In Debt for Life

My apologies in advance if this reads like a sob story but by sharing my story if I can help one person stay out of student loan debt, the sharing will be worthwhile. I am currently nearly $300,000 in student loan debt and am 56 years old. I carry my own debt (2 bachelor’s and a master’s) and that of one of my children that has exploded from $150,000 to it’s current sum. While I was well prepared to begin my loan payments several years ago, in 2016 we experienced a devastating house fire and the loans have been in forbearance ever since while I continue to dig out financially from the fire; the interest continues to accrue of course. I refinanced the loans this year and had no recourse other than to keep them in forbearance because I cannot afford the payment. No amount of reasoning, begging, pleading etc. would allow for a reduced payment based on my circumstances even when I told them what I could pay monthly and stressed that I wanted to begin making payments but needed a payment I could manage with my current income and expenses. As I’m sure everyone who reads this knows, no consideration is given by the lenders to monthly expenses except the bare minimum (mortgage, rent, utilities…) so no debt other than that bare minimum is considered when calculating a monthly payment. Interestingly as well is that no consideration is given for taxes - they look at the gross income. Ugh. As a single parent, I embarked on my educational journey to give my kids a better life but it seems it would have been more prudent to continue waiting tables then to ever have gotten my degrees (one from SUNY Empire College and the master’s from the for-profit Walden University). So at 56 and having unfortunately experienced a home “disaster” in my house of 22 years, I am looking at never being able to repay any significant portion of my debt, losing my home eventually when I have to choose between the student loan debt and my home and possibly risking even my social security up the road when the government decides to take it. I try to work 2-3 jobs currently just to stay afloat and my primary employment is as a director for a foster care organization. The child whose debt I carry is a police officer. The real irony is if I reduce my income to nothing, I might actually get a student loan payment that I can manage and this is something I am heavily considering along with bankruptcy. I cannot tell you how horrible I feel for all these young people who have no idea what they’re in for when they enter into the realm of student loan debt. I will say, I don’t have an issue repaying what I’ve borrowed but there has to be a better way to assist borrowers when life throws them a curve ball.