Should you guarantee a student loan, asks my good friend Doug Jacobs. His is the cool, reasoned analysis. I want to jump up and down and say DON”T DO IT.
It pains me to say that. My undergraduate education was funded in part with modest student loans. I believe education is the key to much that is personally positive and societally important. I applaud the public policy that is willing to make college more widely affordable.
Student loans have taken on a malevolent quality over the past years. Loans are made apparently without any counseling about the consequences of getting a four year degree at an expensive private school in art history. (That was one of my early cases: $100,000 in loans for a skill set that allowed my client to earn $21,000 a year). Since student loans aren’t dischargeable, they have the potential to blight the life of a student who borrows too much, never uses the skills acquired, or who finds the economics of the profession changed between school and career.
The new private student loans bear interest rates akin to credit cards, according to a recent story in the New York Times. The Times blog rounded up more on student loans.
Then there’s the issue of timing: parents guaranteeing the loans of their children face having student loans hanging over them as they approach retirement. The student defers payment on the loan, keeping the parents exposed to the debt. It entwines the two generations financially long after the student is an adult. Retirement budgets seldom have available dollars to pay off student loans.
My advice is to approach parental guarantees of student loans with the same caution you use when confronted with a coiled rattlesnake.