Village Voice 04.19.2017 : Page 26

26 April 19 April 25, 2017 because I have been doing what you’ve told me to do, and then you gave me wrong information,” she says. Adamson is now surviving via Revised Pay As You Earn, one of several income-driven repayment programs imple-mented by the federal government since 2007. These allow student debtors to limit payments to a ixed percentage of their in-come and have the balance forgiven after twenty years. The program “has saved my life,” Adamson says — her $195-a-month minimum payments don’t even cover in-terest on her loans — but, she notes, “after everything I’ve been through with them, I don’t put it past them to just change the rules, and all of a sudden I have to pay for the rest of my life.” She and other student debtors may have cause to worry, as there is growing talk in Washington of restricting public-service forgiveness. The Government Accountability Of ice startled many law-makers last year when it issued a report BE SHREWD WITH YOUR SCHOOL NE OF THE quan-daries of iguring out how to pay for college is that by the time you’ve igured out how heavy a debt load you’re likely to ind yourself crushed underneath, it’s too late to do anything about it. (Colleges don’t offer advanced degrees in inancing your education — and if they did, you’d only end up having to igure out how to pay for those, too.) There are some things that college-bound high school seniors and already matriculated college students can do to help avoid the worst pitfalls, though; we asked a pair of college-inance experts for their tips. VILLAGE O BETSY DEVOS HAS REFUSED TO COMMIT TO DEBT FORGIVENESS showing that income-driven repayment and other forgiveness programs would cost the government $28 billion more than previously projected. The Obama administration had already proposed cap-ping forgiveness at $57,500 — which, though far less than the accumulated debt loans of many graduate students, would have saved an estimated $6.7 billion over ten years. (Or, looked at another way, dumped an additional $6.7 billion in debt back in graduates’ laps.) While the Republican Congress blocked Obama’s move, GOP advocates of government cost-cutting soon took up the cause. The conservative American Enterprise Institute issued a paper last year urging either capping or eliminating PSLF, and Education Secretary Betsy De-Vos has refused to commit to upholding debt forgiveness. The prospect of limits on loan forgive-ness has been especially chilling to stu-dents who took on large loans for medical or law school and are now working in lower-paying public jobs. Dan Galante, a graduate of Touro College of Medicine in Harlem working at Sinai Hospital in Bal-timore, says when he irst learned about PSLF back in 2007, it sounded “too good to be true.” If Congress eliminates or caps loan forgiveness, he and his wife, Diana, will suddenly be facing hundreds of thou-sands of dollars in debt — and, he says, would likely end up stopping payment and looking for a higher-paying private-sector job to have any hope of paying down his debt, as he’s seen colleagues do. “If they were to stop this, I think they’d see a lot less people going to underserved ing them. “Not all debt is the same,” she says, noting that private loans are particularly suspect but that even some public loans can come with snags: “New Jersey has a state loan program where students are encouraged to take out a form of life insur-ance, because their debts will not be discharged if they die. It’s horrendous. Students need to understand those dif-ferences, and proceed in-credibly cautiously if the school is encouraging them to take out private loans.” school you’re not really going to sacriice quality,” says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of the college admissions and inan-cial aid website Cappex. He notes that you can ind pro-fessors educated at the top schools at all kinds of cam-puses: “The Ivy League gradu-ates more Ph.D.’s than they hire as faculty. They have to go somewhere to teach.” SEEK OUT SCHOLARSHIPS Pursue college aid via every avenue you can ind, begin-ning with what Kantrowitz calls “gift aid” — money you won’t have to pay back. In ad-dition to government free-tu-ition programs such as those offered for community col-leges in Tennessee and Ka-lamazoo, Michigan, look for scholarships offered not just from your university, but also from community organiza-tions or special-interest groups in your hometown that cater to your personal identity or talents. USE INCOMEDRIVEN REPAYMENT If you hit hard times after grad-uation, head immediately to the DOE to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan, which caps your monthly loan pay-ments at between 10 and 20 percent of your discretionary income, after necessities. (Note: Only federal student loans are eligible for this re-payment form, another reason to think carefully before decid-ing what loans to take out.) “The number of borrowers in these plans has grown in re-cent years, which is a good thing,” says Cochrane. “No student should be forced into the poorhouse, or to go hun-gry or homeless, because of their student loans.” CHECK THE SCORECARD In 2015, President Obama in-troduced College Scorecards on the federal Department of Education website, which provide a wealth of data on graduation rates, average earnings after graduation — and student debt load. “At some schools in the country, students are virtually guaran-teed to leave school with debt, and a lot of it,” says Debbie Cochrane, vice presi-dent of the Institute for Col-lege Access and Success in California. “Whereas at oth-ers, they may be able to grad-uate debt-free, or with an amount of debt that’s man-ageable. So look carefully into the schools you’re choos-ing, to make sure yours is not one that’s likely to leave you with debt you can’t repay.” CONSIDER TRANSFERRING CREDITS While community college tu-ition can be much cheaper, Kantrowitz warns that stu-dents who detour through community college may never reach their inal destination. “Only one-ifth of students who start at community col-lege get a bachelor’s degree in six years,” says Kantrowitz, versus two-thirds of students who start at four-year col-leges. He recommends taking core or prerequisite classes at a community college during summer session, then trans-ferring them to a four-year school — just check in ad-vance that the new college will accept them. — Neil deMause and Alexandria Neason PRICIER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER There are nearly ive thousand degree-granting institutions in the United States, some of which come with price tags upwards or $60,000 per year. But an expensive school does not always a better school make, something you should consider carefully when choosing a college. “The qual-ity of most colleges is great, so in going to a less expensive READ THE LOAN FINE PRINT Once you choose a college, scrutinize loan offers care-fully, says Cochrane, not just for their interest rates, but for what protections they have in case you have trouble repay-

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