Is it impossible to pay off debt without a six figure salary? No.
Almost. Let's say you make 50k before taxes. For simplicities sake, we'll be conservative and say you take home 36k. If you have 160k in debt at 7% interest, if you paid 1k a month, you'd never touch the principle, but only be covering the interest. 1/3 of your post-tax income just to not fall deeper in the hole.
Even paying off 160k when you make 90 is not exactly fun.
Umm. OK, well post tax that 60K is about $40K, and 8.5% interest on $170K (let's assume OP paid $30K for his first year and there was no interest accrual across the three years for simplicity sake) is $14.5K a year. So you would need to pay more then $14.5K a year just to pay down your loans. So OP paid $20K each year and lived off the remaining $20K, then all that would be paid off is about $5K off the principle of $170K. So do that for another 8 billion year and live like a homeless person (or actually be homeless), then yes, his loans may eventually get paid off.
Fail fail fail fail fail fail fail fail fail.
First, major caveat: under the new federal IBR program, the burden becomes even easier.
Second, let's Do some Math: You just graduated from Columbia and are dead last in the class. Bummer! But you score a 60K job anyway. Inflation and raises mysteriously grind to a halt.
Assumption: $180,000 in accumulated debt, 8% interest rate (since some will be lower rate stafford loans)
Let's assume throw CoL to the wind and live in New York City, shall we?
Salary Paycheck Calculator (--LinkRemoved-- )
Weekly Gross Pay $1,153.85 = 60K/year
Net Pay after all federal, NYS, and NYC taxes: $771.07 = $40K/year, 3,341/month.
Now let's toss 180K at 8% into a loan calculator and try to pay this bad boy down in 30 years. Monthly payment? 1320.78
Subtract it from our net pay above and we get after taxes and loans actual, spendable income of *drum roll* 2020.22 per month for living, eating, and shopping
ZOMG YOU'RE LOANZ WILL NEVAR BE PAID OFF AND U WILL STARTVE
NOBODY IN AMERICA NOW OR EVER HAS EVER SURVIVED ON SUCH A PALTRY SUM!11!11!! LOANZ WILL NEVER EVER BE PAID OFF.
Look, I understand you might not like math... but try it sometimes before you make yourself look /too/ stupid on the internet.
[OS, do I get a gold star?]