Paying off loans troublesome for many, national student loan debt reaches $1.1 trillion

About+four-in-10+U.S.+household+owners+who+are+younger+than+40+years+old+currently+have+some+student+debt%2C+according+to+a+Pew+Research+Center+Report+conducted+in+2014.+

Hugo Brito

About four-in-10 U.S. household owners who are younger than 40 years old currently have some student debt, according to a Pew Research Center Report conducted in 2014.

Amanda Guillen, Managing Editor

According to a Pew Research Center Report conducted in 2014, about four-in-10 U.S. household owners who are younger than 40 currently have some student debt.

This is the highest share on record, some UTEP alums say that loan de bt is something that can make graduation seem less of a joyous time and more of a daunting one.

Sergio Padilla graduated from UTEP with a degree in mathematics in 2011, four years later, he is still struggling to pay off his loan debt.

“My debt level was near the average for that time, and my monthly payments have been over $300 a month, which is on the level of a car payment. I was lucky, however, to be able to find a job in my field before the six-month grace period ended, but I very nearly didn’t,” Padilla said.

The median outstanding student debt load stands at about $13,000.

Some students may see the grace period as a clock ticking down the time to find a job, but an article for U.S. News and World Report says that grace periods are meant to help more than hurt. The report, titled “6 Little-known Facts About Student Loan Grace Periods,” says that “…grace periods are a tool meant to help student loan borrowers start off on the right foot. Their intent is to give borrowers some time to find a job and get themselves financially established before their student loan payments come due.”

Regardless of the time, Padilla had to find a job and he said that keeping up with the payments and other expenses has not been easy.

“Even with a job, it hasn’t been easy to make these payments. Factoring in housing, transportation, taxes and the myriad other expenses post-college adult life requires, having that loan payment can make things financially tighter. I don’t have children yet–and I can’t imagine having any until my student loans become more manageable. In order to give myself some more wiggle room in creating a life like my parents did after graduating from college, I have had to request lower payments, which amounts to basically paying the interest alone.”

A 2014 Survey of Consumer Finances finds that households lead by a young, college-educated adult without student debt has about seven times the typical net worth at $64,700 than households lead by a young, college-educated adult with student loan debt, who had a net worth of $8,700.

The study also finds that those students with no student debt have accumulated nine times as much wealth as those with debt–the numbers being $10,900 in wealth for the students with no debt and $1,200 for those with debt.

These numbers are significantly dramatic despite the fact that debtors and non-debtors have nearly identical household incomes.

The total balance of student-loan debt has reached a record high of $1.1 trillion as of 2015.

President Barak Obama’s push for financial aid overhaul in Congress ultimately led to a government-subsidized private sector loan program being entirely shut down.

Once changes to the income-based repayments were made under the Affordable Care Act, borrowers had to pay only 10 percent of their income per month, with the forgiveness timeline lowered to 20 years. With legislation now in effect, students can borrow directly from the federal government and be eligible for the favored repayment terms.

Now in his fourth year of loan payments approaching the half way mark, Padilla advises all graduating seniors to look into programs that will help them pay off their student loans.    

“My advice would be to start looking into legitimate programs that may help you reduce your debt. As a teacher, I can apply for the TEACH Grant, which will reduce my debt by nearly two thirds after working in a low-income school for five years,” Padilla said. “Different professions may have different programs. Also only reduce payments if you truly need to–or you will be treading water paying mostly interest without making a dent in your loan. Start paying it back as soon as you can.”

Amanda Guillen may be reached at [email protected]