Student loan default rates are rising for both federal and private loans as more recent grads struggle to find work. The Wall Street Journal reports that the federal default rate is nearing 6.9 percent, the highest it's been since 1998. Similarly, some private lenders are experiencing default rates that have already nearly doubled in just a year or two.
Loan repayment woes are expected to get worse as tuition continues to rise and the job market remains depressed. Since student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, borrowers are stuck with their debt no matter what happens. Add in continued increases in the number of students borrowing to pay for school and the amount they borrow, and student loan defaults are poised to be a serious long-term problem whether or not the economy recovers quickly.
Borrowers do have some flexibility in negotiating their loan repayment terms, especially with federal Stafford Loans. Borrowers of federal and private loans are also able to apply for a temporary forbearance, halting payments but not the accrual of interest, if they find themselves unable to pay. However, reduced monthly payments now will mean either larger payments or more payments in the long run.
If you are looking at ways to pay for college, the best strategy is still to avoid student loans to the greatest extent possible. Do a free college scholarship search and be sure to factor cost and available financial aid into your college search, as well.
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