By Amy M. DePillis, USA TODAY The US is facing its worst period of student debt crisis since the Great Depression.
The federal government has been forced to borrow more than $2 trillion, and its share of the national debt has more than doubled.
A new survey from the Pew Research Center found that about half of students now have debt at some point in their lives, and a quarter say they are headed toward bankruptcy.
These student debt numbers are not a surprise, as many borrowers are still in school.
But some students are not in school and are being forced to repay the loans with a little help from their families.
The Pew survey also found that students are struggling to find financial assistance for their educations.
About one-third of borrowers reported they had no savings, and nearly a third of borrowers had debts that were at least $30,000.
Some students may be able to find jobs to pay the loans, but others may not be able.
Here are some tips for dealing with your students as they face the mounting costs of college.
• Ask your student loan servicer about their options to reduce the amount of interest they pay.
They may be willing to help reduce their loan payments.
For instance, some lenders may offer repayment plans that give them up to 25% interest reduction on loans made up to $50,000 for a few years.
• Be patient.
Student loan repayment rates have historically been slower than they are now, so students should keep paying their loan interest over the years.
If your student is having trouble paying down their loan, ask them to put down a payment.
• Take care of yourself.
Many lenders require students to keep their homes in good repair and they often charge a monthly fee to cover the cost of maintaining those homes.
Make sure your student knows how much they owe and how much maintenance is required.
• Don’t be afraid to take on debt.
While it’s tempting to try to cover your student loans yourself, that may not work out well.
Even if your student pays off their student loans, the government will be footing the bill.
A good first step is to call a loan servier and let them know you want to take out a loan modification.
This may allow your student to save some money or reduce the interest they are paying on their loan.
A modification allows you to make payments on the loan at lower interest rates than when it was originally issued.
In addition, the loan will be paid off over time, reducing the interest rate you would pay on the original loan.
The modification can help your student avoid defaulting on their loans.
• Work out a repayment plan.
A student loan modification can be a valuable option to help your child save money on their education.
You may want to talk to your loan servister about an interest-free repayment plan that would help your family pay down their student loan debt, or you may find a discount plan that offers a reduced monthly payment.
Some of these plans are listed on the Federal Reserve’s website.
• Contact your lender.
A borrower with student loan debts may not realize the full financial burden they are putting on themselves, especially if they have a job to support their student debt.
Contact your lenders to make sure they are aware of their student borrowing needs.
This could include paying down your student debt before you start working, making payments on your loans and making sure you are paying off the remaining balance in full each month.
It is important to keep in mind that your student’s loans are not always the biggest debt.
Student loans that you have not paid off will not affect your eligibility for financial aid.
For example, you could still qualify for aid if your child is enrolled in a college that offers loan repayment options.
Also, if you have a disability, you can still be eligible for aid based on your disability and your income.
If you have any questions about your student aid, call your federal loan servuer.
• Stay current.
The student loan market is expected to grow at a slower rate than in the past two decades, and the rate of growth will be slower than the rate in the 1990s.
Some schools are trying to attract students who have been struggling to pay off their loans and are looking for ways to keep them from defaulting.
In the meantime, the Department of Education will continue to work to ensure that students who need help paying off their federal student loans are getting it.
For more information about student loan, visit the Department’s Student Loan Information Center.
You can also get free federal loan information by calling 800-527-3255.
Follow Amy M DePellis on Twitter @amyndeillis.