Over 43 million Americans are grappling with the burden of student loan debt, a staggering sum that surpasses $1.7 trillion. With an average individual debt of $37,787, the weight of monthly payments can take a toll on both financial stability and mental well-being. However, it’s crucial to recognize that you’re not navigating this journey alone.
Michael R. lives and works in San Antonio, Texas. He too, was dealing with student loan debt after graduating from college, and it had severe impacts on his life.
Michael is a counselor who works with combat veterans and people with disabilities, including autism, who are trying to rejoin the workforce.
Michael had always planned on going to college from an early age. His mother, a schoolteacher, who would later become an assistant principal, aspired that her son would go to college and graduate with a degree. He grew up in the small West Texas town of Alpine. After graduating high school, Michael attended a local university, Sul Ross.
He started college in the summer session after high school. He was able to secure some grants but the money only lasted two semesters. The eligibility for other grants also changed due to his parents’ income status. After crunching the numbers, he realized it wouldn’t be possible to attend college without taking out student loans.
The initial plan was to take out one student loan and pay it back. Even with working three part-time jobs, he still had to take out more loans to continue his education.
Michael’s plan was to get on track to become a lawyer, but his focus shifted when he took a course in psychology. Unsure about which direction he wanted to go, he volunteered at a shelter for battered women and quickly discovered a passion for listening to people and helping them with their problems. Michael came to the realization that social service work might be his calling.
After graduating from Sul Ross, Michael began paying back his loans immediately, but he also wanted to earn a Master’s degree in Counseling at Angelo State University. He was able to find a job there, teaching Intro to Psychology, but with the student loan payments, it was difficult to make ends meet. He found himself in the same situation as undergraduate school. To finish his Master’s degree he would have to take out even more student loans.
“This is going to take forever. It’s very discouraging.”
After graduation, Michael thought it would be manageable to pay off his loans. It was just something he had built into his monthly budget but it felt like it would be something that would be with him for the foreseeable future. However, what was shocking to him, was the amount he would have to pay monthly, and how much of a percentage it took out of his budget.
Michael had an idea of the lifestyle he wanted. He wanted to buy a home and start a family. When he entered his field, he knew the pay wouldn’t be high, but he didn’t expect the debt to pile up as much as it did.
He kept making payments, sometimes full payments, sometimes not, depending on the monthly bills. Over the years, his student loan Servicer switched from one company to another. It was hard to keep track.
“My student loan debt exceeded six figures.”
At some point, Michael stopped paying back his loans, overwhelmed by the monthly payments, and his loan went into forbearance. He admits that was a big mistake. During that time he had moved twice, and even with forwarding addresses, he stopped getting notifications or mail from his loan Servicer. He was unaware when his loan was taken over by another Servicer. When they finally did connect with Michael, so much time had passed that they imposed an enormous penalty. The penalty ballooned his loan total by more than half of what he originally owed.
By that time, Michael had gotten married and he was also handling his wife’s student loan debt. She had risen through the ranks of an education career from school teacher to assistant principal and had come across information about Student Loan Forgiveness. Michael followed up, found the website and submitted the paperwork. He and his wife started making payments. They had to manage their loans. He didn’t realize that he had to get certified every year, not just one time. The details were buried in the fine print.
Ten years later, Michael attended a seminar by My Education Solutions, curious to see if there was anything he could do about his student loan debt. At the seminar, he discovered that only the first year of payments towards his wife’s student loans were eligible for forgiveness. There were obstacles built into the forgiveness programs that the average person might not realize that prevented you from achieving forgiveness. He was upset. His wife was upset. That’s when he decided to reach out to My Education Solutions for advice.
“The Advisor at MES humanized the experience. She made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”
He spoke to an advisor there and she immediately told Michael that because of his job, he also qualified for a forgiveness program. She signed them both up. Michael had felt embarrassed at having gotten into so much debt, but the advisor told him what had happened to him had happened to so many others.
Together, they figured out a path forward and Michael’s apprehensions and anxieties slowly dissolved into relief. Here was someone who recognized his challenges and was eager to help
From Debt to Dream Home: Michael’s Journey to Financial Freedom Through Student Loan Forgiveness
For the longest time, Michal felt like he was in a deep hole trying to get out of debt. When trying to purchase a home, someone would run a credit check and he could see the look on their faces when they saw his loans. It was difficult for him to afford a nice place to live.
But when he saw the new payment and how much monthly income would be freed up it was a life-changing moment. Micheal and his wife bought a nice house, in a great neighborhood where his kids could attend school in one of the top school districts in San Antonio.
“In the grand scheme of things, at the time, if you have an extra eight to nine hundred a month, it makes a huge difference. We would not have been able to do it without forgiveness.”
When asked what advice he would give his younger self, Michael replied, “Go talk to folks who can help you. Ask them what resources are available. What are the implications to what you are doing now?”
Today, Michael and his wife are completely forgiven and free from their student loan debt. When asked what he is most thankful for, Michael said, “I’m thankful for the peace of mind of not having that debt. Period. And now, we’ve started planning for our kid’s college.”
If you are struggling with student loans, remember, that you are not alone. Make a plan now to take action and speak to an MES Advisor today.