Grads welcome student loan relief—but want more


Recent grads cheered President Barack Obama's student loan relief measures and even took his dose of tough love in stride. 

Obama signed an executive order Tuesday that would allow millions of hard-up students to cap their monthly payments at 10 percent of their income as well as reducing payments for others. 

President Barack Obama speaks during a Q&A session at the White House on June 10, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

"I think it's great; I think it's a step in the right direction," said Peter Michalewski, a winter 2010 graduate of Bentley University.  He currently owes more than $100,000 in student debt and is getting assistance from his parents to help make his loan payment every month.

Millennials currently pay an average of 12 percent of their income into student loans, according to a recent study. Student debt rose 10.5 percent, to $29,400, from 2011 to 2012. 

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"I think that, really, people went to school for a job that does not currently employ," said Torrieann Kennedy, who received a bachelor's degree from Boston College in 2003 and a master's degree from Walden University in 2006. Because of this, she continued, students and their parents are struggling to pay off heavy college debts.

"Anything that can help them, I think, is an awesome plan," she said. 

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Lee Storrow, a 2011 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, emphasized that the burden of student loans is having a real effect on the economy.

"Students are having to make economic choices that are hampering the economic recovery of this country," Storrow said. "I have friends that are deferring purchases of new homes because of the staggering amount of student loan debt they have to repay."

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After signing the relief measure, Obama took to Tumblr for a live Q&A session. 

He acknowledged the burden student loans pose for many, but also told students that the real world isn't just about "following their bliss."

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"Sometimes you are going to have to take a job to pay the bills," he said, urging them to study fields, such as the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) ones, with more abundant job opportunities.

That may be a bitter pill to swallow for some, but students appeared to take it well.

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"I think that's realistic advice in today's economy," said Lee Storrow, a 2011 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "It's important to do something professionally you're passionate about, but it's also important to do something that will allow you to pay for groceries and your bills."

The president said it doesn't mean you have to give up creativity completely, acknowledging that he himself was a humanities major. 

"It doesn't preclude you from writing a haiku at some point, or having a creative outlet," Obama said.

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While the theme in these student reactions was optimism, they clearly sent a signal that more needs to be done.

"I think this is Obama and the White House using the executive power that they have to make life better for many people with student loans, but it is going to take real congressional action to improve the situation," Storrow said. 

"I would ask him to continue to advocate for stronger policies to continue to help young people to manage student loan debt in the future."

— By CNBC's Bo McMillan