Assault on Student Loan Default: Getting a Better Handle on Borrowing


Most of us with degrees on the wall have experienced-or are still experiencing-the pain associated with the “payment for the privilege”– the student loan process. 

Others, for a variety of reasons have gained their degrees and are not pained by the experience mainly because they have not defaulted on their student loans. 

The current economic crisis has only made it more difficult for those who borrowed money on the “promise” that upon graduation, they would find gainful employment and have the ability to repay the loan.

Sadly, this has not been the case across a wide range of industries that traditionally provided just the right opportunities that lured so many students into those career paths and then along the trail of dealing with high debt ratios and defaulting on student loans.

There needs to be more of an assault on loan defaults and assistance for students to get a better understanding of the loan process and the tools to handle their finances.

The Department of Education reports that students at for-profit schools in the award year 2008-2009 represented 26 percent of the borrower category and 43 percent of all borrowers defaulting on student loans.

This involves four years colleges in larger numbers because students who attend community colleges generally do not borrow. 

However, the growing trend in the default rate has warranted extensive action from the Obama administration to protect the integrity of the distribution of funds fueled by taxpayer dollars and to better inform students regarding their rights and responsibilities as recipients of the support.

Some of the highlights of the proposed regulations include protecting students from misleading recruiting practices and ensuring that only students who are eligible receive program assistance and are not caught up by aggressive lenders.

Also, the educational institution itself will be held accountable to do a better job with career placement and resource support to prepare them for viable job opportunities upon graduation so that they will be financially equipped to avoid defaulting on student loans.

By placing the responsibility on both the student and the school, it generates a more proactive relationship that increases awareness about the pitfalls connected to defaulting on student loans.

This is just a start and as more interested parties–students, parents, administrators, lenders–become involved in being a part of the solution, those defaulting on student loans will decline.

However, it begins with the students themselves and there are other tools for them to use. According to the college resource site, there are a few tips to help college bound applicants from defaulting on student loans.

These tips include: supplementing the loans with other financial resources such as grants, scholarships and savings (i.e. 529 savings plans allow you to save tax free money);  understanding all the terms and details regarding the loan whether it is a private or federal student loan (be aware that you and the loan will be connected for a while); maintaining your loan payments and contacting the lender at the first sign of problems to work something out before defaulting on student loans (work out an arrangement so that you do not ruin your credit).  

The educational experience still represents that bedrock for future success and the focus should be on lifelong learning and not the long term lending.

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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