Student Loan Default Rate Increases

Is the education worth the debt?  Is it worth going an extra year so you can work while going to college and not take on debt? First, a college education is worth the cost, but you have to look at the potential ROI (Return on Investment).  Different careers pay varying wages. With higher earnings, you are able to pay back a larger student loan debt with fewer sacrifices. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes an OccupationalOutlook that lists occupations, the education required, and the potential salary range.  According to the BLS, the high your education, the more money you will make and the less chance you will be unemployed.  Choose your education, career and debt load carefully.

The cost of an extra year of college could be more costly than taking out a loan and finishing on time. To calculate this cost, add together the cost of tuition and books for one additional year of college plus your potential future salary, and then subtract your current salary.  If tuition and books cost $30,000 and your future salary is $35,000 upon graduating, and you are making $15,000 now, that extra year cost you $50,000 ($30,000 + $35,000 - $15,000).  Can you better afford the fifth year of $50,000 or take out a loan to get done in four years?

Choose your institution carefully.  You may think that private 4-year colleges and universities are the most expensive but if you calculate the true cost (tuition, room and board minus any grants and scholarships) it might be close to the cost of a state school.  If adding in the cost of getting done in four years compared to five or six, and placement rates for their graduates, it may be less expensive to attend a private college or university.
You can also receive credits from your local community college and usually transfer the credit to a 4-year college or university.  If considering this option, talk to the college or university you are planning to transfer to make sure all of your community college credits count towards graduation.
Using the Federal data for the 2009 cohort, the highest default rate for colleges and universities offering baccalaureate or above degrees is for for-profit schools with a 15.4% default rate, followed by public colleges or universities at 5.2% and then private colleges and universities at 4.5%. Student loan defaults do not go away on your credit report.

Being a federal loan, the government has more power to garnish wages (up to 25% of your wages), keep your federal and state income tax refunds, take your future lottery winnings, and garnish part of your social security.  Student loans are rarely discharged in bankruptcy.  So once you borrow the money, you will have to pay it back! 

If you are having trouble making your student loan payments, check out www.studentloans.gov for information on deferment of payments. You can also check out a Wall Street Journal video for more information on student loan defaults.

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