Rick Tallini didn’t worry much about the $55,000 in federal student loans he took out for law school in the 1990s. His future seemed bright.
Yet in the decades since he graduated, he’s struggled to find employment and pay the bills. His original student loan balance, meanwhile, has soared to well over $300,000.
“They’ll tack this thing to my coffin at this point,” Tallini, 61, said.
The biggest reason Tallini’s student loan debt increased so much is because of his extended periods of nonpayment, during which his debt was growing at between 8 percent and 9 percent interest. (Tallini provided his student loan records to CNBC, which were analyzed by Mark Kantrowitz, president of Cerebly, Inc. and a student loan expert).
Back in the 1990s, he said he was told by staff at his law school that he’d pay back his education debt within two years.
“You’re looking at your education, and you’re not focusing on the money,” Tallini said. “All the while, you’re being told, ‘Don’t worry about it. Whatever you borrowed will go away quickly’.”
But his job searches never led to a high-paying position, he said. Instead, he ended up working on and off for the government.
Around a decade after he graduated, his loans were in default, a fate expected to claim 40 percent of student loan borrowers by 2023, according to the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C.
Tallini was starting his own law practice, and desperate to bring his loans back into good standing.
“I couldn’t have that over my head,” he said.