Loan sharks taking advantage of massive student debt


October 19, 2017 - 12:00 AM

The worst reason not to pursue a higher education is because of its impending costs.
Ideally, a promising career — made possible only by advanced studies — will, sooner than later, pay for the initial investment of college and set one on a path full of rewards.
The increasingly high cost of college, however, is pushing that scenario farther and farther out of reach for many.
In the last 30 years, the cost of a college education, adjusted for inflation, has increased by two-and-a-half times, which would be OK if today’s wages were commensurate. Since 1973, however, middle class wages have risen by only 9 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Result No. 1: two-thirds of students borrow money to attend college. Of those, one in 10 are behind on their repayments.
Result No. 2: Total student debt is $1.4 trillion and a real drain on the U.S. economy, diverting funds that otherwise would be spent on cars, mortgages and yes, family life.
One reason a college education is so much more expensive is because states have cut back on their funding. In the last 10 years, Kansas funding for colleges and universities has dropped by almost 20 percent.
In Kansas, average student loan debt is $25,500.
But even with this dismal scenario, the answer is not to forego college simply because more and more of tomorrow’s jobs will require the additional education. And it’s not to be lost that the earning power of a college degree is still strong. On average, those with a bachelor’s degree earn almost $20,000 more a year than those with a high school diploma. An associates degree earns an additional $10,000 a year over a high school degree.
ONE WAY to ensure college is a good deal is to make student loan repayment less burdensome — and safe.
Loan sharks are increasingly taking advantage of the more than 40 million Americans who have student loans.
Their ploy is to market themselves as government or education entities that will help students consolidate and pay back their loans in short order.
The catch is not only an upfront fee — which legitimate institutions don’t charge — but also monthly fees in the neighborhood of $40 — for no services. Yes, thievery, to the tune of $95 million.
In Kansas, a lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court has been filed against Brelvis Consulting doing business as The Student Loan Help Center for unethical practices concerning student debt relief services.
To help combat the scams, “Operation Game of Loans” has been organized by a consortium of 11 state attorneys general, including Kansas’s Derek Schmidt, and the Federal Trade Commission.

IF THE FUTURE of our country depends on an educated workforce — and it does —  then we must do more to see that a college  education is affordable and that those willing to take out loans for such a pursuit are not brought to their knees by overwhelming student debt and crooks.

— Susan Lynn

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