- The CARES Act student-loan forbearance period comes to a close at the end of September.
- Insider spoke to three people with between $US14,000 ($AU18,968) and $US185,000 ($AU250,647) in debt about how this impacts them.
- “With the forbearance ending, student-loan forgiveness is my best bet,” Glenda Johnson said.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Millions of Americans are still recovering from the financial turmoil of the pandemic.
As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, some student loan borrowers were granted forbearance – a pause on monthly payments.
The relief, however, is coming to an end soon: Borrowers must restart making payments after September 30.
Insider spoke with three people about how the end of COVID-19 student-loan forbearance will affect their lives and finances.
Camryn Hicks, 25, has $US14,250 ($AU19,307) in student-loan debt and lives in rural Maine
I graduated from Boston College in 2018 with a degree in business and marketing. I’m part of the first generation of women in my family to go to college, and had some financial assistance in the form of loans and grants.
But I didn’t know what my student-loan payments would look like later when I was signing up for them.
When I graduated, I got a job working on a re-election campaign for Elizabeth Warren. I was able to start paying my loans off right away, and have never missed a payment. Warren dissolved her presidential campaign right around the time COVID-19 started to spread, so I ended up moving back in with my parents and starting a new job remotely.
During the forbearance, I’ve been able to make large lump-sum, principal-only payments on my student loans using my stimulus checks. Because of the forbearance, I’ve been able to start playing catch-up with my finances. When my car was stolen, I was able to replace it, and I also opened a retirement account.
For me, the forbearance period was a taste of what cancellation would feel like. The conversation around student loans, I think, focuses too much on the individual, and if that one person is going to be able to pay the debt they signed up for. But it’s an economic problem, not a personal one.
My parents took out hundreds of thousands of dollars in Parent PLUS loans to send both my sister and myself to school. Student-loan debt isn’t a personal burden, it’s a family burden.
In many ways, student loans perpetuate wealth inequality – where the people who don’t have to take them out get a head start. I think we need to stop splitting hairs over who’s worthy of relief.
Glenda Johnson, 32, has $US36,693 ($AU49,714) in student-loan debt and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina
When I graduated from college in 2011, my student-loan balance was over $US50,000 ($AU67,743), and I’m still paying back most of it.
I’m fortunate because throughout the pandemic, I’ve had a job. I make about $US49,000 ($AU66,388) a year working in the sales department of a big tech company and also freelance on the side.
Most of my loans were in an income-based repayment plan before the forbearance. The forbearance has been able to keep me afloat, because for over a year I haven’t had to worry about being able to make my payments or not.
A few of my loans didn’t qualify for forbearance, so I’ve still been making payments on those.
With the forbearance ending, student-loan forgiveness is my best bet. The job market I graduated into isn’t what they told us it would be when I was in school, and it’s a lot of money to repay when I’m not seeing a rise in income.
Having to make payments again will weigh heavy on me, but I’m staying positive that there will be a solution somewhere – whether it’s me getting a promotion, or getting more money from my side gig.
I remain hopeful because the conversation around student loans is changing, but for whatever reason, we can’t push the needle, and people like me with student loans will have to keep waiting for change.
Dylan Cawley, 32, has $US185,682 ($AU251,571) in student-loan debt and lives in northeastern Pennsylvania
I graduated with a master’s in public health from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013. For my undergraduate degree, I went to a state school, but for my master’s program I had to take out extra loans to pay for my rent and living expenses, which totaled in over $US50,000 ($AU67,743) a year.
With the exception of the six-month grace period after graduation, I’ve been making monthly payments on my loans for over eight years. My federal loans are on income-driven payment, and I’ve been making regular payments on my private loans.
In about four years, I will qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which should forgive about $US126,000 ($AU170,711) of my loans.
The forbearance has given me room to breathe. I’ve always wanted an emergency fund, and thanks to the CARES Act I’ve been able to start one. Once it ends, I’ll have to readjust my budget to include an additional $US260 ($AU352) payment.
I think a lot of people who don’t have student loans don’t realize just how stressful it is. We aren’t complaining for no reason.
I’m not holding my breath for student-debt forgiveness. You can’t just forgive all existing student loans. If we forgive all student loans now, we’re going to be in the same situation 15 years from now. We have to start looking at student loans as a whole problem within itself.