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Student loan debts are costing professionals more than money

Student loan debt has become a national problem. The rising cost of education makes it difficult to graduate with a four-year degree without a mound of debt. For those who have gone on to even higher education and pursued professional degrees, the debt from their student loans can easily become insurmountable.

All told, 44 million people in the United States owe a total of $1.5 trillion in student loans. Of those loans, $8.5 million are in default. That's alarming news since defaulting on one's student loans can lead to painful consequences. A borrower may see his or her tax refunds withheld, have any wages garnished, be subject to calls from collectors and -- in 15 states -- lose his or her professional license. California is one of those states.

In many cases, students who default only find out that their professional licenses are suspended or revoked after it happens. This can have devastating effects on their careers and personal lives -- effects that are actually counterproductive when it comes to making it possible for students to repay.

For example, one teacher in Texas who was struggling financially discovered his teaching license was suspended only after it cost him the dream job he could have used to afford payments. Borrowing heavily and skipping other bills to regain his license, he eventually ended up evicted and in bankruptcy court.

While it's fundamentally irrational to take away the tools a debtor needs in order to earn a living so that he or she can actually repay his or her debts, that's the system many debtors are living under. If you find yourself in this situation, it's important to take a proactive approach to your situation. There are often exemptions and deferments available -- if you know what to ask.

If you're worried that your financial situation is going to cost you your professional license, it may be wise to find out what legal options you have regarding your loans. Don't give up without a fight on something you worked so hard to achieve.

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