A single mom who took on $187,000 in student debt for her kids wishes Biden would consider parents in his loan-forgiveness plans: 'I just don't feel like it's fair that we're overlooked'

College graduates in front of American flag
President Joe Biden's broad student-loan-forgiveness plans don't seem to include parents with loans for their kids' college.Getty Images
  • Biden's reported debt-forgiveness plan likely won't include parents who took out loans for their kids.

  • Adria Mansfield, 43, has $187,000 in parent PLUS student loans she took out for her kids' college.

  • It was the only way she could give her kids a higher education, and she can't afford to pay it off.

Adria Mansfield will do whatever it takes to give her children the best futures — even if it involves a six-figure student-debt load.

The problem for her lies in President Joe Biden's broad student-loan-forgiveness plans, and the fact that parents haven't been included in that conversation.

"Half of our children would not be able to go to school and become successful if it weren't for the parents," said Mansfield, 43. "And I just don't feel like it's fair that we're overlooked."

Mansfield's $187,300 student-debt load comes from parent PLUS loans that she took out for two of her kids, which allowed her to borrow the full cost of attendance minus any financial aid the child already received. About 3.7 million families hold parent PLUS loans that total $104 billion. Those types of federal loans have the highest interest rate at 6.28%, and they're set to increase to 7.54% in July.

Adria Mansfield
Adria Mansfield.Adria Mansfield

Working in a school as a behavior facilitator and being the sole provider for her kids, Mansfield didn't make enough to pay out-of-pocket tuition at one public and one private university for her kids. She took out the maximum amount of PLUS loans for two of her children and plans to do the same for her daughter who is graduating high school this year. She says it was the only way she could ensure her kids would get a higher education.

While Biden is considering $10,000 in student-loan forgiveness for undergraduate borrowers making under $150,000, parents and graduate students haven't been included in those plans, and Mansfield said she's looking at payments for the foreseeable future without options for relief.

"Society pressures our kids so much into needing college because you have to get a degree to have a better job, so I felt it was important because that's what my kids wanted to do," Mansfield said. "But now we're being punished for taking out loans so our children will be successful."

'Feeding my children and taking care of our necessities is my first choice'

After her children graduated college in 2017 and 2019, Mansfield was placed on an income-driven repayment plan that allowed her to temporarily make $0 monthly payments because of her low income. While she said not having to make those payments was helpful, the interest continued to build, making it almost impossible for her to get ahead of her debt — and she said that element has affected her "tremendously."

"I had this debt on my credit, and it was restricting me from getting a house because my student-loan amount was so high that the lenders didn't even want to lend me money to buy a house," Mansfield said. "And I certainly don't make enough money to pay off the loan, and feeding my children and taking care of our necessities is my first choice."

Mansfield isn't alone in her struggles — many other parents have taken out student loans under their own names to provide for their kids, and they're left paying off debt that gets higher and higher because of surging interest. A recent report from The Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank, said the average PLUS-loan borrower still has 55% of the initial balance remaining after 10 years of repayment — and 38% after 20 years, which means most parents spend more time paying off student loans than they did raising their kids.

Kristin Blagg, a researcher at the Urban Institute, previously told Insider that the idea of giving loans to a student is so they'll earn enough money with a degree to pay the debt back, but that's not the case for parents.

"The math for parents, particularly if they're really unable to pay the college tuition and other costs at the moment their child is going to school, that math doesn't quite work out because the parents aren't necessarily receiving that benefit of a college education," Blagg said.

'We need to be considered in the loan forgiveness'

Biden hasn't yet confirmed an amount of student-loan relief he's considering, and the only definitive statement he's made so far on the topic is that $50,000 in relief — an amount progressives were pushing for — is off the table. But it's likely the relief will focus on undergraduates, which would leave those with PLUS loans in the dark.

Peter Granville, a senior policy associate at The Century Foundation, recently told Politico the reason parents haven't been included in the loan-forgiveness conversation might be because when it comes to parent PLUS loans "there's very little data on these parents themselves," and there's "much less known about actual parents and their outcomes when it comes to taking on these loans."

Either way, Mansfield hopes whatever decision Biden makes won't exclude the borrowers who did what they needed to do to help their children succeed.

"I just want us parents that have put our name on the dotted line so that our children can be successful to be considered in the fact that we, too, have struggles," Mansfield said. "We took the loans out for our children to be successful. We need to be considered in the loan forgiveness as well."

Do you have a story to share about student debt? Reach out to Ayelet Sheffey at asheffey@insider.com.

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