Many see college as a path to a better life and unlocking their dreams. But student debt often stops this, especially for people with disabilities. A major reason is due to income. People with disabilities experience poverty more than double the rate of individuals without disabilities.

A study found that nearly 3 in 5 people with disabilities with student loans struggle with food insecurity and paying house or utility bills. Facing these challenges can force borrowers to take additional jobs to pay for debt. It can stop people from buying houses or cars or seeking more education. On average, people with disabilities graduate with $27,490 in student loan debt and many have a debt of over $100,000.

The Arc has been a leader in advocating for changes to the Total and Permanent Disability (TDP) Discharge Program to include automation, simplifying the program, and eliminating the monitoring period. TDP is a program that relieves people who are totally and permanently disabled from repaying certain federal student loans.

The Biden administration has made significant changes to TDP. Now, more than half a million people with disabilities have received student loan forgiveness since 2021.

A woman wearing a graduation cap and gown. One of those people is Renee.

Renee’s dream was to be a nurse. She was excelling in a nursing program and working in an intensive care unit while she finished her degree. Unfortunately, she injured her spine while moving a patient and that started her personal disability journey. Due to this injury, Renee’s nursing education ended. Determined to earn a degree to help others, she returned to school to pursue a bachelor’s degree in human and community services and a master’s degree in social and public policy.

Right before graduating from her master’s program, Renee needed emergency spine surgery. The surgery and recovery made her unable to complete the required internship for her program. Because of this, she couldn’t work in her chosen field.

By this point, Renee was over $100,000 in debt with no way to get a good-paying job in her field. Her family was unable to make the $1,000 monthly student loan payments, and it made it more difficult for them purchase the things they needed for their family. Renee learned about the TPD loan forgiveness opportunity. She applied and she later discovered that her student loans were discharged. Renee stated that this relief was a blessing. Not only were they able to purchase things that their family needed, but it opened doors for her family to buy a home.

Student loan debt is a disability rights issue. The Arc has relentlessly advocated for changes to relieve people with disabilities from student loan debt. Learn more about TDP here.

The post Unlocking Dreams: The Power of Student Loan Forgiveness for People With Disabilities appeared first on The Arc.

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