Ah, those three little words that can utterly change the course of your life:student loan debt. If you spend your spare time fantasizing about Elizabeth Warren’s plan to cancel (most) of it, or have extensively researched moving to Berlin to dodge it, know that you’re nowhere near alone (well, at least with the overwhelming debt part). Over 44 million borrowers have collectively hit the $1.5 trillion mark in the U.S. as of 2019, with 2/3 of borrowers being women as of mid-2018. The student loan crisis is a feminist issue and one that’s shifting the ways young people plan for their futures, it increases mental health disorders (debt depression is a very real thing), and keeps academia as a space reserved for the privileged (or heavily indebted) few.
If you’re a new graduate facing the impending dread of that first loan payment or you’ve been whittling away at yours for years, hearing about how other people cope with the stress and the financial strategies they use can be a massive help. We spoke to members of the Girlboss professional network to find out what they’ve learned and how they’re dealing. Read on for more.
“I wish I would’ve asked more questions about interest rates and what they actually meant. There are subsidized and unsubsidized loans and each have a different interest rate, some of which compound. Once I started repaying my loan I realized that I wasn’t making much of a dent in paying it off because of how my interest rates were set up. So don’t be embarrassed to ask questions! It is for your benefit and will totally help you out so much in the long run.” –Eren Roman, Product Developer
“I’m staying at a job right now because I can take part in the student loan forgiveness program. Basically, I can work for a qualifying ‘public service’ company for 10 years, make income-based payments, and have the rest of my debt forgiven after those 10 years. Most places don’t even know that they qualify, so make sure to do your research and ask. I know several people that have worked at nonprofits and would qualify, but never filled out the paperwork.” –Alyssa Harmon, Administrative Assistant at The Key Program
“I’m staying at a job right now because I can take part in the student loan forgiveness program. Most places don’t even know that they qualify, so make sure to do your research and ask.”
“You can’t escape interest because it accrues daily, BUT if you pay off one loan completely, that’s less interest. For example: you have 3 loans that cost $5 each, but have all different interest rates. You decide to pay $5 using ‘custom allocation’ to the one with the highest interest. That $5 completely knocks out that entire loan so instead of 3 loans gaining daily interest you now only have 2!” –Caela Collins, Author at Caela Enterprises
“I started with $27k in debt and Im very lucky that my interest rate is just below 4 percent. If you have a higher interest rate, look into as many options as you can. My loan provider offers a discount if you use autopay. A classmate of mine used a bank loan to pay off her debt through the loan company because the interest rate was lower on the bank loan.” –Hannah Elaine Morgan, Web and Graphic Designer/Content Creator
“You can’t escape interest because it accrues daily, BUT if you pay off one loan completely, that’s less interest.”
“I wish I’d known that if you take out a private loan, you have to start paying on it after that six month grace period. The interest rate on my private loans is extremely high, so I’d definitely make private loans a last resort—take out federal loans if you can. With federal loans you can apply for an income-based repayment plan, which has been a major blessing for me. Right now I don’t have to make any required payments on my federal loans while I figure out my job situation. I’m hoping that once I get something that pays me better, I can start throwing money towards the balance, since it’s been accruing interest.” –Deanna Thompson, Instructor and Content Writer
“I currently pay loans equalling to my NYC rent (crazy, I know) and it was for art school. It’s something I have to do and at times it leaves me with a feeling of confidence, knowing that I’m a strong woman, I can budget, and I am a capable. When it’s all paid and over, I’ll splurge for those Jesse Kamm pants I’ve been eyeing.” –Ida Garland, Agent and Production Coordinator