Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Brian Lehrer Show: Your Questions

Read all comments here.

Diane from Long Island: With Sallie Mae Signature loans--private student loans--consolidation doesn't necessarily help to lower interest rates. For the public, federal portion of your son's loans he may be eligible for Income Based Repayment: look at for more info.
I am not sure the full extent of your negotiations with Sallie Mae but they say that they offer both graduated and extended repayment--both of these would lower the monthly load, although they would not lower the interest rate.
The National Consumer Law Center has a list of lender ombudsmen--these are the people with the most power to help you negotiate a solution.

Sam: If you can register with a state employment agency and document that you are looking for a full time job, you should be able to qualify for unemployment deferment
whether or not you're eligible for benefits.

Darren from Brooklyn: Consolidation won't necessarily 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.

katie from brooklyn, ny: 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).

Clem from Brooklyn 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.

Christina from Brooklyn February 11, 2009 - 10:58AM 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.

Alaina from Weehawken: It is indeed very difficult to discharge these loans in bankruptcy, but not impossible. Your mom being a little older is helpful. You might be able to find legal assistance here. Good luck.

Frank from Westchester: PLUS loans are meant to be up to the cost of attendance.Your credit score has more bearing on your eligibility than the overall amount of the loan. However it's not a bad idea to have your son take out his due amount of federal FFEL loans as well.


dp said...

Thanks for your feedback!

I realize that private loan consolidation won't necessarily get me a lower rate (especially at this moment). I thought that shopping around might enable me to find a way to consolidate my higher interest loans into one lower interest loan, but I think I have to abandon that plan in favor of just paying. I am planning to do a 'debt rollup' targeting my higher interest payments first and then, when they are paid off, continuing to pay the same monthly amount by applying the overage to the next lowest payment.

As far as returning to school, it remains a goal. Your advice is sound, but because I did really well as an undergrad, I will be seeking full funding for graduate school. Without it, I am not planning to return. No more loans for me!

Thanks again Anya, can't wait to hear future segments and continue to follow the blog.


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