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

Phase 3: Explore Deferred Payment Options
If you or your child isn't working, look to defer student loan repayments until gainful employment is obtained. Deferment or forbearance options will give you (or your child) a little breathing room by either changing the terms of the original student loan agreement, or letting you delay making payments for a fixed period of time. Be aware, however, that the longer you defer payments, the more interest charges you'll rack up.

"If your children don't have jobs lined up right after graduation, requesting a six-month deferment on their student loans will help buy a little extra time and save your credit score in the process," says Ryan. "You can contact your loan servicers for information on how to do this."

Tip: Sallie Mae, the nation's largest student lender, offers deferments for more than a dozen scenarios, including unemployment, the birth of a new child, volunteering at a nonprofit agency and extreme economic hardship.

Tackling large student loan debts can seem burdensome at first. But with the right strategies and some persistence, you and your family can wipe out these debts.

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach®, is a personal finance expert, television and radio personality, and a regular contributor to AARP. You can follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Also of interest: Become debt-free this year. »

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