Students and graduates struggle, worry about loans

Student loans are controlling the lives of many college graduates in the Washington D.C. area with current students already worried about when their loans are due.

For Samantha Garrison, 20, an American University student, loans are a huge problem.

“I am probably going to spend the rest of my life paying loans,” Garrison said.

Garrison, who identified as low income, receives financial aid but noted she’ll still graduate with between $22,000 and $28,000 in college loans.

Her debt mirrors that of the typical U.S. college student.

Students walk the campus of American University. Photo by Nima Padash.

Students walk the campus of American University. Photo by Nima Padash.

U.S. students graduated with an average of $33,000 in student loan debt, according to a 2015 report from Debt.Org, a part of Bright Horizons Financial Services.
There was a 77 percent increase in average balance size in student loans between 2004 to 2014, according to the 2015 Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Student Loan Borrowing and Repayment Trends.
After college graduation, Garrison said she’ll be the main breadwinner in her metropolitan-area household, but she fears her loans will hold her back. Even with a post-college job, those loans will cut into her income and the family’s quality of life.

“I am still going to have those loans for a while,” said Garrison, who hopes to pursue family law.

But Tommy Bennett, a 19-year-old American University student, is more hopeful about his student loans, saying he is confident a well-paying job out of college will help him start paying them back with little issue.

“I have brothers who have college loans, who are now out of college and are living nice lives,” said Bennett, who thinks repayment will take 15 years if he stays on budget and gets a good job.

Femsu Movaelane, 18, who lives in Washington D.C., is not yet a college student like Bennett, but she already has concerns about the future debt.

Student loans can affect every aspect of a student’s life, from marriage to depression and home buying.

“The burden of student debt is the key factor in young graduates not starting a business and the marriage rate for millennials is down 12 percent,” according to the 2015 Debt.Org report.

Another 2015 report from the Brookings Institution said students with more debt reported lower levels of psychological health.

Cameron Nichols, 19, identifies more with the reports’ findings and sees college loans as something that will hold him back.

Nichols, who attends college in California, does not think that the loans will last long but he said that while he has them his quality of life will suffer, he said.

“It controls your life, takes all your time, and cripples you,” Nichols said.