How one man recovered from student loan disaster -- and you can, too

It's the bitter little pill stewing in the subconscious of every brilliant writer here at Money College: No matter how many fascinating pieces we write about how to save money and soft-shoe smart with fall's best buys for dance clogs, or how to catapult yourself through a master's program in a year with zero debt by working nights and weekends as a breath odor evaluator (nope, didn't make that one up), a huge number of students will completely screw up their finances anyway.

Take my debt. (And, in the spirit of the great Henny Youngman: No, really. Take my debt -- please!) A few months ago, I wrote a piece about the wake-up call -- and subsequent scores of collection calls -- I received after graduating from a private university last May. Statistics show that I'm not alone, either: according to recent data obtained by the Chronicle of Higher Education, one in five federal student loans that entered repayment in 1995 have gone into default by now, a much higher number than anyone thought.

So what's a student to do when -- like me -- they've already borrowed too much, and their post-graduation income doesn't begin to cover the bills coming in from all sides?