Student Debt Stories from Social Workers

NASW collects stories of loan debt to assist in our efforts to advocate for loan forgiveness for social workers. Social work students often have to take out large loans to complete their schooling at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. The salaries that social workers earn often make it difficult to afford student loan payments. 

The stories below are a sampling of the stories we have received from students, new graduates, and seasoned professionals.

Lisa, Ohio

I was a non-traditional student due to me being in my forties when I had to take a loan out for school. I took loans out for the four years that I was in school, 1999-2005. Along with my loans, I had to take loans out for my daughter so that she was able to go to college as well. With both of our loans, I owe over $60,000 in student loans. 

Due to my financial situation, I had to put my loans in forbearance because I am living on a social worker’s salary trying to live with at least the basics such as clothing, food, shelter and transportation. It’s definitely been a struggle and I have tried to find help with getting debt relief, but they want you to pay down your loan so far. But who can do that with a loan payment that is just about as much as a mortgage payment? The interest alone is out of this world and makes it even harder to pay. 

I am hoping to one day pay the loan, but I do not think that it will be completely paid off in my lifetime; it’s just too overwhelming. 

Tammy, Mississippi

I was a non-traditional student returning to college as an older adult, wife and mother. I was not working at the time I went back to school but knew I had to return and finish my education. My first student loan was taken out in October 2009 and my last loan was taken in August 2013. I worked off and on throughout school but was mostly a full-time student. 

I managed to make it through most of my undergrad with scholarships, but then had to turn to student loans due to an inability to work full-time, attend school, take care of my family and pay for school and school expenses. 

My degree doesn't offer many opportunities without a master's degree, so I knew it was something that I needed to complete. Now I don't know how I will pay back my loans because my salary only increased to $35000. My loan debt is $61,565. It hasn't folded out exactly as I had imagined. I need help.

Jan, Nevada

As a single mother, it took me 12 years attending evening and online classes to complete my BSW degree while raising my two children. 

I graduated in 2010, with a total debt of $48,000. I have managed to pay this down to $27,000, but since I consolidated my loans a few years ago I am not eligible for PAYE. I also am not eligible for loan forgiveness on this debt unless I first pursue a higher MSW or LCSW degree. 

I am looking into the possibility of a distance education program, but as the primary caregiver for my elderly mother in a very rural community, I am place-bound and limited. At the moment I am focusing on paying my current loans down and getting my two children, now ages 21 and 23, through college without having them face overwhelming debt as well.

Maritza, New York

I took out a student loan in Fall 2012 through summer 2013 from Hunter College. My debt is $44,000. 

I am experiencing hardships at the present moment. I am a single parent with four children, three of whom are presently in college. My income is just enough to support my family, if that. I would be delighted if anything can be done to make these loan payments make sense, and allow me not to live check by check.

Maria, Ohio

I am a mother of four, who decided to go back to school after having a family member in hospice. I knew after this experience I wanted to pursue a career in social work. I finished up my bachelor’s degree in 2010 and my master’s in 2012. 

I currently am employed at a wonderful nonprofit hospice in Ohio, and am working as the bereavement coordinator. Unfortunately, nonprofit organizations quite often do not have the ability to pay as much as larger, for-profit organizations. 

I currently owe over $100,000 in student loans. The amounts they wanted for payment were way out of my range and I have recently signed up for a lower payment. Even with a lower payment, it will be a financial trial for me and my family to fulfill, and I will most likely be paying on this well into my retirement.

Linda, Mississippi

I decided to obtain my masters in Clinical Social Work at the University of Mississippi because I work as a public health social worker in an area that is considered to be a much-impoverished area. 

My desire to get this degree was to better myself professionally by enhancing my social worker skills, abilities and knowledge based for our changing society. I started school back in August 2011 and graduated May 2014. I do not regret the decision to return to school, but I am now faced with another debt and yes, I was aware of the loan issues when I returned to school. 

I was hoping that the agency that I work for would somehow see the value in the degree that I obtained and provide some form of repayment with agreed future years of services with the agency. I currently make roughly $3,000 per month and I have two dependents that I take care of. My loans were for a total of eight semesters; this included summer sessions for two years. 

My current loan amount is $39,531. I worked to borrow as little as possible to get this degree. However, with the interest, my total amount scheduled for repayment is $58,125.

college student in the library

What's Your Story?

Feel like you’re giving back to your community but that student loans are sinking your quality of life? Your story can help influence our advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill to secure loan forgiveness for social workers.

Financial Aid Resources

Federal Student Aid
Learn about the types of financial aid available from the government and other sources.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Compare compare financial aid offers, tuition, job placement, and student loan default rates between multiple schools.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
If you work for a government or not-for-profit organization, you may be eligible to receive student loan forgiveness.

NASW Foundation Fellowship, Scholarship and Research Awards help support students pursuing a variety of social work specialties.