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Prudent college loan borrowing and debt management

Wisconsin students leave college with a diploma and sometimes with debt that may be a tremendous and overwhelming burden. Several steps can help with this debt repayment, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

First, it is important to know the identity of the student loan servicer, who is the private company responsible for managing the borrower's account, sending bills, processing monthly payments and communicating with the borrower. A borrower who falls behind on debt can discuss any deferment or forbearance options with them. The servicer's identity is available on the monthly statement, on the My Student Aid website for federal loans and on credit reports for private loans.

Borrowers should direct servicers on how to allocate extra payments to save on interest and to pay off the debt quicker. Federal loan borrowers may also apply for a repayment plan that adjusts loan payments to monthly income, if they are having problems making monthly payments.

It is also important for veterans or service members to learn and understand the rights and protections that are available to them. These include options, like the income driven repayment plans and the availability of zero percent interest for loans where the service person is serving in a battle zone. Federal law also allows veterans with a service-related disability to ask for loan discharge if the Department of Veterans Affairs granted a 100-percent disability rating.

Co-signers also need to be aware that they face additional responsibilities for repaying the loan or making monthly payments, if the primary borrower stops making payments, in addition to vouching for that borrower. Co-signers should learn about co-signer release options.

Additionally, borrowers may file a complaint with the CFPB, if they have difficulties with their loans or their loan servicer. They should remain wary of dubious student relief schemes that charge up-front schemes while making false promises to prevent default.

Even with this financial planning, borrowers may still need debt relief when economic circumstances and other hardships jeopardize repayment. An attorney can assist consumers with legal repayment options and help assure that their rights are protected.

Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "Tips for student loan borrowers," accessed on Feb. 3, 2017

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