The Journal Gazette
Sunday, May 10, 2020 1:00 am

Readers' experiences

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

The Journal Gazette asked readers to share their experiences with student loans. Here are a few of their stories.

Children's inheritance

Donna Archie, 39, jokes that her student loans will be her children's inheritance.

“As of now, it looks as though I will never pay it off no matter what I do without taking out a significant loan equal to a mortgage,” the Fort Wayne resident said by email.

Archie transferred from Ivy Tech Community College to what was then IPFW to pursue a bachelor's degree in human services, she said.

Upon graduation in 2012 after four years in school, Archie said, she accepted a job but deferred her loans because the $600 monthly payment wasn't feasible with her annual income at that time – $28,700.

Archie, whose children are now 17 and 20, started an income-based repayment plan a year later and has continued with the plan, she said, noting her monthly payments have increased with her rising income.

She had a mix of private and federal student loans.

“My debt went from $45,000 upon graduation to $71,000 because of interest even though for the last year my employer has been paying $100 towards my student loan debt on top of my monthly contribution as an incentive program,” Archie said.

Archie works as a case manager for a mental health clinic, and her hours have been reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Archie said she hopes to apply for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program – assuming the federal government maintains it – because she is always prompt with her monthly payments.

“I don't regret going to school because I am for sure making a significant amount more than I did before going to college, and I absolutely love what I do helping others,” Archie said. “It would be nice, though, to actually get out of debt one day.”

Huge weight

Hannah Cordes, 24, can't save for a house or anything else.

The first-generation college graduate began her postsecondary career without knowing how much interest and debt she would have after graduating from Ball State University with her bachelor's degree in May 2018. She studied organizational communication.

“I now have over $100,000 in debt and have a huge weight on my shoulders,” Cordes said by email.

Fortunately, she said, she remains employed despite the coronavirus pandemic. She is a logistics specialist for a transportation brokerage.

“We had a huge increase in business with the pandemic and have continued to see more business because of this,” she said, adding she has been working overtime from home.

Cordes, who grew up in New Haven but moved to Indianapolis after graduation, said she pays a total $578.18 monthly to three lenders.

“I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to go to college and further my education; however, I had absolutely no idea how much this big sum of debt would impact my life,” Cordes said.

“I will spend 30 years – at least – paying back four years of college.”

Paid off early

Jacqui Shepherd, 30, paid back about $19,000 in student loans in four years, submitting her final payment about two years ago.

She compared her $190 monthly payment to her car payment on a 2017 Chevy Spark.

“I worked hard to pay off my loans early, and I worked through college,” Shepherd said by email. “In addition, I had assistance from my parents, who would give my siblings and I so much back per class depending on our grades. I was blessed to have that help, but I still ended up with quite a bit of student loan debt.”

Shepherd, who attended IPFW, earned an associate degree in business in August 2011.

She returned for a bachelor's degree in general studies and an international studies certificate, which she earned in May 2014.

She works as a customer service expert for a financial company in Fort Wayne.

It's important to bring awareness to student debt, Shepherd said, adding she hears many stories from people her age with high student loan payments.

Finance and student loans – how they work and the effect they can have – need to be taught in high school, Shepherd said.

“All it takes is a few clicks for an 18-year-old to end up with a semester of debt,” Shepherd said. “I hope that when I have kids one day, that they will be taught more in school about finance. I felt aware due to what I learned from my parents, but I don't feel like I learned much in high school regarding personal finance.”

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