Needy U.S. borrowers are defaulting on almost $1 billion in federal student loans earmarked for the poor, leaving schools such as Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania, with little choice except to sue their graduates.
The record defaults on federal Perkins loans may jeopardize the prospects of current students since they are part of a revolving fund that colleges give to students who show extraordinary financial hardship.
Yale, Penn and George Washington University have all sued former students over nonpayment, court records show. While no one tracks the number of lawsuits, students defaulted on $964 million in Perkins loans in the year ended June 2011, 20 percent more than five years earlier, government data show. Unlike most student loans -- distributed and collected by the federal government -- Perkins loans are administered by colleges, which use repayment money to lend to other poor students.
"If you borrow to go to school, it may not be just the government that ends up coming after you if you can't pay," said Deanne Loonin, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy group in Boston. "We offer credit very easily." If the student doesn't benefit financially from the education, "the government or the school comes after them very aggressively."