As immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago, Toneva and her parents were virtually clueless when it came to the labyrinth of America’s credit and loan system.
“We just thought we had no choice but to apply for loans. We didn’t know there were any alternatives—there’s no education around this for immigrants,” Toneva, who requested to go by her first name to protect her privacy, said.
Toneva and her parents co-signed around $30,000 in student loans when she applied to UMass Amherst for college. When she graduated during the economic downturn in 2010, saddled with debt and unable to find a job that paid enough to repay the time and money she spent on her college degree, Toneva said she spiraled into feelings of dejection.
“I felt bamboozled, like I’d never catch a break,” she told Insider.
Unable to pay off her loans, Toneva found the amount she owed ballooning. By 2021, she owed around $55,000 in federal loans and $40,000 in private debt.
Toneva isn’t alone. Her experience reflects those of many student loan borrowers who find themselves shackled with debt.
Pressure has been mounting on the Biden administration to forgive at least some portion of the $1.75 trillion in student debt that’s owed in America. In May, the Washington Post reported that Biden is considering a plan to cancel $10,000 in student debt for borrowers who make under $150,000, or less than $300,000 for married couples.
For many borrowers, especially borrowers of color, the relief is welcomed. Communities of color disproportionately shoulder the weight of student loans: Black borrowers typically owe 50% more than white borrowers at graduation, according to civil rights groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).