"A new report has found that millions of students every year miss out on federal student loans and sign up for much riskier private loans instead -- an option that usually brings higher interest rates and fewer safeguards for borrowers," reports a July 18, 2011 California Watch article.
This report, which was issued by the Institute for College Access & Success (ICAS), encourages colleges and universities to step up their efforts in directing students toward the safest, cheapest, and most manageable kinds of financial aid.
The California Watch article quotes report author Matthew Reed, who is also an ICAS program director. "'Some colleges are already engaging in practices that help students make better-informed choices about private loans,'" he states, "'and all colleges of different types can use these as models to help students in that way.'"
Of the various kinds of student loans available, private student loans are considered the riskiest, primarily because they have uncapped, variable interest rates. This means interest fluctuates from month to month, making for often burdensome monthly payment amounts.
Adding to the perils of private loans is the difficulty attending discharging the debt via bankruptcy proceedings, which is nigh on impossible. Also, private loans generally offer no loan forgiveness, deferment options, or cancellation rights as you'd find in federal loan agreements.
These scary conditions, however, have done little to deter many borrowers who weren't even aware that they qualified for easier loans. The California Watch article reports that "out of the one in seven undergraduates who used a private student loan in the 2007-08 academic year, the majority had not taken out all the federal loans for which they were eligible."
Clearly, confusion reigns in the area of student lending. Every effort must indeed be made to dispel this confusion. Otherwise, defaults and despair will only increase. It's a real shame that some of this burden was needlessly taken on. An entering college student's real education ought to begin not with selecting such fields of study as engineering or business administration, but with solid loan counseling.