TOWN OF BROOKFIELD - The weight of
student loans weighs heavily on Americans - $1.2
trillion worth of heavy. In fact, some millennials are
delaying marriage and home ownership until their loans
become less burdensome and some Generation X parents are
still repaying debt as their children get ready to go
off to college. For college dropouts and students who
borrowed to attend for-profit colleges, the risk of
defaulting is a real concern.
Attorney Laurie Bigsby with Horizons Law Group
wants to help clients navigate the different options available
to handle student debt - and for those facing litigation
regarding unpaid loans, she wants to help them find a way to
Bigsby recently joined Horizons Law Group to
focus on student loan defense, a new practice for the firm.
“My clients are working-class people who sought a
good education, and often took out multiple loans to pay for
it,” she said in a statement. “They don’t know where to turn
when loans go into default and threatening, abusive calls from
collectors begin. My student loan mitigation practice creates
room to renegotiate payment plans, and sometimes dismiss the
debt outright if fraud or illegal practices are discovered.”
In addition to former students who are grappling
with loan debt, Bigsby said she also often meets with parents or
other family members who were co-signers for the loan and are
looking for help.
Bigsby has more than two decades of experience in
bankruptcy cases and said the student loan debt is the next
Horizons Law Group owner Michelle Fitzgerald
agrees, so she brought Bigsby on board to help clients with this
specific and growing need.
She said often students leave college with “a
massive debt burden and often without degrees that allow them to
pay for the loans.”
In fact, incomes have fallen.
For people with college degrees but no graduate
school education, incomes, after accounting for inflation, have
declined, reducing their ability to repay their loans. For a
23-to-29-year-old with a college degree, median income in 2013
was $41,000. That figure has plunged $5,000 in current dollars
since 2000, according to Georgetown University’s Center on
Education and the Workforce. The drop reflects a trend dating to
1970 of stagnant income for the college-educated with no
graduate degree - evidence that the supply of these workers has
roughly matched employer demand.
When a person is in trouble with student loan
debt, there are resources, Bigsby said.
“They need to look into options with student
loans versus ignoring them,” she said.
Bigsby said she can help clients consolidate
loans, get out of default and help them navigate through the
options. Even just having one session with Bigsby might help
point a client in the right direction to getting the situation
resolved, she said.
“I want to help them go down the right path,” she
A typical member of the class of 2013 graduated
owing $27,300, according to the College Board. This figure has
risen $5,000 in current dollars since 2000, a 22 percent jump.
College grads who go straight into master’s programs often owe a
combined $70,000 by the time they leave. Debt averaged $41,400
for a master’s degree, $71,600 for a research doctorate and
$128,600 for a professional doctorate in medicine or law,
according to exclusive Education Department data analyzed for
The Associated Press.
In 2013, college-educated heads of households
under age 40 owed $4,850 in annual student loan payments, the
Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances shows. The figure
has shot up by $1,090 since 2001 after adjusting for inflation.
Contributing: The Associated Press