DENVER (AP) — President Barack Obama’s student loan announcement at Denver’s Auraria campus got a rowdy reception — but many students and graduates who watched him lay out his plan to ease debt payments said their fears are far from eased.
“This doesn’t help me at all,” said a tearful Nicole Ford, a 37-year-old who said she’s in default on some $120,000 in student loan debt that won’t be affected by the president’s plan because much of it is from private lenders.
Obama’s plan would ease student loan payments for some 1.6 million people. The highlights include accelerating a measure that reduces the maximum required payment on student loans from 15 percent of discretionary income annually to 10 percent. In addition, the White House said the remaining debt would be forgiven after 20 years, instead of 25.
It won’t do much for Ford, who is working part-time as a Web designer and living on a friend’s couch because she can’t find work in animation, which she studied at the University of Colorado Denver. She graduated in 2008, just as the economy tanked.
“I was told that when I got out, I could easily get a job. But I left school and couldn’t get work,” Ford said.
Others said the loan announcement would help — but they were more interested in getting a job.
Recent Metropolitan State University graduate Isatha Fofanah, 24, studied English and has $28,000 in student debt to repay. But she said she’s “barely working part-time” as a youth counselor and picks up waitressing shifts at an IHOP restaurant to make ends meet. When Fofanah has to start repaying her loans later this year, she worries about making the payments.
“I don’t even make $15,000 a year now,” she said. “I want to go to graduate school, but I’m too scared to take out more loans.”
University of Colorado Denver student Anna Van Pelt, 24, said she’s worried about more than interest on some $40,000 in loans she has taken out.
“By the time I graduate, my interest rate is going to be astronomical, especially when you don’t have a job,” Van Pelt said. “So it’s not just paying the loans back. It’s paying the loans back without a job.”
The president repeated his call for Congress to pass his jobs plan. And he told several hundred students at his speech that he understands their fears because he and his wife, Michelle, had combined student loan debt of more than $120,000 when they started out.
“I’ve been in your shoes,” Obama said.
“We were paying more on our student loans than our mortgage each month.”
by Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)