Each spring as students graduate, then again in the fall as others matriculate, the subject of student loans and educational debt rears its head, and the finger pointing starts. So, just who is responsible for the challenges posed by what some consider out-of-control student loan borrowing?
First: Congress and the Department of Education are responsible.
Despite what one assumes are good intentions, they should look at student loans from the borrower's perspective, as the amount of student-loan debt is easily dwarfed by its complexity. The Department of Education is now responsible for originating all federal student loans, but their responsibility goes well beyond just making the loan. They should spend more time on the back end effectively training those individuals who work on the servicing side with borrowers in repayment.
Second: Schools are responsible. They are required to provide counseling to their borrowers with federal student loans, yet many use online tools with more text than a James Michener novel that often just doesn't cut it. However, with often limited resources, school financial aid professionals are challenged to provide students with the individual counseling they need.
Third: Loan providers are responsible. While no longer originating federal student loans, lenders offering private student loans should take the new consumer protections to heart and provide schools and their borrowers with common sense information about private loans. What are they afraid of, an educated borrower? It's good business, and it's the right thing to do.
Fourth: Families, significant others, partners - we are all responsible. Whether through actual financial support or simply by providing a reality check before borrowing gets out of control, we can all help.
Finally, students are responsible. These are student loans.
Students sign the promissory note and thus ultimately assume all the rights and responsibilities associated with what most still consider a wise long-term investment. Students are smart, that's how they got in school. They should use some smarts educating themselves on how their loans work.
Responsible borrowing is a shared responsibility. Here's hoping each party is up to the task.