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Choosing a Type of Student Loan

Whatever the reason, millions of students rely on student loans to pay for some or all of college. In total, two out of three leave college with student debt. The average: A sobering $22,700 per graduate. (At least they have a degree to show for it; half the students who enter college never graduate, though many are still on the hook for student debt.)

Often, it takes these newly minted graduates one to three decades to pay it off. Given how much, and how long, the commitment is, it pays to know what you’re getting–and whether it’s the best deal going–before you sign any loan papers.

There are important distinctions between federal and private student loans, but they have one thing in common: neither is likely to be forgiven if you have to file for bankruptcy, making them lasting financial commitments. Unless, of course, you pay them off.

Before you take out a loan, throw aside the cliché that “college always pays” and ask yourself some tough questions. Will salaries in your desired field of study allow you repay the loan?

Put away the rose-colored glasses too. While every law student dreams of making $175,000 as a first-year associate, the reality is that very few earn those eye-popping salaries. Let a large salary be a pleasant surprise, rather than a requirement to pay off debt. ... More

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