When Matthew Henderson graduated from Loyola University, he had limited his borrowing as much as possible.
Keen to pay off the roughly $20,000 he owed the federal government for his three-year programme, he began looking for work.
But it was May 2020, a pandemic was raging and nobody was hiring.
The political science and history major opted to further his education with a master's in legal studies from Washington University in St Louis. It's a decision that has cost him dearly.
"Even though it was only an accelerated one-year programme, it still cost about $60,000, which was pretty much funded entirely through student loans," he said.
"I suddenly went from a potentially payable amount to an exorbitant amount of debt."
Mr Henderson, 23, is among the one in five Americans - or roughly 45 million people - who hold student loans. Together they owe the government a combined total of $1.6tn in debt and interest payments, according to the Federal Reserve.
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