Meet a single dad with $ 550,000 in student loans for his 5 children

  • Reid Clark, 57, unexpectedly became the sole provider of his five children.
  • He took out PLUS Parent Loans to fund their education and told Insider he now has $ 550,000 in debt.
  • “I think I’m paying $ 3,000 a month for most of the rest of my life,” he told Insider.

Reid clark did not expect to support five children on her own income.

Clark was preparing to pay for his five children’s education as part of a two-earner family, but he and his wife divorced in 2011. A few years later, when the children started going to college, he decided to turn to federal loans. to finance their education itself. (Due to private circumstances, his ex-wife does not contribute.)

Today, his debt is over $ 550,000.

“I think I’m paying $ 3,000 a month for most of the rest of my life,” Clark, 57, told Insider. He believes he will have to continue making these payments for at least three decades.

Parent PLUS loans, the type of loan Clark pays off, are federal loans that allow parents to pay for their children’s education. They can cover the full cost of schooling minus any financial assistance the child has already received.

Reid Clark with his five children

Reid Clark with his five children.

Courtesy of Reid Clark

For Clark, the ability to take out these loans meant he didn’t have to postpone his children’s education despite the unexpected change in his financial situation. But now, he said, even though he earns a living wage in healthcare sales, his retirement could very likely be postponed because he chose to go into debt to prioritize the future of his children.

“For those of us who want to see our children do better, we understand that you improve yourself and your chances of success, through education,” said Clark. “And I’m just not going to take the risk of not sending my kids to school, even though that will create a huge financial burden. It’s not an option.”

Clark says he wanted the best for his children, and Parent PLUS loans gave him that opportunity. But he is “very worried” about his own financial future, and he blames high interest rates and lending practices that ignore borrower’s income, or income trends.

“They make it really hard to educate your kids and pay for it”

President Joe Biden campaigned to write off $ 10,000 in student debt for each borrower, and some Democrats are urging him to write off $ 50,000 in federal student loans from each borrower using executive action. But it’s unclear whether Parent PLUS Loans would be included in that remission, and helping parents with their debt has yet to be part of the conversation on Capitol Hill.

Parent PLUS loans are the most expensive type of federal loan: they now have an interest rate of 6.28% for the 2021-2022 school year, compared to 3.73% for undergraduate loans, which allows parents who need help sending their children to accumulate faster. at school.

New data released last week by the Texas Public Policy Foundation highlighted the burden student debt places on parents, concluding that there is about one parent PLUS borrower for every five student loan borrowers. Andrew Gillen, author of the report, told Yahoo Finance that one of the problems with parent PLUS loans is that because the amount parents receive is based on the cost of schooling instead of what parents can. to actually afford it can create a “dangerous mindset” which leads to increased borrowing.

It’s not like Clark’s kids go to the most expensive schools in the country. Three of them went to small schools in Pennsylvania, where Clark lives, and the other two went to other public schools on the east coast. But even for public universities, tuition fees have been skyrocketing for years.

Since 2001, average tuition fees in the state have increased 211%. In addition to Clark’s loans, each of his children took out about $ 20,000 in student loans because Clark wanted them to have a “vested interest” in their education.

He said his debt comes down to flaws in the federal student aid system, in which the government allows people to borrow money very easily but very difficult to pay it back.

“At the very beginning of the whole process, that’s where the problems start,” said Clark, referring to the uncontrolled amount parents can borrow years in advance. “They make it really hard to educate your kids and pay for it.”

After the federal hiatus on student loan payments is lifted in February, Clark plans to have the means to make monthly payments on his loans, but it could take decades to completely eliminate his debt, and he said that ‘he “has no hope” of a student loan forgiveness. soon.

“I’m very concerned about my ability to repay loans during my remaining working years, and it’s going to scare me even more in a few years when I retire and have very limited income,” Clark said. “This is the part that gives me the most anxiety.”

Do you have a story to share on student debt? Contact Ayelet Sheffey at [email protected]

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