Student Debt

Top 10 List
We’ve updated our Top 10 List of student loan tips for students preparing to graduate and enter “the real world.” Many students are looking at their student loans more closely now than they ever have before, and wondering how they will handle the burden. Our tips can help young people keep payments affordable, avoid fees and extra interest costs, and protect their credit rating. Click here to read the Top 10 List

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The Project on Student Debt has created a Facebook group, which we're using to promote the Income-Based Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs. Income-Based Repayment becomes available on July 1, so we’re spreading the word about this new federal program and IBRinfo in every way we can. The Project's Facebook group is not only a way to raise awareness about our work, but a forum for borrowers to ask questions about their student loan debt or share their stories. Join us on Facebook Visit IBRinfo.org and tell your friends

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The Institute for College Access & Success' acting president Lauren Asher appears on CNN's American Morning.

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It's a new year with a new administration in Washington, and the dire economic situation has made college affordability a top concern for policymakers and consumers alike. Our new policy agenda for 2009 aims to limit the growth and risks of student debt by increasing grant aid, strengthening consumer protections, and ensuring easy access to new affordable repayment options.

The Project on Student Debt's current priorities include:

  • Increase access to need-based grant aid
  • Strengthen consumer protections for private student loan borrowers
  • Ensure easy access to Income-Based Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Read the policy agenda in its entirety here

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By Lauren Asher, Vice President

In Monday's New York Times article about a new state student loan program for New York, a spokesperson for Governor Paterson's budget office said, "One of the big problems in the student loan program is that it is drying up. People who were able to get loans last year can’t get them this year." This kind of misleading statement encourages students and parents – already rattled about how to pay for college – to believe they’ll have trouble getting the most common and affordable type of student loan: a federal loan. In fact, federal student loans remain fully available to all eligible students and parents.

The New York program will encourage undergraduates to borrow up to a stunning $50,000 in state loans, even though dependent undergraduates can already borrow up to a total $31,000 in federal Stafford loans. These federal loans have lower interest rates than the New York loans and come with significant borrower protections and guaranteed access to affordable repayment options.

While it is true that the availability of private student loans has declined due to changes in the broader financial markets, only 8% of the undergraduate class of 2007 used private loans, and an estimated 40% of them had not maximized their federal borrowing options first.

If the goal of the new loan program is to make college more affordable, it misses the mark. Nationally, more than two-thirds of students who graduate from four-year colleges already carry an average of about $22,000 in student loan debt – with similar numbers for New York state. Struggling students should not be burdened with more debt, which will leave them even less able to buy a home, support a family, or save for retirement when the economy picks up again. Instead, tough economic times require states and the federal government to invest in higher education in ways that reduce the need to borrow.

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The San Francisco Chronicle August 14, 2008 Editor - "Students seek aid in record numbers" Aug. 11 highlights an important trend, but could leave readers confused about the availability of federal financial aid. While there are caps on how much you can receive in federal grants and loans each year, there are no limits on how many students can qualify for these important funding sources. And if students' financial circumstances take a turn for the worse, they should always let their college financial aid office know. In certain circumstances, such as a parent's job loss, the college can adjust the student's aid eligibility. Even if they don't qualify for more grant aid, federal loans can help both students and parents bridge unexpected financial gaps more safely and affordably than credit cards, home equity, retirement funds or private student loans. Debbie Frankle Cochrane The Institute for College Access & Success Berkeley

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Iowa legislative staff interviewed Robert Shireman after his testimony to the Iowa legislature's Government Oversight Committee.

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In our testimony to the Iowa legislature's Government Oversight Committee yesterday, we recommended that the state seek details on the rates charged to students by the Iowa Student Loan Liquidity Corporation, the nonprofit lender created by the state. Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, agrees with us and suggests additional information that should be disclosed by lenders. He also dismisses nonprofits' claims that rate information should be kept secret:

"Ideally, I'd like to see lenders disclose the mappings from credit scores to their rate tiers and not just the tiers themselves. Add a FICO Score Range column to your table. The lenders insist that they cannot or will not do this voluntarily because it reveals competitive information. But it's really all about obscuring the mapping from borrower characteristics to rates. Yes, if lenders had to publish their tiering, there'd be more competition. But isn't that the point? If lender X knows that lender Y's cutoff for LIBOR + 2.0% is FICO 750, lender X can potentially undercut with LIBOR + 1.8% at FICO 760. By making the mapping opaque, they minimize the opportunity for competition. But, frankly, it also probably has a lot to do with making it harder for borrowers to shop around by forcing them to apply to obtain rate information. Lenders don't want clear information because student loans are a commodity, and if they let it behave like one, supply and demand will drive down prices." "It's especially egregious when a state agency protests against releasing detailed pricing models for competitive reasons. What they're saying is that if they release the data, their competitors will be able to undercut them on price. Why is that a problem? Either it will force ISLLC to cut prices, or their borrowers will go elsewhere to get lower prices. Either way ISLLC's mission to enable students to pay for college is met. Of course, more likely ISLLC is not adequately aligning pricing with cost, profiting from some students to subsidize others, and so will be prone to price competition on them. But the real problem is you have agencies thinking about profits first and public benefit second."

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