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  5. A Gen Xer got $110,000 in student loans forgiven after he'd paid off more than he borrowed. It's allowed him to scrap his plans to work part time in retirement.

A Gen Xer got $110,000 in student loans forgiven after he'd paid off more than he borrowed. It's allowed him to scrap his plans to work part time in retirement.

Ayelet Sheffey   

A Gen Xer got $110,000 in student loans forgiven after he'd paid off more than he borrowed. It's allowed him to scrap his plans to work part time in retirement.
  • Steven Perry, 58, got $110,000 in student loans forgiven last August.
  • It was a result of Biden's one-time account adjustments for PSLF and income-driven repayment plans.

Steven Perry, 58, was never anticipating student-loan forgiveness — even after making payments for more than two decades.

After graduating with a liberal-arts degree in the early '90s, Perry went on to graduate school to get a teaching certificate, and he's worked as a teacher and administrator for the past 30 years.

While Perry took out student loans for both of his degrees, he couldn't afford payments with his initial salary, so he placed his loans on forbearance. He wasn't required to make payments during this period, but interest was still accumulating, causing his balance to grow. In 2023, his account said he owed just more than $110,000, according to documents reviewed by Business Insider, which he said was more than he originally borrowed.

"It's precluded me from putting any money into savings," Perry said.

"If I had any type of financial emergency, whether it's a car repair, whether it's a hot water heater blowing up, whether it's having to move and putting money down on an apartment for a deposit, any unexpected financial obligations, the first thing I would do would be putting my loan on forbearance for a short period of time because I need to keep a roof over my head," he continued. "But the interest is insane."

Having worked in the nonprofit field for the duration of his career, Perry applied for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, he said, which forgives student debt for government and nonprofit workers after 10 years of qualifying payments. But because of a range of paperwork issues, Perry was unable to receive relief through PSLF, and he put any hopes for debt relief out of his mind.

So imagine his surprise on August 16, 2023, when he received a letter from his student-loan servicer, Aidvantage, with the heading: "Congratulations! The Biden-Harris Administration has forgiven your federal student loan(s) listed below with Aidvantage in full."

The relief was a result of the Education Department's one-time account adjustments to bring payments for borrowers on PSLF and income-driven repayment plans up to date. Perry said that he wasn't aware of the adjustment prior to receiving the letter but that this relief — on top of PSLF relief his wife recently received — "opens up a whole new world."

"My boys will never take out a student loan for college. Everything is going to be paid for. Are we rich? No, of course not. My wife's an assistant principal, and I'm a retired assistant principal, but now I don't worry about crushing debt," Perry said. "I was relegated to dying with this debt. I mean, that's where it was. I was going to pay the minimum until I drop dead, and then it's over."

The Education Department has said it plans to complete account adjustments in September. So far, thousands of borrowers have been informed that their balances have been wiped out as a result of the temporary provision. The department is also crafting a broader plan for student-loan forgiveness to replace the one the Supreme Court struck down last summer.

Perry was planning on going into substitute teaching to continue supplementing his income during retirement while he made his student-loan payments. He no longer has to do that — and he's grateful for the opportunities the debt cancellation has opened up for him.

"That money is going into savings. It goes to pay down some other outstanding obligations we have. I think it would be counterproductive to say, 'Oh, I have all this extra money now, let's go spend it.' No, what it is is security," Perry said. "It is just security."

'A significantly better retirement'

Looking back, Perry said his one regret regarding his educational path was allowing his loans to go into forbearance because the interest surged his balance.

But he doesn't regret taking out student loans because the debt enabled him to pursue a more-advanced degree and enjoy the benefits that came with that.

"My grad degree enabled me to go become an administrator, which came with a significant pay raise and a significantly better retirement," Perry said.

BI previously spoke to Kris Neilson, a 59-year-old who chose to go back to school to get an MBA. Even though it came with a student-debt burden, she said she thought it was worth the investment to further her education.

"I'm really glad I did what I did, even though it's scary to know what the future holds," she said.

But that's not always the case. A growing number of Gen Zers don't seem to see the value of a college degree because of the large student-debt loads that often accompany it, and with many jobs no longer requiring college degrees, higher education just isn't worth it anymore for certain fields.

Still, a recent report from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation suggested that the majority of adults see value in a postsecondary degree or credential. The report found that "adults' interest in pursuing some form of higher education is at the highest level" the organizations had ever recorded.

Perry never thought student-loan forgiveness would come his way. But now that it has, he's able to feel secure knowing those monthly payments won't follow him into retirement.

"The government is honoring their obligations to these public servants and people that have been in repayment for 25 or 30 years," Perry said. "It's not a handout — we've paid."

Have your student loans been forgiven? Do you have a different experience with student debt? Share your story with this reporter at

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