Florida-based mom pays off $40K in student debt after living 'paycheck to paycheck'

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President Joe Biden recently extended the student loan repayment pause until August 31 — the fourth such time he’s extended federal loan student repayment as president. 

Over the past few months, some prominent Democrats have urged him to extend the payment pause further, while Biden has indicated he might cancel student debt via executive action.

Meanwhile, many hardworking, play-by-the-rules Americans have diligently paid off their student loans as a matter of personal responsibility. Many are still in the process of doing so. They believe in taking care of their obligations; for them, it’s the right thing to do.

All told, this graduate owed $40,000 in student loan repayment when she was done with her schooling. 

When Michelle Schroeder-Gardner graduated with a master’s degree in 2012 from the University of Missouri, she had no idea how she would begin paying off her student loans, she told Fox News Digital via email.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner paid off her student loans from three degrees in less than a year. (Photo by SYDNEY HAMPTON PHOTOGRAPHY)

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner paid off her student loans from three degrees in less than a year. (Photo by SYDNEY HAMPTON PHOTOGRAPHY)

“The monthly student loan payment added on to all of my other bills meant that I was living paycheck to paycheck,” she said. 

In 2010, Schroeder-Gardner graduated with two undergraduate degrees, in business and management, from Webster University in Missouri. She then headed to St. Louis to earn her master’s in business administration and finance. By 2012, she owed $40,000 in student loans. 

“The biggest and most impactful thing that I did was find ways to make extra money.” 

With a hefty monthly payment looming overhead, Schroeder-Gardner tried to pay off her student loans as quickly as possible. Her approach was to increase her income any way she could. 

“The biggest and most impactful thing that I did was find ways to make extra money,” she said. 

Schroder-Gardner sold clothing online, did freelance writing, started a website and took part in online studies to make extra cash, she explained — all on top of holding down a 40-hour-a-week full-time job. 

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, pictured with her husband, had acquired $40,000 in student loan debt by 2012. But she figured out a way to pay off all of her college loans. (Michelle Schroeder-Gardner)

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, pictured with her husband, had acquired $40,000 in student loan debt by 2012. But she figured out a way to pay off all of her college loans. (Michelle Schroeder-Gardner)

Within seven months — during a process that she said was tiring and hard — she had paid off all of the $40,000 in student debt.

Schroeder-Gardner said it was totally worth it. 

Today, she travels full time with her husband and daughter while also running a successful finance blog.

“I don’t know if I would be where I am today if I [hadn’t] worked so hard toward paying off my student loans so quickly,” she said. 

The 32-year-old woman, who is based in Florida, is now married and has a four-month-old daughter. She travels full time with her husband and daughter while also running her successful finance blog, Making Sense of Cents.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner travels with her family full-time today and runs a finance blog as well. (Michelle Schroeder-Gardner)

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner travels with her family full-time today and runs a finance blog as well. (Michelle Schroeder-Gardner)

In the corridors of Washington, D.C., meanwhile, there exists the possibility that the Biden administration might eliminate $10,000 in debt per borrower. Other ideas have been floated as well. 

Economic experts such as Fox News contributor Brian Brenberg said that plans like this can be “very dangerous” for the financial literacy of the American public.

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“I think it sets a very bad precedent that people are inevitably going to come to rely on,” Brenberg told Fox News Digital. “You just can’t have a functioning economy where there’s an expectation that debt is going to be forgiven.”

Brian Brenberg, a Fox News contributor, said of the possibility of student loan forgiveness by the Biden administration, "You can't have a functioning economy where there's an expectation that debt is going to be forgiven."

Brian Brenberg, a Fox News contributor, said of the possibility of student loan forgiveness by the Biden administration, “You can’t have a functioning economy where there’s an expectation that debt is going to be forgiven.”

The King’s College economics professor explained that eliminating debt would be “problematic” for the build-up of investments — and set a misguided tone for future borrowing among young Americans in the form of mortgages and car payments.

“I’m concerned you start to erode not only the markets for student debt but for every kind of borrowing when you engage in widespread debt forgiveness.”

“Learning how to budget, learning how to be financially disciplined … [These] are things that repaying student debt teaches,” he said. 

“I’m concerned you start to erode not only the markets for student debt but for every kind of borrowing when you engage in widespread debt forgiveness.”

Dave Ramsey, personal finance expert, seven-time #1 national best-selling author and host of “The Dave Ramsey Show” — heard by over 16 million listeners weekly — also has concerns about the possibility of student debt forgiveness and what it means in broader terms.

In an interview, Dave Ramsey said about all those people who have paid off their student loans, "Are you going to give them their money back?"

In an interview, Dave Ramsey said about all those people who have paid off their student loans, “Are you going to give them their money back?”
(Courtesy Ramsey Solutions)

“You’re going to see something political happening from [the Democrats] this September in this arena,” he predicted. “It’s straight-up vote buying and everybody knows it, including the people who would benefit from it.”

There’s going to be “backlash” if this happens, he said to Fox News Digital in an interview this week.

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Ramsey said his radio show gets call every day from people all over the country detailing how they’ve paid off their student loans. And they “don’t feel good” about this idea of student loan forgiveness or cancellation by the government, he said.

“It is intellectually dishonest [for the government] to talk about forgiving student loans while they’re still making them.”

“Are you going to give them their money back?” said Ramsey. “No, they’re not. So the people who have worked hard and sacrificed to get out of debt are not going to get the benefit of student debt forgiveness, if it really does happen,” he said.

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“There’s an anger, a desperation and a sadness out there,” said Ramsey, “by those who feel stuck with their student loans, those looking for some relief. But on the other side of the equation, many people who have worked hard and paid off their student loans — or who never took out student loans at all and were responsible — are going to be dramatically angry about this.”

Ramsey said the “second piece” that “people should watch for” this year — ahead of the midterm elections — is that “the proposal to pay them off is all fluff and is not real.”

Ramsey told Fox News Digital that if student loans "are so horrible, and they're destroying people's lives … then we should stop making them."

Ramsey told Fox News Digital that if student loans “are so horrible, and they’re destroying people’s lives … then we should stop making them.”

“For example, the other day they came out and said, ‘We’re going to pay off 40,000 student loans. Well, that is .0001% of the 44 million people who have student loans. So that was just a political press release. It didn’t really do anything.”

Ramsey said that “once you dig into the details” and the technicalities of some of the student loan postponement or cancellation ideas, “they’re going to actually do very little,” he said.

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Also, said Ramsey, “It is intellectually dishonest [for the government] to talk about forgiving student loans while they’re still making them.”

“If these [student loans] are so horrible, and they’re destroying people’s lives, and they’re so bad — and in many cases they are — then we should stop making them.”

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Ramsey is very close to the student loan issue in this country. His Ramsey Solutions’ documentary about the student debt crisis, “Borrowed Future,” recently won Best Video Documentary in the long form category of the 2022 Annual Webby Awards. 

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Ramsey served as executive producer. The film for weeks held top spots on streaming platform charts: It was the No. 1 documentary on Google Play, No. 2 documentary on Apple and No. 5 documentary (rent or buy category) on Amazon Prime, his firm said.

Fox News Digital’s Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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