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Continued: Ideas for reducing the levels of debt

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  • Last update: April 30, 2009 - 5:40 PM

For colleges

Now: Colleges are planning more financial aid counseling. For example, students at the College of St. Catherine meet one-on-one with financial aid staff. The University of Minnesota will require face-to-face financial counseling this fall.

Later: Some are calling for a mandatory financial literacy course. The U of M has been hesitant to add yet another requirement, said Robert McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, at an on-campus forum. Instead, it's exploring whether to add a short, online course to orientation activities.


Pay now: Student loan provider Sallie Mae has introduced a private loan that requires students to make interest payments while in school, cutting repayment time and interest for the borrower and improving cash flow for the lender.

Pay later: Solutions include stretching loan payments over 30 years or switching to income-contingent or interest-only loan payments.

Graduates also may be able to postpone their payments, although interest may accrue, increasing the amount owed. Both the Department of Education and lender Sallie Mae are seeing a slight uptick in loans in forbearance over last year.


Now: Advocacy groups want college loan forgiveness to be part of the economic stimulus. A Facebook group, "Cancel Student Loan Debt to Stimulate the Economy," has gained national recognition. Locally, students are fighting for legislation to provide graduates who stay and work in Minnesota with a state income tax credit to help pay off student loans.

Later: The Project on Student Debt wants the bankruptcy code to allow private student loan debt to be eliminated like credit card debt. The Rethinking Student Aid study group wants to target loan subsidies to students who need help repaying them.


Now: Graduating in four years is the best way to keep student debt low, because most grants and scholarships won't continue into a fifth year. University of Minnesota students have a special incentive to carry a full course load: Any credits they take above 13 are free.


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