Local students nervous to take on student loan debt as U.S. crisis reaches $1.7 trillion


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The United States student debt crisis is up to $1.7 trillion. Some students right here in Rochester are struggling with attending college and being thousands of dollars in debt years later and said cancelling student debt would help immensely.

Shanae Bell is a month away from receiving her associates degree from Monroe Community College. She started at MCC 10 years after finishing high school. Bell has two kids and works part time but piled on classes to complete her degree in two and a half years.

She’s been accepted to Nazareth College’s social work program, a school she’s always dreamed of attending.

Bell said she’ll receive financial aid but is still facing a hefty amount to pay out of pocket or take out loans. She said she’s applied for scholarships but many are geared towards high school students or 2+2 programs, which would have required her to complete her associates degree in two years.

“I’ve been trying to keep applying and keep that best foot forward,” Bell said. “I feel like it’s the pressure in the back of my head of being in debt and worrying about where I would get the extra money.”

Bell isn’t alone in these worries. The United States student debt crisis is currently more than $1.7 trillion. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is continuing to pressure President Joe Biden to forgive $50,000 of each student’s federal student loan debt.

President Biden has made it clear he doesn’t support cancelling $50,000 per student, but supports $10,000.

Sarah Johnston is the assistant director at the Rochester Education Foundation and helps students navigate the financial side of college.

“Cancelling the student debt would be huge assistance. This is a huge barrier for students, particularly students that come from low income backgrounds,” Johnston said.

Bell said it’s frustrating being accepted to her dream school but having to worry about being debilitated by debt decades from now. She said cancelling student debt would ease that burden.

“Imagine working so hard to be at Yale or St. John Fisher and you actually can get there being the student you are versus because I have the money, I can get there,” Bell said.

She hasn’t officially committed to Nazareth yet but said she’s 95% sure she will.

“People ask me all the time, ‘have you considered anything else, have you looked into any other school,’ it’s like, ‘no.’ This is where I want to be, this is where I know has a good program in social work, this is my dream for me.”

Schumer said last month that the Justice Department is currently conducting a legal review on whether President Biden has the authority to issue blanket forgiveness on student debt.

Bell has created a GoFundMe for her college expenses, and encourages anyone with ideas for scholarships to reach out.

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