay half. But I cannot pay back on a 10 year repayment plan because they want over $1000 a month! I myself only bring home just over $2000 a month. So I am on a 25 year repayment plan, which means I will be repaying until I am 57 years old. At that time, my husband will be 68. We cannot buy new cars. I am currently driving a 1999 car, and my husband a 1994. Both need to be replaced but we cannot afford A car payment, and saving enough to buy even used cars is difficult. We were able to buy a house, but only because the mortgage was the same we were paying in rent. However, there is very little extra. We cannot afford to save for retirement or even pay off our credit cards. So, by the time my loans are paid off, my husband will be over retirement age and I will be close. But neither of us will be able to because we aren't able to save for it. And every two years my payments go up (a graduated repayment plan) but our income does not. And in the 6 years we have been paying, less than $2000 paid has been principal. We are mostly paying interest. We would be financially solvent if it was not for the loans. Had I known this is how it would be, I never would have gone to school. I never had anyone helping me pay for school, so loans were the only way I could afford to go. But it wasn't worth the price.

I began with nearly $45,000, and today still owe almost that exact amount, even after 15 years of payments
Barbara, New York

After my twenty-four year marriage ended, I knew I had to be able to support myself financially. I also knew my interests were in the field of social work and human services. I decided to pursue a Master's in Social Work degree from a private university I could commute to, but needing to work full time, I had to complete my degree part time over three years. I graduated in 1998 at the age of 52. I waited the amount of time they allowed to begin repaying my loan, and a couple of times I took a forbearance when times were tough financially. I also consolidated my loans quickly thinking that making only one payment would be easiest. As it turns out, those were both very unwise decisions. Consolidating when I did meant that I could never take advantage of lower interest rates tied to consolidation. I continue to pay at my original rate of 8.5%. I began with nearly $45,000 in student debt, and today still owe almost that exact amount, even after 15 years of payments. Today I am nearly 67 years old and know that I must continue to work as long as possible in hopes of qualifying for a student loan forgiveness program at age seventy one. Even this will happen only if I am able to have the Direct Loan people count the five years when I was paying under a payment plan which charged me at a higher rate but did not qualify under the forgiveness program. My mistake, I guess, but they knew as I was transferring my loan to them that I wanted to qualify for the forgiveness program. I feel hopelessly stuck in this mess. I wonder when I'll ever be able to retire knowing there is no way, short of the forgiveness program, to not be paying off this loan until I die. At least death cancels it out. Thank God!

I have deferred a few times, not because I didn't want to pay, but I couldn't afford to with the hourly jobs I had
Carlito, New York

I am a married with 2 children. My wife and I have been in each others lives since I was 16 and she was 14. Between the both of us our loans total over 200k. She has several degrees, BA in English, Law degree and a teaching degree, which is what she is now (NYC school teacher: Most of her teaching loans were covered). I have a Industrial Design degree from Pratt and I work as a Output systems Manager for Columbia University (not related to Industrial Design) Our salaries combined is about 125k, We both have good jobs yet we still rent an apartment and drive a hand-me-down car. This is due to school loans. We can help the economy by purchasing a new home or buying a new car cause mostly all of our money goes to school loans. I have been out of school for 14 years and I haven't even put a dent in my loan, it is actually more. Yes, I have deferred a few times, not because I didn't want to pay, but I couldn't afford to with the hourly jobs I had in the past (UPS, Temp work and Kinko's) There are other opportunities for my family in other states (NYC is too expensive, I want quality of life for my family ie: Home, good school, aftercare), but Columbia offers FREE tuition for my girls once they are ready to go to college or 50% off other accredited schools, so I am will to stay in a fixed position (meaning: there is no growth in this position) because we don't have a college fund for them and I don't want them making the same mistake me and my wife did. It is confusing to see some of my childhood friend that DIDN'T go to college, some don't even have a high school diploma, but they have homes (that they own) they drive new cars. They can do this things because they don't have school loans. I understand that I took the loan and it must be paid back, I am just saying stop the interest??? I mean, I feel like they have gotten enough already. Why is interest still recurring??? It is NO reason why two married people that did what our culture says is the "right thing to do" and we have nothing to show for it but school loans. This needs to stop!

I can barely make ends meet without student loans so I have to apply for deferments every year
Darren, New York

I can barely make ends meet without student loans so I have to apply for deferments every year. One year my entire tax returns were taken because I was in default at the time and I rely greatly on my tax returns for car repairs and other necessities that I wait on just because I can't afford them.

She can't even afford to finish a College education
Diana, New York

I paid for my loans for many years, once my children went to college I was unable to assists them, however they always used my income and the assistance given to them was very small. my son just finish his Bachelor's and have been unable to find a job. he has not been able to pay his loan and the creditors "are having a field day." My daughter was unable to complete her degree, had a nervous breakdown and had to default on the loans. she can't even afford to finish a College education.

Every month I have to choose which prescription I am going to go without
James, New York

After I became clean and sober. I needed to address the wreckage of my past. When I first contacted the company who had my defaulted loan. They were anything but helpful. Down right rude. It was either there way or see ya in court. I was also struggling to maintain a steady job and the debt was overwhelming me. Jeopardizing my sobriety. In 2004 I was declared disabled. Guess who now takes money out of my fixed income, and it does not even get applied to any part of the loan. Every month I have to choose which prescription am I going to go without this month. How many times am I able to get to a food pantry or soup kitchen to eat (did I mention I am in a wheelchair?) I can not afford to meet the monthly minimum to get my loan out of default. I do hope some day to return to work. With out the ability to purchase all of my prescribed meds my health is always compromised. Therefore my dreams of returning to work are diminishing rapidly. Any help available I am noy qualified for because the go by gross amount of money not the net. Its just a horrible situation I see no way out of.

I first had unemployment deferments, then, after cancer diagnosis, medical deferment
Jeanmarie, New York

I graduated in 1995, attending college while raising 3 kids and ended by graduating Summa cum laude. I had no worries about finding employment after excelling in school. I could not find a job for two years after graduating. A few months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now employed part time at two jobs, I took weeks off to get treatment and recover, but I continued to work throughout my treatment. I first had unemployment deferments, then, after cancer diagnosis, medical deferment. My interest on loans, which totaled under $11,000.00 at graduation, continued to accrue during deferments. I continued to work two part time jobs, and less than two years after first treatment, was diagnosed with a second breast cancer. Between these two diagnoses I had a lung collapse and it took many months to recover, after being hospitalized for 11 days. I currently work part time as archivist for our county historical assoc. (10 1/2 years now). My wages have been garnished for 4 years, but it does not impact the actual loans because I earn so little, it only goes toward interest. I currently owe over 30 thousand dollars and the debt continues to increase. My husband and I declared bankruptcy 5 years ago (due to medical debt) but the student loans could not be included in the bankruptcy. We live paycheck to paycheck. I have no benefits at my job. I contacted the NY State Attorney General's office, but they were no help. I work in a service job for a small, private non-profit organization.

I accrue over $800 in interest every month – that's more than my rent
Lianne, New York

My student loans from undergrad are actually pretty reasonable – the initial balance was around $12,500 and I currently owe about $10,500. However, my graduate degree was very costly. I got my MFA from a private institution that was around $34,000/year for tuition plus living expenses and the cost of materials and tools for my art making as a scenic and projection designer for live performance. My degree was a 3 year degree. I received around a $12,500 scholarship yearly and $2000 work study and covered the rest of my expenses with subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans and grad plus loans. At the end of the day, I graduated with around $130,000 in student loan debt. The real tragedy however is the interest rates. The Stafford loans had a 6.8% interest and the grad plus had an 8.4% interest. I accrue over $800 in interest every month – that's more than my rent. I left school in the middle of the recession and could not find work. Three years later, I'm able to support myself as a freelance designer working in NYC, but I am making around $30,000/year. I consolidated my loans, which set my interest for all my loans at 7.6% and signed up for Obama's income-based repayment plan, which keeps my monthly payments affordable. But since I'm paying much less than my large interest monthly, my debt is growing fast. Three years after graduating, I've watched an average of $10,000/year be added to my balance putting my overall debt at $160,000 this summer. In the meantime, I'm building my career and living my life and know that after 20 years of payments, if I don't screw up, my debt will be forgiven under Obama's plan. I will be 49 when that happens.

Today's student loan market has created a new form of indentured slavery for many students
Megan, New York

I just finished a paper on student debt for my Education and Society class. What I uncovered through my research is most disturbing. The U.S. Congress, Department of Education and the Student Debt Financial Services Industry (Sallie Mae the queen mother of all) are responsible for the wreckage of many students and their families' financial health. This is organized crime against the American higher education student. Many of the same people responsible for this criminal activity did not have to take out student loans when they were attending school, since many of them had funding through family. If they did need to borrow, low interest rate loans were available with reasonable terms, including bankruptcy protection. The loans were relative to the economy / job market the then young grads were entering. Today's student loan market has created a new form of indentured slavery for many students, harming the individual and the society as well.

I am now 31 years old, starting a family and don't have enough money to put a down payment on a house
Meghan, New York

I graduated in 2004 with a 20,000 debt for my Bachelor's degree. This was somewhat manageable and the interest was decent, however in 2005 I went to school for a Master's and in 2007 graduated with 35,000 in debt. I worked for two years in which I wasn't able to make a dent in the student debt at a locked in 6.3% interest rate, I could only afford to pay the interest every month, even though I had a Master's degree and had gone to school for 6 years. In 2009 I went to volunteer abroad and put my loans on deferment, I started working again in 2010 and my loans had increased to 40,000 due to the interest rate. Since 2010, I have been paying my monthly minimum and the loan hasn't decreased. I am now 31 years old, starting a family and don't have enough money to put a down payment on a house. I fear my student debt will be with me forever. I plan on paying double payments and trying to pay it off in the next 7 years, but in the end I will have paid almost 3 times the original loan amount. I am a social worker and I will never make 6 figures or be able to reason the 55,000 debt I have which is more than my annual salary. I have worked in the public sector now for 9 years, but none of that matters when it comes to student debt.

I understand this is my responsibility and I have to pay it off but I feel robbed
Michael, New York

I graduated in 2008 from the state school Lyndon State College in Vermont with a B.S. in Meteorology. Upon graduation I was holding about $113,000 in student loan debt where several thousand of that was due to interest that accrued over the years I was in school. After making payments for the past 4 years I currently still owe about $94,000. For just under 3 years I have been paying about $1,330 a month toward my student loan debt. Where in 2011 I paid over $12,000 in interest and in 2012 I paid $11,006.06 in interest. This has amounted to me paying over $23,000 in just interest in two years! If we include my fiancés student loan bill we collectively pay over $1700/month toward student loans. I understand this is my responsibility and I have to pay it off but I feel robbed. Since the financial crisis in 2008 student loan consolidation has tightened up and is nearly nonexistent. There are banks like Wells Fargo who provide this type of consolidation but their requirements are too steep for people that need it. Both of us have good jobs, make more than what we are requesting to consolidate and consolidating just my Sallie Mae loans could save 200-400$/month depending on the interest rate. Yet we are unable to get approved. My current average rate with Sallie Mae is 8.41%. I am unable to find a third co-signer which means I am out of options. I understand there are government options like the Income Based Repayment program but none of them help people with private student loan debt. Sallie Mae does have an interest rate reduction program. I applied for it but was rejected because I am able to maintain my payments. So the way the current financial system is setup, I do not make enough money to consolidate at a different bank but make too much to qualify for an interest rate reduction with Sallie Mae. I am projected to pay over 100% of my original loan with Sallie Mae if I continue along this path. The system is broken and ignores people who actually succeed and pay their bill every month. There is no reason for someone who bettered themselves and the world around them by going to college should pay over $23,000 in two years towards student loan interest. This figure is outrageous and I will have to continue paying it for the next 10 years (I will be 37 years old). This has prevented me and will continue preventing me from buying a car, a home, having a wedding and having children. I went to school to better myself, my family, and my country, not to become an indebted servant to corporations like Sallie Mae.

I'm hoping things will turn for the best for everyone and myself who are struggling with this problem
Michael, New York

I've had to leave college after doing 1 year. I already had 2 jobs, but I've been laid off from both jobs. After getting laid off from those jobs I was very optimistic on how to "kill" my student loan debt. I've started paying on my federal loans in March. My private loan is my biggest concern, because its more than my federal loans combined. I joined campaigns "I AM NOT A LOAN" and "Student Debt Crisis" to have my voice heard on making colleges to lower their prices so people will not pull out loans they can't pay back. I'm hoping things will turn for the best for everyone and myself who are struggling with this problem. Its very important that college Presidents to hear people like me that a college education should be a privilege and not being crushed by life long debt.

Maybe I should start playing the lotto. It may be my only hope to get ahead of my student loan
Nikaury, New York

I'm one of the lucky ones. I grew up in a very poor neighborhood to a working class (at the best of times) family. I was the first in my family to go to college and I did it without any financial support from my family. I qualified for grants but it was not enough to cover all of my tuition and living costs (since I had to work while going to school). So I took out a student loan. 20 years after my first attempt at a degree I'm still paying my student loan. Not only am I still paying the original amount but also the interest that has more than double the initial loan amount. Now in my late 30s with my hard-earned bachelor's degree, I still can't afford to buy anything, not even health insurance. All I do is work to pay my rent, utilities, taxes, and ever-present student loan. Maybe I should start playing the lotto. It may be my only hope to get ahead of my student loan.

It makes one heartsick to calculate the interest required for the loan
Patrice, New York

My story is about debt incurred to help my children achieve the degree of their choice. Our three children all incurred debt they are struggling to repay. We have about $20K of debt in addition to their debt. It's hard to make a $303.57 payment monthly and my kids are upset that they are causing us this burden. My husband is self-employed and his income is erratic. It makes one heartsick to calculate the interest required for the loan – yes we agreed to it, I know; but the shuffling of owners of the loan and the changes in the rules are impossible to comprehend and to keep up with. The struggles of the kids are a whole other story!

Even after a professional degree and a full time job I'm still asking family and friends to spot me a few dollars
Paul, New York

I am the oldest of a family of five being raised by my mother alone. Needless to say, after the housing crisis and my parent's divorce proceedings there were no funds for our higher education let alone my mother's retirement. I had always wanted to pursue my dream of being an Architect, and was able to be accepted into one of the top ten universities in the country. Understanding pre-2008 how potentially competitive the job market around New York City area would be I chose to attend this private university for any competitive advantage I could leverage from it. After the required five years of schooling, with government grants and scholarships, I graduated on time and with a decent portfolio. However, I also was in about $200k worth of student loan debt to be paid back over 20 years. I worked unpaid internships while in my loan grace period, but was able to secure a full time job 6 months after graduation related to my field of study. It paid a good starting salary for the industry of $42k, which was comparably higher than all of my peers. However with student loan payments of $1890/month and cheap NYC rent split with my girlfriend in Brooklyn, I barely have $20 for groceries for the month. I felt I have played by the rules and gave it my all, but even after a professional degree and a full time job I'm still asking family and friends to spot me a few dollars. I forgo thoughts of saving any amount of cash, buying a car, buying a house, taking vacations, and going out on weekends. I can't qualify for food stamps since SNAP's eligibility requirements don't take into account people who borrowed money to educate themselves. Granted I consider myself lucky to live in the condition I do and in the country I do, and there certainly people worse off than I. However, I don't understand how this education system has made me better off or anyone else subject to the same decisions I had to make.

I am a Decorated Combat Veteran ... I don't own a home, I have little to no savings
Robbie, New York

I've been dealing with my student loan debt since 1997. I was not told of the other options I had when I went to college. Wham Bam thank you ma'am you now have student loans, I was told that the highest the interest rate would go was 8%, What I wasn't told, was that as soon as I graduated, the rate would jump to 8% and never go down. I borrowed around $39,000 for college, to date, I owe over $81,000 for an education at ITT Tech, a for profit school, that I feel lied and misled most people who attended their campus. We were told that our credits would be transferable to any University and they were accredited only to find out, that yes, they were accredited...by a company that ITT owned. Either way, I drove the same vehicle for 14 yrs while I was trying to pay off these loans, and I could not afford to pay the yearly interest much less the principle!!! Being that I am a Decorated Combat Veteran, I feel that there should be some sort of program that assists and or removes the school loan debts from those that have served in combat!!! At least let us claim them on a bankruptcy. I don't own a home, I have little to no savings, And I don't see any end to the debt that I have incurred trying to better myself. College doesn't seem to have been worth the heartache!!!

I am now $100,000 in debt and I am basically just paying the interest
Stacey, New York

I remember growing up all I wanted to do was become a Veterinarian and save animals. Those dreams quickly shattered when my mother explained how expensive Vet school was and the pay wasn't exactly lucrative in the beginning stages. I then figured I'd start my college career at a private university and major in a health science major. I remember sitting with a financial aid person and they never really explained what the student loans were and that I now owed the rest of my life to the government. It was a sign here, here, here, and here kinda thing. It was just go to college. I'm not sure my parents really were aware either. They just thought financial aid and we do not have to pay. I ended up completing a B.A. in Psychology at a public university, which saved me lots of money. However, I wanted to be a teacher and I needed to obtain my Masters in Education. Well I didn't have many options in my area. The schools I had to choose from were great but VERY expensive. I choose the cheaper of the two options, but it was still almost $1000 a credit. I am now $100,000 in debt and I am basically just paying the interest. The best part is as a teacher they want another 30 credits to continue my professional development and graduate another step in the pay scale. I have no issue with that and I would love to pursue a PhD, but I already know I cannot afford more loans. Even online colleges have high tuition. I'm eager to learn and expand my career but it's just way too much money to do that.

I have to make a choice to eat or pay my mortgage
Cheryl, North Carolina

I am 66 years old and living on social security. I worked a full time job for thirty years and during that time I returned to school to advance my degree and polish my existing skills. I had hoped to continue working until age seventy but my health abandoned me. I could not find other work and thus my only income is social security. The Department of Education has taken hundreds of dollars from my monthly payment in their attempt to force me to pay back this money. I had every intention of paying back the loan when I was working and making five times the money I receive for social security. When they invade my social security I have to make a choice to eat or pay my mortgage. The months when they take the most I have to eat beans and rice for the entire month. I won't have this debt paid off for at least 15 years and if they are allowed to increase the interest I will be dead before this debt is satisfied.

The loan payments are about to start
Debra, North Carolina

After my husband died, I realized my job in real estate had been a good second income, but a job without a regular paycheck made life difficult. My two children finished high school and college. With the downturn in the economy, my job in real estate was also down. I decided to go back to college to finish my interior design degree. Meredith College gave me a scholarship for a large part of the tuition but I am faced with $45,000 in school loans. I graduated in December and am 59 years old. Interior design jobs are coming back but I am unemployed after almost 6 months. Entry level jobs are typically based on commission in furniture sales or in retail. Most design firms want 5 years of experience. I also see my much younger classmates getting jobs for which I have also applied. The loan payments are about to start and the loans cannot be consolidated without an income, so impending interest rates will impact my debt even more. I am discouraged and anxiety about this large debt. I will be going back to real estate to a tough market with lack of inventory just as It was in 1993 when I started in real estate. Thanks for listening.

I'm barely able to make the monthly payment
Debra J., North Carolina

Second career, went back to school at 41 yrs. old, acquired a MA in Education, `99, with honors, and an emphasis in behavior, worked my tail off for the past 13 yrs. in several private and public school settings, 4th grade – 12th grade, specifically identified students with Autism $20,000 + in debt with school loans. I'm barely able to make the monthly payment, rescheduled payments, forbearance 5x`s in 10 years.

I am now 70 years old paying a Student Loan that I could not possibly pay off
Joann, North Carolina

I started my Doctorate at Columbia University in New York at age 49 in 1994. At that time I had two sons in College, one in undergrad, the other in grad school. I knew it would be difficult financially, and it was. I graduated in 1998 with a Doctorate degree. Hence, began my Student Loan payment of $43,000 dollars. It is now 2013 and I still owe $40,000 dollars. My interest rate is 8.25%. I am now 70 years old paying a Student Loan that I could not possibly pay off. As a senior, I find this unbearable. I need help or forgiveness. It is terrible to pay $380.00 a month out of a senior’s income. Something must be done!

It's terrifying and I live with the constant stress and fear of indigence in my old age
Kathryn, North Carolina

I attended JFK University in the Bay Area to get a B.A. and M.A.T. and Teaching Credential. I made a huge career change after being laid off from a job just past the age of 40. I desperately wanted to become a teacher! I chose this college because it was one of only two private schools in the area that offered evening and weekend classes for working adults. Even working full time however, I still needed student loans to complete my studies, especially when I had to quit my job to 'student teach' full time. After graduation (1996) I struggled to find a job. It took about 5-6 months but I landed a job 63 miles away (one way) and was all too happy to get it. I was finally doing what I longed to do...teach! This wasn't just a job, but a mission. My student loan debt was just under $50,000 at that time and I was set up for automatic deductions electronically. Things went well for a few years, as I made regular payments, consolidated my loans with an interest rate of nearly 8%. I ran into some financial trouble a few times early on but a forbearance for a few months helped to tide me over. Then, in 2005 my long term relationship came to a sudden end. With only one income, I struggled to make ends meet, especially in the pricey SF-Bay area on a teacher's salary. I finally moved East where the cost of living was lower and the need for teachers was higher in the summer of 2007. My timing couldn't have been worse...the economy started to tank that Fall, and things have just gone south since then: There were two layoffs a year apart as state money dried up and competition for teaching jobs increased. I had to cash in my retirement fund from California for living and traveling funds while searching for a new job. I spent part of that time completely without an income. Finally, I landed a job in one of the more expensive areas of N.C. where the cost of living is very high but at this point, it was a job offer I couldn't refuse. Two lengthy hospitalizations in two years for pneumonia added extensive medical bills. I've had a frozen salary for the past 5 years with no COLA and no salary schedule increases. Needless to say, the cost of living has increased steadily. My bills put me deeper and deeper in debt; especially while living off credit cards. Recently, I've had bankruptcy filing and discharge (and I'm STILL under water). My medical insurance rates went up 700% on co-pays and deductibles and dental insurance was dropped. I owe more on my vehicle than it is worth. And all the while this was happening, my student loans were going in and out of forbearance. As of right now, I owe NEARLY $80,000 ($30,000 just in interest alone.) At 62 yrs. of age, I can't see any light at the end of the tunnel. I've heard horror stories about seniors having their social security garnished to pay off their student loans. It's terrifying and I live with the constant stress and fear of indigence in my old age. Recent executive orders have offered up some hope for student debt forgiveness but it doesn't apply to those of us who are older and have student loans that are from decades ago. Why would Congress pass a law that bans the discharge of student laws for people like me? I've worked in the public schools for 16 years, buy all my own school supplies, love my students and my job, but struggle with depression on a daily basis due to my financial hardships. Death is the only reasonable escape I see in the immediate future. That's not being melodramatic, just practical. At my age, even with longer life expectancy, I'll never get from under the weight of this burden no matter how hard I work.

My 'investments' in my future have turned out to be nothing more than shackles
Kristen, North Carolina

I grew up believing in the "American Dream" – I was taught that I had to "study hard", "make good grades", and "go to a good college" and that hard work would pay off. Unfortunately, hard work isn't the only thing required to go to college. You also have to be able to afford it. I received some scholarships but ultimately borrowed in order to finance my education. I graduated with a double major from a great school and was immediately accepted to one of the nation's top public health schools. While I learned a lot about certain subjects, I never learned much about navigating life outside of school – or how to make sound financial decisions. I was told that there was "good debt" and "bad debt" – "good debt" was when you were investing in your future; "bad debt" was to buy "stuff". So, currently, I have very little credit card debt but a lot of debt that was supposed to be an investment in my future. I got a great job right after receiving my graduate degree and worked in a field I loved. I bought a townhouse the year after I graduated. I consolidated my Stafford loans and made monthly payments of $500 for 5 years. In 2010, my organization went through 2 rounds of mass lay-offs. I was on unemployment for 2 years while working temp and part-time jobs before I found another full-time position. Unfortunately, I am now making less money that I made right out of graduate school. Graduate students make more money than I make. My current income is roughly 20k less than when I was laid off. Do I want to be here? Hell no. There were no other options. I have the highest education on my team and am paid the least because I have no other options. They can get away with it right now because jobs are short and demand is high. I was able to defer my student loans for a while – I had paid off half of a state loan when I went into deferment. After 2 years, the total amount I owed was almost back to the original amount – the 5 years of payments were eclipsed by the accruing interest. I have been fighting foreclosure and paying back student debt has taken a back seat. I received a letter last year that they would soon start to garnish my wages. What wages? I thought I did everything right. I worked hard and obtained more education than most people. I had considered entering a PhD program – and I can't imagine how much worse my situation could be if I had done that. My "investments" in my future have turned out to be nothing more than shackles. I framed my degrees when I received them and used to display them proudly on my wall. They are now hidden away in my closet because they simply remind me of my dangerous naivete and blind optimism. I am no longer proud but ashamed. Two decades of hard work and education was not supposed to lead me here... I can only hope that the constant stress of these last years has shortened my life because it's hardly worth living.

I landed some part-time teaching jobs here, but have never made enough to pay my bills and make the full loan payment
Margaret, North Carolina

I landed some part-time teaching jobs here, but have never made enough to pay my bills and make the full loan payment

We both earned various scholarship monies but we still had to borrow
Mark, North Carolina

My wife and I put each other through college. We both earned various scholarship monies but we still had to borrow. We were parents of a daughter and we both worked full-time. My wife graduated in 1989 and I graduated 1992. In 2004 I received my Master's and our daughter started college. Our daughter earned her Bachelor's in 2010, so we are still paying student loans and will for years to come!

I have no place to turn to find a solution to the student loan
Rebecca, North Carolina

I graduated in 1989 with a total student loan debt of $8,000 – eight thousand dollars. I paid on this loan until 2007. In 2007 the outstanding balance was $15,000.00, despite my payments. I declared bankruptcy in 2007, and submitted the student loan to bankruptcy. During the bankruptcy we lost our home, our vehicle, everything. The student loan was not discharged in the bankruptcy, and at the end, the balance is now over $36,000.00 – thirty-six thousand dollars! Federal Student Loan is threatening to take any money I make, any tax returns. I am now 63 years old, I've paid on this $8,000 student loan for 24 years, and the balance continues to increase. I am employed as a part-time, seasonal worker for 8 to 20 hours/week, and I make $8.67/hour. I live on my social security. I have no place to turn to find a solution to the student loan.

We declared bankruptcy in 2008
Rebecca, North Carolina

I graduated in 1989 with my Masters Degree. My total student loan was $8,000 – EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS. Federal Student Loan insisted I refinance, I did, and have paid ever since. In 2007 our business failed, and the total economic collapse took our home and we lost everything. We declared bankruptcy in 2008; the student loan was then $15,000 – despite paying on the loan for 19 years. The student loan survived the bankruptcy and is now $35,000. It has been sent to a collection agency now. I am disputing the loan. I am employed part-time – 6 to 20 hours per week, $9.11/hour; I am 63 years old. I have just completed a Massage/Bodywork program in an effort to get a better-paying job. The student loan payments are $900+ per month. They have vowed to pursue me forever and make me pay; they will work with me in no way whatsoever.

I'm now 51 and the loans have spiraled hopelessly to over $300K
Suzanne, North Carolina

So Dad left us when I was graduating high school in 1980. I worked to help support Mom and my younger brothers, and of course because no money was given to me for education, I continued retail & restaurant jobs that I'd begun at age 16 to supplement the school loans. I graduated college eventually paid off all loans. Worked for a few years, 2 years of volunteer work then went to graduate school. Worked F-T through the program, took out a couple of smaller loans, mostly paid off when I decided that I needed a *clinical* grad program to be able to meet my career goals (to actually DO psychotherapy w/clients). The only clinical program I was accepted into was *expensive.* I was only able to do P-T work during that time, so ended up taking out around $75K in student loans. As I began to realize how impossible the situation was becoming, I then dropped out of this PhD program with only a clinical Master's degree after only 2yrs., deciding that I could still see clients without a PhD. And it wasn't those letters that I cared about, really. If you know anything about the mental health field, and reimbursement rates from insurance companies (and how they are charging members more & more, and reimbursing providers less & less), you can see where this is going. I deferred for several years, paid some, then was talked into consolidating, and told that my payment would be tailored to reflect my income and what I was able to pay. Did you know that making $2-$3K per month I'm supposed to be able to make loan payments in excess of $4K? 10 years ago, I owed more than my house was worth. I'm now 51 and the loans have spiraled hopelessly to over $300K. My oldest child will be going to college in 5 years...

I went back knowing that I would have to face the horrors of student loans
Yolanda, North Carolina

I went back to school in 2010 to pursue my graduate degree after being out of school for 13 years. I had been reluctant to going back because of fear of becoming in debt. I went back knowing that I would have to face the horrors of student loans. I completed my degree in July of 2012. I have had a hard time finding employment. I have not been able to pay my student loans and they are currently being deferred. I currently work a job that is not stable with inadequate pay. I currently have no health insurance, and struggle to make it from pay day to pay day.

The school promised me job placement assistance, but this was misleading
Ben, Ohio

When I was laid off in 2008, after 20 years as a machine operator/laborer, I made the decision to go back to school and fulfill a lifelong dream to be a full time artist/graphic designer. School allowed me to accomplish this, but I had no money at all. Loans and grants were my only hope. I was able to complete one year of college before finances dried up. I was not able to borrow enough to finish. Meanwhile, I am in business for myself but not making enough to live on...and not nearly enough to pay back the loan. I am working 12-15 hour days but making far less than the poverty level. While I do not regret my decision, I can't help but wonder how much better I would be doing within a more effective system. I am tired of the daily collection calls. I would love to be in a position to be able to pay toward what I consider to be an enormous debt. The school promised me job placement assistance, but this was misleading. And I really didn't realize how much everything would cost. I thought that my new income would certainly be enough to cover any debt... but this was incorrect. The financial reality is a harsh one. I feel trapped by debt… unable to plan/save for my future, as any "extra" money will go toward debt reduction... if I ever have "extra" money again. While it is true that I can go further because of what I have learned in college, it is also true that I am not better off financially as a result of the enormous expense.

I had to choose between keeping my house, or keeping my health insurance
Christy, Ohio

Most of the people who retire, plan out very carefully their budget before they retire. That's what I did. ECMC is taking 15% of my social security (almost $250) per month. I had to choose between keeping my house, or keeping my health insurance. Why should I have to choose? I have paid them well over the $4000. But now I have to pay interest, and whatever else they are charging. I just don't understand how they can be like a "Hitler" regime, and do what they want. I broke my hand months ago, but in trying to keep my house, and not having insurance, I could not afford to get it fixed. If I could attach a picture, I would show you that my arm is deformed now. But hey, at least ECMC is getting their money.

I have written a congressman, and the President ... Nothing has worked
Christy, Ohio

This debt was actually a Parent Plus loan taken out, supposedly, in 1992 for my son. At first they said the loan was for $1250. Then over the years it has turned in to over $4000. They say the original amount was for. They have taken tax refunds, garnished my wages, and filed a claim against my bankruptcy I filed in 2000. It was listed as an unsecured loan. I have shown them proof that I did not file against any student loan, and shown them ECMC filed against my bankruptcy in 2002. As I said, it was listed on my bankruptcy as an unsecured loan. Student loans are listed as continuing. I have fought ECMC, Federal Student Loan, and the Ombudsman. I have written a congressman, and the President. Nothing has worked. Now they are garnishing my social security benefits. I have a loan paper from 1997 from my retirement account that I KNOW was used to pay this off. However, my retirement representative said they would have sent this to me, and not the school. All of these organizations can obviously do what they want, kind of like the IRS.

I have my dream career but now I am at risk of losing everything I worked for
Diana, Ohio

I have more than $62,000 in student loan debt. With interest, it adds up to more than $100,000. I am in my 60's, had worked as a barmaid for most of my life until I decided to go to school. Had no idea how the system worked so I took out loans in order to attend school. I had a GED. I got my BA then my MLS. I deferred payments while I was raising my sons. I have my dream career but now I am at risk of losing everything I worked for. I was able to consolidate my loans from Sallie Mae and was making payments but I am a couple months behind and they said I am close to defaulting. They won't accept a lower monthly payment so I have no idea what I am going to do, if they garnishee my wages I won't have enough to keep my house, my car and pay my medical bills, and I feel totally hopeless. I just wish they would work with what I have and understand that I will repay, I just can't afford the monthly payment they want.

Without student loans I would be doing quite well ... That's the hardest part of all
Drew, Ohio

I have been trying to deal with almost $70,000 in student loans for six years since graduating college. $50,000 of which are private loans, $20,000 are federal. When I was 18 years old and looking at colleges, no one made a huge deal about the dangers of student debt and how it affects your life afterwards. My parents' education only went as far as high school and they just couldn't know about the pitfalls. All they knew was that their son needed to go to college. Upon touring the college I ended up attending, a professor in the field I was planning on studying stated that one of their recent graduates just got a job paying $70,000, right out of college. While it may have been accurate, I had no idea of knowing this was very, very atypical. But this made it sound like I would have my debt paid in no time. I was sold. Fast forward ten years and I am still paying for the decision my 18 year old self made, in every possible way. Financially, I have struggled to pay rent and bills in an attempt to make my student loan payments. My parents' home is over two hours away, and with little to no job opportunities there, moving back in with them was just not an option. Any deferment or forbearance I ended up needing to use simply caused the interest to spike the loan balance up so that it negated payments I had made previously. I still cannot buy a house because I will either drown in debt, or be forced to pay the minimum on the student loan which means it will never go away. I delayed getting married because I didn't want to drag anyone else into my situation. In the past year, , I finally got married (because if I kept delaying I could have never had a life), and now have a baby on the way. Every decision we make is based around what to do with this mountain of debt. Emotionally, I was diagnosed by a psychologist and a psychiatrist with a minor form of depression, whereas I had no signs of depression previously in life. The major symptoms were constant, daily feelings of hopelessness and negativity. Having loans has made me feel like I started life with the deck stacked against me. The government is set up in such a way that loan companies (such as Sallie Mae) benefit greatly, while anyone with a student loan can never escape that debt if they are unable to pay, even through bankruptcy. So the generation that is supposed to be the future of the United States are being enslaved to debt. This tells me that the nation really only sees us as a commodity. We are the prey that colleges and businesses thrive on. No one is concerned about the future good of the country. The irony of all of this is that I am currently employed in my field of study, and have been since graduating. To add further irony, I am not foolish with money. I have virtually no credit card debt. I have no car loans. My wife and I took Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace course and budget every month. Without student loans I would be doing quite well. That's the hardest part of all. I would be travelling and doing the many things I dreamed of doing in life. Instead it's on hold. Maybe in my mid to late thirties ... life can begin. Until then any salary I make is cut by 30 – 50% to try and get this monkey off my back. I am not sure if anyone will actually read this, but if so thanks for your time.

I do wonder where the end is to this crisis
Helen, Ohio

I am a spokesperson for my daughter who has a grand total of $78K in student loans. To compound the problem, she has does not have a job in "America" and I am not able to pay the full monthly payment. Consequently, the payment of $500 plus is in arrears. The first loan is more than the cost of our first home, which was $47K. The interest has escalated to 6.125%. The estimated repayment is $103,515.36. With the way congress has handled "the jobs bill" our president proposed during his first term, where is the end to this crises. As I indicated, it's my daughter's loan, but I am supporting her. She had a job and the business closed forever. With one year of unemployment, that wasn't enough to pay the student loan even when she moved back home. I've done things such as cancelled comprehensive collision on my auto, slashed the cost of grocery, eliminated all fringes such as cable in the home, limit the number of visits for medical care as there is a co-pay on each visit, make minimal contributions to my church, eliminate any vacation out of my state and monitor how I use/consume utilities such as water and lights only when it's absolutely necessary. We share one car that is a 2004 model. I do wonder where the end is to this crisis as I can't ask my daughter to leave our home. She has made some payments but the loan is now in arrears again. Thank you for letting me share this story.

Although we would do anything to help our children, it has put us in a financial bind
Joan, Ohio

My oldest son is 27 years old. He has a degree in music education, which he took 6 years to achieve. Of course, he hasn't been able to find that music ed. job. He has been living at home since his 6th year of college. He is substitute teaching during the day; waiting tables at night and will work on the school maintenance team this summer. Even with all three jobs, we help him with his student loans. He owes over $900 a month! Although we would do anything to help our children, it has put us in a financial bind. My husband is handicapped and even though he is still employed, he hasn't been eligible for promotions due to his illness. We are driving 3 older cars that are on their last legs. My son owes over $130,000 in student debt and since he was lured into private loans, he hasn't been able to consolidate the loans. He used an uncle to co-sign on one loan and the uncle no longer speaks to us due to a time of unemployment when my son couldn't make full payments. This has caused a lot of family stress. Loan forgiveness sounds like a fairy tale but at least eliminating the interest would be blessing. We appreciate your efforts to help us out!

It is becoming harder for senior citizens to even exist
Katherine, Ohio

When I closed my business and retired, I was bored. I was told that if you are over 50 you could enroll at Southern State University in Ohio and your tuition was free. I checked it out. They were offering several law classes, and as I had been working with attorneys for years, I had become fascinated with the law so I enrolled in law classes. After completing the two years at Southern State I transferred to Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. I graduated from there in 2006 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology and a minor in Sociology with honors. My plans were to continue to Capital Law and become an attorney. As an attorney and being retired with an income from Social Security, I could represent the senior citizens without charge asking them to pay only their filing fees and gasoline for my car when I had to travel on their behalf. Before I could follow through with this plan, I broke my back and was unable to sit at a desk in the classrooms. Again becoming bored, I enrolled at American Intercontinental University. I graduated from there in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice, again with honors. I now help my neighbors (senior citizens and their families) with the preparation of Powers of Attorneys (both regular and those for Health Care), as a Notary Public I also notarize documents for them, investigate any legal problems they are having and prepare documents for them to file, and any other way I can help them. I do not charge them for any of these services. That is my story. I live in subsidized rental housing for seniors and recently we have been required to pay our own electric bills, which has increased our debt structure. With the cost of food increasing as well as the gasoline to fuel our cars plus they continue to raise our rent; it is becoming harder for senior citizens to even exist. That is why I have had to go on a deferment for my college loans.

I was the first person in my family to go to college ... It should be something to be proud about
Kerry, Ohio

I think one of the most painful aspects of student loan debt is the feeling of "buyer's remorse" I have about my college experience. I was the first person in my family to go to college. It should be something to be proud about, but ultimately the associated indebtedness just makes me sick to my stomach. I went to college despite my family's financial limitations, and as a result I took on several federal and private student loans. I admit I was naive about saddling myself with debt. I was so excited about going to college that I overlooked the way debt would affect my life. I would probably do things differently if I had the chance to do it all over again. I definitely wouldn't have consolidated my private loans (thanks Sallie Mae!), which was a total catastrophe, and made things a million times worse. Am I thankful for my college education? Absolutely. Do I feel it was worth the crippling debt I assumed to obtain it? I ask myself that question every day, and I still don't have an answer. I'm 4.5 years removed from college. I have a decent job, where I make $40,000 a year. I have over $50,000 in student loan debt. I have an underwater mortgage. I was only able to buy a used car with money from an injury settlement (from a not-at-fault car accident). I live paycheck to paycheck with no opportunity to save for the future. My emergency fund is non-existent. I have worked two jobs on multiple occasions for prolonged periods of time, and I only stopped doing so because of health concerns. I honestly feel like I'll never get out of debt. I've just learned to live with it, which is pretty sad. I think higher education is a tremendously beneficial experience. I think it really helped me develop as a person and citizen. However, I'm not sure it's worth the price tag.

I don't know if I will have enough money for my retirement if and when it comes
Kim, Ohio

I was able to go back to school 13 years after high school graduation because President Clinton made college possible to people like me. Because I never took college courses in high school I had to take math courses I never had before so therefore I had more courses to take to meet requirements for graduation. By the end of college my student loan debt was a little over $19,000. When time to start paying back my student loan I could not afford the repayment so therefore I started in the forbearance process and has grown to over $35,000 now. I have been in repayment because of the income based repayment plan for 3 years now but still am living paycheck to paycheck due to my salary at a non-profit mental health agency being low. I cannot afford a brand new car, one step from low income housing and would like to go back to get my Master's degree but will not because of the amount I owe now. My original debt went from $19,000 to over $35,000 because of various fees that add to an already high total of money owed. I am also 54 years old now and am worried if I will have a student loan debt when and if I will be able to retire in this economy. I also have to keep getting into my retirement money to borrow to live now. I don't know if I will have enough money for my retirement if and when it comes. Thank you for the opportunity for telling my story.

This is VERY hard on my barely surviving small business
Lydia, Ohio

I was in and out of college for ten years. I received an Associates Degree first and then later received two under graduate degrees, a Bachelor's in Sociology and a Certificate in Women's Studies. These degrees all came from The University of Cincinnati. I was a single mother at the time I finished my degrees and the sad thing is that I could not get government assistance for my child because they counted my student loans as income. I did borrow the maximum amount because I needed to live, support my child and pay for school. All the while thinking that this has to pay off. I had no help from my ex-husband for anything. I completed college only to work in the non-profit sector and then became an Americorps Vista and yes took the education grant to help pay off my loans. Vista only lasted one year, I could have signed up for a second year but got a job that actually paid more than a stipend with a small education grant. It would be nice if the government utilized Americorps Vista more so that folks could actually work off their student loan debt and make a little living money. And another thing that bothered me was when I became an Americorps Vista than all of a sudden the government was more than willing to help me with assistance. I had food stamps, medical and everything. I have never really been able to pay my student loans back because I have never made enough money to do so. I am now re-married and a small business owner. I am currently paying my student loans only because they went into default. I figure my small (barely alive) business should pay the loans since the whole point of the loans was to be able to support myself and my family! This is VERY hard on my barely surviving small business. I now have a family of four. My husband and I are both self employed, we have no insurance and my student loan debt is more than $100,000.00. I wish I would have known how awful this would have been because I would have NEVER done it! I am not even using my degrees at all! I am a cafe and retail store owner. I tell EVERYONE I KNOW, DO NOT BORROW MONEY FOR COLLEGE because you will NEVER be able to pay it back and it is NOT worth it! There is a hilarious comic strip: It shows three old people at a grave site in a graveyard and the caption reads:" Poor old Harry, he did almost out live his student loans" I love that because it is true. So currently I am paying on my loans until I am in good standing again and then I will defer them after the nine months of paying them to get into good standing. $100,000.00 debt and I don't have ANYTHING to show for it. It makes my stomach hurt! Thanks sorry if my story was all over the place.

Forgiveness of student debt in the US would continue the economic growth, pumping money into the economy
Marie, Ohio

My student loan story should be the story others have, as well, but they weren't given a fair shake, as I was. Back in 1982 through 1984 I had a student loan. It helped me with educational and personal expenses offering me an opportunity for an education that I might otherwise not have achieved. After working in the health information management field for several years, I was hired by a University (my dream job!). Lives was good, and then over time I watched as the tables in the student lounge were occupied by every major credit card company, offering gifts and gimmicks to entice students to join. Shortly following this bombardment of get your "free" credit card the University started allowing students to use a credit card to pay for tuition and other expenses. Originally at this University, all transactions were in cash. Now, fast forward from the late 80s/early 90's to present day. Remember when I said I found my dream job? Well, that job helped me pay off my student loan: 1. Because a university education was affordable, and 2. I had minimal credit card debt because I did not pay for my education with a credit card. The landscape changed. Credit cards became widely acceptable at Universities and banks did their best to hawk them on every campus to anyone willing to apply. Sure people should have known better, but often times people don't know the full story until after they bought into the credit card debt so they could go to college and learn why they shouldn't have done that. Then it's too late. What's worse is that there are fewer jobs, because of the economy, which was wrecked by the banks (the same banks that got a bail out from the government). It's time to provide a bail out for the common man and woman and forgive student loan debt. The US spends a tremendous amount of money on foreign aid. It's time to have national aid. Forgiveness of student debt in the US would continue the economic growth, pumping money into the economy instead of into the banks!!!

I literally begged and pleaded with them to work with me so I could pay back my loans
Pete, Ohio

When I went back to college, I was getting tuition reimbursement from my employer. When the economy turned and my husband lost his job, the reimbursement helped to keep my family from becoming homeless – the money was used so we could live and eat instead of paying off my student loans. As time went on, I started repaying my student loans. I returned to school for my Masters degree. I stopped going to school because we moved out of state. I consolidated my loans at a manageable repayment amount and schedule. In 2010, I became critically ill and deferred my loans for a time and asked the lender if I could apply for a lower repayment amount. I had over $35,000 in medical bills. My lender said I did not qualify for any of the options they had available. I literally begged and pleaded with them to work with me so I could pay back my loans. For several months I even continued to send the amount that I could afford to send. I was told that they would take the money, but it would all go to interest and I would still continue to fall further behind. I heard about a company called Preferred Student Loan that said for a fee they could help and would work with the lender so my loan wouldn't go into default or my wages get garnished or my credit score get lowered. I had to make payments to pay them the fee. Halfway through the payments, they informed me that they couldn't help me until my loan went into default. I told them I was trying to prevent that and asked why they said they could help me before it went into default. They said they didn't know why the initial person I talked to didn't tell me that. In the meantime my loan has now defaulted, my credit score has dropped over 40 points and I'm loan is now owned by Sallie Mae who put me on a repayment plan that is 3 times as much as my original payment. I'm back in this mindless circle of asking for are payment plan that I can afford. My biggest fear and concern is that I'm 60 years old trying to pay back my student loans and retirement is non-existent for me. The current system doesn't seem to want to work with me in difficult times to repay my loans, but in the meantime the interest keeps compounding and adding up to a debt that is already insurmountable at my age. Thank you for addressing this long overlooked and extremely crippling issue.

I want to pay back my loan as I'm grateful that I was able to get my Master's degree, however, I'm not able to do it
Sharon, Ohio

I have $120,000 in student loan debt, nearly $15,000 of that is interest!! After my divorce 3 years ago I was unable to pay my own bills and was left with $20,000 in debt. My car payment had to be made by my mother so I could afford to rent. I'm now 42, do not own a house, still have my mother making my car payments and I work 4 jobs to be able to pay the debt that I have. My student loans continue to grow due to the interest and the fact that my income puts my IBR rate at $450 a month! I attempted to make payment arrangements to pay $200 a month, which is all I can afford and was told that it was not permitted. So I've been in 'forbearance' for economic hardship for 6 years. Even though I work 4 jobs I have SO many other bills that $200 a month is all I can afford, yet, I'm not allowed to pay it. I want to pay back my loan as I'm grateful that I was able to get my Master's degree in social work, however, I'm not able to do it at a reduced $200 a month so instead my loan continues to grow. I stress that with $120,000 in student loans I will NEVER be able to buy a house. Nor will I be able to buy a new car when mine is paid off (by my mother!). While I am so glad I was able to get a degree, I feel that the student loan debt is a HUGE burden on my shoulders.

I could not afford to pay on my student loans and deferred them as much as I was allowed with interest building
Teresa, Ohio

I had been in the healthcare field for over ten years and at the age of 37 and after the birth of my second son, I decided to go to school for Medical Assisting. I was led to believe that it paid well. Having 2 small boys and after graduating the economy was not good in 2009. I found contracting work as a health screener, but it was only a supplemental income. I could not afford to pay on my student loans and deferred them as much as I was allowed with interest building. In Dec. 2012 I had to start making payments at the lowest they would allow and interest still being added. I am $26,000 and some in debt and work is not easy to find. If I took a full time job making $10.00 an hour, it would all go to the babysitter especially after school is out. Any government assistance a parent receives does not allow student loan payments to be calculated in the income going out for bills. This is my story and with the help of God I will triumph over the adversary!

I feel I was taken advantage of by the private industry and even by universities
Theresa, Ohio

My student loan debt story has taken me all the way to seek the assistance of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who ended up telling part of my story during his opening statements at a private student loan hearing during July 2012. According to former Representative Hanson Clarke, my situation is illustrative every type of student loan issue out there: I have private loans, federal loans, and my parents have loans for me. My frustration began early when I was nominated to the Peace Corps, but Citibank refused to defer my loan payment for service. I went on a rampage of a fight against Citibank, who eventually allowed the deferment after Senator Brown and his staff so wonderfully helped me deal with them for months. My mother has a Parent Plus loan through Sallie Mae, and although she filed for bankruptcy and faces a multitude of issues after losing her job and going through a divorce, Sallie Mae sent her a 3 sentence letter stating that although she was bankrupt, she was still required to pay back the loan, which had increased by nearly 50% in only a few years because of penalties induced when neither of us were able to afford payments! (Phwew. That’s a run-on). My total debt, including the federal/private/parent loans is equal to about $85,000 BEFORE interest. And to top it off, I'm attending graduate school this fall for public health and have to nearly double that balance to be able to attend. I realize this is my personal choice, but how else can I make a career for myself and make a difference in the world of public health without an advanced degree? For my federal loans, I'm relying on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, for which I can pay a set amount each month based on my income for 10 years, then have the balance forgiven. This great program unfortunately does not apply to my private loans or my mother's parent plus loan. What am I to do? What is my mother to do? They may garnish her very small paychecks for the grand monthly rate of $400. I feel I was taken advantage of by the private industry and even by universities charging an unfathomable amount for tuition...and even by our government who doesn't support higher education the way so many other developed countries do, like in the European Union. This system must change not only for me (so that I can one day save for retirement, buy a home, maybe even buy a car if possible) but also for my entire generation and the generations ahead of us. How can we expect to maintain our power status in the world if our people are either bounded by debt with advanced degrees, or bypass debt and don't have the higher education needed to be productive citizens? I hope we can all make a difference by sharing our stories forcefully and honestly. Thank you for listening.

It is obvious that I will never be able to pay off my student loan
Christopher, Oklahoma

My situation is this: In 1996, while working a full time job, I took out a graduate student loan for approximately $43,000 with the understanding that, with an 8% interest rate, I would pay off my loan in approximately sixteen years. I was informed of this by the lending officer at Oklahoma City University. As it turns out, my interest rate continues to accrue based on the current balance, not on simply the original principle such as a house or car loan. I have been paying $390 per month since 1996 and still owe a balance of $35,000. After having repaid over $70,000, it is obvious that I will never be able to pay off my student loan. This means that I will not be able to retire in a few of years as I had planned. I am blessed with fairly good health, and enjoy the basic necessities with little extra income for any luxuries my wife and I might enjoy, which is fine. I am able to provide my wife, who is 64, with a marginally comfortable retirement, and should the good Lord call me home before her, would leave her with a modest sum from my life insurance plan. Our savings are very meager as one might expect, and barring any catastrophe, we will survive humbly and ever grateful. I have never asked for assistance, and believe in the American dream, as do so many others. I have lived my life as independently as possible and find writing this letter difficult. The truth is that I am tired. My diabetes and chronic sleep apnea make each day more difficult, and I struggle with the anticipation that I will not be able to retire until I am with the Lord. I guess I am writing this in hopes there might be some answer or some resources that could help at least alleviate the financial burden of my student loan situation.

About 10 months later I suffered a spinal injury and ended up being fired for being unable to do my job
David, Oklahoma

I graduated with a MS in genetics in 2000. I had $95,000 in student loans to deal with. There were no jobs in my degree field. I was unemployed for a year, shotgunning out resumes to all points of the country. I, of course, had to take deferments. I took a job first with the Oklahoma Water board at a wage of $9.75 per hour. I had to take additional deferments, as my minimum payments were more than my take home pay. This was a term employment situation and soon I was unemployed again. More deferments. I was unemployed for about 9 months when I was hired by the Oklahoma Aquarium as a freshwater biologist. About 10 months later I suffered a spinal injury and ended up being fired for being unable to do my job. After several years, and many attempts, I was able to get my loans forgiven for disability reasons. Now after a few years later, I may be able to return to the job front as an instructor at the junior college level. But there are no jobs. I am still in the period where if I do get a job, I will be responsible for my loans again, but I would be making enough money to pay them. I don't know if this is a story that will help or not but it is the only one I have.

And I have four months to do it before I'm unemployed ... Thanks a lot, Washington
Doug, Oklahoma

I am 65 and just completed a Ph.D. (May 3rd). I have $145,000 in school loans and the first installment is due July 26th. Whatever happened to that "six month grace period?" I am still living on a graduate student's stipend, which runs through the summer, even though I have already graduated. I must either find a university job so I can get my loan forgiven in ten years (except for about $35,000 I will owe the IRS) or leave the field I am trained in to take a job that pays enough to cover the loan. And I have four months to do it before I'm unemployed. Thanks a lot, Washington. Doug

Trapped in a downward spiral
Gary, Oklahoma

I co-signed and can't afford to pay and now my daughter and my credit is in shambles because of this debt. As education goes, we both are learning the cost of higher education. We both receive late payment notices weekly. Trapped in a downward spiral. Education shouldn't be based on how much you can afford to pay. America educated terrorist to fly planes into our buildings because they could pay for it. Congress needs to fix this because it is not right!

As we searched for scholarships and grants, it became obvious student loans would be needed
Gary, Oklahoma

I'm a 60 year old parent of 4. I always encouraged higher education as my children completed high school. As we searched for scholarships and grants, it became obvious student loans was an option that would be needed to complete my children's financial needs to gain their degree. I as a proud parent, I co-signed for student loans for my second child. She now has her bachelor degree and I am very proud of her for this accomplishment. Her student loan debt is around twenty thousand. She has not been able to

The sad part is I cannot even use the degrees I earned
Linda, Oklahoma

I have been paying on my student loan since 1990. They took 15% of my salary twice a month and none of it applied to the loan only the interest, which the government would not let me deduct from my taxes ($2100.00). I tried to consolidate but the payment plan was more than I made in two weeks. Raising 4 children by myself I could not afford it. I have taken side jobs to supplement the lost of income from my main job. The sad part is I cannot even use the degrees I earned. I cannot buy a home and the car I purchased I had to pay 21% interest rate. I am 65, and cannot afford to retire, because, they will take over $500 a month from a fixed income that Social Security will pay me. And, if I get a job I can only make so much or Social Security penalizes me. I have to pay for Part B of my health insurance which is $100 plus and whatever the Part D cost for any drugs I might need, also pay for life insurance policy to bury me, and of course, food, utilities, rent, etc. As, it looks now I will have to work till I can no longer work or until I die, still owing on student loans. Never own a home of my own or take a vacation for a week. I do not mind paying back what I borrow but now I am paying over $35,000 of interest of what I borrowed and nothing I pay goes to the principle. It is very depressing and I have no way out.

I don't mind paying the money back so that others can go to school, too, but the problem is life happens
Lou Ann, Oklahoma

I had to borrow money for school because I was 32 years old with 2 young children when my husband-their father-walked out on us and I needed to be able to support my children. After earning 2 degrees in 5.5 years I was $30,000 in debt. I don't mind paying the money back so that others can go to school, too, but the problem is life happens. My salary has NEVER been good enough to live off of AND pay my student loan payment. I had to file for bankruptcy 4 years after graduating. I've lost 2 cars to repossession and my home is now being foreclosed on. Because my husband was unemployed for 5 years it remained too hard to pay my student loan and survive, so I put it in forbearance. Then my daughter became ill and, subsequently, disabled. We incurred over $30,000 in medical bill CO-PAYS in 2009 alone and we are still paying them off, but I've used all my forbearance time, so that's too bad for me. I've tried to get some type of help-forgiveness, refinancing-but, because my husband and I make too much money on paper I do not qualify for any type of program. Because I have worked in low SES public schools ever since I've graduated I was able to have $5000 of my Perkins loans forgiven. I'm grateful for that, but because my first loan was disbursed prior to 1998 and wasn't paid off before my next one was disbursed I do not qualify for another $17,000 in teacher forgiveness. Why does it matter what the dates were? I've incurred probably more debt than a teacher because I am a speech-language pathologist and had to get a master's degree. However, I've chosen to work in the same setting as a teacher, with the same poor kids, in schools that receive Title I funds, BUT my loans were disbursed before some random date, do I don't qualify for any other forgiveness. Crazy. Another thing: I consolidated my loans soon after graduation because I couldn't afford all the individual payments. In 2000, 8% was the best I could get (8.25% if I didn't set up automatic withdrawals from my bank account). I have tried to refinance for a lower rate, but can't do that. I've already consolidated my loans and you only get 1 chance to do something. My disabled daughter and her daughter live with us because it's too hard for her to do all she needs to do. Many, many months we don't do anything extra or buy anything extra because I have a $305 student loan payment. I did finally buy a used car because I had to – my old Camry had 130,000 miles on it and I was moving out of state to join my husband at his new job. It had a big oil leak that was going to cost quite a lot of money to fix, so after carefully weighing options we decided we had to buy a newer car. I've never been sorry I got my education. Our lives are definitely better for it. I don't even mind repaying my loan; I just wish the monthly amount was commensurate with my LIQUID income-the amount I actually have to live on and not what our annual salaries are on paper. We are in the 30% tax bracket-AFTER paying for insurance. Please help us! Get real!

I hate and despise Sallie Mae and the profits that they have made off the backs of people like me
Nancy, Oklahoma

I am drowning in student loan debt. It was 32k in 1992 with a 9% interest rate! Now it is over 110k. I am 62 years old on a fix income and am afraid that I will die with this debt. It was never in my wildest dreams that this student loan would ever get this high. I started paying my debt in 1993. Sallie Mae sold me on the idea to consolidate me 5 loans and fixed the interest rate at 9%. They put me on a graduated payment plan. I was unable to get a full time job for 2 years and worked 3 part-time jobs during that time, making payments and then went into deferment. Once I got my fulltime job making only 32k the payment had jumped to $485 a month. I paid what I could until 2000 when both my parents became ill and I had to move them from Florida to Oklahoma. I took care of them until their deaths in 2007. I sold my house in 2007 to reduce my debt. I was forced out of my career job after 17 years in July of 2010. I went into default in 2003-2004 on the advice of Sallie Mae. They told me that if I go into default then I could go into a recovery program and that way they would reduce the payment and once I completed the program that my payment would be lower. In the recovery program I paid $585 a month until I passed the program, then went back to Sallie Mae in which they then wanted $975 at 9% interest! (Oh, and they didn't tell me that the payments I was making went to the agency that oversaw the recovery program and that not one dime went for my student loan debt!!) So in essence the 9k I paid in recovery was not applied and the interest rate on my loan continued to accrue. I couldn't pay that and they refused to reduce the interest rate or take off all the interest that I had accrued and just go back to the original debt and pay what was left of the principal. They refused and told me to default again and go into the recovery program. I did this again with over $500 a month this time for only about 3 months. Then they gave my loan to Sun Bank. I am now in forbearance! I dread what is next for me and my Social Security! I am next going to see if I can qualify for the 20-year plan with a fixed amount. I would then be 82 years old (if alive)!! I hate and despise Sallie Mae and the profits that they have made off the backs of people like me that just wanted to better themselves! I'm bitter and I'm afraid of what they can do to me. My father and mother did not raise me to have such a debt. If I would have not consolidated the loans they would have already been paid off and I convinced of that. P.S. in 1997-98 I filled for bankruptcy and in 2004!

Buying a new car seems only possible if we win the lottery
Rachel, Oklahoma

I have pursued higher education over the years while raising my young children at the same time. I was hoping that both a Bachelor's and a Master's will surely pay off for me, but now I am uncertain that it actually will since I am facing a mountain of debt, to the tune of 130,000. Yes I know I have to pay it back, but I have been depressed when thinking of high the payments will be once I have finished up my Master's degree. Right now I am unemployed and my husband is the only breadwinner, but he too has student loans he is paying on as well. Indeed, it is hard to feel optimistic about the future when I feel crushed by this heavy debt load. I have even been suffering some anxiety issues due to the pressure that I feel over having to face this debt soon. Right now, I only hope that I can put them in forbearance while I can look for work after completing my degree, because I know there is no way I can afford to pay them right away, not with having four young kids to take care of that is. I plan to tell my children to not go to college at all unless they can get a free ride because I do not want them to every be in this situation and there is no way that I can save for them when I have to pay this huge debt for years to come. My family and I still rent because buying a home seems impossible when having to pay on student loans and buying a new car seems only possible if we could win the lottery. I just hope that I can put food on the table for my kids while dealing with all of this. Not only are the student loans difficult to deal with but the high cost of after school daycare is another problem that keeps me awake at night as well. With the high cost of living mixed with student loan debts, it seems harder than ever to make it in this country. Are the lawmakers even aware of high health insurance is, food costs are, gas prices are, tuition is, and how difficult student loan repayment is, even with income based repayment plans? Indeed, I pray every night that something will give soon; I pray that our lawmakers will see that there really needs to be a better solution to the student loan debt that troubles so many of us everyday.

I was at a point that payments far exceeded my ability to even make a monthly payment
William, Oklahoma

With over 20,000 in debt I was at a point that payments far exceeded my ability to even make a monthly payment for the past 3+ years. Now I have had to have an income forbearance in which the interest adds up. I’m still unable to make payments even after retirement. I just cannot even with the economy the way it is I'm just upside down...Affects my credit big time.

The amount simply keeps growing ... I will never be out of debt
Daniel, Oregon

I went back to school late in life. I earned my Bachelor's' at age 50. I went on for a Master's', and tried for my PhD before the money ran out. At my age, the PhD was the level at which little in the way of age discrimination is found. Without that degree, and at the beginning of the recession, I could not get a job period, much less one that would provide the income that would allow me to make satisfactory payments on my school loans. The fact that I am 64 yrs old now really prevents me from getting a better job. I send some money every month, but it doesn't even cover the interest. The amount simply keeps growing. I will never be out of debt.

I believe in being responsible for my decisions and debt ... I also believe that I need help
David, Oregon

I am doing work that I love and that also serves my community. If I continue doing this work full time, and don't take on any additional work, I would never get out of student debt. My name is David and I work as a hospice chaplain, helping people and their families move through death and loss with comfort and meaning. I make $40,000 a year in this vocation. I don't do it for the money, but for the reward for making a difference. I have $80,000 in student loans. I pay $340 a month just to cover the interest of my loans. With the income I make, I have never been able to make significant payments toward principle. I have a tight budget for food, rent an apartment, and have struggled to build a life that includes the promise of home and family. I have decided to create outside work for myself in efforts to pay off my loan. I believe in being responsible for my decisions and debt. I also believe that I need help. In my efforts to repay the loan, I believe their should be limits to how much money a bank can make off of a hardworking person. I would like to see: 1) Reduced interest rates according to amount of loan and income generated. 2) Loan forgiveness after 10 years of consistent repayment Thank you for considering my story and request. May you be blessed.

This supposed education that was going to improve my life did nothing but burden me with very unnecessary debt
Kevin, Oregon

I don't have a problem with paying for something I ordered or need, but when I get lied to and mislead into "doing something to improve my life", and the entity turns out to be just interested in profit and cares not about my education, that angers me. And then you find out you as a student have zero recourse and this place of supposed higher education has no accountability or oversight what so ever, and you realize you have been had, that angers me. The for profit schools for the most part have been proven to be crooks, lairs and thieves. Our Gov knows this. Back in 2010 the GAO did a sting across the country on a dozen or so for profit schools with undercover people posing as potential students. Every school failed miserably and most violated laws. Sen. Tom Harkin is well aware of the huge problems the student loan program has. The information is overwhelming, even the note you sign has some interesting fine print. They don't have to perform, and you still pay regardless of outcome. Even if the school doesn't perform as they say they will, your still on the hook forever. I found out the hard way that what you supposedly bust your butt to get means nothing. The employers had to make an effort not to laugh at me when stating that I had went through school and passed with flying colors. "I hate to tell you this, but your year of school was a waste of time." The experience I am referring to was back in the early 90's, but even today we know 2/3's of grads will not find a job in their field let alone and job at all, but the schools are still allowed to sign up as many suckers as they can. Why?? This unnecessary debt is more fraudulent then beneficial by a long shot, schools don't have to perform, no oversight, no accountability at all and worst of all no recourse for the student who did not get what was promised. This part of the industry needs to be investigated. This debt should be forgiven after ten years. The school I went to closed down within a year of graduation because of embezzlement, which I guess was going on while I was supposed to be "making my life better" attending their school. Nothing they promised was true, the programs I was involved in are no longer offered anywhere. These schools should eat the losses as punishment for being crooks, and if the school is no longer around, the Dept of Education should eat the losses for supporting these rip-offs in the first place. I have pretty much never been able to afford to pay on the loans with the exception of in the very beginning. This supposed education that was going to improve my life did nothing but burden me with very unnecessary debt in which I was lied to and manipulated, mislead and promised exaggerated benefits and services that I was to have access to for life provided by the school that I never saw. I am very sick and tired of being lied to and mislead and know one cares, even when it's a Gov backed. If the Gov doesn't care, why should I. It needs to be fixed, sooner then later.

My debt is so crushing that I can't afford to buy anything more than food and necessities
Miriam, Oregon

I am 32, and have two degrees. I also am holding over 80k in debt. I rent an apartment, and don't see how I will ever buy a house. I own a car, but it is 19 years old. I work 40 hours a week, but my debt is so crushing that I can't afford to buy anything more than food and necessities. I don't see a way out. I want to pay my debt but I need help.

I have to work two jobs in order to make my student loan payments and still be able to pay the rest of my bills
Regina, Oregon

I am very grateful for the loans that got me through school, but with everything going on with the economy, rising prices and everything else, I have to work two jobs in order to make my student loan payments and still be able to pay the rest of my bills.

I'm happy with my life, but it isn't the easiest
Shaindel, Oregon

I went $120,000 into student loan debt to become an English professor, making somewhere around $35,000 per year for my first full-time college teaching position. I have been teaching at the college level for 13 years now, and I still have $50,000 of student loan debt. I now make just over $60,000 per year, a comfortable enough living, but when I compare my life to friends who have careers with a higher starting salary that don't require two graduate degrees, I'm behind in many ways. I drive an almost twenty-year-old car, I own a modest house that always needs work, and I have one child. I still live paycheck to paycheck. I'm happy with my life, but it isn't the easiest. I think people who want to be in academia would be helped greatly if student loan debt weren't so crushing compared to our relatively low salaries.

I am 75 and still pay student loans
Sharon, Oregon

I am 75 and still pay student loans because I took out a small plus loan 20 years ago. I am in an appropriate agency and an appropriate area to have federal repayment of my loan, but I can't access this because I signed up for a PLUS. People should not be penalized for helping their children. Shame on this government.

I am old ... I need to retire, but I can't afford to
Sharon, Oregon

I am a 74 year old woman still working as a psychotherapist at our mental health agency. We are in a qualified poverty area wherein I am eligible to have my student loans repaid by government agency, however, since Plus loans were part of the student loans I am not eligible to have it included in the eligible loans for repayment. I am old. I need to retire, but I can't afford to do it with the high cost of repayment of my student loans. I have paid my community with the knowledge and training I have. I will likely die with them unpaid. I not only a good working member of the community, I am a volunteer member of GAF (treating returning veterans with PTSD) and I do other pro bono work. It would now like some rule changed to where I can have some financial relief from the repayment of loans. If my interest is raised, I do not know how I will pay it. I'm having a hard enough time as it is. I think it's time to look at the rules, especially for those who were trying to help their kids as well as themselves. I thank the government for the opportunity to get the training to help people in my community and the veterans. I and would like relief now from the endless penalties of doing so. Making these loans bankrupt-able, allowing the qualification of these consolidated loans that have included Plus loans made some 20 years ago, forgiveness after a set period of time for those, like me, who have been 100% responsible in repayment but are now elderly and unable to get sick or retire because of them, would be warranted. Thank you for your consideration.

I am afraid to answer my phone
Stacy, Oregon

I have about 60,000 in student loan debt. They insisted that I pay about $700/month on that debt and they wouldn't let me pay less. I can't afford that; I only make $1100 a month at a full-time job. They have now started garnishing my wages, so 25% of my take home pay now goes to them. I have been actively looking for a better job, but everything that pays better requires additional schooling (which would mean further debt) My half of the rent is $500 and then there is still utilities to pay. I also have a car payment, insurance, etc. My car is 10 years old; I have not bought new clothing in 8 years. I can't afford the co-pays to go to the doctor, or dentist, or eye doctor. My corrective lens prescription is 5 years out of date and a few months ago I tore one contact so now I only have one eye that I can see clearly out of. I can barely afford food. I have sold everything I have of value, including a heirloom ring that my grandmother left me when she died. My car was recently repossessed because I couldn't afford to pay it anymore. I do not have time or energy for a second job. Any time that is not spent working is spent caring for my disabled, dying significant other. I am also depressed from the constant money stress. I am afraid to answer my phone anymore; I get constant calls from bill collectors. I am drowning in debt with no relief in sight.

I do not get ahead in payments ... This is now 10 years later, after getting my teaching certificate
Susan Kay, Oregon

The only reason I stay in my degrading job as a public school teacher is to get a steady paycheck to pay my students loan payments that enabled me to get a full-time job in the first place. I am 51. I just paid off my 2006 Subaru Forrester. I live in a rural area and need a car to get to work. I rent and have never owned a house. I consolidated my loans in 2000 so I don't qualify for the loan forgiveness program for working in Title One schools. I have worked in low-income schools with disadvantaged school populations since 2003 and can barely keep up with my monthly loan payments. I do not get ahead in payments. This is now 10 years later, after getting my teaching certificate. I am frustrated and my health has plummeted, due to stress and to staying in this job – all to pay off my loans. Please help create loan forgiveness immediately for those working as teachers. The only way I could afford school was to take out student loans. I am forever grateful for that opportunity and I cherish my education. I had fine teachers at the universities I attended (University of Oregon-Eugene, University of Colorado-Boulder, and University of Hawaii-Manoa). I would not trade my education and all the effort that went into obtaining my degrees for anything. I think I have paid the price: never-ending loan payments for most of my adult life.

Somehow, we used to know how to manage affordable educations without crippling our children's futures
Ann, Pennsylvania

My daughter entered a public (state) university in 1977; my son entered a very competitive and expensive university in 1976. My husband, a teacher and school psychologist, and I, a social worker in health care, had relatively modest incomes and savings. With a combination of direct student loans, work study, a low interest loan for one semester (my son), part time work (my daughter), and full time summer work for both, they were able to supplement the money we parents were able to contribute. That amount actually was equal to the maximum expected contribution calculated on the parents" student loan work sheet. We had very little discretionary income for a couple of years. Our daughter graduated with no debt; our son paid his loan, plus graduate school loans within about five years. The actual cost of his education in a highly competitive school was about the same as her in a state school. Somehow, we used to know how to manage affordable educations without crippling our children's futures.

How ironic that the key ingredient to a thriving economy has become something that will pull our economy down
Annie, Pennsylvania

Our family's student loan debt is just beginning. I am a single parent of 3 children, now adults. I saved enough to educate the first, who is now 27. She, however, will have about $60,000 of debt when she finishes her PhD later this year. Just as my 2nd was ready for college the stock market nightmare of 2008 happened. We were left with only enough for the first year and since we used that there was nothing to grow back when the market came back. My 2nd child has been taking the maximum government loans for the last three years and I have taken Parent Plus Loans of $30,000 to cover the rest. He is very fortunate to have been offered a good job right out of college but will be facing a $500 a month payment for the next 10 years. I will be facing that much or more with the parent plus loan. My 3rd child is just finishing her 2nd year. She will have loans for all 4 years. I will have $50,000 of plus loans for this last child. I'm not sure how this will impact my children's quality of life but I do know that they will not be putting that $500 plus a month into savings, retirement or the economy. As for myself, my payment will be over $1,000 a month for the next 10 years. I will be living "at risk" for the rest of my life. I will not be able to save more for retirement. I will not be able to buy anything, go on vacation and most likely not be able to properly maintain my home. The cost on the economy of my story, which is only one of millions of stories, is quite scary. This is austerity on steroids for 2 generations. How ironic that the key ingredient to a thriving economy, education, has become something that will pull our economy down. We need to fix this problem before the damage becomes irreversible.

If I pay my student loans every single month on a level strategy, I will be 65 before my loans are fully paid off
Brian, Pennsylvania

I currently have over $98,000 in student loan debt. I have been faithfully paying my debt each and every month for years since I finished grad school in 2005, only to see the balances drop very minimally. I cannot get a home loan due to the amount of debt I have. I am 37 years old, and if I pay my student loan payments every single month on a level strategy, I will be 65 before my student loans are fully paid off. I believe in the American dream, I believe that college was the right decision, however, I do not believe that I should be heading towards retirement before my student loans that I borrowed should be paid off completely.

I would go back to school, but it is too expensive
Carly, Pennsylvania

I just want to express how I think getting an education in today's world is a rip-off. Most people I work with (and I work at a government facility making 12 dollars an hour) have degrees and I was able to get the same job as them. Some people even have Master’s degrees. The world should be more for the people instead of how much money they can shove in their pockets. People who try to educate themselves and get no where now have to worry about where their next meal is coming from because they owe so much in student debt, along with their other bills. I went to nursing school, dropped out after a year and I also took 2.5 years of credits at a university. All wasted money. I would go back to school, but it is too expensive, and seeing all the people with degrees and low paying jobs doesn't make me want to finish my degree. IF I didn't go to school I would be living pretty comfortably. Altogether between my husband and I we would have to pay at least $400 dollars a month. That’s almost as much as our mortgage. He went to a 2-year technical school for graphic design, they told him they would find him a job, but never did. We also need to hold schools accountable for such problems. I would love it if my husband and I were student loan debt free!

I am a disabled man on a limited income paying off three student loans
Daniel, Pennsylvania

I was fortunate enough to have my one-year of college paid for by my parents and after one year I decided that college wasn't for me (I was young and had dreams). When I was about 25 I was diagnosed with MS and when I was about 35 my wife realized that she would end up the principal breadwinner because my disability was getting worse. At the age of around 33 my wife went to college and worked very hard, while holding down a full time job and raising a family, to get her degree. Then when my boys graduated high school we promised them that we would give them the opportunity to go to college. They did and now I am a disabled man on a limited income paying off three student loans. My wife works hard to support us and along with my disability income and working part time, we get by. It did get to the point last year were we had to ask my oldest boy, who had graduated, to start paying his loans on his own and him and his wife have a lot of student loan debt. I did have big plans to save and invest for our children's education but things, out of my control, changed everything.

I don't want to get married because I don't want to pass the financial burden on to a husband
Elizabeth, Pennsylvania

Due to switching majors, I had to go to college for 5 years. I graduate and the only job I can get is part time at a grocery store. I am months behind on every student loan payment with no end in sight. I can't have a social life and don't want to get married because I don't want to pass the financial burden on to a husband. Everybody tells kids to go to college, get an education but the price is outrageous and when students graduate they can't get decent jobs to pay it off.

I have thirty thousand dollars in unpaid medical bills because of the bullying
Elizabeth, Pennsylvania

I was refused a deferment in 1992 when I was working as a temp making $5.50 per hour and supporting two of my three children who were living with me. As soon as I was hired full-time, I made monthly payments until I was bullied so much in the workplace by the boss and was forced to resign. I have thirty thousand dollars in unpaid medical bills because of the bullying. I have not been able to repay the balance of the student loan because of circumstances beyond my control. On June 22, 1998 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notified me that the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) took my tax refund of $952.50. PHEAA has taken every tax return and stimulus check since 06/22/1998. In September of 1998, I was notified by NCO Financial Systems, Inc. (a collection agency) that the student loan balance was $6966.52; in 2013 the balance is almost $10,000.00. I currently work part-time, 20 hours per week, $9.85 per hour. I will be 65 yrs old on 5-17. In January, I went to the Social Security office and signed up for monthly checks so that I can afford to eat because it was getting to be too stressful for me to take two buses to the Community Food Bank, which was on Thursday evenings and took over 4 hours for the entire trip. I could barely keep my eyes opened the following day at work and feared losing my job, which I really enjoy (I am not bullied). Because I collect Social Security and qualify for Medicare, PHEAA will start garnishing my wages.

The work was difficult; I was certainly underemployed
Ethan, Pennsylvania

I attended a private university for my undergraduate degree. I was lucky enough to get a sizable scholarship to offset the loans I would need to afford school. I entered into the workforce with a degree in philosophy in 2003. Other than retail work in Western Pennsylvania, I had trouble finding a job. After three years, I settled on a job at a vinyl extrusion factory. The work was difficult; I was certainly underemployed. I decided that I would put my time in there, live at my parents', pay off my undergraduate loans, and save as much as possible so that I could return to school and get a Master’s. In 2010, I had saved roughly fifteen thousand dollars and had nearly paid off my undergraduate loans. I was accepted to the public policy graduate program at the University of Pittsburgh. I moved to Pittsburgh and quit my factory job. Assistance was (seemingly) reserved for out of state students, certainly not for somebody who spent the better part of a decade out of academia. I had to take FAFSA loans for the entire cost of tuition. I graduated in the fall of 2012, after 5 semesters. In fall of 2011, I began working part-time at Whole Foods. I took a fulltime position there in early 2012. In August of 2012, my son was born. I have been searching for a job for over six months that would make use of my education and pay a wage that could more adequately support a family. I make, roughly, $23,000/year. My partner works for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust part-time. We are the main caretakers of our son and her daughter. Combined, we might make somewhere in the vicinity of $35,000. Even if she were to take a fulltime position there, the cost of childcare for our 9 month old would prove too financially taxing. We split the day: she works early while I work evenings. My deferment for my loans ends in one week. In order to pay them back in the ten-year plan, I would owe $699.47 every month. I barely make that with one paycheck and the economy has not been kind for my job prospects. I am now looking for anything office-related to try and get my foot into that setting and hopefully provide opportunity. I have not been given a single interview. Of the dozens of jobs to which I applied, less than a handful have even been in contact to even say I am not what they are looking for.

Under today's conditions I would not be able to get a higher education
Eugene, Pennsylvania

I have a PhD. I went to all public schools. I had no student loans. All the schools were free or had very low tuition. Under today's conditions I would not be able to get a higher education. Having just come back from 4 years of WW2 I was on edge anyway. I am sure I would have lost it and done something rotten. I think it is a crime putting such a financial burden on the backs of students and graduates.

I have found out that I must go back to school ... Doing so, I jeopardize my entire financial and emotional well being
Gabriela, Pennsylvania

As an emigrant to this wonderful country, I have learn very fast that working in any store, will not provide me with all the resources that I have needed for, to keep roof over my family head, and the bread on the table. Circumstances however, aloud me to learn the language, which was the basic for all; limiting the gap in between me and America, understand the very fiber of my new country, and to eliminate any misunderstanding in between me, and the natives, which is the key to healthy assimilation. With a many successes, I have got my B.F.A., however, I have found out very soon, that in order to teach, I must go back to school, and get my M.F.A. So I did. Doing so, I jeopardize my entire, financial and emotional well being, probably for the rest of my life. During the time of my education, sadly I have to admit, that I have learn that it does not mater how much do I know in my field, or how sincere, honest, bad or good I am, but who I know, or with whom I sleep, if I want to get a teaching position. Such an approach is very, very sad, and deeply unethical, never the less, wildly accepted by those in power. Ironically, those who are abusing the system, are protected be the system, and it is no way to bring them to justice. I know about this, you know about this, and so many millions among us, and yet, it is still going on in every school, college, and university in America. I have witnessed that not only the family members of the faculty were hired, even though they did not have the proper education, but their lovers as well. Now, all of them (husband, wife, lover, daughter) are happily taking ALL the advantages of the state, and federal money, with no remorse or shame. Not only that, this particular case I have in mind, it is a clear criminal act of state money abuse, and wildly accepted, and cover up, by the rest of the faculty numbers who call themselves educators. Educators of what??? The educators of how to be smart? How to take all advantages that is possible, without being caught? And for sure how to be unethical, unmoral, and on top of all that accepted lousy teachers? If the education of the grate America looks like the one I have briefly describe, is accepted, tolerate and not taken to any justice, then I feel so sorry for what we will became in the future as a teachers, and as the one who are paying big money to become one. Our citizens are frustrated. Many of them took already matters in to their hands killing many, and much more will fallow, if WE, You me, and the President will not be honest, and make drastic changes in Education. Neither of us should undermine the young fiber of our country, though they will become yours and my leaders one day. We cannot afford not to educate them, or let them witness, such a low ethical, and moral stands that many teachers commit every day across America. Not my financial situation makes me so upset, as much as the fact that we all are accepting and promoting such a conducts by schools, HR's (BS), The act of equal employment opportunity, as well as marking my race on the application should be erase not only from the applications, but also from the English vocabulary, if they have no application whatsoever in the reality of job marketing.

I don't know what to do at this time I am completely overwhelmed
Gloria, Pennsylvania

I was working when I decided to go back to get a BS degree, but lost my job due to the economy, 2010, but continued to seek employment and which I have just found now for two weeks. I studied hard and maintained a high GPA, but at the last 4 credits was told that I had ran out of financial aid and there was no way I could pay for the last class. So now I am in a position where I have this student loan hanging over my head, and yet have to pay for the last four credits. Since I just started working I have to dig my self out of this hole in order to start paying for the student loan and if I do that then I will be unable to pay for the last four credits. I have constantly applied for grants and scholarships to no avail, I don't know what to do at this time I am completely overwhelmed.

I see no possibility of getting my loans paid in my lifetime
Jacquie, Pennsylvania

I'm a divorced mother of two who returned to graduate school in order to better support my children. I supported both of them through college and have parent loans also since their father did not help them with education money. I am working two part-time jobs and can't pay on my loans at all right now. I have just paid off another debt and will now put $200 per month on my student loans, but I'm turning 67 this year and I live in Appalachia where opportunities are limited. I had to buy a new car when my old car just died and I need this to get to work. I live in the 2nd poorest county in the state and as a social worker I see the poorest of the poor among my clients. I see no possibility of getting my loans paid in my lifetime.

Now paying 23% of monthly SS income on these loans
Jennifer, Pennsylvania

63 years old Out of work; can't find work at 63 & on early Social Security $152,660.28_Department of Ed loans in IBR $18,184.44_in SallieMae private loans; absolutely refused any type of negotiation on payment except for 2 years of interest only, which I used. Refused consolidation. Refused to lower the interest rate when I applied because "You won't be able to make the payments"? Now paying TWENTY-THREE PERCENT (23%) of monthly SS income on these loans.

I have a wonderful education and a 'good' job but I still live paycheck to paycheck with nothing to pay for my loans
Jenny, Pennsylvania

Many people picture young people struggling to buy a house or get a car when saddled with student loan debt. However, I am sure there are many older students like myself, who wonder how they will ever get ahead with mounting debt. I was 42 when I went back to school to get my Master's in Social Work. I love what I do and wanted to advance my career. I was married with two teenagers. I quit my full time job, got a part time job and went to school full time. I graduated with Honors two years later. Unfortunately, the job I had ended due to funding cuts, I scrambled to find another job while studying for my license and passed. I was able to piece together three part time jobs with one company to get full time. That winter, I totaled our van on my husband's birthday and we owed more on it than it was worth. That spring I found out I would lose the majority of my hours due to budget cuts. That summer my husband asked for a divorce. The next 7 years I struggled to take care of my family working whatever jobs I could get to pay the bills. I was able to defer my loans but the interest on them continued to accumulate until now I owe more than 70,000. I tried to make payment for a while but then I had to buy a car because my 10-year-old car would not pass inspection. I have a wonderful education and a "good" job but I still live paycheck to paycheck with nothing left for the 200 plus I must pay for my loans. I JUST got a second job counseling to try to help pay for expenses related to my son's wedding and I hope begin payments on my loans after that. I have been a social worker for 35 years, receiving the lowest salaries for the most difficult and demanding work. I WANT to pay back the money I borrowed and I have even tried to volunteer my time working with vets or the homeless to help pay back what I owe but no one seems to want to help. I am very proud of my education and of helping my two children complete college with NO help from their father. My divorce left me financially ruined and this debt hanging over me has given me many sleepless nights. I will be paying well into my 60s and do not see retirement before 70. I am at a loss to know what to do.

I wish someone had sat me down properly and really explained the high cost of loans
Jessica, Pennsylvania

I'm the first person in my family to go to college. My parents both emigrated from Ireland in their late teens/early twenties to the United States. Neither of them had even completed high school. My mother (1 of 13) was pulled out of school by my grandmother at 14 to go to work and my father dropped out of school at 17 and went to London for work. Looking back on it now, I wish my high school had been more upfront about paying for college and loans and the impact loans will have on you. Being the first person to ever go to college in my family I expressed some concern about loans and it was brushed off at 'everyone takes out loans. It'll be fine. You'll get a good job and pay them off later.' So off to college I went. I went to a small liberal arts college out of State with a good financial aid package – some loans but nothing unmanageable. In the summer between my freshman and sophomore year however things changed. My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. It was terminal. Before my parents could help pay for college. Now all of it got sucked up by paying hospital bills. My mother devoted herself to caring for my father in his illness. When I went to my school's financial aid office I was told that they couldn't help with financial aid. Instead I was just offered more loans. So I debated transferring or sticking it out. I weighed pros and cons and ended changing my major from International Relations to Political Science (it lacked a language requirement) and took on an extra course load and ended up being able to graduate a semester early. It soon became apparent though that a Bachelor's would not be enough for the type of work I wanted to do. I'd need a Master's. So I went back to school. I found a very good terminal Master's program for Political Science that was relatively cheap in comparison to the other programs. And off I went to grad school thinking I'd be able to at least get a good job and only have to take out loans for tuition expenses. I was wrong. I was unable to find a job and ended up taking out loans for living expenses. I finally managed to find a part time job working retail. I thought of quitting my degree my but debt load dissuaded me. So much debt for only half a degree? So here I am about to graduate with over 80K in debt and a Master's in hand. My debt burden is a combination of family and economic circumstance. I was the first in my family to go to college. I wish someone had sat me down properly and really explained the high cost of loans. At each turn I was told that loans were 'normal' and 'everyone had them'. I also wish counselors would be more upfront about what is becoming the near-necessity of having an advanced degree to get anywhere in today's economy. College has changed in the past 20 years. It not only costs more. You get less bang for you buck with your degree. Almost everyone I graduated with in my undergrad is either working a job that you do not need a college degree for (being a nanny, retail etc) or in grad school hoping an advanced degree (and added debt) will be worth it. As my siblings get older and my cousins reach the age of going to college I do my best to talk to them about college and its expense and loans and debt. My wish for them is to all make out better than I did. I had to learn the hard way. I had no one helping me out. First generation college students and immigrant's kids are at a disadvantage. We all want the American Dream. Our family's came here for better lives. I will struggle with my student loan debt for many years to come. I don't feel entitled to help. I don't feel like I was lied to (I just wish things had been explained more clearly and my concerns hadn't been brushed off by those who were supposed to be guiding me in my college journey). Student Debt needs to be addressed. We don't need to be made feel guilty or talked down to or told we are entitled or should have known better. We need steps to help alleviate debt, lower interest rates and make payment plans more flexible. We all want to pay our loans and give back to the country that has given us so much. It's just the cost of a degree shouldn't be a debt sentence hanging around our necks for the rest of our lives.

Their grades were good, but they had to drop out because we could not afford to continue
Laureen, Pennsylvania

I am the mother of two previous college students. They qualified for the maximum dollar amount of federal grants and student loans. Even with that, and choosing a public university, the amount did not cover the costs. We still could not afford college. Their grades were good, but they had to drop out because we could not afford to continue. The school also required numerous courses that had no relation to their chosen field of study. I feel these curriculum requirements are a deliberate action by the schools to pad the amount they can extract from each student. It is tantamount to extortion. They have dropped out, but are unprepared for the workforce, as they do not have skills that are in demand. They are floundering as to how to embark into their adult lives with a career that will enable them to support themselves. So they currently live at home, and I am paying their student loans because they cannot find employment.

My husband and I will have to work until we are in our early seventies to pay off these debts
MaryEllen, Pennsylvania

My husband and I have over $75,000 in parent plus loans and $20,000 in credit card debts and $15,000 in a home equity loan. Most of these debts are related to putting our three daughters through college. One has her Master’s degree, one is still working on her Masters and our youngest is in her senior year. The three of them also have at least $25, 000 or more in student loans they will have to pay off. Why did we borrow so much? We had to because we couldn't save enough to pay for their college costs even with two incomes, because the colleges they attended cost from $30,000 to $45,000 per year. And because of our combined income our daughters were not able to get very much financial aid. They all were good students and did get some non-income based scholarships and worked all through college. My husband and I will have to work until we are in our early seventies to pay off these debts if we are ever able to. Also we had hoped to sell our house to pay off some of the debts but its now worth less than what we paid for it 13 years ago. And of course our retirement incomes took a huge hit in 2008. That's are story and the sad thing is some people I know have even more college loan related debt.

I am $188K in debt
Michael, Pennsylvania

After attending law school, I am $188K in debt. I never wanted to attend law school for the lucrative job opportunities; I attended because I wanted to make a difference in the world. Low-and-behold, when I graduated from school in 2010, I walked into one of the worst job markets that this country has ever seen. I struggled to find viable legal employment, even resorting to working in retail in order to start covering my massive student loan debt. I finally found legal employment, but was getting paid at an extremely low rate considering the price I paid for my education. I felt obligated to take the position in the hopes that it would look better on my resume and could lead to better opportunities. It took 2 years, but I have finally found that opportunity. Although I am in a position that I do not necessarily enjoy, and do not feel like I'm making a difference – the reason I went to law school – I, once again, felt obligated to take the position. In hindsight, going to law school was not the wisest of career choices. I have delayed buying a car, looking for a house, and will soon lose a relationship because my significant other feels like 2.5 years of dating should start looking like a marriage. I have explained adamantly that I agree, but am in no financial position to give her what she deserves. Compared to other stories that I have read, I feel like I have one of the more fortunate stories. Unfortunately, that does not change the fact that I still have a $188K-sized elephant still in the room.

I know I will never live long enough to pay this bill, but right now I have no choice but to pay them the way I am
Patricia, Pennsylvania

Right now I am about to turn 65 years old. I went back to school at age 60. Doing social work was a life long dream for me. I went to Penn State and got an assoc. degree in Human Services. I worked full time and went to school full time. I graduated in two years. Not long after I got notice that I owed the government $31,000. By this time I was working part time and collected social security $900.a month. They wanted payments of more than $350 a month, which was totally impossible. Now they took all my tax return money and 15% of my social security. I was not married when I graduated, but did marry shortly after. My husband is unable to work and doesn't have any income. I know I will never live long enough to pay this bill, but right now I have no choice but to pay them the way I am. They have totally ruined any hope for a full retirement.

I would have been informed before I applied for the loans to go to college
Rebecca, Pennsylvania

I have over 60,000 in student loans. I found out after graduating that some are private loans so they offer not much help. I am struggling to find full time work. I did graduate with a four year degree but the economy is tough. I do work part time so the only help they provide me is paying the interest on the loans. So basically my loans are not being paid off. I have loans with another lender and it will take over 25 years to pay off with the options they offered me. I wish with the information I am learning about loans now, I would have been informed before I applied for the loans to go to college.

We loved what we did so the hardships were worth it
Sandra, Pennsylvania

I'm 78 so my story isn't like so many young people today. I worked as a secretary while my husband got his PhD. And I worked much of the time, for 10 years, while I got my Bachelor's and Master's degrees. We loved what we did so the hardships were worth it. He was a college professor and I was a Master's level psychologist in a psychiatric hospital. We've talked recently about doing what we did professionally and how we loved our work. We've had a good life.

When my student loans come off of deferment, what am I supposed to do?
Tina, Pennsylvania

Hello my name is Tina and I have been suffering with Student Loan Debt for over 9 years. I've worked full time and still could barely make the payments. I have rent to pay that's 275.00 a car payment that's 275.45, electric bill that's 45.00, gas bill that's 53.00. I get unemployment, but that's to the Sequester Act, it was cut. I don't even qualify for cash assistants to help pay my bills. I was told that I have to have a child to get it, or only bring in 196.00 a month. Now what am I supposed to do when my unemployment runs out and I still don't have a job. This country is so messed up, people who come from other countries, get everything and don't have to show anything either. But I who need the help can't get it. When my student loans come off of deferment, what am I supposed to do. I will have no way to pay it and have no finds for them to garnish. So I guess I will have to go to jail then. They are going to be shutting off my gas to, because I don't have the money to pay to stay on Columbia Gases CAP program. So I lost that too. I think we should be allowed to put Student Loans into Bankruptcy. So since I can't get more help from the Government, I don't know how I'm going to pay for the loans. My car needs work done and I can't even get my car fixed let alone pay my Student Loans. Thank You for Your Time.

The job market is still so dismal it may take years for me to obtain a position and salary commensurate with my education
Wendelyn, Pennsylvania

I'm better off than many others saddled with enormous student loan debt. I'm older and have a full time job. I've also been able to consolidate my loan with an income – based repayment plan. The recent consolidation came about when I finished my second graduate degree program last year however one of the reasons my loan is so large (150K) is that I was still paying my loans for my first graduate degree program, which I finished in 1999. My educational aspirations and goals are all tied into wanting to be able be more employable and earn a higher wage. It doesn't seem possible in my current position but the job market is still so dismal it may take years for me to obtain a position and salary commensurate with my education. In my opinion, the two most important issues that need to be addressed in relation to student loan debt are the exorbitant interest rates and lack of jobs that pay a living wage.

Education shouldn't be a business; it should be a journey about betterment and preparation
Ulises, Puerto Rico

I'm deeply in love with food, so much that being a cook is not enough. I'm also crazy about health, and after being diagnosed with some pretty heavy stuff that was heading the wrong way I had to obligate myself to completely change my diet and eat healthy. Here, where I live, in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, being a cook is a little bit more than a joke. Not because of the cooks but because they are way underpaid. Making a living as one is very, very hard. It takes its toll on your emotional and physical health more than anywhere else and without the pay that's supposed to come with it. I didn't need more health issues. So I decided, seeing as I love science and creating stuff, to study food science. When this happened, this decision, I was already halfway through my bachelor's in culinary administration, which I intend to finish. I haven't started the bachelor's in food science and I already owe $38,000 in debts. When I'm, done it will probably duplicate. In this economy and for the career I want to have, it isn't a choice not to have a master's degree. How much am I going to owe when I'm done? $100,000? More? I mean, what kind of life will I be able to enjoy if the only thing I'm doing is repaying? Education shouldn't be a business; it should be a journey about betterment and preparation. Quality of life should go above everything else, not the other way around. I haven't started my journey yet and I'm already at a disadvantage. I will make it though, I know this, but it's just because I'm not a conformist. It would be way better though, if it was just a tad easier.

It makes me wish I never went to college to educate myself
Nicole, Rhode Island

I am 32 years old, and graduated college in 2004 when I was 23 years old. I received a BFA in Graphic Design from Montserrat College of Art and I have worked as a graphic designer since I graduated. I came from a single parent home, yet I was told I didn't qualify for any scholarships or grants (even though I was an excellent student in high school). So I had to take the entire cost of my tuition and housing out in loans. I was only allowed to take out a few in my name (Stafford Loan and Signature Loan) with my mother as a co-signer, and the rest had to be taken out as a Parent Plus loan in my mother's name. The total amount I had to take out in loans was about $98,000. After making payments since I graduated in 2004 at $618 a month, I still owe $83,000 (that's after paying for almost 10 years now). The tough part for me is, I pay all the loan payments myself, even though my mother took out the big Parent Plus loan in her name, I'm the one making the payments. So I can never consolidate the loans or qualify for IBR since one of them isn't even in my name, it doesn't show up as my debt but I'm paying for all of it. I've been renting apartments since I was 19. I spent almost 10 years without a car because I couldn't afford it. I would walk everywhere or take public transportation. The car I have now I bought 3 years ago for $1,000. It's a 1997, so it's 16 years old at this point. But it's all I can afford with my salary and the amount of money I have to pay with student loans and other bills and rent. I assume at this point that I will NEVER be able to buy a house or have kids. I'm in my 30's and live like I'm still in college with hand-me-down furniture, and a small apartment. I'm on a 30 year plan with my loans just to have them at the payments they are now, so I have about 21 more years of payments. I will be in my 50's when I am done paying off my loans if I am lucky. It makes me wish I never went to college to educate myself and get a degree. And I know by the time I'm done paying for 30 years with interest, I would have paid triple what my tuition actually cost.

Companies don't want to hire someone in their 60's so again I am struggling with my loan payments
Maxine, South Carolina

I finished college in 1995 with a Assoc. Degree. Originally my student loan debt was small $17K. Because a divorce and then poor wages in South Carolina I couldn't pay my loan payment amount. Now today I am living on my Social Security of $600 and can't find a job. Companies don't want to hire someone in their 60's so again I am struggling with my loan payments now I am looking at a $25K amount. I know that most people with student loans have more than I do but I will be paying off the 9% interest loan the rest of my life. I was told by the SC Student Loan Corp. I need to move out of the state where I live, will that is not an option.

The greed of law schools is destroying the future of hard working law students who go to law school
Troy, South Carolina

Unlike many recent law school graduates, my debt is manageable because I went to a cheap public law school in a poor, rural State. But many law school graduates are buried underneath mountains of student loan debt because of the greed of law schools that keep jacking up tuition to make billions of government backed student loans. The greed of law schools is destroying the future of hard working law students who go to law school with noble intentions, only to get buried under mountains of debt and not be able to find a job.

I had a heart attack and open heart surgery ... My debt was never forgiven
Hazel, South Dakota

My student loan debt has been the elephant in my room since I decided to go back to school as a very non-traditional student. I was never able to get a job that paid very well, kept up on payments for a while when working. Then had a heart attack and open-heart surgery. My debt was never forgiven, any of it. My debt with interest now exceeds $100,000. The medical bills have taken everything, so I applied for forgiveness through the government, but that didn't really help, only for a time but never any reduction in interest. I could go on for a long time talking about how stressful this has been. I am now 70.

This lapse in the schools not offering counseling including how to get money for college seems a bit shady to me
Kathy, South Dakota

My story isn't horrible. I received FASFA grants because I was poor enough to qualify. The thing is the majority of students where I live also qualify for those grants but when I hear them talk about student loans and I mention the grants through FASFA they look at me like I'm an alien. They never heard of this government program. I received this information at my high school when they were prepping us for "life outside of high school" type seminars my junior year, along with the other options like bank loans. Now see, I had a ten year gap in between graduating high school and entering college. Actually, I went to college three different times throughout that ten years but I just didn't like it. So I didn't graduate college until 2005 and I didn't need loans until the last year and a half of college nor as much compared with some other people’s stories I've read or heard about. This lapse in the schools not offering counseling for all types of life options including how to get money for college seems a bit shady to me. Has this offering of counseling been cut from school because of budget woes or because the school made a deal with the devil i.e. banks to hide the government grants option?

We are not sure if we can have children or build any kind of a savings due to the enormous amount of loans I have
Alicia, Tennessee

I have gone to school for 90% of my life. Growing up, my parents struggled so they stressed to my sister and I how important it was to get an "education" Unfortunately, as most 18 year old kids do, we decided to get "the education" but didn't have a clue what we wanted to do with out lives. For me, I started out getting an associates degree as a medical assistant. I worked in this field for approximately 2 years before realizing the cap on my rate of pay wouldn't be enough to even pay for the half of the student loans I as responsible for. The other have my parents took on, and had no business doing. Because the "made to much money" we got no help from the government, ALTHOUGH I had several friends who, because they had kids and no means of paying for them, DID GET Funds to get their degrees. In fact most people I know with kids were able to not only take care of their kids with governmental funding, but also go to school with NO DEBT. When I realized I needed to go back to school to have any kind of real future, I did. I got my degree in Business marketing, and I am getting ready this Saturday t walk in my graduation for my Master's in Healthcare Administration. I have been able to mesh my 3 degrees together, and I pray that in the future this is beneficial because my husband and I will now need to pay off my student loans of over $90.000. He of course did not get the luxury of having any schooling, but he does get the horror of worrying about MY LOANS. We are not sure if we can have children right now, or go on vacations, or build any kind of a savings due to the enormous amount of loans I have. I was told that this is what we need to do in order to have a better life in our country. Looking around at everyone ( mostly women) around me, I realize that mine AND my parents generations have been lied too. It's not about going to school to be successful in this country anymore. If you want to have a great life here, all you need to do is have some kids, not work and be on welfare. That way you'll get lots of benefits. For people like me who did not have children before they were married, work hard, buy homes and cars legally and don't have prison record, we get too spend the rest of our lives in debt... We are LIVIN THE DREAM!

Any sense of relief or happiness or freedom I might feel is being overshadowed by my obligation to begin repaying
Alyse, Tennessee

In one week, I will be walking up on that stage wearing my cap and gown to accept my undergraduate diploma from a large state school. One on hand, I feel as though I should be celebrating. Celebrating my achievement, my education, my new found freedom to turn the page and begin a new chapter in life. On the other hand, any sense of relief or happiness or freedom I might feel is being overshadowed by the pressure of having to figure out what I should do now – a decision which I just recently realized will be heavily limited by my obligation to begin repaying the $29,000 in student loans I accrued as an undergraduate. I completed my exit counseling last week, shocked to see a "total owed" which exceeded my expectations by almost $10,000. Appalled to read the disclaimers, which they don't tell you in your entrance counseling, that they tack on dollars worth of interest EVERY DAY, that even filing bankruptcy won't save you if you find yourself unable to pay it back, that I have $400 payments every month for ten years to look forward to if I want to get these repaid in any timely fashion and save myself another $10,000 or so in interest. I had planned on going back to grad school, especially now that I'm realizing you can't really do much with a bachelor's in the particular branch of liberal arts that two years ago seemed like such a useful and promising career path. But now the idea of having to take another round of loans to pay for my master's degree is horrifying. I had also planned on traveling; taking a year off before grad school to see the world, "find myself.” It feels as though my identity for the last 5 years has been "student". I excelled, kept my 4.0, took all the extra steps to ensure I would look like an accomplished, employable young woman on paper. And yet, somehow, I feel like my wings just got clipped. Now that I'm no longer that "student", where do I go from here? I'll certainly have a hard time affording any grand adventures without going into forbearance and, even then, the stress of knowing that all the while that interest will just be stacking up, waiting right there for me when I return back to reality. "Don't worry", they said, "If you get your degree, you'll find a better paying job. You'll be able to pay it back." "Don't feel bad about taking out loans", they said, "everyone has to do it and, besides, the interest rates are so fair you'll get it paid back in no time." "The investment in your education and your future is worth it." I know that my debt is relatively manageable compared to so many friends and acquaintances that have shared with me their stories, their stress of having accrued as much as $160,000 in student loan debt and here they are, still waiting tables, waiting for the economy to turn around, realizing that they too are limited in the career options available to them with some obscure liberal arts degree. I know that, on some level, I did what I had do to do. I did what "they" make you feel like you should do. After all, if you don't go to college these days, you're a failure. I'm the first in my family to go to college. But a bachelor's degree these days might as well be the equivalent of a high school diploma. As proud as I might feel of myself for having jumped through such a big hoop, I wish in retrospect that I had known what I know now about how this works. I wish someone had explained all of this to me. But they didn't, so here I'll be until I'm 35, still renting a seedy apartment and driving my beat-up car, fantasizing about the day I finally get the debt monkey off my back so I can finally live my life, buy a home, start a family...

They even gave me failing grades on the 2 missed exams while I was hospitalized with a very bad infection
David, Tennessee

I went back to school in 2008 at age 46 to get my BS at ITT Tech in construction/project management in 2012. I had a hand injury that kept me from finishing the spring quarter. I was then informed that with less than 3 full quarters to finish the program that the program was being changed and I would need to take an additional 5 quarters on top of the 3 to finish. I have not been back due to family issues and my back, my student loans total $59,000 give or take. The federal Sallie Mae loans are deferring at around 8 percent. The federally backed private loans are harassing me daily and will not defer. The private loans are deferring at around 14 percent interest, and ITT Tech says its life, they even gave me failing grades on the 2 missed exams while I was hospitalized with a very bad infection in my hand, instead of medical withdraw.

I will still be paying on my student loans when my son goes to college
Latonya, Tennessee

I took out student loans when I was get a relationship that eventually we got married and my plan was a two family income, which would have made it easier for me to repay my debt. My first job out of college was for a non-profit and I planned to work there for one year to get some experience. As life changes occur I was a new mother and ended up going through a separation and divorce. I ended up working for the non-profit for nine years because being a single mom it gave me flexibility but it with $30K in student loans it had been difficult on that income to pay the loans, it would have taken my almost three years with nothing but paying that debt out of my salary. Now after over 10 years of forbearance, deferments and hardships, I owe $52K. I am still not a home owner at the age of 42, single mother trying to raise a teenager and I now work for city government but have been told that my student loans doesn't apply to the new law if being forgiven if you worked for non-profit or government of which I have dedicated 15 years of service. I also had to file bankruptcy in 2011 because being a single mother paying almost $500 a month in student loans and trying to support a child it's not easy. I have always had used cars because my credit to debt ratio was always too high to get a loan and I have generally worked two jobs just to make ends meet. I didn't want my credit to be ruined but knowing that I was paying so much on credit cards trying to survive and that my loans were almost maxed on deferments, I had to do something. My loans have been sold from lender to lender, I don't even know who the original loan started with. I will still be paying on my student loans when my son goes to college in four years and most likely when he graduates from college. Again I know I borrowed the money but as I mentioned they have risen to $52K and the interest rate is 7% percent because when interest was high I was locked into a consolidated rate and will have to make regular payments for years before I can get this reconsidered. Thanks for hearing my story.

I have 5 different working handicaps and nobody will listen to me
Phyllis Ann, Tennessee

I am a 66 year old great-grandmother Who is totally disabled now and living on just over $700.00 a month. I have explained all of this to one person and he still wants me to send in half of my income each month. I am living on $80.00 a month food ($25.00 in Food stamps is part of that. I have medical bills and medicine along with rent and necessities, like household items, and cleaning equipment. I am living in a program and I cannot work. My wheelchair is about to fall apart. I have 5 different working handicaps and nobody will listen to me. I would have loved to pay these people off, but if I sent them more than $20.00 a month I would probably be dead within a year. You asked and I am telling you that people should find out why we are not paying. I was healthy until the last term of school, now I cannot do hardly anything!

I'm ready to work, but the system is not willing to get me started
Angela, Texas

I am a single parent who raised 3 boys single handed and claimed no child support. My sons got loans for college and I battled getting money for books and paying rent and many more. I decided to go back to school because my income as a teacher wouldn't, cut it. I decided to get a Master's degree .....MBA degree in Six SIgma. I came out with 3.7 GPA....three years ago. I'm still look for job as a Six SIgma professional because I don't have on the job experience. A teacher's salary will not help even though I got the teacher loan forgiveness on a part of the loan. I'm still stuck on teaching math because no one wants to take me on if I have no experience. Hence unable to pay this loan back on time because I'm still looking for a Six Sigma opportunity. The loan gets bigger because the interest rate 6.8% higher than mortgage loans...3.25%....I'm ready to work, but the system is not willing to get me started but instead lock me up in a corner but still wants the money back at all cost. I am getting older and if the opportunity comes earlier, I will be happy to pay back. Right now it's bad. A teacher's salary as a single parent is not helping....sorry. Angela

It does not seem fair that I am worse off than I would have been if I had decided not to return to school
Barbara, Texas

I started ITT in September 1997. Compaq, my employer at the time was going to reimburse me for my tuition once I graduated. I was laid off three days before I graduated. My two year degree cost me $24000, I have not been able to find a job that pays me more than $24000 a year. Since Compaq, I have been laid off five times. I have tried to pay the required payments but I have spent most of the time in forbearance. I was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and have had surgery in 2010 and 2011. I will have surgery again next month. My insurance pays most of the treatments, but I still get bills for $400 to $1000 a month. I can't file for bankruptcy because it will not cover the student loans, which is the majority of my debt. I don't have credit cards, a car loan, or house payments. I have to rent because my credit is shot and I can't buy a home. I went to ITT when I was 44 years old, so I could have a better life. This ain't it. There should be a limit on the time one has to pay for these mistakes, or at least have a viable resolution to this looming debt. I am not someone who refuses to pay their bills, but it does not seem fair that I am worse off than I would have been if I had decided not to return to school. I don't expect anyone to pay my bills, but I think there should be a way out due to certain circumstances.

We are coming up with a plan of attack
Charles, Texas

My wife and I would not have the jobs and pay we have today if it weren't for our higher degrees; however, since we do not come from money, we had to fund our education through Student Loans. We now owe over $86,000 combined and had to go to an interest only payment plan. Our balances are not even going down, but if we had paid the monthly minimums at the amount they needed, we would have been paying over $700 a month. We are currently renting, as we had to sell our house. We are coming up with a plan of attack; however, it is very stressful knowing that we are going to have this debt for 10-20 years! HELP US PLEASE!

My balance after paying 6 years is still around $130,000 ... I am barely making the payment
Dimas, Texas

I owe on average 1500 dollars a month (1350 for private and 100 federal). My balance after paying 6 years is still around 130,000 dollars. I am barely making the payment. I have not purchase a home at this time because of the student loan payment. I would like to see an option to consolidate my private loan to my federal loan at the fed low interest rate. Also a full discharge of the loan after 10 years, that's if you have made all your payments on time.

I cannot afford the enormous payments that will be due as I am almost unable to walk ... If it continues it will kill me
Fred, Texas

I cosigned a loan for my niece – after she finished vet school she couldn't get a decent placement owing to the economy. She returned to school – and at the end of each term I get calls from Sallie Mae threatening to put me in default, hurt my credit (already has happened) and harassing me all day while the paperwork is processed. The clearinghouse doesn't seem to get the info to Sallie Mae or something – they are making my life miserable by endless calls. I cannot afford the enormous payments that will be due as I have MD and am almost unable to walk. If it continues it will kill me.

Every term end I get 4-6 or more calls from Sallie Mae demanding payment, threatening default
Fred, Texas

My experience with Sallie Mae has been one of Kafkaesque nightmare. I cosigned for my niece who finished a dental degree then went on to a business major. Every term end I get 4-6 or more calls from Sallie Mae demanding payment, threatening default, and some pretty nasty people who won't listen to my explanation that she is still in school and the papers were submitted to the clearinghouse which they will receive, as they always do. They ignore that and demand payment. I can't sleep I get sick at my stomach, and am useless to function around each end of term knowing that my phone will be ringing eternally. The interest pileup is so great that I don't see how she can pay off the loan in her lifetime, and I will probably be dead long before much of it is paid at all. If so, then Sallie Mae will have played a great role in my demise. I have Muscular Dystrophy and other things that don't respond well to the pressure they put on us.

I observed music students' struggle with the cost of undergraduate education
Henry, Texas

Graduated from Oberlin College in 1965. Oberlin's financial aid package included a large music scholarship, work-study requirements, and student loan. No interest was charged on the loan until one year after graduation. 10% of the loan was forgiven for each year a graduate spent as a teacher. My teaching began with two years at Sandoval Community Unit in Southern Illinois, 60 miles east of Saint Louis. In 1967, I began graduate study in music education at Texas Technological College, Lubbock, Texas. In September 1969, I joined the music faculty as full-time instructor in tuba and member of the Faculty Brass Quintet. Faculty duties at Texas Tech, 1967-2000, included being an academic advisor for music education majors and for music minors. From that position, I observed music students' struggle with the cost of undergraduate education.

I sacrifice leaving my son, family, life in the US, every other month to work for 28 days in order to have an income
Jacqueline, Texas

WORKING AS AN EXPAT TO PAY SALLIE MAE I am a fist generation college student – descendant of Cape Verde (should have checked 'other' on college applications). My parents both had trades and college wasn't really discussed. After high school I went off to a HBCU, graduate in 4 years, with $24k in student loan debt, that was taken out with at a 8% fixed interest because of the country's "great economy" – 1988-1992. Got a professional job with the State of TX. This salary afforded me to pay the minimum to the loan, did income sensitive to lower the payment, deferred payments, try to lower the interest, etc... All to no avail. After 20 years the initial loan of $24k with interest is now $84k. I am professional, single mother of an 8 year old with a decent income, but a bad debt to income ratio because of my student loans and cannot buy a house. I believe because of my student loans. Fast forward to 2010, where a threat to garnish my wages was made and I was forced to make automatic payments of $715 for 9 months and have been making payments of $615/month since. In order to make a better life for son and myself, I knew a change needed to happen. I was blessed with an opportunity to be a Contractor Expat for Chevron in Angola, Africa. I sacrifice leaving my son, family, life in the US, every other month to work for 28 days in order to have an income that will allow me to make a "dent" in my loan. In 2012, I paid $14k in taxes to the loan. I've requested a review of the interest to negotiate a lump sum payment – since I owe more in interest than the initial loan. My goal is to be an Expat for 7 years – 4 more to go – in order to pay Sallie Mae off and have money for my son to go to college and not have to worry about coming out with massive debt, unable to get a home

I feel the government has preyed on the young and naive for financial gain
Jamie, Texas

I grew up poor. I only got to go to college because of FAFSA and received grants and loans, more grants first and more loans later of course. They like to give you the loans in abundance later because they "assume" you'll graduate and get some high-paying dream job that will allow you to quickly pay off your loans. Not the case. Been working at Walmart for eleven years to pay bills including these loans. Applied for many a job with no success. Now I'm an older man with a degree stuck in retail. Retail sucks whatever anyone might tell you. I started with maybe 22-25 thousand in loans since 2001 and have got it down to maybe 19 or 18 thousand. I feel the government has preyed on the young and naive for financial gain. Credit card companies too, throwing approved credit at you like candy. I've been a diligent payee and responsible, on time and obedient. I'll be paying forever it seems. Me and millions of others. Trillions in student loan debt. Change is needed! Please help. We need relief. Forgive us hard-working people please of our debt. I've paid for 10 or more years and haven't advanced much because of my degree. There are many like me. Forgiveness and relief of this debt would help myself and others live a more fulfilled life. Maybe I could get a car, have children, get a house. That's my situation and it's not to much to ask. This is my story like many others. Forgive our debt and allow us to prosper!

I will turn 62 this year ... I borrowed $56,000 total but my current student loan debt is $156,000
Kathleen, Texas

I will turn 62 this year. I borrowed 56K total but my current SL debt is 156K. I started college as an adult single mother in 1987 and graduated with undergrad in 1993 and then with masters in 1998 while working full time in a grocery store the entire time. I always made too much for any substantial Pell Grant assistance so I relied on Student Loans. Beginning in 1993 my daughter was also in college and in 1994 my son also. When I first graduated I didn't make enough to afford my SL payments so I kept deferring them. My wage began to rise in 1998 but I really didn't make much until 2004 with the most substantial gain in 2009. By the time I was able to make payments the capitalized interest had driven the balances so high that my lowest payment amount of $1,100 was interest only. I have also supported family members with alcohol additions that have taken my money for support and legal issues. Nelnet never even tried to collect and my loans have never been in default, only deferred and in forbearance. I see no retirement and know my Social Security will be attached because of my Student Loan debt. Currently my debt is consolidated with the federal government and was recently transferred to Sallie Mae citing excessive debt. I have lived single and been ashamed of my debt and never wanted to tell anyone which would be necessary to be in a relationship. I'm not ashamed anymore. I know I was scammed. I am willing to pay what I borrowed plus a fair amount for interest but I'm not able to make even 10 years of $1,300 a month for interest only. That's what is has grown to at this point and it's still growing. My mortgage payment on a modest home that I paid 120K for is $1,310. I drive a 2001 vehicle and worry all the time about the day it fails and I am not able to replace it.

I am 52 years old and will die with my student loan debt
Kellen, Texas

I am 52 years old and will die with my student loan debt. The monthly payment equals more than my mortgage payment. I can barely make one mortgage payment, much less two. And this is on a condo, because I cannot afford a house. I drive a 1995 Honda Civic. I do not have cable television, or a Wii or the latest iPhone. I do not take vacations. My clothes are from thrift and second hand stores. I cannot afford health insurance. If I get sick, I will then have medical debt to add to my student loan debt. I do not have credit card debt. It is all student loans. I have no savings and I cannot afford to invest in or build a retirement. I will reach retirement age with more than $100,000 in student debt and no retirement. My student loan debt is in two parts. I am paying on the smallest. The largest was originally $60,000. Because it has to be deferred every year it has now climbed to $90,000 with the interest. When I show them my paychecks every year they defer it for another year because of "economic hardship". And the interest continues to mount. I am licensed and working in the field for which I received my master's degree. I just cannot make a high enough salary to pay back the loan. Doctors and lawyers are able to work off their student loan debt by working in the nonprofit sector. I have worked in the nonprofit sector my entire life, but there are no programs for people with my degree and/or license. And both doctors and lawyers earn more income than I do. If I cannot make these payments when working, I fail to see how I will make them on Social Security retirement. Therefore – I will grow old and die with this debt.

If anyone knows how to accomplish loan forgiveness, please let me know ... I cannot find anyone who will even talk to me
Kenneth, Texas

My student loans only totaled 20,000 when I finished college. I went into case management, care taker, direct care for troubled youth and special needs clients. I was promised loan forgiveness for these job descriptions but later told I would need to go back and get proof from an out of business employer which I could never get. The other employers are still in business and can be verified that I worked for 15 years in this capacity. These were lower paying positions so I deferred my loan repayments hoping someday make a better salary. Now my loan has increased to 55,000 because like an idiot I consolidated my loans and the interest rate is 9%. I was told this was the best thing to do at the time, now the interest rates are so low and I am stuck with this 9% when I should have loan forgiveness. If anyone knows how to accomplish loan forgiveness, please let me know. I cannot find anyone who will even talk to me about it. so this is my sad loan debt story and I graduated in 1995 it has been 18 years waiting for loan forgiveness for service to disabled special needs. Please help me now if you know what to do. I am still renting of course and now I am a cook. Thanks for listening

I am currently a PhD student for the simple reason: to keep food on the table and a roof over my head
Laura, Texas

I am 60 years old and currently a student at a four-year university. I raised three daughters as a single mom and all three of my daughters also have//had student loan debt. I am currently a PhD student for the simple reason: to keep food on the table and a roof over my head. I am accumulating this loan debt because I am an older person, disabled, with no insurance, unemployed with no prospect of employment – even with a Master's degree. If I find I am still unemployable with a PhD all of the debt will be for naught. This student debt has unintended consequences and is also related to high unemployment, lack of universal healthcare, lack of an effective social safety net, Social Security disability, lack of opportunity for those who need it most – the poor, the elderly, people of color, etc., etc., etc.

I am a honor student and all I have so far is a lot of debt
Lesley, Texas

I was not fortune enough to have a family who could afford to send me to college. At age of 15 I was raped and gave birth to my first child. I could not afford to raise a child and go to college. So basically at that time school was out of the question, After overcoming a lot of obstacles I was blessed with the opportunity to get an education. Not realizing that I would have to choose and education or a home. I have worked very hard to get myself off public assistance and out of public housing. However, due to my large school debt and although my husband is a disable veteran, fought for this country and should be able to purchase a house, The state I live in is a community property state so my husband now own half of my debt. Because I am still in school and I have student loans, our debt to income ratio is too high. so my school debt was the reason a lender to turn us down for a home. We already pay for an apartment that cost the same as the monthly mortgage payment, however, a home is now seems out of our reach. I have work very hard to better myself and to have a better life. I understand that this is something that many people do earlier in life. I was unable. I really believed all the stories about how much better life is with higher education. I am an honor student and all I have so far is a lot of debt. A shattered dream of ever owning a home. WoW.

My GI bill had expired and the Air Force would do nothing for me ... They said they were not responsible for their officers
Lew, Texas

I graduated in 2010 from Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Texas and besides a temporary job in 2011 have been unemployed ever since. I suffered a head injury in 1985 in Colorado Springs and was mentally unable to go back to school till I moved back to Texas. I had help with DARS to go back to school; they bought my books. Now I am glad I had the chance to go back to school, it helped me with my brain to get it back to almost where it used to be. My first time in school in Colorado back in the 80s I had a 3.65 GPA, and now I had to learn to be happy with a C on new subject matter. I had went in the Air Force from 1973 to 1979, got out as a Staff Sergeant used my GI Bill to get an AA degree in Electronic Technology shortly there after I was run over by an Air Force Colonel who fell; asleep on his way to work anyway in the mean time my GI bill had expired and the Air Force would do nothing for me. They said they were not responsible for their officers, it seems funny they are when it is in a foreign country but not to an American citizen in the United States and Veteran. They do seem to give a lot of news coverage to injured Vets returning from war duty but not the ones here at home. I am now in about 40,000 dollars in debt, no job and no help at all from the military. I was able to get some help from the government for a little pay on my disabilities but not a lot as I am still unemployed and living at home. It is hard to hold my head up with this bill and no end in sight as far as landing a job it seems I am just looking for some help to get back up on my feet it was great getting a degree but now having to pay for it with no job and when it seems it is not what you know but who you know, and being the son of an Air Force Master Sergeant we had no pull. I just need some help. Like I said I am glad I went back to school to work out my brain it did help, but it does not help top pay the bills. I feel the military has screwed me on this.

I would like to buy a house and a new car, start a family but have to put it off because of my tremendous debt
Michael, Texas

My student loan debt story is at the beginning stages. I have just graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in History and Education. I did not know if I was going to get hired out of college so I enrolled in graduate school so my outstanding debt would not have to be paid off right away. I was lucky to get hired by a school district and now am at the end of my first year teaching World Geography and World History at the high school level while attending graduate school at night. I have not yet had to deal with my student loan debt but continue to live at home with my parents and save money because I know that day will come soon. I do not plan on buying a new car; my explorer has 210,000 miles on it and still running strong! I do not know when I plan on moving out of my parents house because the rent is very high in the Houston area compared to my salary, and the fact that I have over 60,000 dollars of debt hanging over my head. I would like to buy a house and a new car, start a family but have to put it off because of my tremendous debt. I am excited to receive my graduate degree in education next May, but am also scared to start paying back my debts.

I have over $150,000 in student loan debt
Patricia, Texas

I have over $150,000 in student loan debt. I could not find a job in Jan. 2012. The jobs are going to the people from India. The Americans cannot get hired. I did not have a family so I could go to college. Now I am age 60 and have all of this debt and am working a contract job. I cannot stand it. I had a head injury in 1995. I came out of it after decades of work. Now I have all of this debt, a 22 year-old car, and no retirement. Please forgive all of the student debt.

Usually, I'm overqualified
Rebecca, Texas

Three months ago, for some unknown reason, my students loan debt I accrued while taking classes at for-profit online schools, and while being on SSDI, the interest rate rose from 1.55% to it's current 6.5%. My total student debt is at approximately $14,000.00. I have it on hardship deferment right now and have for over a year. I pay the interest only every July. The debt when paid off will now be approximately $24,000.00. It actually makes no difference at that amount if I pay the interest or not. The difference of not paying interest is $900.00 for one year. I am disabled and have tried to go back to school and get "re-trained." But one school, Marylhurst is making me pay back a $2,000.00 living expense loan that is not included in my student debt, at $20.00 a month at 2.5% interest. I think it will take 23 years to pay Marylhurst $2,000.00 at $20.00 a month. I have had 71 face-to-face interviews in two years and have not gotten a job. Have not been offered a job. Usually, I'm overqualified. But I have mental health issues, did not do well in online classes, and I'm unable to "counsel" people or "supervise interns" at this point because of my own mental health issues. This debt shows as a positive on my credit report, but adds to my debt to income ratio. My student loan debt interest rate is higher than my truck interest rate, and if paid all at once, it comes to $300.00 a month at 6.5%. If they double that, I feel like I'm working with a "PAYDAY LENDER."

I feel that I am being targeted because I happen to have a job
Renee, Texas

I went to college as a working adult. It took me five years to graduate. Once I graduated I was in debt for $60,000. I could not afford the pay back that the government wanted from me and was not able to get anyone to work out an affordable payment plan for me so I kept my loan in forbearance. I have not been able to get a salary increase or a promotion at work to afford this payment. I am a single person with one paycheck a month. I would have to declare bankruptcy to afford to pay for my student loan. I have a twelve year old car – not like I am out here living the life of luxury. At one point I called and told them that I was in fear that my job was going to be eliminated and was told not to worry – as long as I posted my resume on line to show that I was looking for a job my loan would go back into forbearance. I am sixty two years old – I will retire before this is ever paid back and was told that then the government would take ten percent of my social security. I feel that I am being targeted because I happen to have a job and they can gauge you any way possible but they do not hold others responsible that do not have a job. I am very bitter about this entire process. How has this education improved my life?

I will be paying for my student debt long after retirement age
Richard, Texas

My name is Richard and I am a fifty-two year old male who was injured on the job on June 12, 2004, while working on Fort Hood Army Base getting barracks ready for exiting and returning Iraqi soldiers. A 200 gallon storage tank fell on me while I was attempting to install it with another worker and ruptured a pair of discs in my back. The Worker's Compensation board fought me for almost a year and a half and then agreed with the seven doctors that I had already seen and would need spinal fusion surgery. After more delays, including my original surgeon's involvement in a car accident in which he broke his neck, I finally had the surgery on 12-28-2005. Unbeknownst to me, my surgeon only fused one level of my back, leaving the other injured disc unrepaired, and so my back is in exactly the same situation as far as the pain and dysfunction as it was before the surgery and I could no longer qualify to get the other level fused. After a very brief recovery period, for an injury that most doctors say takes at least a year, the Worker's Compensation assigned a doctor who did an evaluation on me based on the American Medical Associations Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (3rd edition) and found I had a 25% disability and deemed that I would no longer be able to perform my former duties as a plumber and would have to retrain in another field. In the meantime, the Worker's Compensation somehow influenced this doctor that they originally assigned to do my evaluation (based on impairment ratings used by the state of Texas and two other states in the union that are outdated by three subsequent editions) to change his original evaluation without seeing me again to a 10% disability rating and they stopped paying any compensation immediately. So there I was permanently physically impaired to the point I can't even stand for over five minutes, without a penny to my name and no way to work to earn a living. I had to move in with relatives, as I had no way to support myself without the compensation checks. In January of 2007, with the help of the Texas Rehabilitation Center I went to Victoria Junior College and began my academic career, which I just completed with a 4.0 GPA as a graduate student and a 3.7 as an undergraduate. On the other side of that coin is the crippling $50,000 in student debt I owe to Sallie Mae. Before my injury, I could easily command $35-$40 an hour as a plumber and I had over 20 years experience, so I immediately got any job in the plumbing industry for which I applied. Now as a Forensic Psychology mental health professional, I have a master's degree, but no experience in the field and I am back to struggling to find employment, while the bank which gave me the student loan is already hounding me about exit counseling, when I haven't even graduated yet. I have been unable to work since June 12, 2004, so my employment history is incomplete for this entire time frame, making it even harder to get employment offers. Now due to no fault of my own, other than a misguided attempt to help my country during a time of crisis, I will be paying for my student debt long after retirement age, which for Social Security, for me is about 12 years. How is it that an insurance entity supposedly set up to protect injured workers can completely manipulate the system, change impairment ratings at their own whim, use an evaluation system that is over a decade outdated and has three subsequent editions (all versions for which I would qualify for permanent impairment), and stop payment of compensation immediately after said manipulation of the system they control, leaving me with no alternative but to retrain and take on an exorbitant amount of student debt in an effort to make some kind of a life for myself? I am glad I got the education and proud of myself for sticking to it and making high marks throughout my academic career, however, now I am unfairly shackled with a lifetime of debt incurred just so I can have a chance to find a job.

Meals on Wheels bring lunches, and we do not even have enough to donate to for them
Sandi, Texas

I started with $14,000 of school loan, and on public aide. As time went on and I was unable to make payments, the only way to get an extension was to sign for interest to be turned into principle. Now my owed amount is $69K and there is no way I am able to make payments. When I wanted to make payments, they were too high for me to afford them, so I never. Now I have been on my small amount of Social Security for almost 6 years, and it is almost twice what I started with, and I am at $600 a month. They now threaten to take part to make payments with it. My husband thought he was going to get an inheritance so I phoned asking what was the smallest amount they would accept and they told me $58k. We live on assistance and food stamps ($30) now, with food banks helping to fill our food in. Meals on Wheels bring lunches, and we do not even have enough to donate to for them. I have been unable to make my small charge card payments for six months now, if we wish to eat.

We can't enjoy the fruits of our higher education
Shawn, Texas

I am someone who grew up without any guidance regarding my college career. My parents weren't in my life, and not many in my immediate family went to college. After 4 years attempting to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Music, the school modified the degree program to something that wouldn't have allowed me to work in my field. So after racking up 4 years of student loans I left and spent 4 years in the Navy. After I was discharged I continued on at another university to complete my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Music. I worked for a brief time before being accepted into the most prestigious Music Doctoral program in the country. I was young and no one had explained to me the intricacies of student loans, or the negative consequences if I couldn't make payments. After finishing my DMA I obtained a job at the university where I got my Bachelors and Masters. This university is an HBCU and it's known that HBCU instructors make less than their PWI counterparts. I scraped by making less than $50,000/year working endless hours but I was working in my passion doing what I loved to do. It still had not dawned on me that I had accumulated more than $150,000 in student loans for a job that would only pay me $50,000/yr. Luckily I was able to secure a VA loan for a home and buy a used car. During the time the Dept. of Education allowed private loan companies to consolidate federal loans, I was directed to Allied Interstate for consolidation. Allied Interstate is one of THE most notorious lenders and collection agencies known for illegal and unethical collection practices. They consolidated TWO of my 23 loans. You have to ask why would they consolidate two of the loans and not all of them. When it came time to make payments on this new loan I asked them if they had consolidated all my loans. They assured me over and over that they had, when in reality, they had only consolidated two. I made my payments on the new loan not knowing the other 21 loans were not being paid. They eventually went into default. I tried everything I could to talk to the Department of Education, to no avail. They turned a deaf ear and told me I had to work with Allied Interstate. As you can imagine I received a huge runaround from them. So I allowed the default to stand out of frustration and the Dept. of Ed began garnishing my wages. My credit was trashed. I was single at the time. Now I am married and this has affected my wife almost more than it has affected me, particularly because we live in a community property state and file joint tax returns. Recently, we resumed negotiations with Allied Interstate to enter a rehabilitation process. It was an arduous negation, as they were not sympathetic at all to our true financial status. They insisted on taking almost HALF of our discretionary income for the loan payment, which amounts to more than a house note ($1400). It keeps us living paycheck to paycheck. I have since gotten a new job making more money but you would never know it. Understanding the incentives that these agencies have for collecting on defaulted loans and for getting larger payments pours salt in the wound. It saddens me that the government knowingly allows agencies to behave in a loan-shark manner to collect on loans, when these loans were sold as the great equalizer, something that would make my life better. My life is NOT better financially. I am worried that even when I want to retire I won't be able to. When my loans defaulted, they added collection fees of approximately $45,000 to the loan balance. I have yet to figure out how being severely punished in such a manner encourages anyone to repay loans. Currently in the middle of a rehab program, I owe more than $200,000. The fees will be dropped at the end of the program. However, I'll never live to see these loans paid off. I can only hope that I qualify for Income Based Repayment, which will at least cap the amount they can take from our discretionary income. As of now, we can't save for emergencies. We can't invest in the stock market. We can't start the business we want to start. We can't have expensive medical procedures. We can't buy the house we want to buy (We still own the first home in another state, but cannot qualify for a loan in our new location), we can't help with my son's college education, we can't vacation or travel, we can't assist our families financially. We can't do anything. We live to pay bills. We can't enjoy the fruits of our higher education. The thought that we can never be free of this debt diminishes any hope we have of improving our status in this economy. Luckily we were able to take out equity in our rental home to purchase another used car out right. There needs to be more education for parents on the investment options they have for higher education. There needs to be more dialog and action on decreasing the cost of higher education. There needs to be rules put in placed on how much a student can borrow based on a) their chosen field of study and b) their ability to repay the loan. There needs to be MORE help for those of us already drowning in student loan debt. The Loan Forgiveness program needs to be extended to include teachers at HBCUs and universities established on Indian reservations and for Latino students. There needs to be more open communication about the true risks of taking out student loans. I am doing my part by educating the students I teach, their parents and my family.

Insurance goes up, coverage goes down, and at 55 now you start needing such
Thomas, Texas

I went back to school in the 90's to become a teacher because at that time there was a shortage. Dependent upon financial aid, I was told by financial aid counselors at two schools the laws were so complex not everyone understood them, however there was a program coming up that would forgive loans for going into teaching and teaching at a Title one school, so I did, in a core area. They were only half right. When the laws did go into effect they only covered certain core areas, and there were stipulations on the dates one went in. In the long run I taught the years I was told, at Title one schools, only to find out ex post facto only one loan for $3000 was covered, yet my debt at a private school, and post bacc. certification program exceeded that many times. Then my debts were sold to Sallie Mae. I requested deferments/forbearance's until I could afford, but ran out of eligible time. A counselor at Sallie Mae told me to consolidate, that if I did I could start fresh with deferment time. That was all I was told so I did. Later I found out if I consolidated some of the loans that might have been forgiven were disqualified which I was never told could happen, and my interest rate went up. Fortunately I have been able to keep in economic hardship status. Seems sad as I was salaries now frozen, our retirement tampered with by changing laws on salary ladders, which effects retirement benefits. Insurance goes up, coverage goes down, and at 55 now you start needing such, but are still making a gross equal to three years ago, less take home, barely enough to get by, especially when you have two children in school themselves. You can barely help them with small things. And they worry about finishing because of loan burdens. I still teach, in an urban school, but the loans sit accruing interest, now over $170,000. How I will ever pay them off I do not know. I do know I was given wrong info years ago, that it's wrong I gave up a career in business to meet a shortage at the time, and now am left in this situation. I have had credit suffer, a retirement that once was suppose to be a good one appear now it may not even be enough to survive on because of changes I was told were in stone but not apparently. The really sad part is I'm not the only teacher I know who did this, and is in the same situation. I can only ask why, and wonder about our commitment to education in this country, lagging more behind other countries, and those who went into education, do a good job, it almost seems as if our successes are punished. Do I think Sallie Mae will care? Of course not, but that's another day. Right now, all I know is I have some kids from some pretty unfortunate backgrounds who will look to me tomorrow for hope. And I will tell them there is. Because they are our future. And nothing about education should ever create a crisis; it speaks on society as a whole.

Now that I am over 50 what are my prospects of a good job to warrant such an expenditure in education?
Tom, Texas

I went back to school in 2005 because of the need for teachers. I majored in Spanish, essential I thought because I live in Southern Texas. Of course now in 2013 one can easily see no jobs in education. I stayed in school and earned a MA in Latin American Studies. In 2012 I returned to school for a second Master's because of no job prospects. Now I have much student debt over $80,000 and I know I am not alone. How many return to school because of no job and exhaust their maximum direct loan amount of $138,000? Now that I am over 50 what are my prospects of a good job to warrant such an expenditure in education? I don't ever regret the time I spent learning because it is hard to put a price tag on the changes. I will be dead long before I make even a dent in the principal. The Veterans Administration is paying me to go to community college and train as a legal assistant because I am an unemployed Vet. Interesting that over half of my colleagues studying legal assistant are teachers who failed to find a job, and also have tremendous amounts of student debt. If I were 30 with such a load of student perhaps I would panic more but looking at 60 with the debt I have acquired a more fatalistic attitude. I worked in Mexico and saw my European colleagues did not have to begin their working life with a load of debt, tremendous advantage. Wall Street received a bailout why could it not be important for students with debt.

I have always strived to meet my financial obligations, but cannot continue to pay my student loans
Angela, USA

When I graduated from Veterinary school I had about 250,000 in student loan debt to re-pay. After consolidation I am faced with at least 1500.00 a month payment which until now I had been able to pay. After the real estate bubble burst in Florida, we tried to sell our home, and we had to take out loans in 60,000 in order to close on the home. Now, after separation from my husband and a pending divorce with a 3-year-old child, I feel as if I am drowning. I have always strived to meet my financial obligations, but cannot continue to pay my student loans. I have been paying my debt back for at least 10 years now. Now that student loans are exempt from bankruptcy I have no idea what I am going to do. My husband at the time moved me to Canada after our daughter was born, then divorced me, and left me to fend for myself, including paying back US loans making Canadian dollars. Monthly I pay on average at least 30 dollars more for the currency exchange. Without hope

Regular hard working people suffer through a mountain of debt
Chris, USA

Well I got my Bachelor of Science degree for a couple of reasons, one was simple I hadn't finished it and I am not one to not finish things. Two was to gain entrance into the USDA, before 2009 they were not really taking people without a degree and a BA in history wasn't going to cut it, so I enrolled in The Art Institute of Pittsburgh to finish my Culinary Management degree. About 3 quarters into school I went to USA jobs, I found out then that you no longer needed a degree to be an inspector, I have been cooking since 1996 and leading kitchens and teams on private diners since 2000, before that I was in the US Army. Having started my training when I was eight years old, I started with the basics, butchering "Which is becoming a lost art in the USA," baking and learning the fundamentals of where food comes from and how different people's prepare them. History and Food history play off each other quite well, hand in hand if you will and that is becoming a lost art as well, knowing where food comes from and how it is raised and grown. This is the fundamental reason I wanted to be a USDA inspector, food served to the public shouldn't be nameless, or have multiple names, and it shouldn't be so expensive that only a handful of people get to enjoy its splendor either. Back to AIP, so when I found out I didn't need a degree I was already most of the way through, so I stuck it out but I had to get a private loan and that is killing me to be honest, along with the federal loan of course. Combined they total over 70,000 and even though I have consolidated my federal loans I am unable to put them off to wipe out this private loan. I will have my jeep paid off before my student loans, the reason is simple, banks don't earn money off the principle, it is the interest that makes them the real money. And that is the reason for the problem in this country, interest stacks up and causes people grief, it cause the financial sector grief as well, so they sell down trodden loans wrapped in a bundle of good loans and the cycle is repeated until it falls through. The housing market has made a come back but it will fall again, the student loan crisis will only get worse as well, the US Government made a choice "THEY BACKED UP CROOKED BANKERS AND SPECULATORS," that was a big mistake and they will make another mistake again. I will not buy a house, I have made up my mind on that one, not in the USA anyway, I refuse to go down that road, my jeep is my life line, it gets me to work and to my private clients houses, a house wouldn't do that, you can't move a house cheaply but yet a house gains value. The housing, school, financial market as a whole is corrupt, the USA is 14 trillion + in debt and yet all politicians do is count there money, Congressman, congresswomen, senators heck even the president has a better retirement that most Americans. Yet they don't do the job they were voted to do, they can't get along, they squabble about incentives, and give deals to the very institutions that are causing millions of Americans grief. Illegal citizens have it better than American citizens, the Country is so divided it is insane, and yet regular hard working people suffer through a mountain of debt all the while Politicians, and big business continue to ruin the very fabric of this Great Nation... A shame

I don't know how you stay in the US with this loan debt
Hannah, USA

I went to a SUNY college for the first 4 years of my education. Since you can't do anything with a 4 year degree, I continued my education at a private school with an MA in TESOL. I love this field and want to dedicate my life to refugee and immigrant settlement and education in the US (how many complaints do we hear about people not being able to speak English?). However, the jobs in the US don't pay anything. I consolidated and extended my loan 22 years but then I had to defer for almost two years because my job didn't pay enough for me to rent a tiny apartment (with three roommates) and pay on my loans. I married a teacher and the odds of us getting a job in the same or nearby school districts was almost zero. We want to buy a small house and start a family, but how can we start a family when we can't pay our bills? Together we pay $550 a month, but it's graduated – soon we will be paying over $700. My husband put off his MA so we could travel overseas for me to work. We spent two years in Turkey working and then moved home for my husband to go back to school so he could also get a better job. We had to live in the tiniest, disgusting college apartment. I couldn't get a job – being overqualified for everything open except a university job, where I was under-qualified without a PhD. I couldn't get heath care and was constantly sick from the mold in our apartment. When my husband graduated, he couldn't find a job, so we moved back overseas. Now we are working and paying our loans back. But we can't move home. I don't know how you stay in the US with this loan debt. We don't have an extravagant lifestyle. We don't buy new clothes, go out to eat, and we kept one car that we shared (in a rural area) for 10 years. Right now, we jointly still owe $105,000 (if we paid it off today). I can't afford to contribute to the economy. I can't afford to start a family. I can't afford to even rent an apartment in the US. All we want is to work for public education. How did it cost us this much money to get the education required for a low – paying teaching job? I don't want to sound dramatic, but I have no home for our future to be what we thought it would be when we married.

My debt has gotten larger each year ... I now owe almost 50% more than I borrowed
Meredith, USA

I want nothing more than to live in the U.S. where I was born and raised. I miss my family. Although I live in the UK, I make my monthly loan payments without fail. My monthly, income-based payments do not even equal the interest, which accrues on my loans each month. Therefore, although I have paid out a sizable part of my monthly income every month over the past ten years, my debt has gotten larger each year. I now owe almost 50% more than I borrowed. Yet without the education I got with that loan money I would not have been able to support my daughter and myself, or help her with her education. The reason I live here in the UK is because in the U.S. my loan debt would make it impossible for me to own a house. In am in my 40s with no pension, because my loan payments mean that I can't afford to make pension contributions. It is also important for me, in the straightened financial circumstances caused by my loan debt, to live in a country with a proper health care system. My house is the only financial security I have for my old age. Without this loan debt, I would be home in the U.S. paying taxes each year and contributing to the economy. Instead, my daughter and I live in a kind of economic exile. Incidentally, student loans in the UK are organized in such a way that they do not cause these economic problems. Why can't the U.S. figure this out?

I am losing sleep about this and don't know how I am going to repay this
Shirley, USA

I was lucky enough to be able to work while I was going to state university and had only had to take out a very small amount of student loans. Fast forward 25 years. My youngest son entered college. He was unable to take out enough student loans to cover the cost so I took out Parent Plus loans to make up the difference. He is now graduating this May and just my Parent Plus loans now total $67,000. I am 52 and wanted to retire in a few years but now I won't be able to. As a single parent I won't be able to afford the almost $900 a month payment. I am losing sleep about this and don't know how I am going to repay this. I only hope that I can get it lowered per month. So it's not only the kids graduating from school, it's the parents who have been trying to help them. Many would say why didn't you put money aside over the years. That's easy for people with lots of money, but living paycheck to paycheck it really is hard to put money aside the amount of money needed to fund a higher education.

I have yet to touch the principal and will be making payments until someone sends them a death certificate
Paula, Utah

The total of my loans was $35,000 for undergrad and grad schools. My latest total is $91,678.57, but if I pay it now the total is $117,784.37. I am 69 years old, retired and have been making income based payments for years. I have yet to touch the principal and will be making payments until someone sends them a death certificate. I believed, and still do, that an education will make a better life, but how can they justify this inflated interest? Seriously, I can understand people who escape to Europe to get away from these loans.

The payments they want me to make are bigger than any income I can make in this state
Ben, Vermont

I am 45 years old. I borrowed $57,000 for graduate and undergraduate combined from Vermont Student Assistance Corporation. I signed every thing they sent me for ten years, and have paid them close to $20,000. Now I owe them $150,000 at 8:7%. They are garnishing my wages and taking my tax returns. The payments they want me to make are bigger than any income I can make in this state. That is 200% profit all subsidized by the taxpayers. This is a non-profit company, subsidized by the taxpayers of Vermont. Now, they want me to borrow 150,000 from Direct Lending so they can have all their profit, now. When I tried to work out a deal to make it workable they told me they are barred by federal law from giving up one penny of interest of penalties. How much of this debt crisis is just profit?

What we need today is what we had in the 1950s & 1960s: strong state support of higher education to make it affordable
Walter, Vermont

My dad never graduated 8th grade and worked his life as a laborer. My mom was an electronics assembler. I was on track to become a meat cutter and sausage maker. But I got into college in 1968 and continued through graduate school 10 years later. I had accumulated educational debt of $1200. Paid it off. Broke into the Ivy Leagues. A Chicago boy, second-generation immigrant born. Living the dream in New England. As I near retirement I feel blessed that I came up at a time when higher education was affordable and did not require heavy borrowing. I attended both non-elite and elite universities, and got thru with a mix of merit scholarships and grants. Also, the sweat of my brow. This just can't be done anymore. Tuition and board expenses are obscenely high. Scholarships and grants and part-time work are not enough to cover costs. What we need today is what we had in the 1950's and 1960's: strong state support of higher education to make it affordable and doable for all. We need loan forgiveness, translating loans into grants. We need a system of higher education devoid of the current star system where a few professors make hundreds of thousands of dollars each. We need a system that will produce thoughtful people who can contribute to a humane society and not have to worry about becoming criminalized for not being able to pay back educational loans.

I was told that the only way forgiveness of the loan would be if you're handicapped or dead then you can't pay it back
Deborah, Virginia

My name is Deborah and I live in Virginia presently. A few years ago I started this journey because I am getting older and the job market is still looking a little competitive for people my young age. I love education and decided to pursue the possibility of going back to school. I work on a job where I am not making the income I know I deserve but I love what I do. I work with children with some learning disabilities. My yearly income is 14,968, I make 11.38 a hour and 83.00 a day, I get 8 sick days and 2 personal days. I owe a lot of money in Loans, been deferred twice and still got a long ways to go. I don't know how I'm going to pay this money back. I do on the other hand appreciate all that's given to me but I know that there should be something done about the interest and the payments. Everybody doesn't have the ability or the mains to pay the banking institutions what they're asking of them. You may say, "well don't except the stipend". Well you might be right but because we make so much less "the stipend helps with the cost of electronics (computer) electricity during that time, food and sometimes the shelter we need etc. According to some people I've talked to in this business I was told that the only way forgiveness of the loan would be if you're handicapped or dead then you can't pay it back. This is sad.

Something went wrong between my 1965 and today
Ed, Virginia

When I graduated from the University of Denver, a private school, I had no debt to speak of. I worked part time and my wife full time to pay our way through my education. We were frugal. We didn't know how poor we were because everyone we knew was doing the same thing. We crawled our way into the middle class, adopted two children and put one through a university. In my career I saw many students who worked their way through, but ended up with gigantic student loan debts at graduation. There's a tremendous gap between us working our way through a private school in 1965 and the students of today who work, but still need these loans. Something went wrong between my 1965 and today.

My life has been devastated by this 'investment'
Jelena, Virginia

I paid my way through undergrad and came out with a BA and no student loan debt. It took me 6 years, help from my then husband, and the fact that I went to an in-state college to do so, but was successful. Fast forward a year later and I found that my degree wasn't doing much in the way of getting me the type of job I wanted. My husband and I decided that it would benefit our family if I went back to school to get my law degree. I got a small scholarship to a decent school and took out loans to cover the rest. After my first year of law school, my fellow students and I began hearing the buzz about the legal market tanking. We heard that grads with offer letters were having those offers rescinded, that the public interest jobs (what I envisioned doing) that were once prime starting points for recent law grads, were being flooded by seasoned attorneys who'd been let go from their corporate firms because of downsizing. Or, that simply, no one was hiring, period. At that point, I had already borrowed money and invested in the degree, so quitting seemed a poor choice. Months prior to my graduation, my marriage fell apart and my husband and I separated. We divorced shortly after I finished school. Our child was 3 at the time. I had no money, no job, and nowhere to go, so I came home to the area where I grew up to start my life over. I passed the Bar but the legal jobs were non-existent. Even attorney positions for new grads were offering pay that was less than the retail job I had while working through undergrad...and those job postings were getting some 100 resumes, alone. I finally found a position in government affairs, but it's a private company. I make very little compared to what I had anticipated making with my degree, and I work very hard. The level of work is specialized and at least it is legal in nature. However, I now have to pay back my law school debt on the salary of a secretary. I would never have gone on this journey if I had thought I'd be doing this alone. The decision was made as a family, my ex-husband benefited from my loans, to live off of while I was in school. He makes 3 times what I make and I have to pay 80K back, on my own, while raising a child in the DC area. I have an IBR plan in place but at this rate, I will be a slave to this debt for the rest of my working life. My ex husband walked away from our house and will have his debt discharged, however, I can never get relief for the debt I have. People can rack up huge amounts of credit card debt and then file for bankruptcy...but I tried to do something I thought would benefit myself, my career, and my family, and will be trapped forever. I will never be able to buy a home now, buy a car, and its hard enough to find someone willing to rent to me. My life has been devastated by this "investment". I have no problem paying the debt back, I make my payments every month, but there has to be some sort of relief available to at least help people like me build and have a life, even while paying back our loans.

So I will have to defer my payments once more in order to eat and feed my children
Johnel, Virginia

I changed majors in college so I ended up graduating late. I got married in 1996, had a child, and shortly after divorced. Had a custody battle that lasted seven years. I had to begin paying back my student loan in 1996 despite not actually having my degree and being a single parent. It was difficult to find a good job to pay my student loan without a degree. During this time I had my loan differed for hardship reasons. I requested help from my college, an expensive private institution, to transfer in my last two class credits to get my degree and pay my loan back. So I got my degree in 2004 (thirteen) years later. But also thirteen years into my debt. I started work as a teacher's aid the next year. Teacher's aids in Virginia made 11-14 thousand dollars a year. Try paying for anything on that kind of salary. I worked three jobs and still only made 15,000 per year. Finally in 2008 I got a full-time teaching position in a school system that offered loan forgiveness after five years of teaching. After my third year teaching my principal promised my job to his friend leaving me out of work and without a way to pay my student loans and other loans from liscensure. So now I am more in debt and teach vocational education at a rehab facility at a fraction of my former pay without health benefits and limited to 30 hours a week and 1500 hours a year. So I will have to defer my payments once more in order to eat and feed my children. That is why I would like to get any help possible to reduce or eliminate student debt. It makes for a tough life when you begin adult life in debt. It effects every aspect of a person's life.

Now, at 58, after raising 2 sons on my own, and now myself disabled with leukemia, there is still no relief
Karel, Virginia

I worked my way through college and nursing school. For law school, I had to borrow tuition. I graduated in 1990 with a JD and about $33,000.00 in debt. After graduation I consolidated the loans at 8%, a good rate at the time. Unfortunately, in 1993 my husband became severely ill with leukemia, followed by multiple heart attacks, forcing me to defer the loan, with interest, for several years. By the time I began payments again, I owed almost $75,000. At $671 a month for 25 years, my installment payments are larger than my mortgage or car payment. While I practiced law I donated at least 8 hours a week to pro bono service. I tithed to my church and donated to local schools and community charities. Because the installment payment is applied to interest only first, after 23 years I still owe $30,000. Now, at 58, after raising 2 sons on my own, and now myself disabled with leukemia, there is still no relief. No response to my disability discharge application, no discharge in bankruptcy, no loan forgiveness despite a lifetime of work and service to others, no waiver despite the fact that I have paid back $40,000 on a $33,000 note. It is not right, it is a disservice to our country and a disincentive to becoming educated. We are just one generation away from dissolving the middle class, leaving only the very rich and the very poor, with those who are rich falsely believing they are entitled to their wealth, and those who are poor knowing all too well the American dream is dead to them.

I went to school to avoid poverty, but here we are worse off than many of our peers who didn't go to college
Keisha, Virginia

After interest, I currently have about $80,000 in private student loans and another $20,000 in federal loans. That's just for my loans, my husband has another $20,000. Maybe I'm an idiot for taking out so much in loans especially as a California resident upon graduating high school. No one told me CA residents could attend state schools for cheap to free completely. So I went to a private school in Virginia in 2005 because I knew I learned better with more one on one attention from professors and because the school specialized in what I wanted to do. Neither of my parents went to college so they weren't sure how to advise me, but my mom had gotten into real estate and in 2004 when I was getting ready to look at colleges, real estate was hot and she was sure she could help put me through college with no problem. That was, of course, before the market crashed completely just as I was midway to finishing my degree. I thought things might look up, so I finished what I had started and graduated in 2009 into a job market that simply wasn't interested in hiring liberal arts graduated with no significant work experience. With minimum payments, almost half of my husband's and my income good to loans every month. We share one car which is my car that I've had since I turned 16 and was able to start driving. It's falling apart and we can't even afford to take it to the mechanic let alone buy a new car. We live with my in laws because we can't afford it own pace. I'm scared to death of getting pregnant. There is no way we could adequately provide for a child right now. This will be three years married this year with starting out own family as not as option. I went to school to avoid poverty, but here we are worse off than many of our peers who didn't go to college. When student loans are factored in, my husband and I are only $4,000 per year above the lowest national poverty line.

Are we turning into a developing nation?
Langdon, Virginia

I have 3 children, who were all honor roll students in high school. My eldest couldn't afford college and got Microsoft Certified. He got a good job. My other two children attended good colleges and graduated with honors. One graduated on time, with honors, and remains heavily in debt and is underpaid as a teacher. She will be paying off debt as her own children go to college. The other got a well paying job, but is also heavily in debt with two children to raise. She will be paying off debt as she struggles to put her two children through college. She will be in debt for the rest of her life. Her husband would go to college, if he could afford it, without creating even more debt. My daughter was turned down for a home loan, which would have given her a lower monthly payment than rent, because her student loans were too high. Can't we do better than this, since all of Europe does much better? Are we turning into a developing nation?

The US Dept of Education did not care and neither did the student loan lender
Pam, Virginia

My husband was told, without warning that he just had to pay his student loans. We did not have the money amount that they wanted. We tried to get deferments, etc. The US Dept. of Education did not care and neither did the student loan lender. We found an attorney but did not have to use him. When I did some digging because he was at work, I found out that you could do forbearance for as little as $20 a month indefinitely. The Student Loan companies do not want you to know this. Also, they give out false information. How do I know? I asked what part of the CFR (code of federal regulations) do they decide the forbearances on, deferments, what are the qualifications, etc. They answered and I kid you not: "What is the CFR or code of federal regulations?" I was floored and told them to get out of the business if they are that ignorant. The government is doing absolutely nothing to help out people who owe or will owe. They (congress) are just sitting warming chairs and waiting for a vacation. We need to get a petition on each and every part of the student loan signed and flood congress with an issue that needs addressing. We also need someone to testify before congress or at least a few laymen who are dealing with debt now. What about those who are unemployed and absolutely cannot pay? What about them? We need to protest and picket our own government or we are done in!

I found a job working for less than $10 an hour and never realized my loan payments went into effect asap
Steve, Virginia

I attended an art institute for a little over a year. I didn't learn a damn thing at the school other than YOU have to cover for everything (books, supplies, etc.) I sure as shit didn't have money for that after my first summer semester. When I went to open another loan, I faulted and that left me no other choice but to drop out. I found a job working for less than $10 an hour and never realized my loan payments went into effect asap. Call after call from Sallie Mae, I never hear the end of it. I'm now at a decent job and barely scraping by with having to pay $509 a month on top of rent and other things we pay for in life. I just can't believe that going to art school for a year put me at 50k worth of student loan debt with no help from parents. All on me

I worry about losing everything just for a degree
Susan, Virginia

I reached the highest position available to me at my place of work years ago. I wasn't heading anywhere and still struggling. I decided at the age of 40 to go to college and get a degree in something I was already very good at, computers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics listed it as a an amazing growing field in need of occupants and a great deal more in salary. I graduated Cum Laude in 3.5 years not only attending school full-time but working full time as well. During that time the economy was collapsing, and everything changed. The technological positions in my area were closing doors and laying off staff before I even graduated. I ended up with a $60K debt for school and ended up partially laid off from my job of 25 years. I am paying back my school loan using income based figures so I am at $330.00 a month. I also own a home & vehicle in bad repair. I have always considered myself pretty successful in everything I do, and the past three years since I graduated, I feel as if I am sinking quickly. I worry about losing everything just for a degree.

Student loans have literally and single-handedly destroyed my life
Tiffany, Virginia

Student loans have literally and single-handedly destroyed my life. If my husband and I were in full repayment, with all of our federal and private loans combined, our monthly payments would be about $4,000.00 per month. We both came from middle-class homes. Our FAFSAs considered our parents' incomes when determining our need and although neither of us lived with our parents during college, the only options we were given were student loans. We both attended public, state universities. I was divorced at 21 years old after leaving an abusive relationship and wanted to better myself. I saw my doctor for my grief and was incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder and placed on medication that distorted my reasoning, behavior and even my memory. The medication actually caused me to have a rare but deadly allergic reaction and I ended up in the hospital with it. Once I quit taking it and began to recover, I discovered I had taken out $100,000.00 in private student loans. To this day, I do not recall ever applying for or signing for this debt. I also have nothing to show for it because I additionally used federal loans to fund my education. I still question the validity of my debt. I have spoken to 5 different lawyers and all tell me that there is literally nothing I can do. I have a BA in Sociology (which, while intrinsically valuable, is not an employable degree). I believed the mantra that if I continued through graduate school, I'd be able to find a work. I finished my master's a year ago and am still looking for a job. Since my private loans are in repayment and I am suffering from severe depression and we cannot afford our own home, I am living with family 2,000 miles from my husband who has been trying to get a job by me for 2 years now. He has 2 decades of experience and 3 degrees (working on a 4th, a Ph.D. Paying out of pocket because tuition is less expensive than his federal loans which he is trying to stave off by staying in school). We are 30 and 40 years old. We have never owned a home, we have no children even though we want them and our only car is aging. As if my situation were bad, my husband has it worse. As I mentioned, he is staying in school to stave off his federal loans because he simply cannot afford them. We have considered just defaulting on my private loans (which total $1,000.00 per month) but according to the attorneys with whom we consulted, the United States still has debtor's prisons. These shady companies will deliberately leave court summons to old addresses if they choose to sue you. If you do not know that you are due in court, you do not go and an arrest warrant can be issued for you. So basically, I can't default and we have to stave off the federal loans while trying to pay on the private loans. In doing this, my husband is incurring $500 per month in interest on his FEDERAL loans. He has never made enough to pay on them. 5 years ago, we thought we had gotten a break. My husband was offered a government job in DC. We knew the cost of living was high but opportunity for advancement was a real possibility. They brought him out paying him a criminal $45,000.00 per year. We struggled and in the process, had to file for bankruptcy. He was eventually promoted and now makes $65,000.00 but that is in DC and his take-home pay would still not cover our student loan minimums. Since then, cost-of-living raises and promotions have been frozen so we are stuck. It got to the point where we were homeless. I came out here to live with family. We placed our earthly belongings in storage and my husband has literally been living on Greyhound buses just to have somewhere to sleep at night. He lives to work and pay debt. This has been going on for 7 months. Our lives are over. There are no fail-safes for us. We were told that this debt was "safe" debt. We did not know that usury was legal for student loans. We did not know that truth in lending laws had been removed, that we'd never be permitted to consolidate it refinance or certainly that we'd never be able to file for bankruptcy with our loans. Like I said, we are 30 and 40 years old with no roof over our heads, one old car and no children... And there is no light at the end of this tunnel. I have been suicidal for the last 5 years. I do want to die because aside from my husband's emotions, I have nothing left to live for. There is nothing to look forward to. There is no quality of life. It doesn't matter how much money we make because it will never be ours. We are only debt slaves at this point.

Although I live in rent-supported senior housing I was refused the expected rent reductions
Anita, Washington

I am a senior citizen, now age 69, with no possibility of fully retiring and my $55,000 of student debt, which I was not able to discharge in either of two bankruptcies, is a major obstacle. If I were to earn more money than I now do it would go to paying on this debt rather than into retirement investment so I live simply and keep the debt at bay with deferments and now with an IBR payment of $0/month. What will happen when I can no longer work is a great mystery since my Social Security is not enough to live on and will not be until my former husband dies and I begin to receive his (and he is quite healthy). The loans are from a PhD program which I was not quite able to complete because of time limits that were put in place which I could not meet while studying pay as you go and from a Master's program for which tuition was supported by the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation but for which I had to cover all living expenses. Again there was a strict time limit which required me working less and borrowing more and when I finished I was greeted by agency cuts which cut services and froze hiring and also new expectations that new graduates would do another year of unpaid externship which I could not afford to do. Instead I built a piano teaching business, which was severely affected by the crash in 2008. My income was cut in half or less. Although I live in rent-supported senior housing I was refused the expected rent reductions ("things will get better") and eventually ended up in bankruptcy (and finally got a rent reduction). The student debt of course was not discharged and is still hanging over my head and limiting my choices severely.

For years I received harassing phone calls at home and work because I could never make the minimum payment
Bruce, Washington

I worked full time and earned an AA in electronics, then a BA in biochemistry. I was forced to go out of state to go to medical school and had to take out loans of 35,000 per year. I have had emotional problems that surfaced as drug abuse during residency. After rehab I had a relapse and surrendered my medical license without ever entering practice. I now work as a ward clerk at a VA hospital. For years I received harassing phone calls at home and work because I could never make the minimum payment. My check is now garnished at 15%. Since I am in default, I am ineligible for a payment based on income. I could have my loans forgiven after 10 years since I work for the VA, but since I have been in default and my payments are withheld from my check I don't qualify for that program either. I am 59 years old (I was 36 when I went to med school). I have to save up to go to the dentist, I drive my girlfriends car to work. I don't know if I will ever be able to retire. I see a psychiatrist and understand how my decision process used to be faulty. Still I accept responsibility for my past drug abuse, but I couldn't get retraining or schooling, and now the rest of my life is a punishment, even though I have worked since 17, have served in the Army and now work hard serving veterans.

I have not owned a new car, or new clothes, or had money to take a vacation – before and after this student loan debt
Catherine, Washington

After graduating – I had the hardest time finding work in the field that I went to school for. Most employers required a Associates degree, and I have a mere certificate. I wound up taking jobs that did not pay very well, and subsequently defaulted on my original loan. I have since not owned a new car, or new clothes, or had money to take a vacation – before and after this student loan debt. I've had this debt for 20 years. I received a small inheritance from my father, so I paid in full the Sallie Mae loan. Or, so I thought. Right after – within minutes was notified that I still owed $1,200. No explanation, no nothing. wtf.

My loan is almost equal to my house payment! I may have to chose which one to pay
Eileen, Washington

My student loan debt is far greater than the amount of money I am able to earn with my profession. I have been in public service for over 20 years and my agency did not pay any part of my tuition. They gave me a $2.00 an hour raise, but I do not receive any forgiveness for the time I have already been in a low paying public service job. If I worked in this industry for another 10 years at low pay that does not allow me to make enough to pay off my student loans, I would be forgiven some of my debt. This is a catch 22 as I cannot afford the student loan payment and stay in that job!! I still don't know how I will manage to stay current with my student loan payments!! Student loan payments used to be low with low interest and now they are not reasonable for the average person! Only the wealthy can afford to go to school! My loan is almost equal to my house payment! I may have to choose which one to pay.

All my years of working hard and planning for a well-needed rest as I age, are gone
Ellen, Washington

In the late 60's I entered college for my degree in Journalism. I took out school loans and after college was able to find a job and pay back those loans. But in the 90's I lost my well-paying job at Hewlett-Packard and was told to "retrain". In my hometown, the company laid off almost 8,000 people over a 5 year period. By that time I was in my early 50's. I was buying a house and was raising two teenagers and trying hard to find a way to allow them to go to college. My job was sent overseas due to NAFTA and after that time I could not find a job that paid a living wage. I was competing with all the others who had been laid off in my hometown. I sold my home on a quick sale so that I would not lose it. My children were very smart kids and they earned many scholarships so they could attend college. I would not allow them to be indebted with school loans. And my life changed. The money promised for NAFTA-related job training did not materialize. In fact I agreed to work as a contractor for HP so I could make my house payments and was sent to another state where workers could be let go without notice. I agreed to work on a soldering line (way below my qualifications as a technical writer) and one night the supervisors came and lined all the workers up against a wall and took away our badges. Because we agreed to work as contractors, and lived in a state that allowed it, we were also allowed to be fired on the spot. I tried to enter a nursing program in a community college but was not allowed to get school loans because I already had a Bachelor's degree. I had moved across the region and knew few people. I was about to become homeless and had to leave many of my household goods behind as I looked for work in the region. I found a Master's degree in Social work in Portland, Oregon that would take me. The only hitch...I would have to take out school loans to pay for it. There was no other financial aid for a Master's Degree. But with a MSW, and my background in health promotion I was sure I would be able to find a job. I was offered a part-time job and a free apartment by the Portland housing authority. I could not get food stamps if I was a student. For two years I hunkered down and learn an amazing skill – social work. But it was expensive. In the end I had a school loan bill for over $40,000. I found work immediately after graduation. I was able to start making payments on the loans, but it was not the full amount required. My $300 amount payments did not cover all the payment so I was charged fees and had to reapply each year to be allowed to may lower payments. I made payments for almost 10 years. In 2011 at the age of 63, I had to leave my job because of health issues due to stress. Social services were collapsing in Oregon and I ended up working in an Adult Protective services unit as a crisis case manager. It was hard, grueling, emotionally depleting work with few resources to help the elderly and disabled. But I completed almost seven years. I moved to a place where I could afford the rent and I now have a job as a retail clerk making just above minimum wage. I do not have enough money to make payments on the school loans, which are almost $600 a month. I am told that the federal government can take 25% of my social security. So, now my plan is to work until I drop. All my years of working hard and planning for a well-needed rest as I age, are gone. With school loans hanging over me and a risk of poor credit, I will not be able to rent most housing. I know that many of my friends who were laid off from HP years ago were also forced to pay for their own "retraining" and lost their homes and a safe healthy lifestyle. Many move from place to place to find work. They are older and the stress is killing them. They have ruined credit ratings and are having a hard time renting in safe places. They have chased jobs for years and have depleted all their resources. We all just tried to do the "right" thing and re-train. It has been a disaster. By telling my story, I am hoping that others will not fooled into believing that college-indebtedness will lead to a better life. I am hoping that the millions of older workers will step up and tell there stories even thought it is an embarrassment to have lost so much. I am hoping that college will be free or near to free as it was in the 1960's and early 70's. I am hoping that young people will have a chance to learn great things that will help this country move beyond a corporate welfare state in which people are enslaved for much of their lives just to get job training and a college education. Forgive the school loans. It is time for a Jubilee on all school loans!

My granddaughter owes about $30,000 in student loans
Enid, Washington

My granddaughter owes about $30,000 in student loans. She graduated but has been unable to find a full time job. I loaned her $3,000 when she first graduated from college for a car so she could look for a job. She had all intentions of paying me back. She even set up a plan when she got a full time job. That was three years ago. She has not been able to make any of the payments and lives on a poverty level part-time job without health benefits, which she desperately needs.

I have not ever been able to make the minimum payment on my student loans since graduating
Jennifer, Washington

I started with an average amount of debt with my undergraduate loans. About half my degree was paid for with grants, which was great, so I graduated with about 25,000 in debt. The trouble hit with my master's degree. I ended up with 135,000 in debt by the end of that. I work in a non profit field and do not make enough money to cover the mortgage, car payment, student loan and other debt. We waited until I was 36 to have a baby because we couldn't afford it. We are so debt poor and it is embarrassing. When I had to negotiate payment plan on medical bills for having my baby, they basically laughed at me after seeing my taxes. I "look" like I have plenty of money to live on. That is not the case. We are approximately $500 short each month and that is with my loans on a small payment forbearance. I have not ever been able to make the minimum payment on my student loans since graduating with my master's degree. The debt is now over $150000. I will die before this is ever paid off. It will ALWAYS cause me stress to think about and I am waiting for the day my lenders loose patience with my inability to make minimum payments and take action against me. In the last 3 years, my husband and I found out we were having a baby right as my husband was laid off for 11 months. He took a job that pays him $20,000 less per year. Things are supposed to get better each year. As I took out this debt to pay my way through college, I thought that there would be a time in our lives when we would have no problem paying this debt. I was very wrong. Each year gets tighter and tighter. I fear we will loose the house, the car... what else?

I find it amazing that I am eligible for food stamps but not loan forgiveness
Kim, Washington

I graduated in 1987 and have always worked since but have struggled to find a decent long term job. I also struggle with a serious long term illness (Lyme's Disease) and can no longer work full time. I have never purchased a house, I have never purchased a new car (I am on my 4th vehicle since graduation). My loan is in income contingent repayment but I still have 20 years before forgiveness because the rules for forgiveness are intentionally vague and the time period resets each time the loan is transferred. I find it amazing that I am eligible for food stamps but not loan forgiveness.

I have been paying loans for 20 plus years
Patricia, Washington

I was a single parent with 4 children to raise. The WIN Program sent me to Business College for a year and I was doing fairly well as an accountant but I was paid less than the other accountants in the company where I worked because I had no degree, even though the work was the same. When I was 49 I enrolled in a private university because all their classes were in the evenings and on weekends. I saved some money by documenting credits for prior learning but I still paid more than I would have at a public university. The problem was that the public university didn't want me – they wanted young men. Also, all their classes were in the daytime. After completing my Bachelor's degree I decided to work for non-profits helping women who were displaced homemakers, single parents and also refugee & immigrant women. Now I am disabled and applying for a discharge for total and permanent disability. I have been paying loans for 20 plus years.

My private student loan is locked at 3.6% while my federal consolidated loans are at 6.8% ... How is that possible?
Robert, Washington

I truly hope that Congress can pull it together and keep student loan rates where they are for 2013-2014. However, I am paying 6.8% already. They already doubled the rates from 2003-2008. That is when I was in graduate school. Then I graduated into the worst job market in 75 years. There are two main issues: 1. The federal government has changed the student loan system such that there are no other private lenders allowed to consolidate student loans. Thus, there is no competition. My private student loan is locked at 3.6% while my federal consolidated loans are at 6.8%. How is that possible? I called all of the top ten largest loan consolidating banks and none of them participate in the federal student loan program. I also checked with my local credit union, of which I am a member, and they said they were not allowed to participate in the program. I didn't believe this could be true and after writing a letter to the CEO, I received a letter stating this in writing: "Student loan rates do not reflect that actual risk, nor the going rates for riskier loans." Why can I declare bankruptcy and walk away from a home or car loan, but I have to die to wipe away a student loan? If the loans are so risky, so as to warrant a high rate of interest, why did they make 30 billion in net profits from student loans last year? This is a huge problem for me personally. I pay $500 per month in student loans. That is 15% of my gross income. That is as much as I pay in health insurance each month. The Democratic Party has devoted the last twenty years to changing healthcare and yet they have only devoted time to student loans in an effort to eliminate competition and to raise rates. I am excited about Senator Warren's new bill, however, the lower rates should be extended to at least those with loans originating in the last 10 years because they have the highest rates and suffered the worst career turmoil in the recession. I can sympathize with all demographics' losses, but it was pretty frustrating to come out of school with a professional master's degree and not be able to find a job for a year. I still have only been employed 55% of the time since I graduated in 2008. If we can bail out banks and GM, then we can take care of students too. They really should extend the low rates to all those in repayment. It is a smart move for long term investment in our country's economic success. More importantly, it will create a huge stimulus for the economy in the short term. I was just laid off for the fifth time in five years. I am currently forced to choose between childcare for our new son and student loan payments. Yes, I have applied to have the loans deferred. But that doesn't stop Obama from charging me interest while they are in deferment. Thank you for taking the time to try to understand the issues of student loan debt and for looking for practical solutions!

In order to get a monthly repayment amount I could make I had to do a 30 year extended repayment plan
Sean, Washington

I completed my undergrad degree in 1997 and left school with $40,000 in student loan debt. It is now 16 years later and I have barely paid back $4,000 of it. In order to get a monthly repayment amount I could make I had to do a 30 year extended repayment plan. Unfortunately due to various circumstances, including two lay offs and a major change in living situation, landed me behind on payments. I was fortunate enough though to lock in a very low fixed interest rate of 3.5%. I cannot imagine where I would be if I were still on a variable interest rate between 6-8%. At the current pace of my salary which seems to be going nowhere and rise in living expenses, I will be paying off my student debt well into retirement and to me that just seems wrong.

A 30k loan has become 130k loan
Shahram, Washington

Do not know where to start! Graduated in 1990 and for any reason couldn't find a job in my field and that's where the nightmare stated. My income was always not enough to pay my loan so I defaulted and defaulted. For the last 23 years it has followed me like a shadow. It has effected my life in a wrong way for all these years and a 30k loan has become 130k loan (100k interest). Don't know what to do it really is a nightmare.

I owe more than twice the principal ... This is usury ... This is extortion
Steve, Washington

I graduated with an MFA in 1999. I signed on for a principal of 42k for loans from the US Department of Education. By 2001, I found myself in a difficult financial situation and I was obliged to declare Chapter 13 bankruptcy. My lawyer told me not to pay on my student loans, which I could have only afforded to pay minimally, well below a standard payment. The bankruptcy transpired over a five-year period, during which the USDE saw fit to add 30k in interest. Now, six years after the bankruptcy finished, I owe more than twice the principal. This is usury. This is extortion. Why make the loan impossible to repay? Why kick people when they are down? This loan will haunt me to the grave. I am furious. I make $11.75/hr. I am an artist; that is what I do. I do not own a car, nor can I afford one. I cannot travel, except locally. I simply don't make enough. Employment in my field is difficult to get and the pay is not enough (see below). But here's a real kicker: there is no incentive to get a better paying job. Sallie Mae, which now administers my loan while the USDE remains the holder, informed me that a standard payment would be $1003/month. So I'd have to get a job that pays at least $20/hourr before taxes to make that payment and live as I do now! And, um, where do I get a job like that with the skills I have? Again, I am furious!

I'm currently on Social Security and I feel like the government is ganging up on me regarding this debt
Njeri, Wisconsin

About ten years ago I got hurt on the job. I had to have 4 surgeries, I was unable to pay my loan. Workers compensation didn't give me enough to pay for everything. I lost my car and everything else. I'm currently on Social Security and I feel like the government is ganging up on me regarding this debt. I now have a cured heavy interest and no one is trying to help me, if I have a part time job, the time job the will garnish it. I will also lose my benefits. I'm unable to hold down a full time job, due to disabilities.

I'm 27 and my student loans forbid me from living in a safe neighborhood
Alexandra, Wisconsin

I'm 27 and my student loans forbid me from living in a safe neighborhood. I have to live where there is cheap housing and must live with a roommate. I cannot afford a car payment and do not have one. I have been driving the same car since I was 18. I live paycheck to paycheck and virtually save no money. I'm on income based repayment plan for my federal loans and most of my private loans are on interest only. One of my private loans is standard repayment because there are no other repayment options for that loan. I have a great job – one that I worked very hard to get and 3/4 of my entire paycheck goes toward my student loan payments. I live everyday worrying that someday my student loans are going to get the best of me financially. I'm very close to defaulting on my loans. I fear never having the opportunity to buy a car or house, invest/have a savings account, have a family, or paying for my children's education. I fear the thought of merely surviving. My student loans stop me from being able to participate in our nations economy in the way that a 27 year old should be. I have to live with that fact that this will likely be my life for the next 20 years.

I had 3 jobs and even volunteered as a guinea pig at a local drug testing lab for extra money
Anitra, Wisconsin

After I graduated college in 2007, I read an article online which suggested that one shouldn't have more than 10-15% of your monthly income go to repayment of student loans. I struggled with this figure because I was paying approximately 35% of my take-home pay on loans and 50% on rent, which left me with a measly 15% for food, bills, gasoline for my car, and discretionary income. Needless to say I had 3 jobs and even volunteered as a "guinea pig" at a local drug testing lab for extra money. I did this for 3 years. My parents had no money to help pay for my tuition and I didn't qualify or receive any generous scholarships. I worked part time while I was in college and even went to a state school where I could rent my books. I went back to school after graduation for one semester at a private school while I was considering getting a music education degree. Sadly, that one semester (in which I got on the dean's list for straight A's) I dumped back on the entire sum I had paid back in those three years of repayment and then some. I quickly realized that my savings and new loans I was receiving wouldn't be enough to sustain my life and finish school so I vigorously applied to jobs all over the country and moved the first chance I got for a higher paying job. I recently consolidated my loans and now have a much lower payment, but at what cost? I'll be paying for another 15 years. I also found out that student loan debt is not eligible for bankruptcy, which I seriously considered for a time. I also considered selling my musical instruments to help pay them off (which I couldn't do because music is my love and passion.) I never wanted to attend college in the first place. I think higher education has become a sick, money-making scheme. The institution I graduated from has not helped me find a job even when I contacted them numerous times, and yet they call me every year for a donation (minimum of $100); I just hang up on that poor student worker. I often think about the line in the movie GOOD WILL HUNTING in which the protagonist, Will Hunting – a juvenile delinquent who happens to be a genius in mathematics – says to a snooty Harvard student: you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a f^*#ing education you could have got for a dollar-fifty in late charges at the public library." I regret my decision to go to college every day...

I don't want this hanging with me 'til the day I die and then my son is left to deal with it
Ann, Wisconsin

My name is Ann. I have a little over $7,000.00 in student loans. When my 1st semester came and exams were taken, I had one too many wrong on a test. It was up to the teacher whether or not to put you though, unfortunately, I was not put through. So, I spent about 6months – year looking for a job. Found a job however I ended up leaving that job. I have deferred my student loan payments for quite some time now. I am a single parent, who has been working at current employer for 7 years, part time. When I was hired, I was told that it would start out as part-time and in the future go to full-time. Well, 7 years later and still part-time. My son is to graduate in June 2013 and go on to school afterwards. During this time also, I was in the hospital a couple of times for surgery because of a health issue that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. Trying to find a full-time job without a degree is a whole different story. A lot of the experience I have is from hands on experience, not school. With the way the economy is now, I have a hard enough time paying a lot of bills and having money for gas to get back and forth to work for the 30hrs a week that I am working and to be able to provide the necessary needs for my son and myself. They only offer three ways to reduce your payments and that is if you are in the healthcare field, teacher, or a victim of 9/11. There has to be something that can be done to help those who are less fortunate reduce the amount they own. I don't want this hanging with me 'til the day I die and then my son is left to deal with it. I'm not looking for an easy out, I would like to be able to put funds towards this but even getting it reduced to a lower amount owed would be a great help.

That 'American Dream' seems to be dead
Barbara, Wisconsin

I took out student loans to learn computers and other work. Then the student loans looked to be part of an answer to the unemployment and under-informed problem. Since I have taken out the loans, things have changed drastically and I have been able to work part-time at minimum wage or temporarily or not at all. I have been able to rent apartments, but the cost of rent is at least half or more of any money I get. I am driving a 16 year old car and trying to keep it together. I had a dream that I would be able to buy a small house and a new car and be able to provide for myself but that "American Dream" seems to be dead. I have no health insurance and wouldn't buy any anyhow because it is unaffordable. I would like to leave this country before it slides anymore into 3rd world status, but that too is unaffordable. I really wanted to just be able to have a small house, a garden and a dog.

There needs to be a better way to pay off the loans
Celeste, Wisconsin

I have watched my twin sister feel stress everyday due to the 5 calls a day from Sallie Mae asking for their money since she co-signed for her son's school loan and he has a low paying job. I watch my son not be able to apply for a loan for a home for his family due to his income is not high enough due to the school loan he has accumulated. I feel personally that the colleges charge way too much for the education that they provide. I personally went to college part time for 10 years and my employer paid 80% of the cost 15 years ago. There needs to be a better way to pay off the loans or all loans need to be significantly lowered. Thanks for allowing me to speak my mind.

I don't see how I can get this paid off in my lifetime!
Cheryl, Wisconsin

I was divorced in 1990 and went to college so that I could get a good job to support my children. I graduated summa cum laude in 1995, but struggled in low paying jobs for the next 10 years. I was able to get deferments, but interest accrued. I did some graduate work, trying to improve my employment options. My debt (principle and interest) is now nearing $130,000! This has affected my credit rating, which means the interest rate on my car loan is outrageous, I pay a higher premium for car insurance, and have had apartment applications denied! I now have a good job, but still struggle to make student loan payments due to the larger payments on everything else based on my credit score. I'm trying to get caught up, to make good on my loan, but am simply overwhelmed at the prospect. I don't see how I can get this paid off in my lifetime!

It's really scary to be older and not have many options anymore
Cheryl, Wisconsin

In 1992 I got a student loan for Cosmotology School. It was about 5,000 something. It is now 30,000 or so with 8.5 % interest. I couldn't make a go of it at being a cosmotologist because it didn't pay enough, I decided to just work in a factory as an industrial sewer. It paid enough for me to just get by but not enough to make student loan payments. There was one year I was able to pay a partial payment but that was it. I am now retired and I had been getting a forbearance and evidently I wasn't allowed to get anymore plus I only have 3 years to get a deferred payment and then that's it. Evidently this has been changed recently. What am I supposed to do? It will force me to be delinquent on my payments and I will be threatened with garnishment. Then what will I do. I am on food share of 90 dollars a month and I get Medicaid to help with Medicare, and my Medicare premium. This has helped me tremendously but now the governor of WI, Walker, is going to be taking single people off of Medicaid if their income is more than the 100% of the poverty level which nation wide is I believe more than that. So that will be 11,000 something and I live on 12,400 a month. So that will be taken away plus my foodshare might be in jeopardy also. What will happen to me if I can't live on my own? Seems to me that a certain political party would be overjoyed to know this. I am also disabled but I guess that doesn't matter either. I'm not the type of person to feel sorry for myself, and I'm not, I just don't know what to do. I would like if the student loan could be forgiven if possible or at least be allowed forbearance every year so at least this is one thing that will put my mind at ease. It's really scary to be older and not have many options anymore.

Ever since 1994 through today I have not missed one single college student loan payment
David, Wisconsin

Here is my story – I first went to UW-Oshkosh back in 1991. I was very broke. I spent the first 3 years at UW – Oshkosh working night-shift at 2 local grocery stores – Cub Foods (the building is now actually UW-Oshkosh Facilities Management) and Pick n Save Supermarket Store on Jackson Street in Oshkosh. I had an insane schedule working 11 PM to 7 am stocking grocery items to the shelves, biking home to the dorms, taking my "power nap", and then going to classes, etc all day long. My "wage" at the time was $3.35 an hour. I remember literally "being down to the penny" on finances, etc rent, books, etc. My parents really did not help pay for college tuition. I was literally "on my own." During those summers I worked like 3 jobs to make as much money as I could. Financial aid was able to help at least cover the tuition for the 1991/1992, 92/93 years – but one issue financial aid had was that "according to them – my parents made too much for me to get a "pell grant" , or anything like that. Then in the summer of 94 – in may – when I got my financial aid results back – they "told me I only qualified for something like $500" for the year. This was a turning point on my end – here making (at the time now $4.25) an hour, I could not afford to continue college – So I started looking around for a new job. Fortunately from the vendors in the grocery store "watching me work", etc) – saw the potential employee I could be – I had to "majorly convince" Coca-Cola Bottling company to hire me. Their pay scale for merchandisers was $60 a day – (you do the math – at Pick n Save – $4.25 an hour x 8 hours = $34 for the day versus Coca-Cola's $60 daily base pay). Pick n Save did not want me to leave – I "again – worked VERY hard" to convince Coca – Cola to hire me. Eventually they did – and I started the Full time work at Coca – Cola – At that time – I started to start paying back my Student Loans from 1991 – through 1994 Spring – A true story – ever since 1994 – throughout TODAY – I have NOT MISSED ONE SINGLE COLLEGE STUDENT LOAN PAYMENT – AGAIN – NOT 1 STUDENT LOAN monthly payment at all !!! During the 1994 through 2001 time period – it was in MY HEART to still make a "2nd comeback" at UW – Oshkosh to finish my college degree. I "Busted my rear extremely hard" at Coca – Cola as well as 7 up Bottling Company (1997 through 2002 ) trying to save up, etc – At the time – I was also trying to pay off ALOT of debt – credit cards, etc – 1997 was a "lowest point in my life" – I literally hit rock bottom – I was "this close" to file for bankruptcy, etc. I realized I was the one to blame for all this – and I was the only one who is able to get himself out of the financial hole – So from 1997 through today – I "simply put my head down" and HAMMERED it all these years – pay off my credit cards, etc (finally got ALL of them paid off in 2010) – I had to "rebuild' my financial life back together – by 2003 – I had a special opportunity to get "my foot in the door" at The Pepsi Company as a summer help – I was hired that summer of 2003 – I knew that this was RARE opportunity to pay off a TON of loans, etc – ALSO – at this time – I was able to "convince" Pepsi to get the "best of both worlds " – they were hurting for good workers, good attitude, work ethic, etc. I was known for my "excellent attitude, Super hard core work ethic – never calling in sick, etc type of person" – who was able to withstand the extremely physical endurance of delivering soda, etc for 60 plus hours a week – I was able to get hired by Pepsi in June 2003 – (As of next month, I am "celebrating" 10 years with the company – June 2013) as a "special opportunity" = Pepsi allowed me to make "full time pay" during the summer and Fall seasons – and attend UW-Oshkosh classes during the winter/Spring sessions . So I start attending classes AGAIN at UW-Oshkosh from 2003 throughout May 2008 – I was all over this – going back to UW – Oshkosh to finally finish my degree. I did STILL make payments CONSISTENTLY – to keep paying off the HUGE loan – After FINALLY finishing up college – etc my Student loan balance was around $50,000. (2008) I am about to FINALLY pay off one of my loans next month – lowering my monthly student loan payment from $510 to $310 . What I have left now (at the age of 40) – 1st loan balance of $5,502 (original loan of $8,084 at 6.500 % Fixed 2nd loan balance of $355.54 (original loan of $5,249 at 4.550 % Fixed) – This is the one that I will FINALLY have paid off!!) 3rd loan balance of $26,090 (original loan of $31,993.91 at 4.625 percent) I have came a VERY VERY long away he past 20 plus years getting the following loan balances to where they are today – Everyone has a "battle of their own" of what sacrifices they made – etc to pay off their loan – especially in the "real" world – unfortunately at this time – I cannot land a "decent paying career" with the degree that I have from UW – Oshkosh – Music Business Industry – Thank you for taking the time to read this!

We postponed getting married and having children; there was no way I could be off work and not default on my loans
Diana, Wisconsin

I graduated from a four-year college in 2006. Today, 7 years later, my loan payments are over $600 per month. To put that in perspective, our combined household income is roughly $48,000 per year. That's 15% of our income, before taxes. That is money that's not going into our retirement funds, not going towards a new home, not going towards a child's college fund, and certainly not going back into the economy in a productive way. I purchased my first car just three months ago; it is a used 2010 model, but very new to me. I've never been able to afford a car payment and have been driving the same car I've had since college. I am lucky that I was able to get married and live with my husband who is free from student debt and can afford to pay our mortgage (and previously our rent) with his salary alone. If it weren't for him, I would still be living in a 400s/f apartment. I am sad to say, however, that we have been forced to make major life decisions based on my student loan debt alone. We postponed getting married and having children because there was no way I could be off work for any amount of time and not default on my loans. I also did not want to saddle my husband with my own debt and actually considered staying single so that I would have the opportunity to get state medical aid, since I have been uninsured since I left my parents' insurance plan. I have not seen a doctor for a checkup since I was a child, and have only seen a dentist twice in the last 10 years because of lack of insurance – because the majority of my income goes to pay my student loans. I have struggled these 7 years to always make my payments on time, and have deferred my federal loans when it was impossible for me to keep up. We have realized that no matter how long we wait, those loan payments will always be there, and my husband will most likely need to try to come up with the money to pay them each month if and when we do have a baby. Obviously we cannot wait to have children forever, the proverbial clock is ticking. Unfortunately there is no end in sight in regards to my student loans. My interest rates vary from 4.5% to 11.25%. Some of the payments I make cover interest alone – my principle balance hasn't changed in months on some of my private loans, some it has even gone up because the $300/month payment isn't enough to make a dent. This is not what I envisioned when I was applying for colleges my senior year of high school. I received scholarships and financial aid, and I was frequently on the Dean's list, and yet here I am, struggling to get by. I am embarrassed to say it, but many days I wish I had just skipped college altogether. I own and operate a modestly successful small business today, which I can't help but think I could have easily done without an expensive degree. I could very well be exactly where I am today had I not gone to college, and I would be living a much more comfortable life without the exorbitant debt that plagues me still.

I will never have children as I cannot afford to feed myself
Heather, Wisconsin

My story isn't riveting. I'm not in hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. But I do think that if you multiplied my story be a million, you could see why the American economy is failing. Many Average Jane’s, such as myself, have fallen into the class referred to as the working poor. I make $15.00 an hour. I have been at my job for 13 years. I am 38 years old. I have been trying to pay off $20,000 worth of student loan debt since the age of 23. After the 6-month grace period at graduation, and two terms of forbearance since, I should be able to pay off my loans by the age of 48. Since 2007, my employer has implemented wage freezes, furloughs and job consolidations. I recently had to take another position within the company at a lower wage or face unemployment. That being said, starting in 2007 I began relying on credit cards to make ends meet. Since 2007 I have racked up about $10,000 in credit card debt. When I say 'I make ends meet,' I'm referring to buying food, rent, gasoline and paying my utility bills. I don't go out to eat. I will never have children, as I cannot afford to feed myself. I cannot afford to buy a home, or save for retirement. Should I lose my job I cannot afford to go back to school, as there is no help for displaced workers who already have college degrees. Nor could I afford to pay an even larger loan amount with a starting wage. I sincerely wish I had never gone to college. My life would be somewhat easier if the $212 I