Thousands of students this year unexpectedly had to stay at home, transfer to a less expensive school, or find new money after the U.S. Department of Education quietly changed how it evaluated the credit of parents applying for a federal PLUS loan, reports the Associated Press. The greater scrutiny affected families and schools everywhere, but historically black colleges were hit particularly hard, because so many of their students come from low-income families dependent on PLUS loans. In recent years, as many as a third of all black college graduates had used PLUS loans, a proportion twice as high as the rate for all schools, according to one estimate. The Education Department said the changes were made as part of an effort to more closely align government lending programs with industry standards and decrease default rates. Before the changes, the loan program looked at whether an applicant had an adverse credit history for an account in the past 90 days. Now, the program looks for delinquent accounts during the last five years. While many colleges worried about the denials, others said the changes prevented lower-income families from being saddled with debt they can’t afford…

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