Coping with the Student Loan Burden

Image from Bascom Hill on Flickr
Image from Bascom Hill on Flickr

Written by: Megan Lanier

I am crippled. Not in the sense that I have a physical impairment, but rather a financial burden that looms over me and my husband day every day. That aliment is student loans. We are just one of the 40 million Americans inflicted with this weakness that was supposed to be our saving grace.

To be honest, this was somewhat self-inflicted. While I was one of the lucky few who was able to escape college and graduate school debt-free, my husband was not so fortunate. He (and now we) carries around an absurd amount of debt which makes me sick to my stomach to even think of the number, let alone share it with others. Although we make substantial payments each month, the total only seems to rise.

Knowing that we must not be the only ones stuck in one of those zero progress clichés, I started thinking: what are other millennials doing about this issue? We are a young, inventive and curious generation that will not be stopped a little issue like paying back over $1.2 trillion in our lifetime…right?

While most repayment plans are put on a 10-year track to debt freedom, the average bachelor’s degree holder takes 21 years to repay his or her student loans. That is also taking into account that the average loan amount is about $30,000. Gulp. Sadly, that amount is far less than the figure my husband and I are dealing with.

So, enough with the facts and figures. What are millennials actually doing about this “crisis”? Here are some creative ways our generation has tackled this mounting societal problem.

  1. Be a Volunteer. While the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is widely known now, it is not a feasible option for everyone. A couple of innovative millennials have crafted a way for the service-minded to receive the benefit of loan repayment assistance. Two organizations with a similar concept in mind, reward volunteers for participating in volunteer projects that receive funding from sponsors. Zerobound and SponsorChange have different funding models, but the same idea to make the burden of loans a little easier for those who give back. In a sense, volunteer work is crowdfunded by companies, friends, family, etc. to pay down student loan debt.

 

  1. Debt Realization. The first step to tackling debt is knowing exactly how much you have to pay off – and the time it will take you to do so based on your monthly payments. The federal student loan calculator is a marvelous tool. One millennial had the help of her boyfriend to finally come to terms with her student loan debt issue. By implementing some creative solutions to cut back expenses and make additional income, she has paid off $90,000 in debt. She discovered some unique ideas for earning extra income which made those monthly payments a little easier.

 

  1. Earn Rewards. Almost every credit card nowadays offers rewards for cash back, airline miles or hotel points. Another company has taken a similar approach by offering the benefit of student loan repayment. SmarterBucks allows users to sign up for a free account and shop the online marketplace featuring popular brands and earn up to 10% back paid to the student loan carrier of your choice. Additionally, family and friends can sign up for a “Gifter” account and their rewards will be contributed to repayment as well.

Although the issue of student loan debt can be frightening, it is reassuring to know that others have tackled the problem and are now thriving, debt-free individuals. Hopefully, some of these ideas will help you (and me!) make further progress on repayment and break free from student loan debt.

CNN Money Coverage on Student Loan Crisis.

New America Study on Student Loan Debt in the U.S.

U.S. News article on the realities of paying off your loans.

Information on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Zerobound – how you can use volunteer hours to pay off your loans.

SponsorChange – complete special projects and get a loan payment.

A calculator to help better plan on how to pay off your loans.

Forbes – How one person paid off $90,000 in student loan debt in a year.

Helping Minority Women Bridge the Gap

CourtneyCMB

We covered everything from professional disadvantages that women of color experience, family, the informal education that colleges and universities provide, and how she is evening out the playing field to give exceptional women of color a fighting chance.

It all started for Courtney when she was a scholarshiped campus leader as an undergraduate student at the University of San Francisco. During her years there, she continued working at a law firm to cover her education costs. Inspired by the events during Katrina, Courtney wanted to have a direct positive impact instead of operating behind the scenes.

Therefore, Courtney went to straight to Fordham and obtained a Masters in Urban Studies. While she was there, Courtney researched urban minority women’s ability to integrate into society. With the pervasive nature of violence against women, Courtney’s research illuminated that urban minority women lacked robust networks. Instead young minority women were being hidden away at home in an effort to protect them from the variety of dangers in their community. This layer of protection was in turn harming these women’s abilities to get out of those communities as they lacked the social capital.

I met Courtney for the first time in October and we brought together women who we thought were inspiring.
I met Courtney for the first time in October and we brought together women who we thought were inspiring.

However, upon graduation, Courtney was offered an incredible opportunity in New York and began her “adult” life. But, as is the case with all transitions, it was a significant challenge. Faced with this new environment, Courtney quickly discovered that she needed the guidance that many of her peers received. Seeking this resource, Courtney couldn’t find the kind of organization she needed. So, in true driven millennial form, Courtney started her own non-profit the Color MeB. “I remember there was a lot of snow that year in New York, I had lost my job and I was really down from all of these challenges. But, I really wanted to provide direct value and promote successful women.”

From that day forward, Courtney has been growing CMB to offer trainings, webinars, networking opportunities and an insightful blog created for minority women. When asked what has been her greatest success, “Getting an article published with Bustle and being asked to speak as an alumna graduation speaker were the external validation that we were going in the right direction with CMB.”

On the greatest lesson? “Take your time. There’s always this pressure to have the grades, experience, you had to rush. There isn’t a huge rush, take the time so you can figure our what you want to do.”

To check out Courtney’s work with TheColorMeB check out her site here and check  out her Instagram @thecolomeb or Twitter @thecolormeb.