HIGH POINT, N.C. — Every day, Michael Sileno wakes up with a heavy feeling on his chest.
“It’s lingering,” he said. “It’s there. It’s stressful. It causes anxiety.”
For the past seven years, since earning his master’s degree in sociology, he’s been haunted by $80,000 worth of student loan debt.
“That’s with working during college, that’s with getting scholarships as well, some temporary relief,” Sileno said. “It’s still that high.”
He says that burden has no end in sight. In July, he’ll be laid off from his job as a network administrator for a furniture company.
“It’s scary because you think about how you’re going to take care of your family,” he said.
He’s one of many Americans struggling with student loan debt and questioning the value of higher education.
“They say ‘work hard, do well in school and it will pay off,’ and I’m not necessarily seeing that,” Sileno said.
On Monday, President Obama issued an executive order to ease that debt, capping student loan payments at 10 percent of a borrower’s income.
Last year, student loan debt reached more than a trillion dollars nationwide.
“We have people that come in everyday who are in tears, who are stressed out,” said Damon Duncan, an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy and worker’s compensation.
He says one of the main reasons his clients file for bankruptcy is to help pay off students loans.
“They’ve fallen behind on their house or car payments or any other debts,” Duncan said.
He says capping payments will be a good thing.
“It’s going to be helpful to a lot of families and especially young professionals,” he said.
“I hope they step up and help us out,” Sileno said.