College education offers opportunities for personal and professional growth, but with tuition on the rise, students are borrowing more and more to ease the financial burden. In fact, the average 2016 graduate holds $37,172 in student debt—up 6% from last year. And according to the Department of Education, the student loan default rate is 11.3%
“Student loans aren’t a huge part of what we do at LAF, but it’s an area that we’re trying to cover more,” says Katie Liss, Senior Attorney in LAF’s Consumer Practice Group. “Given the nature of our work, we’re often putting out fires—stopping foreclosures and wage garnishments, keeping people in their homes—we’re not always able to deal with student loan issues as much as we’d like to. But it impacts millions of Americans, and even more in the future, so we’re trying to find ways to address it.”
“When it comes to cases involving student loans, many of our clients became disabled or faced mental illnesses that prevented them from getting jobs and being able to sustain themselves,” says Katie. Through what’s called a Total Permanent Disability Discharge, she’s helped a number of clients with disabilities discharge their loans. “I can see the weight being lifted off their shoulders.”
For other clients who come to LAF seeking foreclosure defense or help filing bankruptcy, student loans aren’t their primary issue, but they may be a contributing factor affecting their overall livelihood. “We counsel clients in other types of cases to help them get on track to make affordable payments on their student loans,” Katie says. “There are a number of affordable ways to make payments on your loans, like income-based repayment plans, that people just don’t know about.”
“There’s just so much stacked against our clients—we need to stand up for them. We need to try to level the playing field.” Help dedicated attorneys like Katie continue standing up for vulnerable and under-resourced communities by making your tax-deductible donation for 2016 at www.lafchicago.org.