I need to quickly secure a student loan, and it looks far more complicated and dangerous than it should be. LATimes: Student loans turn into crushing burden for unwary borrowers:
…Hickey knew she would need loans to complete her degree, so she went to the campus financial aid office as a freshman. After she filled out paperwork, Brooks Institute set her up in a loan program administered by Sallie Mae, the nation’s biggest student lender.
Sallie Mae was chartered by the federal government in 1972, and most of its business is in issuing federally insured student loans. But while it may appear to be a quasi-government agency, it is in fact a for-profit company whose stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange.
Hickey ended up with $20,000 in low-interest federally guaranteed loans issued by Sallie Mae, and $120,000 in higher-interest private loans issued by Sallie Mae.
Hickey said no one explained the difference to her.
“The financial aid officer just said that my federal loans weren’t enough to pay the tuition, but that was OK because they had these great alternative loans,” Hickey said. “They made it sound so good that I didn’t ask that many questions.”
Tim Halsey, vice president of finance for Brooks Institute, declined to discuss Hickey’s case directly, citing federal privacy laws. But he said the school’s financial aid officers take great pains to explain the differences between loans and to guide students to the best deals.
“It is really to our advantage to get the loans and interest rates as low as possible,” Halsey said.
“My motivation is to get that person to come to the school, if that’s what they want to do. If I can get those costs as low as possible, it benefits us both.”
Discussion at Kevin Drum’s blog.
This loan mess is made even scarier by the fact that college costs are rising faster than income. According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, college tuition and fees, adjusted for inflation, rose 439 percent from 1982 to 2007. Median family income rose 147 percent during the same period.