And he's not alone, 85 percent of student loan borrowers say difficulty in saving has delayed their ability to buy a house, according to the Realtors association.
"It's challenging with student loans to be able to put together $40,000," said Grant Simmons, vice president of search marketing for Homes.com.
(The median home price in America is $241,700.)
Stephanie Pennycuff graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis with $43,000 in student debt.
She works at a nonprofit, helping formerly incarcerated people transition into their communities, making around $30,000. Her monthly student loan payment is $450.
That's made accumulating money almost impossible.
"Pretty much one paycheck a month goes to loans," Pennycuff, 28, said. "Every time I manage to save up a couple of thousand dollars, something happens and it's immediately drained back to nothing. I can't put down any sort of payment on a home."
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As student debt continues to compound, the primary way many Americans build wealth and stability — through owning a house — is likely to become more endangered.
In the two decades after McKinley was forced to leave, he's still been stuck renting. His loans have wavered in and out of default and mushroomed to more than $100,000.
Sometimes he drives past the house that was almost his.
"There was a lot of wildlife, opportunities for outdoor recreation," McKinley said. "It was really beautiful there."
He imagines what would have happened had he been able to stay. His monthly mortgage payments were going to be around $500 a month. He might have even paid them all off by now, he figures.
And the last time he checked, the house's value had swelled from $65,000 to more than $200,000.