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How to handle college loan debt as an unemployed recent grad

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Entry-level jobs are scarce for recent college graduates, which leaves the Class of 2020 in a precarious position as their student loan debt comes due.

Taylor Cabrera has been job-hunting for months since graduating from the University of Mississippi last spring with dual bachelor’s degrees in biology and physics, and has moved in with family in Miami. Her only solid job lead so far was a two-week marketing stint that didn’t pan out, though she says she’s feeling good after a recent interview for an entry-level mortgage position.

Despite her challenges, Cabrera says she knows she’s fortunate when it comes to her student loans. Earning hefty scholarships meant she took on $14,000 in debt, about half of what the average undergraduate carries, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.

“It’s pretty good compared to what everybody else has, but it still hurts my soul,” Cabrera says.

Student loan payments typically begin six months after graduation. But those with federal loans like Cabrera have some respite: There’s an automatic, no-interest payment pause, known as forbearance, in place for all borrowers with federal student loans through December.

Private loan borrowers didn’t get the same break. But all borrowers have options to make payments more manageable, whatever their employment status or type of debt they carry.

EMPLOYMENT BARRIERS FOR RECENT GRADS

Leaving college without a job offer isn’t uncommon, especially during economic downturns. But the class of 2020 faces unique challenges.

The effects of COVID-19 have hit every industry, says Nicole Smith, research professor and chief economist at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. She adds that outside of telecommunications and tech, very few sectors are hiring right now.

“If you’re looking for a corona-proof job, it doesn’t exist,” Smith says.

Positions with titles that include “entry level” or