Loan forgiveness plans give college grads a headache

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Imagine enrolling in college and taking on tens of thousands in dollars in debt to pay for it, planning to pay off the debt with a job as a teacher, participating in one of the numerous programs that offer loan forgiveness to people who work in low-paying, high-karma jobs for a few years. Then you graduate and find out that the program you were planning on no longer exists or, worse, you get a job and work hard and then get a letter saying that you won't receive as much loan forgiveness as you had originally been led to believe.

That's exactly the situation that student debtors across the country are finding themselves in as state budget cuts reduce funds available for paying off loans. The New York Timesreports that "From Kentucky to Iowa to California, loan forgiveness programs are on the chopping block. Typically founded by their states to help students pay for college, the state agencies and nonprofit organizations that make student loans and sponsor these programs are getting less money from the federal government and are having difficulty raising money elsewhere as a result of the financial crisis."

It's a sad situation that will leave graduates with difficulty paying off loans and may also hurt the supply of badly-needed teachers with strong math and science skills.

But if you or your child is in college now -- or is planning to enter college soon -- the lesson is this: Never, ever, ever take out loans based on the hope that the United States government will help you pay them off if you take a job in a certain field. These programs are highly fungible, and can be quickly eliminated in times of economic turmoil. The only sure way to avoid student loan problems is to avoid student loans.
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