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August 30, 2013 11:53 AM The Department of Education Really Needs to Hype the Good Student Loan Programs it Runs

By Daniel Luzer

And we wonder why students have such trouble understanding the rules for student loans.

A common criticism of college financial aid programs is that students get into trouble with student loans because they don’t understand the rules for those loans. There are many, many programs available to keep loans manageable and even forgive some loans. “There’s zero reason for anybody to default on a student loan,” said Paul Combe, the President and CEO of American Student Assistance, one of America’s largest student loan guarantors. “There are enough remedies in this program to save anybody.”

And yet students often don’t hear about these services.

Even, apparently, if they’re listening to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Duncan is an enthusiastic user of new media. He recently wrote a fun piece for BuzzFeed outlining nine things every college student needs to know.

Items include “Beer Is Not A Major Food Group,” “Consider Becoming A Teacher” and “Keep An Open Mind And Make New Friends.” He also mentioned that “Student Loans Will Need To Be Repaid.”

He did not, however, let students know that a really, really important factor in addressing that last point might be the programs the Department of Education has available to help students pay those loans. He didn’t mention the existence of the Income Based Repayment or Pay As Your Earn programs, which allow graduates to service their loans based on their incomes and exist specifically to keep debt manageable, or any of the loan forgiveness programs available.

When Huffington Post education journalists asked why Duncan didn’t mention the programs, Cameron Brenchley, director of digital strategy for the Education Department, responded: “Always next time - particularly around graduation!”

This came one day after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau bemoaned the fact that college graduates failed to take advantage of loan forgives and repayment options “because the programs are overly complicated and often confusing,” according to the Huffington Post.

Yes, there is “always next time,” but let’s not wait around until graduation to publicize this one. These are some of the most promising programs the Department of Education has available to heavily indebted students. Mention these things early and often.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

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