Collegebound Network

Since 1987, America's Trusted Resource on Higher Education

Look Before You Leap Into Debt

You're graduating from high school and ready to give college, well, the old college try. But, like most students, you're going to need help footing that tuition bill. No sweat -- you'll just take out a loan, right?

Sure, borrowing money makes attending college easier for those who can't otherwise afford school, but in addition to the interest that accrues comes a high percentage of responsibility.

Before diving into debt, consult "Borrowers Who Drop Out," a report issued by The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (NCPPHE). Twenty percent of those who borrow for college drop out and are then left in debt, without the financial benefits that earning a college degree can provide.

Translation? Not only can't these students land that cushy accounting job or that big-bucks-business position, but their astronomical cell phone bills now look like pennies compared to their loan payments.

The NCPPHE wants to change this disturbing pattern of debt. "Even though taking out a loan is still a sound investment for most students, policymakers and education leaders can hardly be satisfied when borrowers leave school with no degree, debt to repay, and a high risk of defaulting on their loans," says Patrick Callan, president of the NCPPHE. "In some cases, these students are worse off than before."

Loan To-Knows
Take your loans seriously from day one -- if you miss one payment, you will be considered delinquent. On top of that, you'll be smacked with late fees to get back on schedule, and your credit score will be lowered.

Consider consolidation. That's when you take all your student loans and combine them into one. The benefits are that you write just one check a month (instead of juggling a handful of different payments) and you can also lock in a fixed interest rate.

Wishing your loans would disappear? Think "loan forgiveness." Once you graduate from college, you can get part or all of your federal education debt erased by working in a public service job, or by volunteering. This option is available in a host of professions such as teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and Peace Corps volunteers.