Student Debt Stories
Heather from Essex Junction:
I am just starting to pay back my student loans and have just come across another hurdle. For the past 15 years I have lost my housing three times, declared bankruptcy and have struggled to keep my electricity and gas on. I did all this while going back to school (even when people told me not too), raising my two children and working two and sometimes three jobs. Now I have been feeling like we have figured out how to budget and are starting to get things on track. I was able to consolidate my loans and was thinking about going back to get my Master’s Degree in counseling. I even got to the point where I was only working two jobs and was thinking about cutting back my hours so I didn’t have to work 60 hours a week. But seeing how the loans might be in the next few months I am concerned. Plus both of my children will be starting college over the next couple of years. Just to add to my worry. Here is my story…I am married and have two teenage children. I went back to college when my daughter was three. It took me eight years but I was able to graduate from Johnson State College with my Bachelor’s Degree. By the time I finished I was working three jobs and going to school. My main purpose was to have a better life for my children. I thought that was what I was doing. But now comes the hard part of paying back the loans. I am down to two jobs and my husband works full time. We were getting there and I felt like I could start paying back all my loans. I worked as an Americorps volunteer and that helped pay for some of my loan. Unfortunately we just got some more bad news to add to our problems. My husband and my children are on Catamount and Dr. Dynasaur Health Care for Vermont. This past winter my husband was laid off for the first time after 11 years at working the same job. Being responsible I let the Health Care know of our change in income and when he went back to work April 1st. Recently I was informed that we are now over income and both my kids and husband are now going to lose their health insurance. In order for my son to play football we need health insurance. SO here is my dilemma… I have three choices as I see it. Please keep in my mind that I am supposed to start paying on my student loan also. I just started feeling like I could actually do it since I have two good paying jobs that I love. You would think, right? 1st choice…Cut my hours on one of my jobs so I can get insurance back for my children and husband. But that also means that I have to pay for the premiums on top of that plus my student loans. 2nd choice…pay extra for health insurance which will be $1600 a month to do so. 3rd choice…go without insurance and explain to my son that he can not play football. Which choice would you chose? I am really at a loss. We have struggled for so long and I am tired. I really thought that we made it to the other side. This set back has really got me second guessing myself. The only reason that we were denied coverage was because at the look on the past 30 days. If they took our tax return they would see that we are under and we would have the insurance. In the mean time we will have to ask the kids to only get sick in the winter because that is when we will have coverage. As for my student loans, well I have to start paying them back so I’m going into the next struggle of my life. As for the rest of the necessities we have to pay, what will happen I have no idea.
Richard from Hyde Park:
My original college fund, left to me by my grandmother, temporarily sated the IRS allowing my family to keep our modest home. None the less, in the year 2000 I graduated high school and enrolled at RPI, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I was fortunate to have been granted the Rensselaer Medal Scholarship for outstanding scientific merit in high school, a $10,000 a year grant potentially amounting to $40,000 over the course of 4 years. Even with the medal, my scholarships and loans did not even come close to completely covering my expenses. After just two years I was not able to conclude my education at RPI. This was due to excessive financial hardship on my family, and an apparent lack of skill in calculus, which somehow I got an "A" in during high school. In 2002 I left RPI with no degree to gain skills in Lapidary stone work, gold and silver smithing, and other fine crafts in which my family has tradition. My original Principle of the $26,140 loan consolidation has actually Grown since that time to $26,526. Imagine, a decade on, and my principle has INCREASED. My income has fluctuated and my student loan payments have absorbed basically every cent of any income I have ever earned thereby stonewalling my ability to even purchase tools necessary in my chosen fields of endeavor. Let alone employ anyone else, which I would be fully capable of doing if I was not in debt. It keeps me awake at night, it makes me sick with worry. I can not even afford to maintain an insured vehicle of my own. I feel a crushing sense of remorse when I look back at a time in my life when I could have chosen not to pursue college, higher education, because I know I would have been better served if I had forestalled my aspirations toward college, engineering, science or academia for the more immediate benefits of gardening, home life, or getting a job at my local grocers. Debt forgiveness would change my life, and the lives of those around me for the better, but I would settle for the increase in interest rates to be halted. If my interest rates double, I will be buried in debt so fast I will never have the chance to live my own life, forever paying back a debt for which I gained nothing and seem to have lost everything.
Audrey from Canaan:
I am a 2010 BSc. environmental science graduate of the University of Vermont, a current PhD student at the University of Toronto, and a native of the Northeast Kingdom. Even with extensive financial assistance from the University of Vermont (in the form of the Green and Gold Scholarship), The Freeman Foundation (in the form of a scholarship specifically for Northeast Kingdom students) and various private scholarships, I still amassed over $15,000 in student loans over the course of the 4 years of my undergraduate degree. Even so, my debt is minuscule compared to that of my peers in the same program. I will honestly admit that one of the reasons I chose to continue my education in Canada as opposed to staying in the United States was their greater commitment to funding higher education. Even as a registered international student, my tuition is lower than that of many similar programs in the US. Between lower tuition rates and increased funding for post-graduate science education, I will not gain any additional student debt while obtaining my PhD. If the United States wants to retain post-graduate students like myself, the student debt crisis and other issues surrounding the funding of university educations must be addressed. I would love to have stayed or even come back to Vermont, but at this point I do not believe it is financially feasible.
Jessie from Norwich:
I finished my undergraduate work at Holy Cross in 2009, and am currently a graduate student in nursing at Regis College in Weston, MA. I anticipate graduating with over $150,000 dollars in student loans from my 7 years of schooling, and that is with significant help from scholarships and my family. As a NP I hope to be making a salary adequate to pay off my debt, but with the threat of an increase on already high rates, I'm nervous that at 26 I will not be able to feel comfortable starting a family or putting money down on a home. Costs of living are only increasing. If my interest rates increase as well, I'm worried I will be bound to my monthly loan payments and not able to save and provide for my family the way my parents have for me. In a country that has fallen behind the industrialized world in education and health care, and is stressing higher education, it seems counter-intuitive to me to have such high interest rates on student loans, a definite deterrent from pursuing the higher education we claim to so highly value.
Laura from Jericho Center:
My son has college debt worth around $55,000.00. He has a decent paying job (not in his field of study)and also has personal bills to pay. I am helping him as best I can but I am a single parent with bills of my own. I work two jobs now. I pay around $300. for him a month so he won't be delinquent with his student loans. Maybe if the US government didn't pay for trillion dollar planes for war- we could help our young get out of debt and have a bright future someday! Thanks for listening to middle class america, Peter- you always get my vote!
Aimee from Burlington:
I am currently a full-time working professional nurse. I have incured a substantial level of student loan debt from two undergraduate degrees. My first degree in biology did not allow me the job opportunities I needed to support my family, and so I went back to school for nursing. Between the two degrees I owe over $30,000 in student loan debt. Although I have applied to debt forgiveness opportunites, this has not had a signigicant impact on my overall debt. My husband and I both work full time, and pay close to $700 per month in student loan debt between us. More that I spend on food for my family. I am not opposed to paying this debt back, but would appreciate any help to not carry this level of debt for the rest of my working life. I would also like to go back to school, but cannot imagine adding to my student loan debt. I find the level of debt distressing espcially when faced with the possibility of increases in interest rates in July.
Jim from Sharon:
Our twins just graduated from 4 year colleges and now they have a debt of $56,000 each. For them and our middle-class family to pay out $112,000 in total plus interest is unacceptable. My wife and I took out a home equity loan and my twins now have a large portion of this in government loans. In the news I hear that the average college student if they are lucky enough to find a job, will get paid an average of $25,00-$30,000 per year. All of this is a financial crisis that will surely suggest to new potential college students to possibly say they can't afford this and not go to college at all. Something needs to be done about this and increasing my kids loan rates is no answer. If you want our youth to be well educated this system has to change.
Delce from Westminster:
We have 3 children we put thru school and recently my husband has gone back to school to get his nursing degree. my youngest daughter is living at home as her $800.00 payment per month she can't afford rent and food on her own. she has a full time job and may have to take a part time one. we are paying thru VSAC at 8% and our mortgage we got readjusted to 4%. It is crazy. My husband wants to go on to get his RN but we can't afford all the school debt we are already paying. People aren't going to afford to continue their education anymore.
Jessica from Poultney:
I was the first in my family to go to college. I earned a bachelors and went on for my masters. I earned my masters 6 years ago. I was able to find a teaching position and relocated to Maryland. During the economy crash 3 years ago, I was let go due to funding cuts. Unable to find work and having exhausted my unemployment, I moved back home in VT to live with
Kasandra from Essex Junction:
I attended Champlain College for my Bachelors of Science degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. I graduated in 2010 and 6 months later, became responsible for repaying my student loans. When I was a senior in high school I realized I would have to take out loans to attend college because I was not awarded enough financial aid to cover my tuition costs. My parents were able to help a small bit my freshman year but I ended up having to borrow money from Sallie Mae (a private lender). Being a young adult still in high school, I was not familiar with taking out loans and was not sure what was a reasonable interest rate and what was too high. I ended up taking out loans through Sallie Mae all four years I was in college. For three of the four years I did not have a co-signer and then my senior year I had a parent co-sign for me because I was no longer eligible for loans without a co-signer. On top of the private loans I borrowed from Sallie Mae, I also took out Stafford and Perkins loans.
Susan from Warren:
I have a student loan that I have been paying since 1999. I went back to school in 1994 after becoming a survivor of violent crime. I went to school, because my career path had changed drastically due to this life alterating event. I needed to find another line of work. My student loan is over 16,000 and I can not afford to pay anymore than I already have been doing for the past 12 years. In fact I will be lucky to pay this remaining debt before retirement. And how will I be able to save for retirement if I am paying of a student loan subject to these kinds of increases.
Erica from Castleton:
I am going to be a Senior at Castleton State College in the fall and my increasing student debt has hindered my ability to continue my education many times since I have started college. I am a first generation college student and my parents are not able to help me financially at all. I am attending school solely on loans and will be in tremendous debt upon graduation. I do not think that a student should be denied the opportunity to attend college because of financial issues. Castleton has been the best thing that has happened to me. I entered Castleton as a shy, first year student who only went to class and stayed in my room. The positive and encouraging environment has provided me with outstanding opportunities in leadership that I never would have imagined possible. I feel prepared to graduate and enter the workforce, but the looming fact that I will be struggling to pay off my student loans are terrifying.
Vickie from Fairfield:
There has to be something done about this issue!! Not only should congress stop the interest rates from going up on student loans, they should be working to lower them!! Both the student loans and the parent loans interest rates are ridiculous! Our kids need to go to college to insure getting a job, not a good job always but a job! Nowadays most jobs that I could have gotten when I graduated high school now requires college degrees! It is not an option for kids these days but a necessity! College costs are already too high and then the added interest rates are making it a struggle for college graduates to pay and parents struggling to help their kids pay! With today's economy our budgets are hard enough to manage and pay for just everyday costs say nothing about paying back these enormous student loans! I am the mother of three daughters; one is a junior in college, the other heading to college and the youngest a junior in high school and I can't tell you how I worry about being able to keep up with the costs of their educations. I worry how they will be able to pay back their student loans and I worry how we will pay back our parent loans so please help us out!
Kathleen from Guilford:
I am a recent graduate of Union Institute and University's Brattleboro campus. I am 56 years old and have worked as an intensive needs paraeducator for the last 12 years. I am about to enter a graduate program for a Master's degree in Special Education. At this age, I am in the position of planning for both my career and my retirement! My student loans will be somewhere in the range of $60,000.00 . If interest rates increase it may take me the rest of my life, literally, to pay them. If we truly want an educated workforce and the teachers needed to help make this happen, we must make education affordable for all Americans.
Heather from Barre:
I went to college because I believed it would enable me to get a higher paying job and pull my family out of poverty. I haven't been able to get any job within my field since I graduated, there are just no jobs to be had. Since I graduated I've also lost my second job so now I can't even pay the interest on my loans-let alone pay on the balance. Instead of living in that bright future I'm faced with the reality that I'll be unable to even co-sign a college loan for my daughter. If I had never gone to college I'd be able to do that at least. Now she'll just be another link in the poverty chain instead of earning the Ph.D. she wants and working to solve crime. I'm unable to feed my family all month long-even with assistance from welfare. If the student loan interest rates double I will never be able to pay off my loans within my lifetime.
Brian from Grand Isle:
My third daughter just completed her freshman year at URI. Personally, I am over $100K in student loan debt, and each of my older two girls are over $20K in debt as well. My third daughter's tuition at URI is currently $40K per year. I have already consolidated my student loans once, at an interest rate of 8% thru the government. Why can I get a home equity loan for 3%, yet I need to pay the government more than double that. I already know that I will never pay off this debt, and my monthly loan payments ( currently $1,000 / month with three years left to borrow ) will never let me retire. I have to work 65 to 70 hours a week just to make these payments now. In a couple years there will not be enough hours in the week. Am I supposed to tell my daughter she can't go to school because I'm out of money after her older two sisters have finished? I am committed to getting her through school and then I will deal with the consequences. It is not a pleasant future to look at.
Jessie from Bomoseen:
I am currently a student at a Vermont State College and cannot fathom how the government can justify raising interest rates for student loans. Knowing the kind of shape our economy is in, how could officials feel good about sending our country's future out into the world millions of dollars in debt? I have to work a year round job to afford to stay in school, balancing my time between school work and my job because I am alone in paying for school. Help students, help our future.
George from Wolcott:
My wife graduated from UVM medical school in 1990 with a combined undergraduate and post graduate debt of over $100,000. Three years later, upon completing her residency in family Practice, we began paying back her loans. Because she was practicing in an underserved area she was eligible for loan repayment, initially for 2 years. But when sheI applied to renew the subsidy, she was told that since sheI was now in practice, the area was no longer underserved and therefore she was ineligible for further subsidy but if Ishe left and a new doctor was recruited, that doctor would get the subsidy. At this point she still owed about $50,000. The payments were about $420/mo for 30 years. In 2001, sheI began working locum tenens, mostly in rural emergency rooms in underserved areas of CA and AZ. Around 2005 we consolidated the loan balance into a 10 yr repayment of about $600/mo at 8.5%. But by August of 2007 her arthritis pain had become so severe that she could no longer practice. Our family income was suddenly less than 30% of what it had been. The loan balance at the time was around $40,000. Now, after a year of forbearance, and a year of income sensitive repayment (which didn't even cover the monthly interest) and capitalized interest, the balance is almost $50.000 again. We can't refinance to get a lower rate. and our recalibrated "income sensitive" payments are now over $400, which means we can't afford medical insurance. Here's the kicker. She was 40 years old when she graduated from medical school. She's 61 now and we'll be paying off these loans until she's 70. At the very least, it would be helpful to be able to refinance to a lower interest rate. The irony here is that Jane never worked anywhere but in underserved areas. The reason she choose primary care instead of a high paying specialty was because she believed in the promise of loan repayment in exchange for helping the underserved.
Katharine from Montpelier:
I'm a native vermonter who has been paying VSAC 7.5% for over twenty years. i've heard both Senator Leahy and now you, Congressman Welch weigh in on this on Vermont Edition. In the Times-Argus, I've read an editorial by Don Vickers the CEO of VSAC saying that 6.8% is too high a burden to pay; but i'm paying more than that, and no one is talking about it.
If 6.8% is too high for new loans isn't it too high for existing loans?
Can you help me and other Vermonters out who are paying exorbitant interest rates on existing student loans?
Carol from Vernon:
While I sympathize with those who will have their interest rates raised, my daughter has loans through Sallie Mae at 10.5%. Unfortunately, we co-signed for her in order to get a better interest rate and as a result, it affected our debt to income ratio to the extent that we are not able to get a home equity loan at a much lower interest rate so we could pay off Sallie Mae. Because of the way they capitalize the interest, most of the $200 per month payment goes only to interest. She has worked 2 and 3 jobs while in school and out. She has a job, for which she is thankful, but it doesn't pay enough to cover living expenses plus school loans. It is a sad day for our youth, our future leaders. Thank you for what you have tried to accomplish and I know you will not give up.
Karen from Guilford:
I am deeply concerned about both of our children's debt from college loans. My husband is a full time firefighter for the Town of Brattleboro and I am a full time Paramedic for Rescue Inc. in Brattleboro. My husband and I also work 2 other jobs in order to make a living, pay mortgage, auto loans for us & both of our kids vehicles. Our son is working on his Masters in Athletic Training at Indiana State and received his BS from Bowling Green State Univ. our daughter will be done after one more semester at Colby-Sawyer College. Our son's BS degree cost him approximately $100,00 and our daughter's will be over $100,000 when she is done! This is Rediculous ! My husband & I have done everything we can to help them besides making car/insurance payments, purchasing books, paying other fees & travel expenses. My husband & I are working our butts off to allow our children to be the best they can be. If it wasn't for their grandmother's co-signing on their student loans we could not afford for them to attend college. Their loans and future payments scare me! I am sure that my husband & I will have to help them make their respective payments until they get established once they get full time jobs. Increasing the student loan interest rate will push us and most other people over the edge. This has got to stop! Thank you.
Sara from Ascutney:
I work for a non profit and frequently have helped new graduates apply for the loan forgiveness program they qualify for-I have been shocked about how these intelligent young people with Masters degrees are, on average, $90,000 in debt, and have no idea where all their various loans originate and their respective interest rates.
Evan from Lyndonville:
I like many others before me bought into the idea of the so called "American Dream", go to college work hard and some day you'll be able to buy a house, have a car and do a bit of traveling. My name is Evan Carlson, I'm 27 years old, and I have a mortgage but I don't own a house. I have $125,000 of debt that needs to be paid down before I can ever afford a house or even be consider for a loan for one. $125,000 would buy a beautiful house in Vermont. I have a great job but even now i'm paying over $1000 a month for my education. If interest rates continue to rise I will not buy a house, I will not buy a car and I will not contribute to the economy like many generations before me did.
Michael from Hartford:
This is the main reason why my daughter will attend university in Canada. The tuition is 1/10th of what it is here. Dartmouth is $60,000.00; McGill costs $6,000.00.
Kathleen from Bristol:
Not only do my children have student loans to repay, I have over $40k in Parent Plus Loans at a whopping 8.6%! When interest rates are so low for banks, how about lowering Parent Plus loans! I will repay over $100k with the interest rate of 8.6%.
Diane from Bennington:
I do not have any student as of yet, that have any student loans.I do have grandchildren that are coming up to graduate and attend colleges. My only upset regarding this issue is that students education is the backbone for the country and if they will be incurring more and more debt, there will be less and less students opting to go to college to advance their education. We need knowledgeable generations in the future that will help us become and stay the best country ever. I only hope this issue will be resolved to help all students who are trying for better educations to achieve their goals.
Jessica from Williamstown:
As a single mother working full time, I went to college as an adult student taking online courses to obtain a college degree in hopes of securing my ability to support my family financially in a competitive workforce. While working full time, tending to my children, and maintaining a home I took full time college courses at night, this was a challenging undertaking that I was able to achieve and obtained an Associates degree in Paralegal Studies from Woodbury College. I was unfortunately unable to find a full time job within that legal area but feel this degree did give me a leg up in my job search and I have been working full time ever since. Making my school loan payments is a monthy struggle and based on my financial situation these payments have been put on hold, however this debt will never go away and the interest will only continue to accrue. While I can't afford to pay the monthly payment on my current school loans, the possibility of increased interest rates is very worrisome. On behalf of so many others in the same situation, we ask that you do not increase the student loan interest rate for those of us who have worked so hard to improve our lives, and do everything in our power to succeed. It would be such a blow to so many of us who took the leap by persuing continued education to then be faced with increased financial hardships as a reward.
Rick and Betsy from Adamant:
We have a son finishing his first year at RIT and our daughter will begin in Sept. Fortunately they see the folly of going into debt the way things are in this economy and will only borrow small amounts to make a year at a time possible and will suspend studies to work rather than borrow heavily. Any interest increases make staying in school more difficult. We know you are working very hard to rectify this problem and want to thank you very much for your hard work.
Beth from Westfield:
Our family's student college debt exceeds $150,000.00. My children have been told since they were in elementary school that college was part of their educational path. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that I may have steered them in the wrong direction. Fortunately, both are working and doing well, however, with monthly student loan payments exceeding $500.00 per month. There will not be any way that they will afford a mortgage anytime soon. Both live out of state because because of the job market. I'm not in any position to help because I, too, went back to college to ensure that I would be employable after the age of 50. It is sad that education is becoming a luxury that only the rich can afford. Both my children worked through college and I'm frustrated when I hear the rhetoric regarding being able to pay for college by working their way through. Both of my children went to local state colleges and the tuition each year was over $20,000.00 - how can anyone work their way through college these days? We need to value education, make it affordable, and stop this insanity around student debt!
Susan from Bennington:
My daughter and son-in-law have three Masters Degrees between them. They are bright, hard working Americans raising 4 children. Together they owe over $100,000 in college loans. Because they had a mortgage and 4 babies to raise, they had to defer their loans on and off for many years. The interest continued to add up, so the total they owed grew larger and larger. During the summer of 2011 they discovered that they owed more on their previously high valued home than it was worth. My daughter also lost the grant she had as substance abuse coalition leader due to the drastic cuts our government made that year in an attempt to lower the deficit. The outcome is sad for our family, but also for our country that lost two of their best and brightest. They filed for bankruptcy, lost their sweet home and moved to Thailand to teach and live their lives in an affordable country. Wake up US Government. In an effort to lower the deficit, you are losing valuable people who would be steady contributors to the future of our country. They are also raising intelligent, responsible children who could also contribute to our country if they ever return.
Penny from Marshfield:
I find your estimate of 30 thousand plus very low for everyone I know including myself. I returned to college at 34 years old, married with three small children to become a teacher, so that I could improve our lives. The only way to do this was through student loans and because of recent cuts in school budgets I have returned and will be completing my Masters degree in Education hoping to find a good paying job that will allows me to support my family and start to pay off the large debt I have accumulated. This is only part of the story I also have a daughter who is a freshman completing her first year of college at CCV because we could not come up with $4,000 additional funds on top of scholarships, grants and loans to attend Norwich University where she had been accepted. This year she will start at Norwich University with scholarships, grants and loans from VSAC and Sallie Mae so that she can attend. Or in other words she has to become deeply in debt to receive an education in Vermont. We need help at the current rate to be able to manage education, how can we afford it if there are additional rate hikes? Please help us and our future generations. Thank you.
Sandra from New Haven:
I am a 53 year old women. I also am a graduate student working towards my Masters in Community Mental Health. My college education didn't start for me until I had children. It took me 12 years and 3 kids later to finally have my Bachelor's Degree. I realized I needed a Masters to keep up with the changes in the Mental Health fields if I wanted to advance at all. I still had debt from my Bachelor's Degree when I started my Masters. My debt is increasing and I have times when I wonder if the debt is worth the education. It can be a double edge sword at times!
Kathy from Bellows Falls:
I am an older student returning to school in order to satisfy requirements of positions I have successfully filled in the past. Any job I apply for wants paper verification I can do my job. This fact led to my unemployment and/or underemployment for nearly two years. I currently am employed however it is a seasonal/part time job. This means I do not have steady year round income. This in turn costs the state money as they, fortunately, subsidize my insurance. If I were unable to continue schooling I would be stuck at my job function since I do not posess the all important piece of paper. Doubling the interest rates would completely price me out of school. The more you make to support yourself the more you are expected to contribute. I do not accept any funds in addition to the tuition, they are returned to the lender, and I already owe appox. $13,000. I expect to receive my Associates Degree in August adding an additional $5,000-$7000 to the total. At 6.8% interest the only thing I would be paying would be interest.
Katie from West Glover:
Last year I graduated from an out-of-state private university, but with several scholarships, grants, and even a 75% tuition waiver, I still have approximately $36,000 in debt with an average 6% interest rate. My current income as an intern is approximately $25 a day, working 5-6 days a week, some days lasting over 13 hours—essentially providing well-educated slave labor. That is the choice I faced when I graduated. I could have either a job that I would enjoy using my degree and advancing my chosen career path, but be paid less than minimum wage—or I could work a minimum wage job that would do nothing to further my career other than enabling me to survive. I do not regret my decision, but meanwhile I am drowning in an unfamiliar fiscal ocean, and am overwhelmed by my economic situation. I have deferred many of my loans, but still can’t afford my remaining payments, never mind the other costs of living in this economy. I now face the prospect of abandoning my hard fought for career so that I can get a job, any job, that will pay me enough to pay for my loans.
Please do not force additional strain on college education: I have no hope of pursuing graduate school, buying a home, or even buying a new car without getting further into debt, and I feel terribly sorry for the next generation of students after going through what I have had to endure since graduation.
Sue from Newport:
I owe about $125K in school debt, a lot of it interest. I'm 60 and work for $21K a year. I was on my way to a much better job when I started having repeated problems.
Turned out I was bipolar 1. I got diagnosed in my 50s. As a result, I have to limit the kind of work I do and the amount of stress I handle, I have to take my meds religiously and attend counseling weekly. I've pulled my life together pretty well. I will never be able to pay the $600 plus a month payments I owe on my debt. At the same time, because I work, I am not "officially" disabled, which would allow VSAC to discharge the debt. I have no savings, no retirement, and an old "substandard" house I would give away (if my husband would let me).
What kind of help can I get?
I worked as a public defender for 25 years, making about $25K a year for maybe 8 or 10 of those years, and as little as $10K some years. Other years, I didn't work at all. I had three years when I made nothing and 10 without health insurance. I'm happy to be working now. But I am totally screwed here.
Aaron from from Poultney:
I am a recent graduate of Green Mountain College and a current SerVermont AmeriCorps VISTA. I graduated with a dual bachelor's degree in Business and Environmental Management and instead of flying back home to Utah, I chose to stay in Vermont and alleviate poverty.
Luckily for me $43,000 of the total $53,000 in student loan debt is placed on a year of forbearance thanks to my year of national service. Nevertheless, while I live in poverty to empathize with those I serve, that student loan debt is a constant weight upon my shoulders. I realize I need to honor my debt, but I wouldn't want to be punished with rising interest rates because I chose to improve my life and essentially the quality of other's lives for those I serve.
Kate from Guilford:
In order to attend college, like most students I had to take out loans, which by the end of 4 years totalled $32,000. Upon graduation, no one would hire me (despite the fact that I applied to 25 job openings in a 3 week period), so I made the decision to participate in AmeriCorps*VISTA for two years. During that time, my loans were deferred. In my second year of VISTA, one of my lenders (who had approved deferment), sent me a bill for $800 for a period of time during my VISTA service. Of course I did not have the money, since VISTA was only paying me a $10,000 stipend. Now I have no idea what that will mean for my credit score and my ability to get the things I need in the future such as a car or home.
In order to obtain the type of job that I want in legislative policy, I needed to go to graduate school to learn the necessary skills. Even though my contribution for the first year of graduate school came to $1,000 and my contribution for this year has been set at $0, with the end of the subsidized Stafford loans and the possibility of a rate increase, I must STILL take out more loans. This means my Graduate PLUS loan amount will skyrocket, and those have the highest interest rates.
In the end, I will be in debt $100,000 with no job prospects upon graduation due to the high unemployment rates for people my age. The next few years of life are looking dismal due to this crippling debt. Because of this debt, I have already been forced to put off getting married to the man I've been with for 7 years.
Thank you for standing up for the students, Rep. Welch. We desperately need advocates on the national level. You inspire me to work hard towards achieving my dream of becoming an elected official so that I can help the American people just as you're helping us.
Emer from South Burlington:
I am a 37 year old single mother of a teenage girl. I worked full time through both my BA and my MLS, while parenting a child the majority of the time. While I was able to pay for food, housing, and child care, and our basic needs with my income - which was low - I did have to borrow for tuition and other feels associated with school. I now owe $35,000 in student debt, all of it consolidated into the Federal loan program.
I was able to get an entry level position in my field, which is very competitive, so at least I have a steady income, but I am still considered to be in the poverty class in Vermont. I have $500 dollars in the bank and a stack of unpaid medical bills for routine health care procedures, even though I have insurance. My teeth need dental work I cannot afford. My daughter needs braces. My car is old and falling apart.
I despair of what will happen in 4 years when my daughter - a straight-A student, president of her class, star in all the school plays - goes to college in 4 years. Will she be able to? I have no idea how I will manage it. I stay awake at night worried about money.
I have done everything right. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. But it has gotten me nowhere. I own nothing of value, and wonder if I will ever be able to buy a home for myself. I feel angry and betrayed by this economic system, which promises us a good life if we work hard, and then blames us when we are swamped by its demands.
Bill from Barre:
I used tuition remission at UVM to complete my first major then switched to Goddard for 3 semesters for a second major the overall cost was about $13,000.
I started in January of 2005 and finished my bachelors in April of 2011. Was it worth it in finding a job? Absolutely not in Vermont. There are too many over educated people in this state taking lower end of the bachelors degree spectrum jobs. You need a masters just to pour coffee.
Peter from Calais:
I am trying to figure out if I can even send my son to college. I never realized that it might actually be an option to not be able to let him go to college because of the costs. He is graduating with honors and would love to go to college to improve his options and contribute to the growth of our country. He has been accepted at UVM - $30,000! and NorthEastern in Boston - $56,000! What do you do with either of these kind of costs?
Please do not let the subsidized loan interest increase.
Julie from Huntington:
I am the daughter of a Fireman and Visiting Care Attendant both residents of the State of Vermont. Growing up our already modest family income was split in half by a fractious divorce leaving my mother, my sole guardian, well below the federal poverty indices for receiving assistance. While she did in fact qualify for many state and local programs to assist us in our quality of life she declined to make use of them stating instead that 'the cream rises to the top' and that 'If I applied myself to a post-secondary education I could achieve a great future.' I was also taught growing up to avoid debt at all costs. I was told that if I was going to make my way in this world I would need to work very hard at a job while also pursuing my college education. In the economic climate in which we are currently enmeshed (a climate of artificially low wages, artificially high fuel prices, and unchecked inflation) this has meant that unlike my mother before me who struggled to work just one additional job while pursuing her degree full time; I presently find myself working up to three low wage jobs in tandem, all the while unavoidably going deeper into debt as the semesters tick by accruing more and more interest and financial burden to my future self in a tumultuous economy of outsourced employment, crippled unions, and mechanized labor where the guarantee of earning enough money to pay down my college loans in a timely enough manner to participate in home ownership, parenthood, and visits to doctors, and dentists regularly before retirement age (which btw is like going to be 79 or something by the time my generation is on track to leave the workforce) is fast becoming a farcical pipe dream. The least the public officials drawing down their salaries from my three jobs can do is support low interest rates on Federally subsidized student loans.
This is why I write to you now, I urgently beseech you to act on the behalf of myself and the thousands of others struggling to better themselves and attain a college degree by extending the 3.4 percent interest rate. We need the support of our representatives now more than ever before.
Meredith from Chittenden:
Unfortunately, the reality for many families in the middle class, any one earning over $100,000, is that sending your children to college has become an outrageously expensive endeavor. In fact, many families are making the devastating choice to not send their children to college or they are necessarily limiting their choices to in-state schools. I work as a high school Guidance counselor and I am alarmed that in the past five years the number of seniors going on to college is decreasing at a noticeable rate. The students have worked hard and are college ready, however, the outrageous price and lack of financial aid is stopping them.
I would like to encourage that the congress starts a national discussion about the tuition costs of private colleges. In many ways theses tuitions were government funded with the low interest rates and pell grants etc. However, they are not even close to reasonable or sustainable! To, in all earnest, ask $45,000 to $65,000 a year for a student to attend college?????When did everyone loose their minds?
The people who are suffering from this insanity are our next generation. A generation that will have, for the first time since before WWII, fewer people earn a higher education, than the previous generation. I believe we all need to address this problem, as this next generation is as critical as ever to help solve the continued problems that plague our society.
Nate from Burlington:
Personally, I am lucky to have a great job that pays well, but even at my current salary, I can not keep up with my student loan payments. I think people can appreciate my story and the situation I've put myself in...Without your help, the young professionals of today will never grow into their roles as future leaders, while buried under student loan debt.
Martin from Brattleboro:
I am considering returning to higher education this year and am very concerned about the doubling of the student loan interest rates. I have been out of school and in the workforce since 2002. My partner and I were able to purchase a home in Brattleboro and so have calculated a budget based on the outstanding debt on that loan. We can afford the reduction in income down to just hers for the year that I would be enrolled in school but the if the loan that i get to cover the costs during that year is at the higher rate, I may have to reconsider. Please do your best to stop the student loan rates from doubling in July.
Beyond my own personal story i believe strongly that we should have better access to higher education and doubling this rate makes it more difficult for many people.
Thomas from Colchester:
I am a current student at The University of Vermont. And in order to pay for school I have student loans. Without these student loans, and the affordable rates I would not be able to attend college, which naturally will enable me create an amazing future life for myself. My roommate, who is considering going to school will have to reconsider this thought if student loan rates are raised. Please use your vote and influence in congress to not raise student loans, and to protect the middle class.
Diane from Arlington:
Please stop the Stafford loan interest rate from going up. it does not make sense that a car or home loan rate is less than college..
We have 2 kids in school, our income is less than 40,000. Kids both have stafford loans every year.
If they want to stay in Vt when the graduate, how can they afford the high rents and fuel for a place to live and pay their debt on the low wages here. They will probably come home to stay until they find a good job most likely in another state.