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Tackling Student Loan Debt

Keep your credit and your children's intact by getting college loans under control

Phase 1: Look to Consolidate Loans So They're More Manageable
"Government consolidation loans allow you to bundle all of your federal student loans into one monthly payment, often providing you with a lower interest rate than the average weighted rate of your existing loans," says Ryan. "As an added perk, consolidation may even lower your monthly loan payments."

Tip: For those with federal student loans, find out about your loan consolidation options by calling the Direct Loan Origination Center's Consolidation Department at 800-557-7392. Also, here are some frequently asked questions and answers about student loan consolidation.

Phase 2: Help Your Child Learn Personal Responsibility
Ryan and other experts agree that it's the student — not the parent — who needs to pay off loans that were taken for their education.
"If they are not employed full time, encourage them to consider temporary work to not only build on their résumés and augment their skills, but also to earn a paycheck," Ryan says of adult children.

Tip: If your son or daughter is still engaged in a lengthy or expensive program of study, such as law school or medical school, have him or her explore alternative methods of financing his or her education, such as scholarships, grants, paid internships and work study programs. FinAid.org is a good website to explore for money to pay for college. 

Next: Look at deferment options. »

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