Crushed by Student Loans

(WSVN) - It’s the goal of so many high school students right now — to go to college to get a degree. But as seniors get ready to graduate, be careful. That money you borrow to pay for college could change your life in a terrible way, and it’s why one South Florida woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

As kids we are all told: “You need to go to college and get a degree.”

Jessica Morante listened and became the first Cuban-American in her family to do that.

Jessica Morante: “I got my bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising. I just love the industry. I love marketing, PR.”

Like most people, Jessica was only able to afford the high price of a college education by borrowing.

Jessica Morante: “I did what most students my age did. They got student loans, so they could afford to go to school.”

Jessica graduated in 2010 owing $50,000 in student loans. For seven years she has never missed a monthly payment on those loans.

Jessica Morante: “I pay close to $600 a month with all of my student loans. I try to pay what I can a month and that’s all I can do.”

And now, instead of the $50,000 she originally owed.

Jessica Morante: “Today, I owe close to $100,000.”

That’s right. Jessica owes twice as much today as the day she graduated because her monthly payments don’t even cover the monthly interest.

Jessica Morante: “Federal loan is 6.75 percent. They are making so much money off of us which is sad.”

Jessica is not alone, and the numbers are stunning. Forty-four million Americans have student loans, leaving them $1.4 trillion dollars in debt.

Jessica Morante: “I have a ton of friends who are in the same boat as me.”

Patrick Fraser: “A sinking boat?”

Jessica Morante: “A sinking boat, yeah.”

Another problem, Jessica has what’s called an income-based repayment loan, meaning if she gets a raise at work, her student loan payments increase, making it less likely she can afford the things students hope a college degree will bring.

Jessica Morante: “Everyone in my generation who is struggling with the same issue, they are not going to be able to advance in the future. They are not going to be able to buy that house. They are not going to be able to start a family.”

It’s a mess for 44 million Americans, but Jessica sees one way to help students a little. Congress set that interest rate, so Congress can lower it, but her attempts to contact politicians have failed miserably.

Jessica Morante: “No one has really responded to me, so I’m just hoping that I can bring some light to this issue.”

Well Howard, you are young college graduate, faced with repaying a student loan for decades. Legally, is there a way to get a break?

Howard Finkelstein: “In some cases, yes. But, it’s complicated and difficult. I would try to find options to change your payments. See if you qualify for loan forgiveness. Bankruptcy is an option for some people in terrible situations. Finally, these federal loans were created to provide lower interest rates for students. Now, they don’t, but it will take an act of Congress to change the interest rates, so start contacting your representatives.”

The problem? Many congressional leaders want to lower the interest rate, but then the government loses that money, so there is no rush to lower that rate.

Jessica is represented in Congress by Carlos Curbelo. A staff member wrote, “He has been focused on solving this problem by reducing over-borrowing, increasing transparency from schools so students can have the information before making the investment, and improving financial literacy so students make smart and informed borrowing decisions.”

Jessica Morante: “In high school, no one ever tells you about student loan debt and the dangers.”

Jessica hopes every high school student graduating this year is aware of the risks of student loans, because facing decades of paying off her student loans… she has concluded college was a mistake.

Jessica Morante: “If I had it to do all over again, I would not go to college, a hundred percent.”

Jessica knew we couldn’t solve her student loan problem. She just wanted people to know how it’s affecting the lives of so many people. And Congressman Curbelo’s staff told me they want to work with her to see if they can help her out.

Also, there are websites with suggestions about reducing the burden of college loans. The links for them can be found below. Hopefully, there is something there to help you.

Getting schooled by a problem burdening you? Wanna borrow some assistance? Contact us. We will be happy to loan you our time, and we have no interest in being paid back. (We’re free.)

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Sites with suggestions regarding Student Loans:

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
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On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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