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Only about 30 percent of students use helpful loan plan

Two weeks ago, we wrote a post about the struggles of students to repay their loan debt, and how the issue is only growing. Rising college costs and a tough economy combine to make a recent graduate’s post-college life a difficult one; and some financial analysts are worried that a student loan “bubble” is billowing.

Some politicians are hoping to change this by passing new rules that help students with their loan debt. But there is an active loan program that could help many students avoid the crippling debt many of their peers deal with — and yet relatively few people use it.

It’s called an income-based repayment plan (or IBR for short). As the name implies, the loan is more realistic in terms of your monthly payments because it is based on your income. But in addition, an IBR can result in some of your unpaid debt being eliminated after a certain amount of years (usually 10, 20 or 25 years). Every case is a little different, and there are certainly some thresholds that need to be met in order to earn this debt discharge; but it’s possible with an IBR.

It’s especially important when you consider that discharging student debt through bankrtupcy is notoriously difficult to achieve. Extreme undue hardship must be proven by the filer in order to have their student debt discharged.

An IBR is a tremendous loan opportunity that helps students establishe themselves without being crushed under a mountain of debt — so why do so few people use it?

According to a study, only 3 out of every 10 students use an IBR; while many other people who would likely benefit from an IBR use different loans instead. A couple of issues include a lack of promotion for IBRs, and a complicated application process: but the government recently addressed both issues, and the hope is that more IBR users will move through the pipeline soon.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, “The U.S. Has a Really Helpful Student Loan Repayment Program — and No One’s Using It,” Karen Weise, Aug. 7, 2013

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