When Rim Solomon graduates from the University of Texas at Arlington next year, she expects to have around $120,000 in student loan debt.
Solomon tries to make a loan payment of about $2,000 each semester, and did even during the federal freeze. But she hasn’t made a dent in the six-figure amount.
Countless recent and soon-to-be graduates in North Texas like Solomon are once again facing student loan debt after the nearly three-year federal freeze on them ended at the beginning of October.
“At the end of the day, [universities] are businesses,” Solomon said.
The Trump administration paused payments on federal student loans — and interest on them — to give borrowers a break at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The Biden administration extended the pause after promising on the campaign trail to relieve millions of Americans of their student loan debt.
That campaign promise was a big reason why Solomon voted for Biden in 2020. A lot of young people voted for him in anticipation of having their debt forgiven, Solomon said.
She was excited to learn about Biden’s plan, which would cancel up to $10,000 in student loans and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. Solomon applied for the program – only to get an email a few months later informing her that the program was on pause.
“It was upsetting,” she said. “That could be really good for me.”
University of North Texas student Micheala Cochran would have had all of her debt forgiven if Biden’s plan had been implemented. She graduated from the UNT last year with a bachelor’s in hospitality management and $10,785 in debt.
Thinking that debt would be canceled, Cochran decided to pursue another bachelor’s degree. She said she feels left holding the bag because now her debt will double.
She had already begun to plan her budget before the six-month grace period ended and her first set of federal loans began accumulating interest. Cochran is paying roughly $400 a month and expects to be debt-free by 2026.
The Biden administration has canceled student loan debt for targeted groups of borrowers, such as public service workers. Biden has canceled $127 billion for nearly 3.6 million Americans, according to a White House statement earlier this month.
Texas Woman’s University student Camryn Moore isn’t among them.
She expects to have about $65,000 in student loan debts once she graduates in May. She didn’t qualify for any Pell Grants because her expected family contribution was too high, so she had to take out loans beginning in her freshman year. After she realized the federal government was not stepping in to forgive her student loan debt, Moore felt lost.
“I was scared,” Moore said. “I was like, ‘You’re an adult now. You owe these people thousands and thousands of dollars.’”
However, after working at her campus’s student money management center, she feels more prepared.
Gabrielle Pringle-Onwunaka, the assistant director of TWU’s Student Money Management Center, said more students should seek out financial planning resources on campus.
As someone with student loan debt, Pringle-Onwunaka understands students’ frustrations with the current status of federal student loan forgiveness and their desire to see how it plays out on the national level before they start paying again. But the consequences of missing a payment is not worth waiting to see if the federal government steps in, she said.
“It will decrease your credit score,” Pringle-Onwunaka said. “The next thing you know, you can’t get a car or a house. It just puts a lot of blocks up for the future success of the individual.”
Borrowers can take advantage of the federal government’s 12-month “on-ramp” repayment plan, she added. The plan started in October and will end in September of next year. It aims to ensure low-income borrowers’ credit scores aren’t penalized for missing a payment.
The Biden administration recently announced details of a new student loan debt plan, but it could take months to be implemented.
But, despite her debt with no relief in sight, Rim Solomon says she’s optimistic that her communications degree will provide upward mobility.
“I see it as an investment in myself,” Sims said.
Juan Salinas II is a KERA news intern. Got a tip? Email Juan at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Juan on X @4nsmiley