A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting consumer lawyer Randall P. Ryder, a real gem of trustworthy advice for those facing a student loan debt crisis.
When Ryder graduated from law school he planned to help everyday people stand up to abusive debt collectors and navigate related lawsuits. What he didn’t expect was the role student loan debt would play in the financial troubles of many clients.
Today much of Ryder’s time is spent helping clients untangle a hodgepodge of student loans, understand their consumer rights, and review repayment options. He often advocates on behalf of clients to negotiate a reasonable (if not reduced) repayment plan. When all else fails, Ryder defends his clients in court.
Clients range from recent graduates who are overwhelmed (and surprised) by their debt commitments, to adult students whose second career dreams have become student loan nightmares, to co-signers left holding unplanned debt after the student they supported failed to find that great job – or simply skipped town. Whatever the issue, Ryder has seen it before – and knows where to start.
His advice for prospective students and their families: (1) Student loans are a legal contract - understand your commitment before you sign. (2) Minimize student debt whenever possible, but when you must take loans track your total debt. And for friends and family members, (3) avoid co-signing loans. They can affect your creditworthiness until paid in full – by the student or by you, no matter how long it takes.
One more thing: In the event your loans go into default, Ryder highly recommends consulting with an attorney. Many defaulted loans are placed with a debt collector. Spoiler alert: debt collectors are not always fully aware of all the options and rights for the loan and curing default. An experienced attorney can keep your best interests front and center.