- I took out over $100,000 in public and private loans for my degree.
- At the time, I didn’t realize how much the loans would affect me.
- I cried when President Joe Biden announced his forgiveness plan on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, I pulled up my go-to news site for some midday procrastination. When I saw the headline about President Joe Biden announcing student-debt cancellation, I immediately texted my sister. After a flurry of messages about what we knew, she summed up what we were both feeling: This is literally life-changing.
It wasn’t an exaggeration. I graduated from an expensive private college 12 years ago, and I still pay hundreds of dollars each month in student loans. My sister learned a bit from my mistakes. She graduated from a community college last year with a career-focused associate’s degree in healthcare. But she still had plenty of student loans. When we talked about it, I could see the anxiety I’d felt for more than a decade reflected on her face.
Now, if things go to plan, we’ll both be eligible for up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness, since we’re Pell Grant recipients. That will change life for us and for our kids. My sister’s loan will be totally wiped out, and mine almost nearly.
My loans affected my ability to get a mortgage and save for my kids
I was raised in a family that wasn’t financially savvy. I was always told college was my way out — a means of snapping the cycle of generational poverty and getting ahead. Since we were low-income and I was a strong student, I got lots of scholarships, but I was stunned at how much I still needed to pay.
I had been sold college as the ticket to success, and I wasn’t going to let that be ripped from my hands. So I took out over $100,000 in private, federal, and state loans. When I signed the promissory note for one private loan, I read the terms and saw that the $18,000 loan would cost me nearly $60,000 over its lifetime. I was flabbergasted and thought it had to be a mistake. But I felt I needed to go to a “good school,” so I signed without digging deeper.
That decision chased me. Through college and the early days of my career, my schedule revolved around making enough money to pay off my student loans. Often I paid for essentials with credit cards, robbing Peter to pay Paul and make my student-loan payments.
When I got married, I had to talk to my husband about the amount of debt I was bringing to the partnership. My loans affected how much of a mortgage we qualified for and where we bought our first house. My daughters, who are 4 and 8, don’t have college savings accounts, because instead of saving for their future, I’m paying off my past.
Loan forgiveness means a brighter future for my family
Despite all that, I consider myself lucky regarding student loans. I’m not one of the many people who took on debt but didn’t get a degree. And unlike about 20% of borrowers, I’ve never defaulted on my loans — though I have had to temporarily suspend payments with forbearance.
Still, student loans have been a constant cloud in the back of my mind. They impact the amount I can borrow for a car or housing and my relationships with the extended family members who cosigned them.
This year, I set a goal of trying to pay off my private loan. But I didn’t dare dream I’d be rid of student loans for good. I found myself withdrawing from the national discussion around loan forgiveness because student loans are such a sensitive topic for me.
When I saw the announcement about forgiveness, I cried — not only for myself but for my family: my husband, whose financial goals are now a little closer; my girls, whose futures I can save for; my sister, who won’t have to jump through these hoops; and my nephew, who will reap the benefits of his mom starting her career without the specter of student loans.