I am writing this because I am completely overwhelmed and I don’t know what to do. Like many other educated Americans, I am drowning in student loan debt and unfortunately both of my loans are private. Before you read anything further, I want to assure you that I am not looking for a handout, I just need help, in whatever way I can get it.
I started my journey in 2009 when I decided to go to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a dream to become an airline pilot. I knew that my goals were quite ambitious but I knew I could accomplish them with a bit of assistance. Within my first semester, I realized that becoming a pilot was not for me, so I quickly changed gears and began pursuing a degree in Air Traffic Management. At the time of my switch, I did my research and I had heard from many different people that not long after graduation, air traffic controllers earn quite a large salary, sometimes reaching six figures. I was thrilled considering I knew staying in an expensive private school would cost quite a bit of money; however, I wasn’t worried since the benefit would be enough to cover my payments and more. I was also informed by professors, FAA employees, and several other citizens that air traffic controllers were highly in demand and that the FAA would be replacing 80% of its workforce in the next few years. Even better, I thought, since a job would essentially be guaranteed.
I proceeded to complete my degree while maintaining a GPA of 3.864 and graduating with honors in May 2011. I even scored a perfect 100% on my AT-SAT Test (Air Traffic Selection and Training). At that point in time, we were notified of a slight hiring slow-down. I thought for sure with my background and grades, I would have no problem getting hired as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. I was advised that going back to school was the only option that could buy me a little more time to repay my loan; I decided to go ahead and pursue my Masters in Business Administration since going back to school was the only option I had to defer my loans. Regrettably, that was only a temporary solution to a now even bigger problem.
After starting my MBA, I was under the impression that it was going to be temporary, until I was called by the FAA; at that point I was planning to take a break in school and finished my MBA at a later time. However, to my surprise, I graduated in December of 2012 with still no call from the FAA.
As of today, 06/12/2013, my combined loan amount for both undergraduate and graduate degrees is $192,068.72 and is growing daily. I am in constant contact with Discover Student Loans looking for any option I can find. My grace period has just ended, and my first payment is due on July 16, 2013 for a little under $1200; this is just for the undergraduate loan. The graduate loans comes out of grace in October and will come out to another $700+ payment. Between the two of these payments, I’m looking at monthly payments of about $2000 for fifteen years. For some, it doesn’t seem like much, and it didn’t seem like that for me either when I was expecting to be making at least $80,000 a year by this time.
Anyhow, Discover has notified me of the following options:
- Forbearance: If I can’t make the payment now, I can forbear for a maximum of nine months in three month intervals. However, this option will continue to accrue interest and my payments will only become higher once I am ready to pay.
- Consolidation: I have looked up every possible company that offers consolidation and SunTrust is the only one who can consolidate my loan, but they can only do one. This option will have a similar interest rate, but extend my term from 15 to 25 years. Unfortunately this option only saves a couple hundred dollars off of the first loan so I will end up paying more in the long run. Also, in order to be eligible for this deal, I need to make at least one full payment for that loan, which at this point in time, I do not have.
Earlier today was the most recent time I contacted Discover to find out my options. When I asked about paying what I can as I go, they informed that partial payments were “not an option.”
I have already come to the realization that my credit is going to be ruined, but what I am concerned about right now is the credit of my cosigners. I currently have my cousin and my sister listed as cosigners for my loans and I strongly regret that they are now involved in this unfortunate situation.
I know there is no one to blame but myself and I take full ownership of the series of unfortunate events that have occurred. As of right now, I am currently working at Geico as a customer service representative making $32,500 per year. After taxes and benefits, that factors to about $1800 a month and after paying bills and general month to month expenses, that only leaves me with around $500 to put towards any payment. Mind you, I am living with my parents and they are kind enough to provide me free rent and car insurance. I can’t even begin to think about living on my own since that is nowhere near my budget.
Since I knew this situation was going to come up, I’ve spent the last few months looking for different jobs, whether it was an additional job, or a replacement job with a much higher salary. I am still actively seeking other employment options but I have only received one job offer with a salary of $38,000 located in Arizona. Unfortunately, I had to decline since I would be able to save more money in my current position while living with parents.
Again, this letter isn’t intended as a sob story, I just don’t know what to do. I look at my sister’s loan situation and am very jealous that all of her loans are federal and provide her with more options and flexible payment plans. I’ve often been asked why I didn’t choose federal loans and here is the answer. In order to apply for federal loans for an undergraduate program, students must fill out a FAFSA to determine eligibility. This requires a completed copy of the parents’ tax information from the previous year. During my undergraduate career, my father was facing a harsh economic struggle with a gas station that he owned and often times he would not have his taxes fully completely until the end of the following year. Also, his high level of debt did not reflect on his tax information since they were due to a business. That made private loans my only option. By the time I got grad school, I was constantly used to private loans and didn’t even realize I had other options. As for my sister, she stuck to a public school for undergrad and completed that degree with no debt. Her only student loans are for grad school in which they are federal, and have no cosigners.
I hate that I am constantly worrying about this problem since I realize there are other bigger problems out there. I feel incredibly blessed to have a loving supportive family and even more blessed just knowing we are alive and healthy. I couldn’t imagine what I would do without them. However, this is the only thing that has been on my mind lately. I can’t even go to sleep at night without having nightmares.
Again, I am not asking for a handout, I just wish I had some other options. I have every intention of paying what I owe. I understand that I am the only person to blame for everything that has happened. I am writing this letter to share my story. Even if I can’t get any help, I want my story to be known; I hope this letter serves as a warning for the next student who plans doing what I did. If I knew then what I know now, I definitely wouldn’t have chosen this route. I would rather be making a smaller salary and living with no debt and no fear of what is going to happen if I don’t pay.