Why a Debt-Free Gen Zer Supports Student-Loan Forgiveness for Others

  • Clarisse Sison, 24, paid off $47,199 in student loans in just two years.
  • Sison says she had an advantage because she worked at a bank, and she knows how loans work.
  • She supports student-loan forgiveness, saying, “$10,000 is really, really low for a lot of people.”

Before she even graduated from college, 24-year-old Clarisse Sison was already paying off her student loans. “When I was in school, I started paying $400 a month, but after I graduated and got my first 9-to-5, I was making $1,600 payments each month,” Sison tells Insider.

Sison, who is the author’s sister, also took advantage of the pause on capitalized interest on student loans during the pandemic. “I actually don’t even know what my monthly minimum payment was because I paid it off before I got out of deferment,” she says.

In the process of paying off her student loans, “I never went out to eat. I couldn’t go out with my friends and have fun — I lost so many friends. I don’t regret doing it, but it was a really toxic way to look at money. I wish I would’ve had balance,” she says.

That’s why she thinks Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 of federal student debt per borrower still doesn’t go far enough — school is just too expensive.

Sison says she had ‘the privilege’ of being able to pay off her student loans

When news broke on August 24 that some federal borrowers will receive $10,000 to $20,000 each in student-loan forgiveness, Sison’s friends asked how she felt about Biden’s plan; they thought she might regret paying off her loans early.

Sison says, “I was just privileged enough to be able to pay them off. I had the advantage going into it because I worked at a bank. I already knew very well how loans worked.”

Her experience working in a bank helped her understand how capitalized interest works, especially on federal student loans.

Capitalized interest is unpaid interest that gets added back to the principal balance of student loans. Capitalized interest typically grows when borrowers choose longer payment plans with the smallest minimum payment, which makes the debt more expensive over time.

Even though she struggled to pay off her student loans, Sison still advocates for student-loan forgiveness

“I truly believe that no school experience is worth more than $40,000 a year — no matter how much fun you have, no matter how prestigious the school is — I really don’t think it’s worth it. Especially when the most valuable thing is actual work experience over a degree,” she says.

Sison saw firsthand how student loans affected the lives of her friends and family members. She also witnessed many customers at the bank where she worked feeling powerless while trying to pay off high-interest debt. These experiences motivated her to pay off her debts quickly, but she says the pain caused by student loans is pointless.

“For my partner, $10,000 covers his entire student loan,” she says. “I’m really happy about student-loan forgiveness. But $10,000 is really really low for a lot of people.

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