Calls for a change in the federal student loan system come amid the irresistible debt of many Ohio alumni.



CLEAVLAND – We’re in the midst of our graduation season. Last fall, nearly 50,000 Ohio high school graduates began their first year of college in our state. In 2020, nearly 33,000 Ohio college students received their degrees and are ready to work in the job market. But with graduation comes the reality of federal student loans, which are either accepted or begin to be paid off. There is huge debt and calls for changes in the federal loan system.

“I went to school to go to medical school to do cryonics,” said Brian Lee Jr., 31, from Stowe. “I went to hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies … I just can’t find anything there, and it’s a struggle.”

Lee’s dream of becoming a doctor remains only a dream.

“(I have) a huge amount of debt that will not go away, and (I) cannot pay for it, I cannot afford it. It just tires me, ”he said.

Lee graduated from Kent State University in 2015 with a degree in biology. That was six years ago – six years of loan deferral.

“I have over $ 76,000 in arrears,” he said.

Ohio woman owes over $ 500,000

If that’s not enough, how about 52-year-old Cheryl Austin from Cincinnati?

“For example, how did I end up here?” Austin asked. “People can never catch up. And it’s time to do something. “

She said that between her, her husband and two grown children, their family owed more than half a million dollars in college education.

“Do you think you can get all this money back?” we asked.

Asked if she thought they could get all that money back, Austin said firmly, “Oh my gosh!”

Calls for Change – Significant Change

“This is a systemically flawed and predatory lending system,” said Alan Collinge, founder of, an organization calling for a radical change in student loans. “Before the pandemic, about 80% – eight zero – percent of all federal student loan borrowers never intended to repay their loans.”

He told us that his research shows that in 2017 the amount of money people in Ohio had to pay off federal student loans alone was almost the same as the state budget for the entire state at the time, and a handful of other states were in worse off than we are.

“This money is going out of the state economy and goes mainly to the accounts of the Washington DC Department of Education,” Collinge said.

5 On Your Side Researchers investigated federal student loan debt after graduating from 15 Ohio schools. The range of debt depends on the degree. Ohio University ranks last on our list for low credit, at $ 11,500. Among the schools in Cleveland, the University of Akron has the lowest rate at $ 12,650. In terms of higher credits, Baldwin Wallace tops our list with $ 36,100, followed by the University of Cincinnati with $ 31,200.

President Biden and federal student loans

“The best thing, I would say, is to take the credit system in the tub and drown it in the tub,” Collinge said. Many agree with him. His petition asking President Biden to cancel all federal student loans, over a million signatures from all over the country.

President Biden has pushed for a $ 10,000 per person federal student loan debt write-off, and there was even talk this month about the possibility of a $ 50,000 debt write-off.

Government bodies are silent

We contacted the US Department of Education and asked for an interview with former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, who is now the Director General of the Federal Student Service. We were refused.

We asked the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Again, no interviews about something that affects so many people.

Americans owe more than $ 1.5 trillion to students as of September 30, 2020, according to a statement from the Department of Education. The pause in payments took effect during the pandemic and currently expires on September 30, 2021. 87% of student loans were in some form of repayment, and 13% were considered overdue.

Some may wonder – shouldn’t most of the blame fall on the people who were lent money in the first place? They knew their financial choices, right?

“The only option they offered me was student loans,” Austin said. “I didn’t know anything about scholarships or even how to apply for a scholarship.”

“It’s not a bad borrower problem,” Collinge said. “This is massive, monstrous government lending.”

Lee told us that this monster is forcing him to live at home with his parents, moonlight at the grocery store, and face large federal payments.

“I was promised that if I work hard, study hard and go to school, the world will become my oyster,” Lee said.

5 On Your Side Investigators want to hear from you about your student loans, the problems you are facing, and what you think should be done about them. Email us:


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