The pressure of student loan repayments is being felt by many in the Grand Valley State University community.
With many other financial responsibilities throughout their time in college, many students who need to use federal student loans have done so while carefully considering what it might mean for their future.
GVSU student Lily Weber-Bailey, who had to use loan funding, said she felt the weight of her loans weighed heavily on her decisions as she charted her course toward graduation.
“I think taking out loans pushed me to finish my education as quickly as possible,” Weber-Bailey said. “Especially since I changed majors after freshman year, I feel pressured to take as many credits as possible each semester to complete in four years and that has limited my ability to add a minor.”
Weber-Bailey said she’s also worried about how the specter of her loans will play into her plans for the future.
“My current goal is to become a doctor,” Weber-Baker said. “For that to happen, I have to take out loans that I’m going to pay off for a very, very long time.”
Lauren DeHerder, another GVSU student and loan recipient, echoed similar concerns about her own post-college financial strategy.
“Instead of putting my income into buying a home and other future necessities, I have to pay for my education instead,” DeHerder said.
Weber-Baker and DeHerder are two of thousands of GVSU students who have also had to rely on federal government loans to fund their education.
Data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics showed that 57% of all GVSU undergraduate students received federal loan aid in the 2019-2020 school year.
During this period, the average amount of aid received by each student was $6,589.
However, for the majority of GVSU students balancing loans with other financial commitments, calls for loan payment changes on Capitol Hill could change their situation.
Spurred on by a COVID-19-era moratorium on student loan repayment, lawmakers in the nation’s capital have begun to reinvigorate calls for student debt relief.
With the current recess lasting until Sunday, May 1 this year, the approaching deadline has prompted members of Congress to start calling for an even longer one.
Last month, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, released a statement pressuring President Joe Biden’s administration to extend the current pause on student loan repayments through 2023.
“It should be easy to sign up for a reasonable repayment plan, no one should end up with a monthly payment they can’t afford, and debt relief shouldn’t require going through a gauntlet of paperwork,” Murray said in the statement. “That’s not too much to ask – so until we fix our student loan system, the student loan payment pause must continue to provide borrowers with much-needed relief.”
A number of Democrats have gone even further, using the recent momentum to call for student loan debt cancellation.
In a letter sent to the White House on March 31, 96 congressional Democrats urged President Biden to provide the aid.
“Borrowers choosing between paying for their basic needs or their student loans often refer to their debt as a life sentence that will hamper their future for decades,” the letter reads. “As your administration strives to rebuild a fairer and fairer economy, it should use its administrative powers to address this crisis and provide permanent relief to the millions of borrowers struggling with this debt.”
For members of the GVSU community like Weber-Bailey and DeHerder, student loan debt forgiveness could promise a smoother journey in their pursuit of graduation.
“Student loan forgiveness would put less pressure on me to take the time I need to complete my classes,” Weber-Bailey said. “It would allow me to add a minor that I would have liked to do all along, but now I feel like it’s too late.”