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The student loan crisis is center stage once again, with a proposed bill that would offer tuition-free college for most Americans while reducing student loan interest rates. At the same time, the fate of Public Service Loan Forgiveness has come into question, creating alarm among borrowers who are unsure whether they will continue to meet eligibility requirements.

Student loans are a constant source of stress and confusion for many borrowers. Extensive media coverage creates a lot of uncertainty, giving rise to many student loan myths. To make matters worse, loan servicers aren’t required to tell their clients about all repayment options, so many borrowers are simply in the dark when making decisions that affect their financial future.      word cloud with terms relating to student loan myths

To ensure borrowers are clear on what’s fact and fiction, it’s time to address these seven common student loan myths:

Myth: Student loan forgiveness is widely available.

Borrowers who are struggling to make payments often seek “loan forgiveness,” but this option is highly limited:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness is available to borrowers who work full-time for the government or qualifying nonprofit organization, but only after they make 120 qualifying payments.
  • Standard income-driven repayment offers loan forgiveness after 20-25 years of payments.
  • Loan discharge may be granted to borrowers who can’t repay their debt due to permanent disability, death or other qualifying events.

Myth: It’s easy to lower the interest rate.

Student loan interest rates are set when the borrower takes out the loan; loan services do not lower these rates after the fact. However, borrowers may benefit from a Direct Consolidation Loan, which combines multiple federal loans and offers a fixed rate based on the weighted average of individual loans.

Myth: Private loans offer better rates.

Private loans are credit-based, meaning interest rates may end up being higher. These loans may also extend the terms, meaning borrowers will pay more over the life of the loan. Borrowers who refinance to a private loan may also lose government subsidies, including forgiveness options and deferments.

Myth: Loans can be dismissed in bankruptcy.

It’s extremely difficult to obtain student loan discharge — even in bankruptcy. Instead, services place the loans “on hold,” meaning borrowers still have to address the debt, even after bankruptcy.

Myth: I can get away with not paying my debt.

Up to 40 percent of borrowers are late or delinquent on their loans, and many minimize the consequences because “nothing bad has happened yet.” However, student debt is reported to the credit bureaus and negatively impacts delinquent borrowers’ credit scores. And, unlike other debts, negative reporting doesn’t end after seven years. Additionally, the government may elect to start a wage garnishment, set a tax offset or even withhold Social Security to get the money you owe.

Myth: Loans are discharged when a school closes.

While loan discharge may be possible when a borrower’s school shuts down, it’s not a guarantee. Plus, borrowers who receive such a loan discharge  give up the opportunity to transfer any credits from that school.

Myth: It’s hard to qualify for alternative repayment plans.

Loan servicers often place borrowers into the standard 10-year repayment plan automatically, but there are numerous options that may be a better fit for borrowers’ individual circumstances. Many people are pleasantly surprised when they discover the repayment options available to them. Our Student Loan Counseling can help you determine the right repayment plan for your unique circumstances and help dispel persistent student loan myths.

Use our Student Loan Payoff Calculator to estimate how long it will take to pay off your student loans on your current repayment plan.

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