Say This, Not That

Student Loan Nightmare

Dear Ilana and Jess: My son Mark has just graduated from college. He has a six-month grace period to keep his loans in deferment. Once that’s done, we have no plan. Help! - Vanessa

Dear Vanessa: As you well know, higher education isn’t free, and that diploma comes with a hefty price tag. In July 2018, Forbes magazine called American student loan debt a, “1.5 trillion-dollar crisis.” So now, Mark not only needs to secure a job, but an income that allows him to put a drop in that huge bucket. How do you begin to tackle this literal crisis?

First, make a list. Mark needs to get the names of all the places that have given him loans; whether it’s the government or a private company. Have him make a spreadsheet so he can keep track of his interest rates for each, individual loan.

Next, reach out to government or private loan agencies. Every company has a CEO or person in charge. Reach out to them. Maybe Mark is in a situation in which he cannot pay back his loans, even after the grace period. If there are extenuating circumstances, Mark should write a letter to the person in charge of the loan servicing agency and explain what’s going on. He should honest and open about his circumstances; you may be surprised by how understanding people can be.

Advocate for yourself. A lot of people don’t realize the range of loan repayment options available to them. Mark should be direct when communicating with loan servicers. If he needs an extension on the deferment period, he should ask for it directly. He may not get it, but he may learn about other repayment options that will help him get on his feet before those large payments become due. Just because one person says “no,” doesn’t mean everyone will. Mark should be tenacious in his approach and keep trying.

Most importantly, Mark should proactively seek gainful employment. This is the longest-term solution. (For more on that, see our column from 1/16 “Giving Your Resume an Edge” and stay tuned for next week’s column on making the job search successful!)

Say This: “(Loan Officer), I’m newly graduated and have been unable to get a job that pays enough money to afford my required monthly loan payments. I’m reaching out to seek any assistance you might be able to offer and to explore my repayment options.”

Not That: “Let’s just hope it works out.”

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit:


More like Say This, Not That