The Psychological Toll of Student Debt

Well, the United States Supreme Court did it again. They ruled that President Biden’s student loan program where $20,000 of debt was to be forgiven will NOT be forgiven, leaving many former college students to continue on paying their debts in October of this year, for it was on pause due to the global pandemic. It’ll also make it even make their financial burden even harder because other priorities have to be put to the side and the debt would have to end up being paid until death.

But for 44 million Americans, the stress of high student loan debt is a combined 1.7 trillion dollars in debt. Higher education is suppose to improve our quality of life, granting access to high quality jobs that provide greater stability, higher earnings and critical benefits like healthcare and paid leave. However, the financial and psychological toll of student loan debt leaves many wondering if their degrees were even worth getting.

African- American borrowers, in particular are mostly to feel the long-term stress of student debt, while reaping the fewest rewards. While the majority of white students owe a minimal amount borrowed four years after graduation, 48% of black students owe 12.5% MORE than the original loan amount after the same time frame, and hold 186% more debt than their white counterparts even 15 years after graduation!

Student debt have a profound impact on borrowers lives and well-being. Even for those who make their monthly payments, many make sacrifices to do so, including staying in low-paying jobs that don’t pay much and delays the possibility of owning a home or starting a family. For the over 9 million borrowers in default–African Americans and those from lower income backgrounds–their inability to pay has dire financial consequences. These include the potential for garnished wages, withholding tax refunds and federal benefits, and impacting credit, which can make it difficult to be approved for housing and certain jobs.

The burden of debt also contributes to acute mental health issues, including prolonged stress, anxiety, and feelings of shame. A 2021 mental health survey indicated that 1 in 4 borrowers experienced suicidal deation in response to the financial stress of student loan loans. Among borrowers who were unemployed or making less than $50,000 per year, this rate jumped from 1 to 8.

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