Getting out of debt is a ritual that everyone needs to have. But the truth is, student loan debt is difficult to deal with and frustrating to get out of. When you enroll in school, the financial aid officer is all about getting you the loans you need to pay for your education. While you’re in school, you don’t even think about your student loans because you don’t owe any money on them and don’t have to make payment.
Then, when you graduate, the harsh reality of student loan debt kicks in. You have six months to figure it out and get your financial house in order before the bills start coming in. And, guess what, you probably weren’t prepared. No one at your college help you. Your financial aid officer is now nowhere to be found. And your student loans have been passed off to various companies that service them – who usually aren’t very helpful.
Here are some common myths of student loan debt, and what you can do about it.
Who Owns My Debt?
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about student loan debt. Think about it. When you take out a credit card from a company like CitiBank, you know that, for the most part, CitiBank owns your debt. If you don’t pay, CitiBank comes after you.
However, student loan debt gets very complicated very quickly. First, unless you take out private student loans or have student loan debt older than a few years, the government owns your debt. Yes, good old Uncle Sam is who you owe money too.
That may be confusing because you typically get a bill from Sallie Mae, FedLoan, or some other company. These companies are what are know as student loan servicing companies. These companies simply handle the logistics for the federal government – accepting payments, keeping track of accounts, etc. They don’t own you student loans and they just payment processors.
Can You Negotiate Out Of Your Student Loans?
This is a tough question as well. When you have credit card debt you can’t afford, a common strategy for getting rid of it is to call the credit card company and negotiate an amount you can pay. In many cases, the credit card company is happy to accept something instead of nothing.
That’s not true with student loan debt. If you can’t afford your student loan debt, the government is going to come after you. Remember, a student loan is a loan against your future earnings. So, if you can’t afford it now, the government is going to make sure they’re going to get their money back in the future – by either garnishing your wages, seizing your tax return, or taking a chunk of your Social Security.
The only way you’re going to get out of your student loan debt is through student loan forgiveness, which are qualified programs that could discharge your debt in exchange for service.
Is There Any Help Coming For Student Loan Borrowers?
No…not really. In fact, the government is making things a little worse by raising student loan interest rates on future loans. The bottom line is that when you take out student loans, you are becoming the collateral for your debt. You have to pay it back, or enroll in a program that helps you get rid of them. There is no escape.
It can be frustrating, but the best thing you can do is only borrow what you need for school, and make a big push on repaying the debt as quickly as possible. Getting out of student loan debt is one of the smartest things you can do.
Robert Farrington is the founder and editor of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to young adult and college student finances.