Hate is a word I rarely use in my posts. I like to remain upbeat and inspirational. And then I read the latest report on Household Debt and Credit published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which said that outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. reached $1.16 trillion as of December 2014, having increased by $77 billion compared to a year ago. It’s safe to say that student loan debt in this country has reached crisis levels.
Education is extremely important, but it’s also important for students to get educated first on the safe use of credit, and to understand the impact high student loan debt may have on their futures and credit health for years to come.
Here are a few points about student loans that I detest the most.
1. How Late Payments Are Reported
When you graduate from college and begin paying on student loans, you may make only one consolidated payment to the servicer, despite how many semesters you took out loans. Remember, each semester has its own separate loan number and reports as its own individual loan. However, if you make a payment late, it will be reported on your credit report as late for each of the individual loans, for example eight late payments on your credit report if you took out a loan for each semester for four years. I see this often with my clients. So make sure to always pay your student loans on time or consolidate them into one loan. (You can see how your student loan payment history is affecting your credit by getting a free credit report summary on Credit.com.)
2. Delinquency Rates Are Rising
According to the FRBNY report, student loan delinquency rates are rising and up to one-half of all outstanding student loans borrowers are having or have had trouble paying their student loans. Remember that student loan debt is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to discharge in bankruptcy. So, if you are — or know — a student, get educated on how to keep loan balances low and plan for repayment before you take out more loans.
3. Student Loans Come Due Regardless of Income
Most of us do not begin our careers making much money, so huge student loan payments can be a major strain on the budget. Before signing on for student loans, make sure you will be able to repay them. How? There are numerous sources online to estimate student loan payments — such as the U.S. Department of Education’s website, which has a loan repayment calculator. Match up your estimated payment with your realistic, estimated salary and household expenses and make sure you can afford the payments. If you’re already drowning in student loan debt, there are various repayment programs that can help you once you do have the loans; however if you haven’t yet taken loans out, know that it’s ultimately better to plan ahead as best you can and borrow as conservatively as possible.
Student loan debt, if not managed carefully, can have a negative impact on your career, family, travel and home choices for decades following graduation (you can see what your lifetime cost of debt is using this calculator). I hate that for our graduates! What I’d love to see is that we educate upcoming borrowers on a modest, smart approach to taking out student loans so that when our students graduate they have the world at their feet.
This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.
More on Student Loans:
- How Student Loans Can Impact Your Credit
- How to Pay for College Without Building a Mountain of Debt
- Strategies for Paying Off Student Loan Debt