Tuesday, March 4, 2008

College Loans bound to get tighter

Hi Everyone!
Attention all parents and students with college private or government loans: things are changing rapidly, and it is not good. The mortgage mess has been bundled with some student loans, and none of it could be sold at a recent auction, meaning that banks now have less money to loan students. This could spell disaster for some, so please contact your university's financial aid officer immediately so that you know where you stand...and do it now.

Here's the problem: without more cash, some major lenders are getting out of the loan business, even refusing to carry guaranteed student loans. Credit is getting tighter, and it will be harder to get money even from those costly private lenders. Get your FICO score up, because you are going to need a good 689 or better for lending. Students without credit will need a co-signer with a good FICO score.

Now here is where Suze Orman and I differ; I think it's fine to co-sign for your student because the loan they carry will have a lower interest rate than the loan you would get as parents, and the loan payments start 6 months after graduation for your son or daughter. The key is making sure that they understand that they are responsible for that loan, period. You know your child. If you think they aren't capable of that kind of trust, tell them to ask a relative you aren't too crazy about to be the co-signer, and see what happens. What Suze may not be seeing in this equation right now is that there could be thousands of young people who may not be able to attend college, or attend where they would like to because of this debacle.

So here is Falcon's latest rant: there is corruption spread throughout the industry, and it's terrible what is happening to our economy. Let me summarize. Greedy selfish originators wrote predatory loans to unsuspecting clients without sufficient income to support their 2/28 scam loans (who would have been fine in a classic FHA loan), and hoped that housing values would increase enough so that those caught in the trap would at least be able to sell their homes for a profit, or refinance their loan before the balloon came up (yeah, a balloon the size of a zepplin).

But here's the result: the housing bubble broke, and people in homes in neighborhoods historically red-lined for decades found themselves sitting on homes that had been appraised probably close to true market value, but would never get that in their neighborhoods. Home values began to fall like a rock and lendees found themselves 'upside down'. No sense in being in a home that has negative equity that you can't afford, so the slide begins...en masse.

Loans made by those who bundled student loans with other products like mortgages suddenly find themselves very unwanted. No sales at auction, no money to do new loans. Private lender credit terms will tighten, and their rates are likely to increase, as if it wasn't bad enough.

Oh, and one more thing about corrupt: many universities had 'relationships' with some private lenders, steering students away from government loans to private loans that are more expensive, and can raise rates and are largely unregulated. Some of those loans have also been descripbed as predatory. Greed created the crisis, and the price may be the quality of life and education of the American family. These loans are impossible to discharge, not even in bankrupsy.

PHEAA in Pennsylvania is no longer doing lending after March 7. They will service loans, but not issue new ones. Students and their families who thought that they would be able to get grants and loans through this agency may be very surprised. Grants, yes. Loans...er...um, no.
This is happening all over the country and the letters are going out to families now.

What can you do?
Well, if this is the first year you will have a child in college, I seriously suggest you take a look at your credit report (which you should do regularly anyway), your child's credit should be checked (to make sure no one is using their name and information fraudulently), and get ready to dig deep. Your home equity may be an education source to keep the loans away from your child, but banks are tightening up on that, too. Start now, so that you and your student will know where you stand.

Community colleges and for-profit schools may feel the burn first, because they depend more on private lenders. So , instead of looking at local community colleges to save money, look at small, private universities with Rolling Admission; they are usually very well funded and have lots of merit scholarship money to offer your brilliant son or daughter.

Outside scholarships are always around, and if your son or daughter is in eighth grade or higher, I suggest that they register on: www.fastweb.com. This is a free scholarship search website with around $22 billion dollars in scholarships listed. Register and get going! The more scholarships you earn sooner, the less loan money you will need. Here's the list:

Outside Merit Scholarships first

University merit scholarships

Local Organization Scholarships (local Rotary, clubs, businesses, etc.)

Athletic Grant-in-Aid (NCAA or NAIA athletics)

Grants-state and federal

Guaranteed federal student loans

Last resort: Private student loans

Students: Update your resume, do some commmunity work if you can, and get used to writing essays. This is no longer an option; scholarships are a must and the earlier you start, the better it will be for you and your family. This is your future; do it.

Alright, Falcon's rant is done, for today. We will talk more about this I am sure. Don't panic...call the admissions rep at your student's school, or financial aid officer, look at scholarships (even if you are already at a university), and make a Plan B.

Keep the faith.
Falcon and Dove

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