Story From A Student Borrower: Focus On The Day-To-Day

09/10/2012 04:02 pm ET | Updated Jun 19, 2014

By: Youth Radio

One kind of business is thriving in the midst of troday's struggling economy: debt collection agencies in charge of tracking down student borrowers, according to the New York Times.

The article says 5.9 million people nationwide are in default on their student loans, which means they have been delinquent on their payments for at least 360 days. The federal government has launched income-based repayment options for federal loans, but there are fewer than 1 million people using the program.

Rachel Banach, 24, is regularly nagged by debt collection agencies. In total, she is delinquent on approximately $39,000 in student loans. Her only hope? Be approved for more loans so she can go back to school. Check out her story below.


As I look through my student loan documents to verify how much I owe for this article, it becomes even more daunting, real and overwhelming. I see in print how irresponsible I’m being, but I still feel like I have no choice. And I hate it.

I owe close to 10K to Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, close to 19K to the U.S. Department of Education and close to 10K to Chase Bank. I get updated account summary mail every week. I get weekly phone calls as well, that I don’t always answer. I have tried to consolidate these loans, but every place wants a co-signer and I do not have one.

When I started college in Michigan in 2006, I didn’t think my finances would be so devastating. My junior year of college, my parents “disowned" me when I came out to them. I just didn't want to "lie" to them anymore, or hide who I am. I was in love and it was beautiful and I didn't care who knew. That left me with not only financial problems, but emotional problems as well. 

When I get bills in the mail, I stuff all the papers and files into my Swiss Army backpack. I am delinquent on them all. To me, making a payment is like throwing money out the window, because that is money I could use in the present for paying electric bills, rent, and cell phone bills to talk to loved ones. I do have to keep my sanity. Making payments and then missing them the following month, results in late fees, and my interest rates going up.

I am stressed and anxiety-filled. I have to pick and choose my battles every day. I am currently working 40 hours a week at two different jobs and studying for the MCAT with the rest of my free time. Since sophomore year of high school, my dream has been to become a doctor. But now, my jobs do not leave me financially flexible.

I barely make enough to pay for my car insurance, rent, utilities, food, gas and my VISA Card payment. I usually do not have much left over. I do not buy myself things like clothes, or go out to eat.

I often try to not think about this stuff. If I think too much past the day-to-day, then I get screwed up in the present, and I know that is detrimental.

If I can get back into school, I will have a chance at starting over. I’m putting all my eggs in that basket. If I can get into medical school, and obtain (more!) loans to actually attend, I can become a doctor, start to contribute back to society upon graduation, and pay back my debts. It is going to be a long road, I know that.

But in the meantime, barely having enough money to get by, knowing that I can’t pay off my undergraduate loans, and trying to get into graduate school, is a war -- a war with myself, money, and dreams.

And yet, I do not regret going to a four-year university. I wish it did not cost as much as it did, but I do not regret it. I have gained so much knowledge and life experience. It was a stepping stone towards becoming a physician. I’m glad I have a BS and the prerequisite credits I need, such as physics,physical chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, math, and English to name a few. I would not trade one minute of those four years of college.

I have tried to find a salaried job in the medical field, either in health/disease prevention and/or education, health and wellness, medical sales, medical nonprofits, mental health positions, etc. These are things I am interested in, and feel like I am qualified for. They are positions that would make me more financially stable and healthy, and also positions that would help me towards becoming a physician. However, I have yet to gain an interview, let alone a job offer.

I have decided to save money to move to Colorado to live with friends. I know my emotions, anxieties, loans and struggles will follow me there, but I am ready to experience a new beautiful part of the country while making steps toward my goals. And being emotionally supported by friends could make the daily grind a little more bearable.

When I get into medical school, my undergraduate loans will be deferred. I can then focus on becoming a great doctor, and preparing to pay back what I owe upon graduation. I just wish it was a less bumpy road to get there. 


For another commentary about student debt, check out Jana Thiel's story here.

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