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Student loan defaults are on the rise

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The shrinking job market is squeezing college graduates in record numbers as the number of student loan defaults has not been this high since 1998. Suddenly, today's college graduates don't have much of a reason to toss that mortar board in the air.

Adding a few more demerits to the situation is the fact that employers have also cut back drastically on benefits packages that historically included reimbursement for continuing education. What makes the jump in student loan defaults so troubling from the national perspective is that they are difficult to get included in bankruptcy plans.

Understandably, the situation can create a lot of pressure for the youngest, and hopefully most energetic, component of our workforce. In times like these, when fresh minds, new skills and workplace creativity can benefit the business world, it is more important than ever to engage young talent. However, if they are saddled with debt and unable to confidently move forward in a career, or even find a job, the financial dominoes begin to tumble quickly. If student loan defaults keep growing, the odds are good that their credit cards, car loans and ability to secure mortgages will also be severely affected.

While there are a number of legislative efforts underway to help struggling borrowers of other forms of money, government action on student loans can cause sweeping changes in the graduate education world. According to industry professionals, if student loans are granted leniency in bankruptcy plans, then they become a greater risk to lenders. In turn, that will create jumps in the cost of education, as it will simply be more difficult to secure the money needed to attend law school, study to be doctor or get an MBA.

However, an expert with the Institute for College Access and Success said that even with the federal protections in place, student loans have not become any cheaper.

FinAid.org, a Web site dedicated to information on student financial aid, reports that two-thirds of undergraduates turn their tassels every year under the oversight of a creditor. Given that a typical private undergraduate education costs more than $25,000 per year and graduate programs range from $27,000 to $114,000 and that student loans have more than doubled in the last decade, it appears the growing academic debt issue is not going anywhere soon.

It may be surprising some to learn that gambling losses can be discharged in a bankruptcy but to seek protection from federal student loan debt, a person needs to attempt to convince the court of an "undue hardship," a rule that was put in place by Congress more than ten years ago. Then in 2005, the same provision was made legal for private student loans as well. Meeting the hardship discharge standard is extremely difficult and relief is unlikely to be granted except in the rarest cases.

The bright side is, while you are in a bankruptcy, your student loan payments are deferred. Once you emerge from the bankruptcy with your unsecured debt completely wiped away, you will have a better chance of making a dent in your student loans. In North Carolina, call the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt to set up your free initial bankruptcy consultation.

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