One of the lessons we often learn the hard way in the world of money is, you must pay attention. 

Pay attention, because lenders do not want to forgive your loans. Because of that, Public Student Loan Forgiveness – PSLF – is nearly impossible to get. My husband is a police officer, and there are forgiveness programs out there for first responders. (Note: we want out of debt as fast as possible, so we would not have taken the forgiveness route even if it was still open to us. This true example is to illustrate a point.) However, his student loan service paused our auto payments when his co-signer’s social security number erroneously came up in their system as belonging to a person who had claimed bankruptcy.  They did not inform us of this, but they did send us a letter a month later saying we were late. How could out auto drafted payments be delinquent? After we got off the phone and they had explained themselves it made sense…. but the damage was done forever. We no longer had a blemish-free record, and my husband would never be eligible for PSLF. Do not plan to take out loans based on the threadbare hope of getting them forgiven. Companies make way too much money off of your loans to tolerate the thought of discharging them. PAY ATTENTION!

Pay attention, because leaving school, whether or not you’ve finished, will put you and your loans into repayment status. When you graduate school with student loans, make sure to have at least a starting job lined up. You should not borrow money for school at all, but if you have, you must know what you owe and how much you are obligated to pay each month before you graduate. That will give you some indication of how much you need to make to stay current, or how many hours of Uber you must drive to stay current and get ahead. Once you do graduate, those loans will be due in six months and if you can’t pay the monthly premium, your loans will grow, and grow, and grow, even if you are in deferment or forbearance. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Remember, there is only one way out of student loans: paying them. Oh, and dying, but that’s not an option.

Pay attention, becuase even the grants you have gotten can TURN INTO LOANS. Oh, you’re going to school to become a teacher? OPh, you want to serve in a challenging part of your community where no one else will go? And you’ll commit to working there for a number of years? Then you can get grants to pay for school! EXCEPT: If you make a single hairline error on your paperwork, your grants will go from free scholarship money to loans in a braethtaking instant, and so far, there is nothing you can do to reverse it. Go through 8 years of school with $4K a year in grants, and the at year, your paperwork was an hour late? You now owe $32,000.00. Sucker! This is a HUGE problem and a huge mess. Call your representative today… but who knows when that will change anything. Pay attention!

We did not realize we were not paying attention our first year that we were biting into our pile of student loans. A set of loans was in deferral, and we were racing to pay off the smallest little puny ones first, so that by the time the other went into repayment status, we would at least have one less monthly bill. What we did not realize was that by not paying the minimum due to those other loans at that tie, they were just gaining interest, and there was a deadline by which the interest accrued would capitalize. Capitalization: that’s where, on a student loan, the interest is added to your original loan. You end up paying interest… ON YOUR INTEREST. We blinked, and another $4,000 had been added to our loan. We had just finished paying off about $1,800. We made $32K that first year. It was devastating. We learned the hard way, pay attention! 

If we had paid attention from the start, we would have recognized: student loans are a trap. IF we paid attention, we’d know the practice of predatory lending on the most vulnerable of college students: low-income, minority high-school dropouts, is rampant. If we paid attention, we’d realize teachers (TEACHERS!) are the next wave of victims when they are promised grants and tricked into owing thousands of dollars of student loans.

Pay attention.

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