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Graduate devastated by $117K student loan

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(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Tiffany Porter (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Tiffany Porter (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

A Mesa woman thought earning her college degree would lead to a better job and more income, but she said all that degree really did was leave her with a lifetime of debt.

The experts will tell you that students loans are simply out of control. They may be easy to get, but student loans are hard to pay back.

“I recently graduated from Temple University in Japan, Japan campus," Tiffany Porter said.

Porter said her college diploma brings her mixed emotions, some of it is pride, but mostly it’s regret.

“This diploma is definitely a bittersweet memory. Honestly, I would say that college is not worth it. College and tuition and student loans kill your dreams more than give you one," she said.

Porter said her dream started when she was accepted to university to begin work on her bachelor's degree.

“I think that the idea America sells its children is that if you want to succeed in life, you need an education, a higher education, and that means a college degree," she said. 

The cost of tuition, she said, was high.

So, like many people do, Porter turned to student loans to help pay for college and living expenses.

Those loans, she said, were acquired from a company now called Navient, and they were easy to get.

Finally, after receiving her bachelor's degree in communications, it was time to repay those loans.

“I was scared to look, but finally I got up the courage to see how much I was actually taking out, and it was over $100,000," Porter said.  

It was $117,000, to be exact. As a result, Porter is working two different jobs just pay back her student loans. She's paying a whopping $1,700 a month.

"At the end of the day, at the end of the month, I only have $37 after only paying my loans," she said.

Porter said she's forced to live with her mother because she can't afford any type of housing or even to buy necessities like groceries. She said it's hardly the American Dream.

“There is no American Dream. I want to not live at my mom’s house. I want to be financially stable. I want to have a life that I was promised I would get after graduation, a job that would be relevant to my degree," she said.

A tearful Porter said the student loans are ruining her life.

“I thought that to get out of poverty, to get out of my situation in life, that I would need a degree, and honestly all it's done is make me more poor," she said.

Porter said she's contacted Navient and other lenders to possibly refinance her loans, but that they won't because her debt-to-income ratio is too high.

“There isn't a single thing someone could come up with that I haven't tried, and I guess I'm at the end of my rope. I have no idea what else to do," she said.

Mike Sullivan is with Take Charge America, a credit counseling center here in the Valley.

“We have found this is the leading problem that consumers have now with debt. It is student loan debt," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said student loan debt is out of control.

“[Americans carry] about $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, which is significantly more now than credit card debt," he said.

Sullivan said Porter is not alone and that he has clients pursuing college degrees without thinking about the financial repercussions.

“So you can't just say college is good and it doesn't matter what it costs. It does matter, and really young people need to think about that when they're thinking about what they're going to study and where they're going to college and how much they're going to borrow," Sullivan said.

Porter couldn’t agree more.

“This is real, and people are suffering, and it's not just me but almost our entire younger generation is starting life with a debt as big as a house loan," she said.

3 On Your Side got a hold of the company that loaned Porter that money.  We'd like to see if they might restructure her loan to make her monthly payments more manageable.

Navient stated the following:

"At Navient, our focus is on helping student loan borrowers succeed. Whether they have just transitioned into repayment or they’ve encountered difficulty and need special assistance, we’re committed to providing the support needed to help borrowers achieve success.

For private education loans we own and service, we offer a variety of alternative repayment options—such as reduced monthly payments, interest-only payments, extended repayment schedules, and temporary interest rate reductions—that are highly effective at enabling customers experiencing financial hardship to make on-time payments on their loans, and avoid delinquency and default. Since 2009, we have offered a loan modification program to assist customers struggling with repaying their private education loans. We offer this program when there is a possibility to keep a customer current in their monthly payments by reducing the interest rate and, in some cases, extending the repayment term.  Generally, these programs may be available when both the primary borrower and the cosigner have shared their financial circumstances. Under these programs, the interest rate may be reduced to as low as 1 percent. As of June 30, 2015, approximately $2 billion in loans were enrolled in an interest rate reduction plan (out of our total private loan portfolio of $28 billion).

As a Department of Education loan servicer, Navient works hard to be sure our customers are aware of their repayment options to provide payment relief and avoid default. Federal loans have different payments plans to pay based on income, extend the loan term, make graduated payments, or access Public Service Loan Forgiveness."

Take Charge America suggests the following:     

Postponement

  • Contact your private lender directly to ask about temporarily postponing payments if you're experiencing any of the following:
  • Returning to school
  • Economic hardship
  • Unemployment
  • Natural disaster
  • Military deployment

 
Lower Payments

  • Certain private loans may qualify for lower payments. Contact your private lender to see if you qualify for:
  • Interest-only payments
  • Extending your loan term

 
Consolidation

  • Private student loan consolidation may offer more favorable repayment terms if your credit has improved since you originally borrowed your student loans.
  • Be sure to ask the lender:
  • Whether the interest rate is fixed or variable
  • Whether there are any fees associated with the consolidation
  • If there are prepayment penalties

 
Double Check Your Loans

  • If you find you have both private and federal student loans, you may qualify for additional repayment options. Call a certified counselor at 877-784-2008 to find out more today.

Copyright 2015 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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