Millennial mom with $77,000 in college debt and son with autism can’t work full-time – Business Insider | Vette Leader

  • Linda Vick owes $77,000 in college debt, $7,000 more than when she graduated from college in 2011.
  • Much of this is due to interest, despite ten-year payments.
  • She says her debt makes it difficult to provide specialized care for her son, who has autism.

Linda Vick, 39, has struggled in recent years to balance work and the upbringing of her five-year-old son, who has autism.

“The reason I only work part-time is because we can’t get childcare,” she told Insider. “There are no after-school programs … there is no list of babysitters here who know how to work with special needs children. If there’s an after-school program, it’s like a 6-month waiting list.”

Vick was fired this summer from her job as a postal clerk at Boston College, where her husband currently does housework. Even while she was still working, Vick’s family faced a dilemma: working meant she wasn’t around to look after her son, and not working meant she couldn’t afford to provide him with the specialized care provide what he needed. Her husband Jeffrey works full time.

Speaking of her son’s autism, Vick said, “He’s not high-functioning so he needs a lot of support. He goes to school during the day, so he gets on the bus at 8:30 a.m. and gets home at 3:30 a.m., and I have to get off work in time for him to get home.”

But her family’s troubles have shifted since she lost her job last month.

“I have to cancel all of my son’s activities like adaptive gymnastics and any other programs he’s in that we have to pay for,” she said. “Even grocery shopping is a struggle with an income.”

Her family’s troubles are compounded by Vick’s $77,000 in student loans, an amount Insider has confirmed through documents. By the time Vick earned her business degree from the University of Phoenix in 2011, she owed nearly $70,000, and she’s struggled to pay her interest over the years to offset the mounting balance. Her husband nets about $32,000 a year, Insiders verified through payslips, and Vick receives about $800 a month in unemployment benefits.

In April, President Biden announced $7 billion in student loan relief for 350,000 student loan borrowers with a complete and permanent disability, but Vick said the relief should extend to caregivers of people with disabilities as well.

“Because of the debt I owe, we can’t buy a house,” she said, adding that her son “needs a fenced backyard to play outside because it’s an escape risk.” It keeps us financially from being a good family — I can’t buy a house, I can’t get credit, I can’t get a master’s degree when he’s older… it ruins me from moving forward with my life when I want to .

“We make enough to survive and pay the bills and that’s it”

Vick isn’t the only University of Phoenix graduate student to be saddled with debt years after graduating high school. For-profit institutions like Phoenix have been criticized for decades for allegations of misleading students about future earning potential, engaging in aggressive recruiting tactics, and urging many into taking on student debt when it wasn’t the best option for them.

A few years ago, Vick applied for an income-contingent repayment plan that, in theory, is tailored to what a debtor can afford based on their income, a system that often doesn’t work in practice.

“They want you to basically pay a month’s wages in a month, and that was out of the question, so I had to keep procrastinating,” she said. “We make enough to survive and pay the bills and that’s it.”

Vick worked in a company for years after graduating and thought that a degree in business administration would propel her through the ranks of her industry. (Vick declined to disclose which company she worked for.) She said she eventually quit her job because she disagreed with her employer’s business practices and ended up working at the Post Office, where she stayed. until she had her son in 2017. She and her husband later started a vape business, which closed after Massachusetts temporarily banned the sale of vaping products in 2019.

Vick and her husband filed for bankruptcy in 2019, which did not affect their school loans. It is possible to pay off student loans as part of bankruptcy, but difficult.

“A lawyer to help you file for school loan bankruptcy is super expensive,” Vick said. “If I could afford a lawyer, I would pay my school loans.”

And caring for her son became a full-time job: he was diagnosed with autism when he was almost two years old, and Vick says everything changed for her after that. Doctors told her he needed home services, group therapy, and specialist care, which took up a lot of her family’s time.

“My husband and I had to switch off at the store because one of us had to be with him, and when you tell a daycare center that your child has autism, they don’t want to accept it because it’s too much,” she said. “My husband and I never saw each other … I worked in the store during the day and my husband went in at night.”

Vick said the time- and money-intensive role of being a parent to a child with a disability makes her college debt impossible to deal with — and should entitle her to some sort of relief.

“They have a program where they forgive people with disabilities, but not their parents,” she said. “Your parents must be able to take care of you.”

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