Four Loan Tips

Times are tough for lenders and borrowers. These tips can ease some of the pain.

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Times are tough for lenders and borrowers. These tips can ease some of the pain:

Apply early. A growing number of lenders are mulling over leaving the student loan business, so counselors are advising families to line up a lender by early July. To find one, try the Education Finance Council, or use Web tools such as the one at usnews.com/payingforcollege.

Stick with the federal loans, if possible. Students who limit their borrowing to Stafford and Perkins loans won't graduate with burdensome debt loads and won't see their bills jump if interest rates rise. These loans might also be forgiven for those who take a public-service job.

Read the fine print. The Federal Reserve's slashing of interest rates makes many private educational loans seem low. But payments will increase when interest rates rise again, as they inevitably will.

Be realistic. Before borrowing big bucks to train for fairly low-paid careers such as social work, teaching, or cooking, compare the average salary with your total education loan payments. If what's left isn't enough to live on, try cheaper schools that would require less borrowing.