Debt do’s and don’ts

The time has come. After years of bettering yourself academically, you can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Basking in that light is the long awaited glory of graduation. The pomp and circumstance beckons you, but as you inch closer to that moment, you catch a fleeting glance of what lies beyond it.

Student loans. They’re waiting.

A few years ago, you welcomed them into your life so eagerly. You were bright-eyed, bushy tailed, wet behind the ears, and the appeal of receiving a fat stack of sweet, sweet Benjamins via direct deposit was just too much to resist. So you pulled the trigger. You welcomed those loans into your life with open arms. Every three months, 10 days before the first class of a new term, you watched your bank account and waited for subsidized Santa to come down the chimney and bestow upon you a sexy swath of federal cash.

You were going to pay it back, after all. You were going to graduate, get that slick new gig that promised to render coffer-filling paychecks and you were going to attack those loans every month—slowly and steadily—like a debt-felling Paul Bunyan.

However, there is a solid chance that you are just a few feet south of scared shitless and have questions about how you’re going to address your debt. Time to study up.

Do: Pay your debt.

I know what you may be thinking. “David, do I seem like some kind of idiot to you?” The answer is no. You’ve set yourself apart by pursuing and completing a higher education degree, and that’s worth something. But, in fairness, an average of 3,000 people in the United States default on their student loans every day, and a lot of them have degrees, too, so don’t sass me. This brings us to the next point.

Don’t: Default on your loans.

How do you default on your loans, and what happens if you do? When you miss your first payment, your loans become delinquent and you have 270 days to become current on the past-due balance or make other arrangements—more on those later—before your loans go into default. When they default, a veritable wave of unsavory things happen. Your credit score suffers drastically, you become ineligible for student loans in the future, and you lose out on the option to pursue various methods of debt relief. If you’re thinking “Debt relief? Why didn’t you start with the fucking debt relief?”, calm yourself. All in good time.

Do: Ask for help.

The grueling reality of student debt is not foreign to the world around you, and the world around you has, in turn, done a decent job of offering pathways to getting the help you need. So swallow your pride and investigate your options: You can reschedule your payments, apply for student loan forgiveness and pursue various other means of getting that sweet financial relief.

Don’t: Forget to utilize Portland State resources

You likely paid good money to attend this university. Lots and lots—and lots—of good money. So make sure to get every penny’s worth and visit the Student Financial Services website. You will find helpful tools like the Federal Student Aid loan repayment estimator, a handful of articles that outline the reality of student debt better than I could ever hope to and contact information for people who can educate you about the path that lies ahead and—if you ask nicely—might even let you cry it out for bit.