There are many people and nurses with a lot of student debt. I've worked with several that have between $50,000 to over $100,000 in debt. Usually, it's because they either went to a private school and/or had a previous liberal arts degree that they couldn't get a decent paying job so went back for nursing. There are many expensive options out there from private schools, for-profit private schools, accelerated BSN's and direct entry MSN RN and RN to NP. It is really easy to go into a lot of debt for school. On top of the cost of tuition, many people take out more student loans for housing and cost of living expenses.
But that doesn't mean a person should take out a lot of student loans. I don't think anyone, especially a teenager should be taking out loans without having taken a personal finance class first. I think a personal finance class should be required in high school.
I also believe in restoring bankruptcy protections to student loans as virtually every other debt (aside from child support, unpaid taxes and maybe civil penalties) can be eliminated in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is actually one of the rights in our US constitution.
It's true govt loans have some protections and the lender may work with you, but until recently they usually offer deferment or forbearance which usually causes the interest to capitalize and the loan to spiral out of control. The 10-year public service loan forgiveness option that was started by President Obama back in 2007 appears to be a scam because over 90% of people whose debt should have been forgiven were denied this.
Income-based repayment over the standard 20 to 25 years is another option (depending on when you took out your loan); but this should not be considered an ideal plan. Who wants to be paying for student loans for decades!
When your income is low you may be paying little to nothing on them, which results in negative amortization where the interest capitalizes and the debt spirals out of control. In the future when your income grows, and as a nurse, we are in the top 30% income; you will probably end up spending more to pay the loan off due to this negative amortization. For those who stay on income based the entire 20 to 25 years will wind up with a big, fat tax bill even higher due to this negative amortization. The forgiven debt is treated as ordinary income and will throw you into a high tax bracket.
The obvious plan should be to minimize student loans as much as possible in the first place by seeking out cheaper schools, scholarships, and grants. Not purposely going into a very expensive program that will take decades to pay off.
Again those loan payments will become a burden and will limit your ability to save for retirement, buy a house and just enjoy life. A single mom already faces financial hurdles and should especially avoid excess student loan debt. But we all should do what we can to avoid excess debt.
I speak as someone who went to a private school and owed $22,000 and my starting pay was only $13/hour back then so full time was less than $30,000 a year. It took me almost 25 years to pay off due to high-interest rates (12-14%) and the occasional deferment/forbearance when life happened such as a couple surgeries, plus I consolidated to buy a house. The student loans were a burden and many years I regretted going to school and felt I would have been better off just working as a secretary. I didn't start saving for retirement until my 30's and I was almost 40 before I bought my house.
I made a lot of financial mistakes due to my naivety and ignorance over personal finance. Thankfully I met a wonderful housing counselor who starting guiding me and teaching me about money when I bought my house. Also, I then starting reading and researching personal finance in earnest.
That knowledge really makes a difference, the more you know, the more you can save and avoid overpaying on loans and living expenses. Some of my friends who did not receive financial counseling or take the time to learn have overspent in tens of thousands of dollars on mortgages, car loans, credit cards, insurance, and even a timeshare. They are poorer than they needed to be, lost thousands due to poor advice of a home broker and mail solicitation of subprime mortgages. If they had gone to a credit union they would have saved tens of thousands. One almost lost her house due to the subprime adjustable rate mortgage she had and then was unable to refi due to her poor credit and high student loans. These personal experiences are why I'm such an advocate of personal finance education for all high school students and for the rest of us also!