Local students and graduates hopeful after U.S. student loan forgiveness announcement

More than 70 percent of UNCW students rely on financial aid. Many are already hopeful these measures could help them.

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — If you have growing student debt, you may be a bit relieved with this week’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Education.

This week, the Department of Education announced they’d be putting in new measures to help borrowers repay debts faster, partially forgiving some loans, and fully forgiving more than 40,000 loans.

In Wilmington, UNCW students graduate with an average $26,000 in debt, compared to the national average of $29,000.

“I’m just happy, if they really do forgive mine, or like anybody else’s because it’s definitely a weight lifted off of my shoulders,” said freshman Brittany Perea.

More than 70 percent of UNCW students rely on financial aid. Many are already hopeful these measures could help them.

“I think that’d be a great thing absolutely, so you can just start your life running instead of worrying about everything you have to pay back while you’re just getting an entry level job,” sophomore Megan Burke explained.

Student debt can affect everyone from undergraduates to men and women using their degrees to pursue a career. Jesse Bright took out a $80,000 in loans to go to law school. He’s paid off loans consistently since graduating nine years ago.

“Because of interest, it’s almost 300,000 right now. That’s with me having paid off 25,000,” said Bright.

Bright pays his student loans the way most Americans do, through an income driven repayment plan. With his salary, Bright just has enough to pay around $300 a month on top of supporting his family. But that’s not enough to keep up with his loans’ interest rates.

“The interest alone is another thousand dollars every month,” he said. “And it keeps piling on and piling on, and it makes it at least feel impossible to pay it off.”

Though these changes to the student loan system won’t happen overnight, UNCW Financial Aid Director Frederick Holding said changes like lowering payments, forgiving debt after 20 years, and partially forgiving some existing debt will help current and former students.

According to Holding, “If they’re borrowing, it might reduce their debt, so they’re willing to borrow a little bit more. And for those who have graduated, the question will be is that debt keeping them from going to grad or professional school?”

The announcement follows a study a from last year that revealed 4.4 million federal student loan borrowers had been paying off their student loans 20 years or more, but only 32 of those borrowers’ loans were forgiven by their income-driven repayment plans.

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