- Erin Hartley graduated with about $11,000 in student loans, and received $28,000 in Pell Grants.
- They planned to penny-pinch and live at home until they paid off all their loans.
- With Biden’s student-loan forgiveness plan, Hartley will have all their debt wiped out.
In August 2022, 22-year-old Jackson, Tennessee resident Erin Hartley graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin with $11,159 in student loans.
They planned to penny-pinch to pay off all their student loans in eight months, but thanks to a student-loan forgiveness plan announced by President Biden on August 24, their debt will be wiped out.
“It was a relief,” Hartley tells Insider. “It feels amazing, actually. It was something in the back of my mind that I knew I was worrying about, but now that it’s gone I feel so much better.”
They’re eligible for maximum student-loan forgiveness under Biden’s plan
Under the Biden plan, federal student-loan borrowers earning $125,000 or less will be eligible for $10,000 of forgiveness. Borrowers who also received Pell Grants, college funding for students who demonstrate financial need, are eligible for an additional $10,000 of forgiveness for a total of $20,000. As part of their student-aid package, Hartley received a Pell Grant, meaning their full balance will be wiped out.
“I never knew it. We were poor, but it never occurred to me,” Hartley says of their Pell Grant. “I didn’t know what it meant. I thought it was just something that everybody got. I’m the oldest, so I’m the first of my parents’ kids to go to college. It was all new.”
Hartley can now focus on starting their life post-college
Before Biden made his announcement, Hartley was planning to put 100% of their paycheck toward their student loans.
They live with their parents, which means they’re able to save almost all of their paycheck, but they still anticipated making some sacrifices to pay off their loans.
“When getting groceries, instead of the name brand that I really want, I’m getting the store brand,” says Hartley. “Or buying little self-indulgent things, little things that I see and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’ll just buy that.’ You know, I won’t be doing that.”
Hartley’s parents don’t mind them living at home, but they’re excited to start life on their own once they’re debt-free.
“My parents are like, ‘Stay here as long as you want!’ But I definitely, at some point in time, I do wanna move out. I wanna move to Nashville with my best friend,” they say.
Hartley hopes to provide essential services to young people and families struggling with mental health or addiction. Shortly after graduating, they landed their first job at a treatment facility in Jackson as a part of the night staff; they’ll be paid $12 an hour for the job.
With student loan forgiveness on the horizon, Hartley feels more confident about moving into an apartment with their best friend and can put their paycheck towards that goal.
Of student loan forgiveness, Hartley says, “There are so many people who have much more than $20,000 and people don’t need to go through that.”
This content was originally published here.