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I Went to Law School and Can’t Afford My Loans

Written by Steve Rhode


Dear Steve,

I decided to attend law school at 40 because it was a dream I always had, when I graduated in 2009 there were no legal jobs and my loans kept garnering interest. I landed a new job in 2015 but my loans went into default, now they are taking $600 per check, I can’t afford to live, I got divorced last year and am looking for a way out.

What would you do at my age?



Dear Tom,

I’d invent a time machine and go back to the moment before you applied for law school.

But seriously, it really depends if these loans are private of federal. Update me in the comments below and I can provide more advice.


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

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About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.


  • I’m in the same situation, 900/month garnished. Federal loans. Collection agency want 18% fee (on total of loans) to get into a rehabilitation loan. So looking forward to the advice Steve may have.

    • Well without a doubt the best way to avoid such a situation is to get into a rehab within 60 days of default, that would be about 320 days delinquent. This will avoid the 18% collection fee that gets tacked on and added to the loan balance. Once that happens the inflated balance is yours. Once more than 60 days past default you may be subject to an administrative wage garnishment and tax refund intercept. You can avoid the intercept by making sure you are not owed a tax refund. You can adjust your withholding in your check to avoid the refund.

      But based on your income, you can get into a rehab while your wages are being garnished for as little as $5 extra per month. After about five months the garnishment will stop. Once the loan is rehabilitated you go back to a good status with the Department of Education and you’ll be eligible for your choice of consolidating your student loans and a permanent lower payment repayment plan. If you’ve been struggling I’d suggest you take a good hard look at the Income Based Repayment (IBR) program.


      • Steve, I’d like some clarification on this advice. A while ago I wrote to you about my veterinary school debt and that I decided to strategically default, which does affect my credit–though, thankfully,most landlords have been sympathetic about school debt and have still rented to me–but ends up costing me less per month than paying what the required fee would be if I were in good standing. Still, you advised me to go through the rehab process. But you know who holds my federal loans now? Navient! And do you know who my state’s (Washington) Attorney General is suing for unethical/illegal practices? That’s right–you wrote about it recently, in fact: Navient. So I don’t understand why you are still encouraging people to go into rehab with a company that is being sued for not applying payments correctly, sending people back into default, stealing their money in many cases, etc. If my that is the only alternative to my current garnishment, and it could potentially do me MORE financial harm, I simply don’t understand why anyone in their right mind would make that decision. Please explain!

        • Navient has issues, without a doubt. But not dealing with your debt through a government recognized program like Rehab can leave you terribly exposed to exploding balances, tax refund intercepts, administrative wage garnishments, and Social Security garministment.

          Keeping a sharp eye on the performance of Navient may unfortunately be required but that is a small price to pay to avoid more alarming actions that could be taken against you and impact your life long into retirement.

          Interestingly, part of the actions against Navient was their failure to advise debtors of all their options to bring their loans current.

          The suit you mention by the State of Washington is not out of line with my recommendations. Washington State said, “The lawsuit accuses Navient of improperly steering financially distressed federal loan borrowers into short-term forbearances, rather than assisting borrowers in applying for income-driven repayment programs where appropriate.” –

          Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the anger and frustration, but I would hate to see these debts explode in the future when you can least afford it when there is a solution you can engage in now to bring your loan back into good standing and minimize the financial impact and future liability.

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