For families that have used the federal Direct PLUS Loans, or are considering the loan, experts offer advice about how to navigate the process and make decisions appropriate for their specific case.

Lodriguez Murray, vice president of public policy and government affairs for the United Negro College Fund:

  • “Make sure you and your children are industrious about pursuing opportunities that are not loans before the student goes to school, including applying for other scholarship programs.”
  • “If you have to use this tool to finance the education of the student, you are encouraged to have a conversation with the financial aid department at the institution and the counselor that you are offered to understand the terms of the agreement in advance”

Rachel Fishman, deputy director for research with the Education Policy Program at New America.

  • The only safety mechanism for this loan for low-income families is to consolidate the parent plus loan and get income-contingent payment
  • Know that you can’t transfer the loan to students, it’s not a co-signing. You’re taking full responsibility for this debt.
  • Be aware of how much you’re borrowing and ask, ‘What are your repayment options?’
  • Ask whether or not you can handle that burden, especially approaching retirement. Don’t assume you can repay the loan just because you get approved. The federal government can’t make that determination and it is not allowed to.

Colleen Campbell, director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress:

  • Talking to your loan servicer is very important. They have gotten a bad reputation over the last couple of years, but they’re really the only ones who can help you manage your loans. That is really important because otherwise, you’re not going to get help.

Going to community college and transferring to a four-year college is a way to reduce costs. It is worthwhile if you know your goal institution is accepting of transfer students – that you are basically guaranteed that your credits are going to transfer