I’m a 30-year-old whose student loan balance increased by more than $20,000 in 6 years, despite making every payment. It’s enough to make you question your sanity.

Ashley Strahm standing in a brick alley
Ashley Strahm says her original student loan balance increased by over $20,000 in six years due to interest rates.

  • Ashley Strahm, 30, is a content strategist, activist, and writer in Durham, North Carolina.
  • She went to college at age 16 and took out $60,000 in student loans by graduation, which ballooned to over $82,000 thanks to interest rates.
  • Even after refinancing her loans she still owes $44,000, and it’s often “the first thing I think about when I wake up,” Strahm says.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I knew what I was getting into.

I’m a first-generation college grad born to two amazing parents from South America. I prepared to graduate from a private, all-girls, college-preparatory high school at 16, got a partial academic scholarship to a private university, and proceeded to take out $15,000 a year in federal Stafford and parent plus loans to cover the rest. (Fun fact: no one, not even the government, is willing to lend to a college-bound kid who’s not even remotely 18 yet. This meant my parents had to put their credit on the line to help me finance my education. I know that’s not unorthodox, but it would’ve been nice to at least have the option to shoulder the burden myself from the outset.)

Read more: This couple paid off $114,000 of debt then saved up $431,000 with these 4 side hustles. Here’s how much money they made from each gig and their advice to others.

So, let’s recap. It’s 2008, I’m aware America’s economy is going up in flames, but I got a pretty significant scholarship to attend college – which no one in my immediate family has done before. I went in with my eyes wide open, researching interest rates, deciding against private loans, refusing to accept my dad dipping into his 401k to fund my endeavor, and getting an on-campus job to subsidize costs while I was in school. (I obviously wasn’t aware of what we should all know by now – women, and Black women in particular, are disproportionately ensnared in student debt.)

“There’s more you could have done!” say folks who refuse to empathize with us (greedy/lazy/opportunistic/careless?!) millennials. “You chose to play rugby and spend frivolously on cleats, gas, and stitches for your unnecessarily procured gaping wounds! You could’ve sold a kidney, donated plasma, or went to a community college! How dare you even begin to complain about a college experience you knew would cost so much?!”

Stop right there, y’all. I knew. I was ready.

I lay awake at 20 years old in the spring of my senior year with unwavering determination. I was going to get a kick-ass job in journalism/communications/marketing and not even wait the six-month deferment period to allow my loan’s interest to capitalize. I viewed my loan balance as yet another thiccc rugby woman I had to stiff-arm into submission (and I’d had plenty of practice). I wasn’t scared. I’d incurred a significant fee to finance an education I both desired and relished the process of receiving … and I was ready to pay when my bill came due. I understood that each promissory note was another proverbial nail in my coffin.

This is what folks who stridently and stubbornly refuse to empathize with young student loan borrowers will never understand.

Many of us operate as though no one will save us, forgive our debt, and pretend our responsibility has ended. There are millions of us who lose sleep every night for years, plugging formulas into Excel spreadsheets and debt repayment calculators, budgeting for jobs they apply for mere months after enrolling in school. There are countless tears, anxieties, and plans that result in this burden we know we are accountable for.

Before I’d turned 21, I already accepted that the remainder of the decade would be spent in service to the investment I’d made when I was still too young to vote.

So I got down to it. I’m 30 now, and I’ve never missed a student loan payment. The monthly bills have fluctuated between $462 and $2,695 dollars per month, but I have never. missed. a single one.

What began as an original balance of nearly $60,000 when I graduated in 2012 ballooned to over $82,000 in 2018.

Yes, you read that right.

A 21-year-old who never missed a monthly $450+ student loan payment financed by the United States government saw her balance increase by over $20,000 over the course of six years.

You could comment on how I should’ve paid more than the minimum, how I should’ve worked over the course of six years to land a job that paid double so I could make a dent in the principal. That I should’ve gotten my parents or family to help, should’ve gotten a side hustle, should’ve lived in squalor and cut back on my already meager meal plans to pay more, ever more.

And I’m going to call bullshit on that.

I made my debt a massive priority. But when the minimum payment for my federal 8.5% interest rate loan is nearly $500, I will not accept that the issue lies with me. A kid with a degree bringing home $50,000 a year three years out of school should be able to make at least a dent in her debt burden. Instead of seeing my diligence rewarded, I saw my balance increase.

It’s earth-shattering. It’s enough to make you question if you’re insane; if you’ve been reading your billing statements correctly; if the loan officers you call every quarter are lying to you; if you’re the reason your efforts are failing.

But I’m still at it, y’all. I refinanced my loans to a 5.25% interest rate because my credit is over 815 at this point (yes, I’m proud). I married – which, besides being the best decision I ever made for my heart, also helps because (and I’ll just say it) after paying off his student debt, we’re contributing his entire monthly salary to mine. Every. last. cent.

We’re choosing not to have children partially because we’re already paying the equivalent of Montessori tuition for a non-existent five-year-old.

Hear this: People are feeling all kinds of ways about potential federal student loan forgiveness. I forfeited any possibility of that when I refinanced my loans with a private company three years ago, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I pray every night for the millions of folks still paying endlessly to the government to get their loans forgiven. They deserve it. They’re still sprinting up a treacherous mountain with no end in sight, paying astounding amounts of interest while suffocating under the weight of other basic financial responsibilities.

I wanted to be out of that hell so badly that I gave up any hope of a government bailout. If I still had federal loans, I’d still be running in place. I will support anyone who is still trapped in that federal student debt purgatory and sees their loans forgiven, because I know that pain. I feel that strife. When they are free, we’ll all be free. Their salvation couldn’t possibly deny me the sweet reprieve of my efforts for all of these years.

My husband and I are now paying twice the amount of our mortgage to my student loans every month. From the fall of 2018 to now, my balance has decreased from over $82,000 to $44,000. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing we talk about most nights before bed.

Sometimes, people ask me if I ever think about graduate school and it makes me want to vomit. Even as the pursuit of knowledge calls out to me, the shadowy nightmare of its cost keeps me far from ever considering it.

Read the original article on Business Insider

MEL Magazine lays off editorial staff

Hi and welcome to Insider Advertising for March 25. I’m senior advertising reporter Lauren Johnson, and here’s what’s going on:

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DollarShaveClub founder & CEO Michael Dubin

Dollar Shave Club has laid off all its staff at men’s lifestyle site, MEL, and is looking for a rescue buyer

Read the story.


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A user of the social media app Clubhouse shows her smartphone with the logo of the audio application.

How influencers have started making money on Clubhouse, from sponsored rooms to tips

Read the story.


ev williams medium ceo twitter LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 08: Ev Williams, Founder & CEO, Medium, on ContentMakers Stage during day three of Web Summit 2018 at the Altice Arena on November 8, 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile via Getty Images )
Medium CEO Ev Williams has led the company through multiple pivots – and subsequent rounds of layoffs.

Medium offers employees ‘voluntary exit’ weeks after failed union drive as it abandons yet another business model

Read the story.


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Medium offers employees ‘voluntary exit’ weeks after failed union drive as it abandons yet another business model

ev williams medium ceo twitter LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 08: Ev Williams, Founder & CEO, Medium, on ContentMakers Stage during day three of Web Summit 2018 at the Altice Arena on November 8, 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile via Getty Images )
Medium CEO Ev Williams has led the company through multiple pivots – and subsequent rounds of layoffs.

  • Medium CEO Ev Williams announced yet another major shift in the company’s business strategy.
  • The company said it was moving away from editorial and offered employees severance packages as part of its shift.
  • This latest pivot – one of many – comes weeks after employees’ failed union drive.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Medium CEO Ev Williams announced in a blog post Tuesday that the company is undergoing yet another major transition, this time away from the editorial publications it started just two years ago.

As it pursues its latest business strategy, Medium is offering all editorial employees the option to “get off this crazy ride” in the form of a voluntary severance program, Williams said.

Medium Vice President of Editorial Siobhan O’Connor is also leaving as part of the transition. She joined the company in 2018.

Williams, who also founded Blogger and co-founded Twitter, started Medium in 2012 as a spruced-up blogging platform. Under his leadership, the company has undergone several major reinventions as it seeks a sustainable business model.

BuzzFeed News reported in 2017 that, in its first five years alone, Medium had “tried and discarded at least five business models.”

Starting in 2019, Medium launched several in-house editorial publications, including tech and science publication OneZero, health and wellness publication Elemental, and Zora, which focuses on the experiences of women of color.

But just two years into his latest experiment, Williams said that model won’t be Medium’s future.

“What’s worked less well is where we’ve followed the traditional editorial playbook – specifically, commissioning stories from professional writers into publications with broad mandates,” Williams said in the blog post, adding that Medium wasn’t “near where we need to be to make it work economically.”

“For the foreseeable future, we will focus that talent on supporting independent voices on our platform. This means identifying writers – both already on Medium and not – and offering them deals, support, editing, and feedback to help them tell great stories and find their audience,” he said, alluding to a model more similar to the publishing platform Substack.

But the timing of the move – which came just weeks after employees fell one vote short of unionizing – also raised suspicion, multiple current employees told Insider.

During the union drive, Medium and even Williams himself discouraged employees from unionizing, Vice News, reported Tuesday, and employees told Insider that they believed Medium’s severance offer could help its efforts to prevent employees from unionizing in the future.

The severance package isn’t stingy – it includes five months’ salary, six months of health benefits – but employees said that Medium gave editorial workers virtually no details about what their future would look like if they stayed at the company, given its new direction, prompting backlash.

Williams said that Medium had “originally asked for a decision from everyone by 3/29, but based on feedback, we are extending that to 4/2, so we can have more time to address questions.”

Are you a current or former Medium employee with insight to share? We’d love to hear about your experiences there. Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1 503-319-3213 ), email (tsonnemaker@insider.com), or Twitter (@TylerSonnemaker ). We can keep sources anonymous. PR pitches by email only, please.

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