Monday, June 11, 2012

Disclosure to Student Borrowers

In light of the previous article, this NYT editorial is spot on:


NYT editorial

April 7, 2012

Disclosure to Student Borrowers

The federal government must do a lot more to protect college students and their families from falling into crippling debt. At the very top of that list is improving oversight of private student lenders. Too often, these lenders rush families into taking on risky, high-priced loans — even when students are eligible for safer, more affordable federal loans. Colleges must also be pressed to do a lot more to fully inform and protect their students. They often fail to explain the costs of loans and the dangers of choosing the wrong ones. Some colleges actively harm their students by packaging high-cost loans with their student-aid offers, to make the school appear more affordable than it really is.

A bill introduced by two Democratic senators, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Tom Harkin of Iowa, would require colleges and lenders to do a better job of making students aware of their borrowing options and the marked difference between federal and private student loans. College students often do not understand their eligibility for federal loans, or mistakenly believe that private loans work the same way that government loans do. But most federal student loans are capped at 6.8 percent, while private loans often have variable rates that can start at 15 percent or higher. Federal loans also protect students from default — and a permanent mark on their credit record — allowing them to defer payment if they lose a job or have other troubles. Private loans include few such protections. Without the right guidance from colleges, and full disclosure from private lenders, many students turn to private loans before even applying to the federal program.

The Durbin-Harkin bill would help students understand how loans work before they get into debt. Lenders would have to notify schools about students who were seeking private loans and determine how much the students were eligible to borrow. The schools would then be required to make students aware of the higher cost and higher risks of a private loan and the range of borrowing options.

Once students learn that federal loans are safer and less expensive, it is unlikely that they and their families will choose the private option. This measure deserves to become law.

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