College is expensive. Some students can’t afford a degree without a mixture of scholarships, grants and federal or private loans. The U.S. News & World Report found that 34 percent of undergraduate students signed for loans in the 2011 – 2012 academic year, which is a 4 percent increase from the 2008 – 2009 year.

Now, thousands of students are opting not to attend at all. The U.S. Department of Education’s structural changes to the PLUS Loan program are increasing college costs for families. Now there are tougher eligibility requirements to qualify for the PLUS Loan. Some of these include:

  • No adverse credit history where a debt is more than 90 days late.
  • No Title IV debt in default.
  • No chapter seven, eleven or 12 bankruptcy in the five years before applying.
  • No wage garnishments in the five years before applying.
  • No repossession in the five years before applying.

The Associated Press reports that these increased standards are an “effort to more closely align government lending programs with industry standards and decrease default rates.”

The department’s decision has impacted thousands of families, especially at HBCUs where low-income students are dependent on the PLUS loan to afford tuition and fees. The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, a group that represents HBCUs, told the Associated Press that more than 14,000 students were denied PLUS loans in the fall 2012 semester.

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