Nick Crocker has found a solution to skyrocketing rents: moving into a school bus. But his student debt balance of $108,100 continues to hold him back.
When Crocker, now 37, started studying at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, he didn’t anticipate the economic crisis.
he was a graduate in 2008. He was unable to land a job using his bachelor’s degree, and right out of college he moved to Pennsylvania and started working two jobs – one at Jimmy John’s and one at Olive Garden.
During that time, he was able to meet his monthly student debt payment of $540. When he doubled to $1,089 per month once his graduation repayment plan ended, the only option available to Crocker that would lower his monthly payment was to extend the time it would take to pay off the balance. . Crocker knew something had to give.
“I was tired of wasting half my income on rent and not being able to save a penny in the process,” Crocker told Insider. “So I decided to build a school bus.”
Since October 2018, Crocker and his fiancée have been living in a 120 square foot school bus that he spent $25,000 to renovate. He pays about $550 a month to rent a backyard parking spot in Portland, Oregon. Even with those extra savings from rent payments, Crocker defaulted on some of his student loans because he didn’t earn enough income to pay basic necessities in addition to his student loan bills. He only continued to make payments on a loan his father co-signed to ensure his father would not be affected by any default.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is deciding whether millions of federal student loan borrowers will get relief. Recent reports suggest he is considering $10,000 relief for borrowers earning less than $150,000 a year – an announcement the administration will likely make in July or August, closer to when the pandemic pause on payments student loans should expire after August 31.
With the majority of Crocker’s debt being private loans, Biden’s relief won’t make a significant dent for him and about 3 million other borrowers with private loans. He says he wishes he had known about the high and ongoing costs of higher education when he was in high school. This may have prevented him from being in his current situation.
“While college was a great way for me to understand some things, it was a very expensive way for me to do it,” Crocker said. “I wouldn’t do that again. I would have made trades. Student loan debt is by far my biggest regret – it’s too much money to let someone borrow at 18.”
“We don’t come out from under”
The reason most of Crocker’s student debt is privately held is because when he applied for federal financial aid in high school, his parents’ income was high enough that they were only eligible for limited help. Still, he needed the funds because he was responsible for some expenses, and private student loans were readily available, so Crocker turned to these – but later discovered that the high interest rates on private loans made it difficult to access the initial balance borrowed.
“I wasn’t getting out of it,” Crocker said. “$540 a month only covered interest, so at some point we won’t get out of under it.”
Before Crocker started falling behind on his monthly payments, he said he had a lot
. After his loan company increased his monthly payment in 2015, his salary at his grocery job was garnished, so he took up carpentry and other side jobs to keep up.
Now, as a $25-an-hour adventure van builder in Portland, he says he knows his current living situation isn’t sustainable in the long run. He will eventually have to deal with high rents and his six-figure student debt.
As Insider previously reported, the average rent in the United States has risen to $1,722 per month, more than 30% of the national median income, after taxes. While mortgage debt is the largest form of consumer debt in the United States, student debt follows close behind, currently totaling $1.7 trillion for more than 40 million Americans. But while the Department of Education oversees federal loans, private student loans can fly under the radar, which is why the department has taken steps to ensure private lenders aren’t pushing students into debt. unaffordable.
In March, the federal student aid office detailed requirements for colleges to better inform students of the risks of private student loan options that can incur costly fees, writing in a blog post that “the issues could not not be higher” for students when finding out how to pay for college.
Crocker said he was ‘on a savings plan right now’ living on a bus, but would rather have gone to trade school than take out student loans for a degree he couldn’t utilize.
“I wish I could afford to buy a house, but right now it’s not the best market to buy a house,” Crocker said. “So we live in a 120 square foot school bus, and while it’s a great way for us to save money, it’s cramped. And we want more than that.”
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