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How to manage student loan debt

Compact advice in CliffsNotes fashion.
Compact advice in CliffsNotes fashion. (Nwehrkamp)
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But if you don't know the answers to Gobel's questions, go to the National Student Loan Data System at http://www.nslds.ed.gov. This is the U.S. Department of Education's central database for student aid. Gobel walks you though the process of finding information about your individual loans.

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"Brace yourself, because you are going to see how much interest has accrued since the first day you borrowed your first student loan dollar," Gobel cautions.

Don't think Gobel's advice to create a cheat sheet of your loans is trite. I was working with one student who, after finally organizing her loan data, found a forgotten loan that was already in default. She had been getting notices about the loan but said to me: "I just couldn't face the debt." She didn't open the notices.

Forgetting a loan, Gobel writes, is a fairly common problem. People think they are making payments on all their loans only to discover a loan was left out. It even happened to the author.

"If payments had been organized, this never would have happened," she writes.

You'll find what you need in this book from evaluating your debt situation to repayment and consolidation options to paying your student loans off early.

While many professors may discourage students from using CliffsNotes, I assure you this particular guide is a shortcut that will well serve borrowers looking for a concise road map to handling their education loans.

As with all Color of Money Book Club selections, I'll be hosting a live online chat about the book with the author. This one will be at noon Eastern on June 17 at http://washingtonpost.com/discussions. By the way, I would be interested in hearing how many of you are handling heavy student loan debt.

The online chat is a way for book club members to meet virtually and talk, ask questions or just vent. Every month, I randomly select readers who will receive a copy of the featured book, donated by the publisher. For a chance to win Gobel's book, e-mail colorofmoney@washpost.com with your name and address.

Readers can write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

Comments and questions are welcome, but because of the volume of mail, personal responses are not always possible. Please note that comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.


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