Many students enter school with the hopes of bettering themselves and earning more income. A recent announcement by Sallie Mae that they'll no longer make loans to subprime borrowers may throw a wrench in the goals of many students, particularly those with bad credit.

Throw a pebble into a pond, and you'll see gentle ripples expand in concentric circles. The subprime lending crisis has been the equivalent of throwing a cinder block into that pond. It's sent out a tidal wave of trouble, and student loans are the latest financial product to get hit.

Sallie Mae, the nation's number one lender for college students, recently announced it will no longer make private education loans to students who are subprime borrowers. "Subprime" is classified as a person who's a high credit risk, and either made late payments on a credit card or loan, or carries too much debt.

Private loans to feel the most impact

For-profit education institutions, such as culinary schools, design academies, and trade schools, will feel the brunt of Sallie Mae's announcement. These institutions rely heavily on subprime borrowers for their enrollment.

The impact will not be as profound at non-profit colleges and universities. These types of institutions benefit from a higher number of grants and government financial aid. Nevertheless, with private loans making up nearly a quarter of all education loans, the ripple effect will likely occur.

Adapting to a new financial order

Just like the real estate and mortgage lending industry has adapted to new market conditions, educational institutions are likely to do the same. Many have already begun exploring ways to self-fund their own private loans, a prospect that may even add revenue, provided that they don't make the same mistakes as the home lending sector.

How can private educational institutions avoid the same problems that are currently plaguing lenders like Sallie Mae? First and foremost, they should be careful to follow solid lending fundamentals. The lending institutions that have suffered losses are the ones that have extended loans to people with horrendous credit. By tightening lending guidelines, lenders can steer clear of student loan defaults.

Student adaptation

How will subprime students fare in this new financial order? Undoubtedly, it will be a struggle. Students will have to do more research to find a lender that will work with them. But with private educational institutions beginning to provide their own loans, they actually stand a better chance of getting a loan at a reasonable rate, rather than being raked over the coals by unscrupulous lenders.

Ultimately, cleaning up the student loan pool is a task that must be shared by both lenders and students. Tighter guidelines will prevent future defaults. For students, sound money management will help them raise their credit scores. Hopefully, these changes will allow students not only to qualify for better loans, but also give them access to a better life.

Published on June 24, 2010