“Going to college ruined my life.” I have $ 85,000 in student loan debt for my “junk” degree, but I only make $ 16 an hour. How can I cope?

I would give everything to go back and not go to college at all. It was not worth it.

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Question: I am 32 years old and I got my degree in Occupational Therapy. I owe $ 25,000 in federal student loans and $ 60,000 in high-interest private loans – even though I have my mom as a co-signer. I went to a great college: it was private and expensive, but I have learning challenges that could be met. But I will never forget in early 2018, my teachers told me that until I and my classmates graduate, we would probably have a hard time finding a job due to changes in the profession. Well, they were right. And of course after I got these huge loans, it was too late to fix it.

I graduated, the pandemic struck, jobs were scarce, and although I searched and applied for what I could for almost two years, it did not matter. So now I will continue my work for eight years in a group home where I am paid $ 16 per hour. Sometimes I work more than 50 hours a week and I also support an adult with a severe disability who is 100% financially dependent on me. I can hardly make it from salary to day labor as it is.

I feel that I will never be able to afford my payments, even if I find a higher paying job. I feel like I have a useless degree at this point. I would give everything to go back and not go to college at all. It was not worth it. My credit score plummeted due to lack of payment and I already have a host of other accounts I owe on credit cards and medical bills. I am literally trapped by these loans. I have no payment options that would ever pay them off and refinancing is not an option because my credit score is so low. (Note: For those who have private loans and a good credit score, these are the lowest student loan refinancing rates for which you can qualify.) I can not afford legal aid. I’m trapped. Going to college ruined my life.

Answer: Private student loan borrowers unfortunately have fewer safety nets than federal student borrowers, but the first step you need to take with your private loans is to contact your lender about temporarily reducing your payments or bargaining. a new repayment schedule, say professionals.

This may or may not provide the relief you need, so professionals say look elsewhere. “You could benefit from specific loan advice from The Institute of Student Loan Advisors (TISLA) or individual financial advice from someone certified by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC),” says Anna Helhoski, a student loan specialist . at NerdWallet. TISLA is a non-profit organization that offers free advice to student borrowers and the NFCC is a non-profit financial advisory organization that offers debt management plans, student loan advice, credit report ratings and more.

Do you have a question about getting out of a student loan or other debt? e-mail chill@marketwatch.com.

Andrew Pentis, a certified student loan consultant and higher education financial expert at Student Loan Hero, also says it is wise to consider enrolling in a debt management plan with the help of a low-cost, low-cost credit counseling company. “That way, they will have a monthly payment instead of many and they could even see their interest rates fall,” says Pentis. “On the downside, a debt management plan would suspend their ability to borrow during this three- to five-year period, and it would take even longer after the event to build a positive credit record,” says Pentis.

For your federal student loans, look at an income-based repayment plan (you can see the four types here), which “sets the monthly payment of your student loan at an amount intended to be affordable based on your income and the size of your family,” the government notes. Then often, after 20-25 years, depending on the plan, the loans will be forgiven.

Another thing to keep in mind is the Federal Borrower Loan Defense Exemption Program, which helps borrowers who have been misled by their schools. “If the reader thinks that the occupational therapy school misled her about the prospects of her work, before the professor points out the reality and has some documentation for it, it could be possible to repay part or all of the federal loan debt.” says. Fifth. Borrower defense rules have receded and are flowing with every change in the Ministry of Education, but the latest changes make it easier for borrowers who are struggling to qualify, especially since in March 2021, the Ministry announced it would modernize the program approval process for deliver $ 1 billion in relief to 72,000 borrowers.

It is also worth noting that President Biden recently extended the suspension of federal loans at least until August 31.

Bankruptcy can be an option, but you need to find a way to afford a lawyer and student loan debt is often very difficult to pay off in the event of bankruptcy. Because money is already limited, you may want to ask your friends or family to help you pay for a lawyer, work out a payment plan with a lawyer, or even look for a freelance lawyer. But Pentis says, “Bankruptcy may not be the new beginning we often imagine it to be, as 100% of a consumer’s debt is not guaranteed. It will also severely damage your credit report and rating for years to come. other debt, bankruptcy could bring some relief.

Bottom line: “There is no quick fix or easy solution, unfortunately – but there are resources that will help you cope and maintain your survival,” says Helhoski.

Questions processed for the sake of clarity and brevity.

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