"I wish I hadn't gone to school," says Mark, who graduated in 2005 with degrees in psychology and music and $875 monthly payments on $80,000 worth of student loans. "I had to claim bankruptcy ... which of course did nothing to the student loans." (Student loan debt is nearly impossible to discharge through bankruptcy.)
At 23, Katie will start paying off her $40,000 student loan in September -- with no job prospects on the horizon. "If I could turn back time I would consider not going to college," she says. "I could have started a job right away, worked my way up to management, and not be $40,000 in debt with interest growing every month."
Sue has spent 20 years trying to pay back $29,000 in student loans that have more than doubled to $70,000. "It just started jumping in $5,000 increments every year or two," she says. "I put myself in this coffin, or straight jacket, of a situation unknowingly."
"In just a few months I'm going to turn 62 years old," says William, who took out $44,000 in private loans to study psychology. "I've been attempting to pay back my student loan debt for 22 years ... I've worked at times four jobs to try to pay back the debt." He still has nearly $130,000 to pay off.
Architecture was Artie's dream career, but he's too busy working two jobs to pay off $207,000 in private student loans to find work in the field. "I'm paying as much as I can through interest-only payments and income-based repayment plans," he says. "[Monthly payments] would be $2,200 per month, which is basically another mortgage payment for me."
When Nick was denied federal student loans, he took out a $30,000 Smart Option loan from private lender Sallie Mae. "I'm in a spot where I can't pay it off," he says. "I literally lose sleep thinking about ... if I didn't go to school, I'd probably be better off."
The $85,000 in private student loans Hilary took out has ballooned to $350,000 thanks to an 8 percent variable interest rate. "I was denied the license to practice in my profession because of my student loans," she says. "I make $8.50 an hour as a cashier at ACE Hardware and I receive food stamps."
Paul sunk more than $120,000 into undergraduate and graduate studies in visual arts, but he has yet to find a job in his field. "I'm almost 30 and the monthly student loan payments are crippling me," he says. "I'll have the financial security to buy a car, buy a house, settle down and start a family when I'm in my 50s." He owes $150,000 today.