Statewide Student Loan Debt Conversations

Last week, we hit the road and traveled around the state talking with student loan borrowers about their experiences dealing with debt. We met with students, professionals, and local leaders and heard powerful stories about the struggles folks have due to student debt.

We made eight stops in four days, traveling to Wayzata, Brooklyn Park, St. Paul, St. Peter, Mankato, Coon Rapids, and Duluth. Check out some of the news coverage we got along the way!

12 News covered our roundtable discussion at North Hennepin Community College, where we heard from a diverse group of students about their worries for the future.

KEYC covered our roundtable discussion at Minnesota State University-Mankato, where students – some of whom would be graduating soon – and nurses talked about their debt loads and how that impacts their choices. The Mankato Free Press also attended, writing:

Most of the Minnesota State University seniors who visited with two state lawmakers Wednesday said they planned to move back home when they graduate.

The decision to return to their childhood homes is financially motivated, they said. Avoiding rent for awhile will help them start to pay off their student loans.

The St. Peter Herald wrote about two of our events: the roundtable at MSU-Mankato and another roundtable with Gustavus students.

Minnesota graduates carry an average student loan debt load of over $31,000 – the fifth highest in the nation, according to the North Star Policy Institute, which sponsored both events. And almost 1 million Minnesotans combined have over $20 billion in student loan debt, part of the $1.3 trillion total in the United States.

That burden translates to monthly payments as high as $500 to $750 a month, students reported, nearly as large as a potential mortgage payment. And with interest rates as high as 8 percent, students at both discussions voiced similar frustrations. While the federal loan programs often are easy to access, students admitted to shock and surprise to the student loan totals as graduation and entering the workforce loomed.

Students offered individual debt loads exceeding $70,000 and $80,000. For students continuing on to law school or medical school, those numbers soared even higher.

We ended our week in Duluth, where we were very excited to join Mayor Emily Larson in announcing that the city of Duluth and St. Louis County will now inform all employees about Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The Duluth News Tribune quoted Mayor Larson:

“I’m really proud as mayor that we are embracing this program, too. Already as a city we are talking about this with our employees, and our commitment is to let future employees know that this is a benefit that’s available to them.”

At the press conference, Duluth Parks and Recreation employee Josh told his story of struggling with student loan debt.

Josh Abraham, a 27-year-old recreation specialist for the city of Duluth, said he emerged from seven years of study at the University of Minnesota Duluth and the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, with bachelor’s degrees in outdoor recreation and business management plus a master’s degree in recreation management — and $48,000 in student debt.

He has since paid that down to $44,000 with the help of double payments but said the debt still looms as a large factor in his daily decisions.

“It really affects my ability to save money and to look forward to future events such as getting married or one day buying a house. It’s one of those things that I’m constantly looking at every day,” he said.

Northland’s News Center wrote:

The “North Star Policy Institute” discussed the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Employers are not required to inform their employees about this program, so the think tank is trying to help people learn how it works so they can get out from under staggering student debt and begin contributing more to their communities.

Fox 21 also ran the story. Check out the video here.