lower your interest rate on private student loans. The exception is if you can improve your credit score significantly (by 50-100 points) you might be able to get better terms. I would concentrate on seeking income based repayment, deferment or another solution to make it easier to manage your federal student loans, and just keep paying off the private loans on time to build up your credit score. Also, I have to ask you to reconsider going back to school. You already have enough debt for a lifetime.: Consolidation won't necessarily
shouldn't the higher likelihood of securing a job factor into the decision to pursue higher degrees, since a moderately paying job is better than no job at all?
Depending on the job, there are cheaper ways of improving your job prospects: get relevant experience by interning or volunteering. Travel to enhance your language and cultural skills, or even seek a job overseas (Dubai is popular these days). Or even take a single targeted course to improve your skills in a specific area ( software programming, statistics, or LEED AP certification to name a few).
Whatever happened with the investigation into the conspiracy between NELnet and countless college loan officers to steer students toward higher interest loans, and how do you combat that as a borrower in these times?
Some lenders went out of business, and lenders in general had their subsidies lowered. You are free to search beyond your school's preferred lender list if you are worried about the relationship between your college financial aid offices and certain lenders.
What do you consider a minimum manageable amount of debt for a student getting a PhD in a social science or a discipline in the humanities? Is there is a number you can cite where it's simply not manageable?
I wrote a column on this question back in '07. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the payoff from social science and liberal arts master's degrees is actually negative -- the average liberal arts MA earns less than the average of all BAs.And according to an in-depth study conducted back in 1999, those with Ph.D.s in the humanities had the highest debt and lowest income of all students in all disciplines.
That said, I think a debt amount roughly equal to your starting salary -- 35K or so--is relatively reasonable.
You might be able to find legal assistance here. Good luck.