Student loan debt remains a stress-inducing burden for many college students, recent grads and their families. In the wake of rising tuition costs, growing national student debt figures and a weak economy that’s made it tough for grads to find decent jobs, there is no quick solution to the student debt problem.
In 2013, credit unions can and will embrace their role in chipping away at the problem. This includes offering low-cost private student loans to fill the gaps that remain after borrowers exhaust federal student loan options, providing educational resources to help students learn how to pay for college, and, unlike some other lenders, make borrowers’ best interests a top priority.
Now that President Obama has won a second term, we can expect to see student loan reform efforts continue to take place in the White House. A new law, effective in 2014, said new borrowers will spend no more than 10% of their disposable income on federal student loan repayments, any remaining debt will be forgiven for borrowers after 20 years, and borrowers who work in public service professions will have any remaining debt forgiven after 10 years if they make their payments on time.
This is good news for students who plan to stick to federal student loans in covering their education costs, but funding gaps will still remain for many, and that’s where credit unions come in. Next year, more credit unions will likely enter the private student loan market as they realize that the benefits of offering private student loans outweigh the drawbacks.
While student loans can be a risky line of business and don’t promise much in returns, they provide an opportunity to connect and build relationships with young members. Credit unions entering the market for the first time will likely simplify the process by offering student loans through a third party vendor. This will be a wise decision given that regulations over the private student lending market are expected to increase or become more complicated. Credit unions that are already players in the private student loan market will begin to expand their programs to stand out from their competition by adding loan consolidation offerings, for example.
The bottom-line benefits may not be huge, but private student loans can help keep credit unions focused on what matters most: the financial well-being of their members.