Student loans: The tuition that keeps on coming

Student loan debt is paid off at varying rates; some spend decades paying off their education

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ANNIKA ZEIGLER

“Life happens sometimes,” WSU alum John Rockham said. “You might not be able to pay them off as quickly as you anticipate.”

ALEXANDRIA OSBORNE, Evergreen reporter

Over half of WSU graduates leave college with a degree and some level of student loan debt, according to a Daily Evergreen article. Some of those graduates spend years paying off the debt. 

Kristin Hersrud, Accounts Payable payments team manager, started paying off her student loans 22 years ago with about 5 percent interest. Despite this, she said she expects to continue paying off the loans for another 20 years.

Hersrud’s loans are currently in forbearance because of the COVID-19 CARES Act,  meaning all her payments were deferred and no interest accumulated on them. The COVID-19 CARES Act ends on Sept. 4, according to the Washington State Employment Security Department website.

While still only around halfway through paying off her loans, Hersrud said being employed makes payments simple.

“So maybe [I’ll finish paying] at the same time I’m ready to retire,” she said. “I didn’t go to Harvard or anything either. It’s not like I’ve got big private educational loans or something like that.”

Hersrud said anytime you lose employment, it becomes difficult to make certain payments. During a recession, people go back to school to get a new education in the hopes of finding a higher-paying job. 

While some interest rates and payments get larger throughout the years, she said her payments are fixed. 

“My interest is fixed between 4 to 5 percent on the five loans that I have, and then my payments stay the same throughout the years,” she said. WSU alum John Rackham started paying off his student loan debt in 2009 with 3 percent interest. He said he should be able to pay off the debt in full over the next five years. 

Rackham said as a student, he saw the school give out loans for pretty much everything — even a laptop. 

“That’s just 2,000 more dollars that I have to pay back,” he said. 

Rackham said the process of paying off his student loans has had ups and downs. He got a job right after graduating from pharmacy school and was able to make payments of $1,400 a month. He later got a divorce and was not able to make the same payments.

“When you go from paying $1,400 to paying about $400 a month, it definitely takes a little bit longer,” Rackham said. “Not as much principal gets taken care of.”

He said making payments is not an issue for him anymore, but understands some circumstances in life could potentially change a person’s situation at any moment. 

“Life happens sometimes,” Rackham said. “You might not be able to pay them off as quickly as you anticipate.”