Student Loans

College students at commencement ceremony

We have 10 fact sheets and resources to help students and parents understand student loans, identify other ways to pay for college, and manage student debt.     


Going to college means going into debt for a majority of American college students and the total amount of student loan debt now exceeds 1 trillion dollars. Students have a choice of Direct Loans from the U.S. Department of Education or other lenders. When making the choice, students should keep in mind that federal …

Credit Card Fees and Traps

Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

There are two types of credit card fees: those that are charged to all borrowers to use a credit card or specific card features (e.g., annual fees and transaction fees for cash advances and balance transfers) and those that have been established to discourage, and indeed profit from, certain consumer behaviors (e.g., late fees and over-the-limit fees). Both types of fees increase the cost of borrowing money. Some credit cards with relatively …

How Much Consumer Debt is Too Much?

Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

The term “consumer debt” refers to all types of non-mortgage debt obligations. Examples include outstanding balances on credit cards, installment loans for cars and other “big ticket” items (e.g., furniture and appliances), and student loans. For every person with outstanding consumer debt, there comes a point, called “enough,” where carrying too much debt starts to cause financial stress. Even minimum required payments become difficult to make or perhaps some payments get skipped …

Dealing With Collection Agencies

Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

Outstanding credit accounts often go to collection agencies when people fail to pay their creditors. One of the most stressful parts of being in debt is receiving phone calls and letters from collection agencies requesting immediate repayment of outstanding balances. It is typical for calls and letters to become more aggressive and threatening over time. The term “collection agency” describes a variety of business models that have one thing in common: recovering …

Danger Signals of Excessive Debt

Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

According to Webster’s Dictionary, debt is defined as “the state of owing.” Most commonly, the word debt is used in reference to money that is owed to various creditors as in the case of debt incurred through loans and credit cards. How do you know when you have taken on too much debt? Take the following quiz to determine whether you are using credit wisely or getting in over your head.

father and child

Circle …

Cultural Differences in Handling Credit

Cultural Differences in Handling Credit

Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

When it comes to decisions about borrowing money and handling credit, the culture of a family, community, and country can have a major influence upon an individual’s behavior. What people are taught to believe about borrowing money and the use of credit can affect their financial decisions and debt payment practices for the rest of their lives. This is especially true when strong family role models or …

Credit Scores: What You Need to Know

Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

If credit reports are like receiving a “report card” in school, credit scores are similar to a grade point average. They are a three-digit number, ranging from 300 (lowest) to 850 (highest), used to measure the risk that borrowers will become delinquent or default on their debt obligations. Credit scores are based upon information contained within credit reports. Thus, consumers will likely have different credit scores from each of the three major …

What You Need to Know About Your Credit Report

Man looking at his credit report

Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

Remember those report cards that told you (and your parents!) how you were doing in school? Maybe you thought those days were over, but they’re not. Every day, millions of people are “graded” with credit reports. The better your “grade,” the better your chances of obtaining a loan or credit card and obtaining lower-cost credit that can save thousands of dollars of interest. Credit information is also used in setting rates for …

Credit Card Rules for Young Adults

Credit Card Rules for Young Adults

Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

teen with packages

There was a time, up until February 22, 2010, when college students and other young adults under age 21 were “easy targets” for credit card offers. In exchange for inexpensive freebies, such as T-shirts, pizza, hats, and highlighters, young adults were actively (and often aggressively!) sought after to sign up for credit cards. “Plastic for pizza” (or some other incentive) was widely practiced. Not anymore.

As …

The Pros and Cons of Secured Credit Cards

calculator

Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

Secured credit cards are a good way to establish credit if you have no credit history or a history of prior credit problems (e.g., late payments, charged-off accounts, and bankruptcy). Secured credit cards are backed by money that cardholders deposit with the credit card issuer. In other words, the amount deposited serves as collateral (security) for the credit card limit in the event that a borrower misses payments. In this case, money …