Graduate’s $200,000 Student Loan Debt Spurs New Website

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The Northeastern University graduate figures that without help, she’ll never be able to repay the nearly $190,000 in private student loans she owes to non-governmental private student loan companies and the additional $12,000 in federal loans she owes to the U.S. Department of Education.Space says she’s already been turned down for college loan consolidation, and her current employment doesn’t pay enough to allow her to repay her loans.The Cost of College in Bad Choices and Student Loans Space readily admits that she made some bad decisions when it came to her college loans. She was the first in her family to attend college and didn’t pay much attention to the spiraling cost of her student loans while she was incurring them.She was attending a private, out-of-state school whose annual cost is estimated to be nearly $50,000 for undergraduate studies, and tacked on costs for studying abroad for a year and summer classes. Space also admits that she realized her mistakes while she was still in school but didn’t transfer to a less expensive institution. Her parents had initially planned to help with her college expenses, but Space’s father was injured and has been unable to work for several years.The end result was more than $200,000 in student loan debt, which Space says she’s determined to repay one way or another. She’s been making the monthly $891 payment on her private student loans but notes that the payment will rise to $1,600 a month beginning next year.Sallie Mae, her primary lender, won’t consolidate her private student loans or allow her to move to an income-based repayment plan, so she’s done what she can do: Set up a website soliciting donations to help repay her college loans.The site, TwoHundredThou.com, chronicles Space’s troubles with student loans and is tracking progress on her debt reduction. To date, Space has received nearly $7,000 in donations, which she’ll use to pay down her college loans. She doesn’t think she’ll receive enough in donations to pay off her college loan debt altogether, but she says that she hopes to draw attention to the problems that she and many other new graduates face when it comes to repaying private student loans.Private student loans, unlike government-issued federal loans, don’t typically offer the same flexibility in repayment options or in setting up affordable repayment plans that take a borrower’s income into account.College Financing Advice for Students From One Who’s Been There Space advises high school and college students to get more financially savvy about the real cost of college loans and the interest those loans will accrue following graduation. Space also hopes that high schools, colleges, and universities will develop more intelligent ways of discussing student loan debt with students who have no “family history” when it comes to attending college.Space believes that if she had developed a more realistic understanding of the process of paying for college while in high school, she may not have made the same mistakes. Unfortunately, she says, there are few opportunities for high school teachers or guidance counselors to explain to college-bound students the impact that overwhelming student loan debt can have on their financial future.She says that if she could do it all over again, knowing what she knows now, she would have attended a community college for the first year or two, to save money on tuition costs, and then transferred to a four-year institution once she had determined a major. Then she would have used her major and the employment prospects for graduates in that field to help determine the amount of debt that she could reasonably take on in college loans.In the meantime, Space is sharing her parents’ New Jersey home with no plans to move out and is working full-time for an Internet company in New York City. She says that she has little chance of declaring bankruptcy, but she doesn’t want other students to make the same mistakes she did, and she hopes her website serves as a cautionary tale to students who are considering their options for college and for how to pay for college.student loans