In today’s tight economy, many recent college graduates are having a hard time making payments on their school loans.

According to the Institute for Higher Education Policy, more than 40 percent of borrowers either are delinquent or have defaulted. That number is more than 50 percent for graduates of for-profit schools and two-year public colleges. Only 37 percent of all graduates are up-to-date on their payments.

There are ways to avoid getting into trouble with school loans, according to Nancy Capoziello, senior associate director of student financial services at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York: If you’re still in school, don’t borrow more than you need. Think twice about getting loans from third parties such as banks, which charge higher interest rates; instead, look for outside scholarships. And know what you owe. The National Student Loan Data System ( tracks dates, amounts and lenders.

“Also, read all the mail you get from lenders,” Capoziello advises. “Make sure the information is accurate.”

Pay up, or …

Student loans don’t get discharged if you declare bankruptcy; you’ll still owe the money. Possible consequences of not paying your loans include:

»Your wages can be garnished or your tax refund withheld.
» If your loan is turned over to a collection agency, you’ll be liable for not only the balance and interest, but court costs and collection fees.
» Your credit score will go down, making it difficult to get a mortgage.

Follow Judy Weightman on Twitter at @JudyWEdu.

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