Many people who go to college can’t afford to pay for their studies outright, and so they take out student loans to cover their education expenses. If you’re planning to borrow money for college, it’s imperative that you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into -- and that means not buying into the following student loan myths.
1. You can dump your loans by filing for bankruptcy
Many people who take out student loans assume that if their payments become too much to manage, they can just unload that debt by filing for bankruptcy. But not so fast -- the overwhelming majority of the time, student debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
First of all, for the option to even be on the table, you need to qualify for Chapter 7, which is a personal liquidation. Not everyone who pursues bankruptcy qualifies for Chapter 7, and if you don't, your next best option is Chapter 11, which isn't a liquidation, but rather, a reorganization of your debts. As such, you don't actually unload any of your outstanding financial obligations under Chapter 11; rather, you pay them off over time under a court-ordered plan.
But even if you do qualify for Chapter 7, to have your student debt wiped out you'll need to prove that you have no chance of maintaining a reasonable standard of living if you were to continue paying off your loans, and that you're never going to have the financial means to make your lender whole. That's really hard to do, especially if you have the physical ability to hold down a job, which is why bankruptcy generally isn't considered a solution for those who have student debt.
2. You can get on an income-based repayment plan if you can’t swing your monthly payments
You may have heard that if your monthly student loan payments become too much to handle, you can lower them by getting on an income-driven repayment plan, which will recalculate your payments based on a reasonable percentage of your earnings. While that’s true for people who take out federal loans, it may be harder to pull off if you borrow privately for college.
Though private lenders will often negotiate with borrowers who struggle to keep up with their payments, official income-driven repayment programs don’t exist in the world of private loans. As such, you’re really at the mercy of your lender as to whether you get a break.
3. Your credit score doesn’t matter when it comes to student loans
If your credit score is poor and you’re only planning to take out federal loans for college, you’re in luck -- that number won’t come into play when you apply to borrow that money. But if you’re planning to take out private loans for college, you absolutely need decent credit to qualify.
If your credit is poor, a few things could happen: You may be denied loans altogether, or you may get stuck with a really high interest rate on the money you borrow. A third possibility is that you may be forced to find a cosigner to get approved for private loans, and if you don’t have a parent or close relative with great credit who’s willing to do that for you, that could prove problematic.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding student loans, and if you make the mistake of buying into it, you could get hurt financially. Before you apply to borrow money for college, read up on the process and requirements. Just as importantly, make sure you fully understand the terms of any loans you ultimately take out so you don’t wind up struggling with them after the fact.