Federal student loan payments have resumed for the first time in three years after a pandemic-related pause.
Many were hopeful for President Joe Biden’s $400 billion loan forgiveness plan — but a divided Supreme Court blocked those efforts, arguing the administration needed Congress’ endorsement before undertaking the costly program.
More than 1 million borrowers in Illinois are now navigating student debt amid high inflation.
For Pricilla Uriostegui, a 2020 graduate of National Louis University, it has meant postponing plans of furthering her education even more.
“It’s hard trying to get back into the world, not being able to pursue bigger things such as going back to school,” Uriostegui said. “Thinking back to how I struggled doing three jobs while going to school full-time and not wanting to continue to do that. I want to live a life where I could give back to my parents or just live a normal life.”
The average student loan debt for Illinoisans is nearly $38,000. Almost 55% of the more than 1 million borrowers in Illinois are under the age of 35, according to the Education Data Initiative.
“Public loans have become a big topic of conversation and a topic that is reaching students early in high school and even younger than that,” said Tiera Diaz, success program director at Bottom Line Chicago. “It can really make college seem like not an option, not a feasible option, but unfortunately, student loans are the pathway for many students to be able to access a college education.”
Following the Supreme Court’s block on Biden’s relief program, his administration released an income-driven repayment plan, known as SAVE. It eliminates 100% of remaining monthly interest for both subsidized and unsubsidized loans after you make a scheduled payment.
Experts say it’s important to know your options.
“It’s important for students to be able to access the programs that are a good fit for them,” Diaz said. “There are a lot of really great programs out there, but unfortunately, it’s difficult for folks to learn how to access that and sometimes the processes for those programs can be really difficult to navigate. Our role is really just ensuring that students are able to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Student loans can also be a major roadblock when pursuing other financial goals, such as buying property or a home, but some familiar with the process say it’s still possible.
“It’s definitely still possible to buy a home,” said Jonathan Lopez, a Lincolnwood real estate agent with Century 21 Circle. “… First off and foremost, approach your accountant, a lender to be able to guide you and find a strategic plan. All the lenders ask for is a two-year job history, and if you just graduated today and you wanna go out for a job tomorrow, but you’ve been in school — as long as you have two transcripts, you’ll be able to get a loan. … Obviously the higher your loan, the harder it is, but it’s possible.”