A common refrain that some financial aid officers use in order to soothe those who are worried about borrowing money to pay for their education is, “Everyone takes out student loans.” As if this somehow means that there’s no need to worry about whether or not you’ll be able to pay them back or that there should be no concern about the incredibly high rates of interest that are attached to so many private student loans. As if the fact that the vast majority of students these days need to turn to high-interest loans should serve as some kind of comfort.
In reality, these words should serve as an alarm. They should be a red flag that the expense of going to school has become so high that only a very few can afford to do it without taking on student loan debt that will follow them for years, perhaps even decades, to come. In fact, it’s the very people who should be counseling young students on the dangers of predatory lending that are handing them the documents needed to get these loans and encouraging them to sign on the dotted line. It’s time that we demand to know why those who are in a position to save college students from a lifetime of debt are opting to promote the private lending firms instead.
Is it due to the fact that their job demands it? What if they did inform students that high-interest private student loans often come with high minimum payments that few new college graduates will be able to meet? Or that deferrals and income-based repayment plans aren’t usually options with private loans? Is there a chance that the student they were counseling would opt not to attend their college? How likely is that that student would choose to look at other, more affordable places to go to school? In the end, there is a huge conflict of interest for those working in financial aid offices, since their own position could be directly influenced by a student deciding not to register at the school and their tuition funds going to another institution.
Perhaps it is time that we look for new ways to educate college students about responsible ways to pay for school. A federal agency that doesn’t have a vested interest in where a student attends college might be a good place to start, but as it stands now, almost anything would be an improvement over the current state of affairs.
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If you feel you were defrauded by the school you attended or you are being treated poorly as a distressed borrower by your creditors, take the free challenge debt review to find out what options you have regarding your student loans.