Should you take out a student loan to pay off credit card debt?

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An undergraduate friend recently shared his financial woes with me. He's about $8 thousand in credit card debt and has fallen behind on his payments. His parents have suggested that he take out a student loan and use it to pay off the debt over a longer period of time at a lower interest rate.

In theory, this makes sense. Paying a lower interest rate is always nice, and replacing delinquent revolving debt with a loan will help out his FICO score. To make this an even more lopsided decision, interest on student loans is often tax deductible.

Even so, I don't think consolidating the debt with a student loan is the right move, even if it's a good idea on paper.

The problem is that people who consolidate delinquent credit card debt and find themselves once again able to rack up big balances tend to do just that. Instead of being $8 thousand in debt, they up $16 thousand in debt. $8 thousand seems like a lot of money but if he spends the summer working 60 hours per week at $9 per hour, he'll earn $540 per week. If he scrimps and saves, he'll be able to make a big dent in the credit card debt. Of course he could consolidate it and do the same thing, but I somehow doubt that that would end up happening.

Taking out a student loans seems like a cop out to me, and a way to avoid dealing with the actual problem: owing a lot of money. Eventually my friend, who I hope is not reading this, will have to grow up and take responsibility for his financial life. A student loan in the situation is essentially a shovel to dig a deeper hole, unless there's a real change in behavior accompanying it. But if he was really committed to turning the situation around, he could work a ton of hours and spend less money.

As for the tax benefits, a student loan in this context does not appear to be tax deductible, as the IRS states that the loan can only be deducted if used for the "total costs of attending an eligible educational institution," which include "tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, and equipment, and other necessary expenses (such as transportation)."

I don't see anything in there about paying off credit card racked up buying clothing, cigarettes, and pizza. Of course you could probably deduct it and nothing would happen, but it's not kosher.

Unless he's ready to make serious changes in his life, taking out a student loan is a terrible idea. He should be looking to fix the problem, not thinking up creative ways to prolong it.
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