Student loan debt soars as graduates struggle to keep up with payments

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Student loan debt is soaring. It now tops $1.34 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s quarterly report on household debt.

Drew Goins claims a sliver of that mounting debt.

“Right now I am in approximately $100,000 in student loan debt,” he said.

Goins got his bachelor’s degree at a school in New Jersey, then his master’s in forensic psychology at Roger Williams University. Like many 20- and 30-somethings, Goins is struggling with student loan debt.

“You’re taught in high school, you need to go to college to get a good job and make a lot of money,” Goins said. “They don’t tell you about all the financial debt you’re going to come out with as soon as you graduate.”

Goins faithfully makes his monthly payments, but many can’t. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 11% of student loan debt is delinquent or in default.

Jordan Goodman is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Student Loans. He said the staggering amount of student loan debt is impacting home ownership and family planning.

“It’s really changing society,” Goodman said. “Over 50% of the people graduating this year are going to go back and live at home. They don’t have enough money to pay their student loans and get a house and a car and start a family and get on with their life. It’s an enormous burden for this generation.”

To tackle student loan debt, graduates should start by consolidating loans, according to Goodman. Then consider refinancing.

“A lot of people don’t realize you can actually refinance your student loans, typically down to two to three percent,” Goodman said.

Goins works at a nonprofit, so he’s banking on loan forgiveness. But like many, he fears the debt may linger.

“You’re paying so much in student loans each month so in order to pay for groceries and pay for gas you open a credit card which racks up even more debt,” Goins said. “It just snowballs into this bigger thing.”

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.