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What can we do when faced with student loan repayment problems?

The promise of additional education is alluring: your skills will be refreshed and improved and you will get a better job, earning much more money, or your child will get a better job and live an easier life than you have.

But that promise, whether or not it is fulfilled, all too often comes with the painful reality of student loans. Today, the AARP Public Policy Institute reports that 9.6% of families headed by someone 50 or older carries student loan debt, three times the figure for 1989. The typical ParentPLUS borrower took on $16,100.

Some took on many times that.

Half of student loan borrowers are expected to default – and student loans are not discharged in bankruptcy. Your Social Security can be garnished.

What can we do about student loan repayment problems?

Some people with ParentPLUS and other federal loans may be eligible for lower monthly payments or an income-contingent repayment plan or even the Pubic Service Loan Forgiveness program. Any of these is better than deferment, which lets interest accrue and increases the total amount owed. Click on How to Repay Your Loans on www.studentaid.gov.

The Institute of Student Loan Advisors or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling may be able to negotiate a lower debt or even debt forgiveness. But beware the scammers who promise to do the same for a fee and do not have one of these affiliations.

Also forego loan consolidation, which consolidates federal loans into private loans without income-based repayment plans and certain consumer protections, such as discharge if you become disabled.


Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

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