A Year Without Student Loans Has Meant Survival, Opportunity for Borrowers

A Year Without Student Loans Has Meant Survival, Opportunity for Borrowers

  • More than one yr in the past, the federal authorities introduced aid measures for student loan debtors.
  • Monthly funds had been halted and rates of interest stopped accruing amid the COVID-19 nationwide emergency.
  • Eight debtors share with Insider what a yr with out student loan funds has meant for them. 
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

Despite a yr of unrelenting hardships, Aliyah Heinze-Giardello, 36, discovered a vibrant spot amid the coronavirus pandemic: She was capable of wipe out greater than half of her credit card debt.  

Over the previous 12 months, she contributed $6,000 towards her credit card debt, utterly paying off a card and a half, a monetary win made attainable by the $500 leftover in her bank account on the finish of every month. 

That further month-to-month cash did not come from a second supply of earnings, nor was Heinze-Giardello the recipient of a giant inheritance. The further funds had been what the challenge supervisor sometimes paid towards her student loans every month — funds that had been instantly freed up due to America’s yr with out student loan funds.

In March 2020, the Department of Education introduced momentary aid measures for all ED-owned federal student loans amid the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic. Later that month, the CARES Act suspended student loan funds, stopped collections on defaulted loans, and halted accruing rates of interest by way of September 2020. The measures had been prolonged three extra instances and at the moment are slated to run by way of September 2021.

With practically $60,000 in student loans from an artwork diploma acquired a decade in the past, Heinze-Giardello’s income-based reimbursement plan frequently drew about $500 from her bank account every month.

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But a yr spent redirecting that cash towards her credit playing cards has not solely left her in much less debt, it has additionally improved her credit rating — a crucial perk as she prepares to purchase a home within the close to future.

“I’ve never had an excellent credit score before,” she stated. “I don’t even know what to do with it, but it’s nice having that freedom.”

Heinze-Giardello is simply one of many 42 million Americans who benefited from the Education Departments’ yr of leniency. 

Americans owe over $1.7 trillion in student loan debt unfold out throughout greater than 42 million debtors — an ever-growing quantity that has elevated greater than 100% over the previous decade. The common borrower owes $32,731, in line with the Federal Reserve, and previous to the moratorium, the common cost was $300.

Insider spoke to eight student loan debtors throughout the county, ranging in age from 22 to 45, about what the previous yr with out student loan funds has meant for his or her survival and success.


Insider spoke to eight student loan debtors throughout the county, ranging in age from 22 to 45, about what the previous yr with out student loan funds has meant for his or her survival and success.

AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

Rachel Lancaster, a 33-year-old proposal author in Jeffersonville, Indiana, stated she “heard angels singing Hallelujah” when she discovered funds could be briefly halted on her $63,000 in loans.

“There’s less stress for worrying about over-drafting on my bank account,” Lancaster stated. “I’ve noticed far fewer incidents of that.” 

The further $200 to $300 she saved every month went towards fixing up her house and caring for her pets, she informed Insider. But the extra month-to-month cash was additionally a saving grace when the pandemic hit near house and her husband misplaced his job.

“He was on unemployment making less than what he was making at his position,” Lancaster stated. “So that would have been highly stressful.”

Borrowers informed Insider {that a} yr with out funds has been like a ‘weight off their shoulders.’

For Rachel Bussett, 45, an legal professional and small enterprise proprietor in Oklahoma City, a yr with out funds has meant extra “breathing room” throughout a tough yr.

“My goal is to die owing Sallie Mae money,” stated Bussett, who has roughly $140,000 in student loan debt, together with Parent Plus loans she’s taken out for her daughters’ education. “And I only say that half-jokingly.”

When her husband misplaced his job in April, the halted loan funds helped the household survive the pandemic. 


A closed signal hangs within the window of a barber store in Burbank, California. The COVID-19 pandemic pressured companies to shut and folks to lose their jobs.

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

“Basically what I would have paid in student loans is what he earns post-tax,” she stated. “We were able to stay afloat because I wasn’t having to pay $1,200 or $1,500 a month.”

Without the Department of Education’s extensions, Bussett stated she doubtless would have needed to default on her loans or lay off workers at her enterprise.

Vue Xiong, a 38-year-old estimator in Minnesota with roughly $20,000 in student loans, stated he “breathed a sigh of relief” when he discovered a maintain had been performed on funds.

“Holy crap, I can breathe. I can stop for a minute and say ‘okay, this month I think I can pay it’ or I can take care of this other bill,” he stated.

This yr has been a game-changer for folks attempting to pay down the principal on their loans.

Gina Sabia, 29, an elementary faculty music instructor in Puyallup, Washington, and her husband who can be a instructor, have a mixed $70,000 in student debt. Once the couple knew their jobs had been protected, Sabia stated they determined to maintain making their month-to-month funds regardless of the reprieve, in an effort to make a major dent of their debt.

Without accruing rates of interest every month, Sabia stated she’s been capable of knock off practically $2,000 in principal on her $15,000 over the previous yr. Her husband has been doing the identical.

“It’s been incredible,” she stated. “It feels like we’re actually making a difference.”

Kelly Tresick, 31, an account govt in Chicago, graduated in 2012 with $29,000 in student loans — an quantity she stated is not “actually that bad” — and by the point the pandemic started, she had whittled her debt all the way down to about $5,000.

When funds and rates of interest had been halted, she stated she noticed a chance. Tresick and her husband created a plan of assault: proceed to make their month-to-month funds to pay down the principal, whereas additionally saving as a lot cash as attainable in case “the unexpected happened.” 

Her technique labored. She’s paid $3,500 on to the principal within the final yr, leaving her with solely $1,500 in student debt. As quickly as the federal government pronounces rates of interest will probably be returning, Tresick stated she’ll take that cash she put into financial savings and apply it to these final remaining {dollars}.

“We feel good,” Tresick stated. “We’re so close to that finish line.”

Xiong, too, stated he is aware of he is been lucky to have the ability to make principal funds sporadically over the previous 12 months.

“Right now there’s no interest accumulating on it. You can knock down a couple hundred a year,” Xiong stated. “I was very fortunate that I was able to pay here and there. But some people aren’t so lucky.”

Some have directed the additional cash towards paying off different money owed of their lives

One 34- year-old borrower, who requested to stay nameless as a result of delicate nature of her work, is a lawyer with $277,000 in student loans after three levels and two forbearances. It wasn’t till legislation faculty that her debt grew to become “astronomical,” she stated. 

Despite her full-time job as a prosecutor, she informed Insider she was on the hunt for a second, part-time job earlier than the pandemic started in an effort to repay credit card debt she had gathered whereas taking the Bar years in the past. 

But between fuel cash saved from working at house and additional earnings saved from no student loan funds, she stated she’s had an extra $1,000 in her bank account on the finish of every month — cash she’s utilized eagerly to her different money owed.


Some with student loan debt used the yr with out funds to repay their credit playing cards.

AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File

Last March, she had $11,000 in credit card debt. One yr later, she stated that determine is sitting round $4,000.

“The year without payment has allowed me not to have to [get a second job],” she stated. 

Multiple debtors stated the cash they’ve saved this yr has them contemplating huge life steps that when appeared elusive.

Sabia and her husband in Washington state are fortunate to already personal their house. But the couple is considering of beginning a household quickly — a step that Sabia stated would require buying an even bigger house.

“I  think paying off student debt is one of the last things I think of when I think of what our future is going to look like,” Sabia stated. “How many kids can we afford with this payment? Can we afford to buy a bigger house?”

The 34-year-old lawyer, too, stated she desires of in the future proudly owning her own residence. Paying off greater than half of her credit card debt this yr has meant she’s one step nearer to creating that dream a actuality. 

“As far as being a homeowner, did I ever think that was going to be a dream? Maybe when I was 50 or 60. I never thought it might be able to happen in my late 30s or early 40s,” she stated.

Tresick, in Chicago, and her husband are additionally available in the market for a brand new home. The pair obtained married in 2020 and the pause in student loan funds helped the couple put extra money towards the marriage, Tresick stated. Now, they’re wanting to repay the final of their student debt and take the subsequent huge step of their lives. 

Olivia Nunez, 22, is gearing up for a barely totally different subsequent step. 

The senior at DePaul University will graduate in May with round $18,000 in student loans. She’s already nervous about coming into the job market throughout the pandemic, however the yr with out curiosity accruing on her loans, in addition to the potential for one other extension of halted funds, has her feeling much less overwhelmed as she appears to her future.

“It made me so feel relieved that I can just focus on my studies and devote myself completely to that instead of just job searching,” Nunez stated.

In this June 20, 2019, photo a student works in the library at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. Those who graduate college with student loans owe close to $30,000 on average, according to the most recent data from the Institute for College Access & Success. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Those who graduate faculty with student loans owe near $30,000 on common, in line with the latest information from the Institute for College Access & Success.

Associated Press

Up till this month, Lancaster, the proposal author from Indiana, stated she’s been taking full benefit of the halted funds, spending the freed-up cash on house repairs and saving the remainder to attempt to safe a monetary steady future because the couple begins to think about having kids. 

“Part of the reason we have only pets right now is because financially, with paying our student loans, it’s a burden if you plan to have children at any point,” Lancaster stated. “It can be a burden to people who have to worry about making $200 to $600 payments each month, so that could be a reason why a lot of us are delaying.”

But September is looming.

The authentic student loan aid measures had been set to run out on the finish of January 2021, however considered one of President Joe Biden’s first acts as President was extending the Department of Education measures once more — this time by way of September 2021.

All eight debtors lamented the eventual return of month-to-month funds and aggravating rates of interest. Most expressed their hopes for one more extension and even eventual forgiveness. They all stated they have been paying cautious consideration to the nationwide dialog that has sprung up in current months about the potential for wide-scale, federal student loan forgiveness.

“You cannot get ahead,” stated Bussett. “What if my business hasn’t rebounded? What if the kid I got coming out of college isn’t able to support herself and I have to help?” 

Lancaster, who stated she’s particularly keen for one more extension of the aid measures, urged a easy answer.

“Let’s delay it as long as possible,” she stated. “I think at this rate we keep extending, you might as well let it go…forget they exist.”

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