As student debt grows, consumer groups warn of debt-relief scams

Published: Saturday, June 22 2013 4:44 p.m. MDT

The federal government has made efforts to address the student loan crisis by offering repayment assistance plans such as Income-Based Repayment plan and Pay as You Earn. However, there are still many groups of borrowers stranded without help.

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Student loan debt has grown from $550 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007 to almost $1 trillion in the same quarter this year, according to a congressional report released this month.

As MSN Money points out, two-thirds of recent college graduates finish their undergraduate degrees with $27,000 in loan debt, roughly 60 percent of their estimated annual earnings.

To combat these extensive debt rates, many students — and their parents — have turned to debt-relief firms for help. Many of these relief firms are taking in up to $1.600 in unnecessary fees, a report issued Wednesday discovered. The National Consumer Law Center, which conducted the study, warns that while many of these programs are not illegal, they are nonetheless misleading.

"At a minimum, it is deceptive that most of the companies fail to prominently disclose that ‘their’ programs are actually federal government programs that an individual can access on her own at no cost," the report states.

As NBC News pointed out this week, federal law allows student loan borrowers various ways to reduce the burdens of student-related debt. But even with all the options provided by the government, the study suggests, getting help is often difficult.

“Government programs are unnecessarily complex and borrowers too often confront an impenetrable bureaucracy that prevents them from accessing their rights,” the report said. “To compound these problems, there are few reliable resources borrowers can turn to if they need help.”

JJ Feinauer is a graduate of Southern Virginia University and an intern for the Moneywise page on DeseretNews.com. Email: jfeinauer@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: @jjfeinauer.

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