Army veteran Alphi Coleman, 38, can relate. The stress of working unfulfilling jobs to get ahead was wearing her down before the pandemic.

“All I was doing was working to pay my student debt,” said Coleman, who owes nearly $90,000 from attending the University of Phoenix. “The pandemic allowed me to realign and reassess … take a pause, rest.”

Coleman, who lives in Los Angeles, left her job in human resources early on in the pandemic. The decision put her in a precarious financial state, but she said she needed a reset. The federal loan pause covered half of Coleman’s loans. She was able to defer payments on the remaining debt through an unemployment deferment.

The reprieve, Coleman said, also gave her a chance to explore something she has always wanted to do: develop a meditation and mindfulness program for neurodivergent people of color, like herself. She worries her student debt could hinder her from qualifying for a business loan down the road because of her debt-to-income ratio.

“I don’t want to step back into the corporate 9-to-5 and try to fit into that culture,” Coleman said. “I would love to … create enough financial security to thrive.”

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