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Ask Dave

A Rough Hill To Climb

Between his student loan debt and not yet finishing medical school, Patrick has one of the most difficult situations that Dave has faced.

QUESTION: Patrick has $250,000 in medical student loan debt. He can't get any more financial aid and goes to school in the Caribbean. He's 30 years old with an 18-month-old son. His wife left him and he can't get further funding, even with a co-signer. He has no idea of what to do. Dave has some sad news for him.

ANSWER: I don't either know what you're going to do either, other than transfer to a cheaper med school. All I can think of is that you are not going to finish med school, and you'll get a job and feed yourself and feed your child. That debt is going to sit there and you are going to get into a new career. If your parents co-sign for loans with you, then they won't be able to pay them either and you'll both be bankrupt. Start to negotiate with the private loans you have and work toward a career where you can.

I think there are some other issues going on for you. You'll have to emotionally accept the fact that this deal is done for a while. If you can't pay on the debt, you will come stateside and get a job and developing a life. You'll spend the next period of time getting a job that pays well and digging out of this. Five years from today, your situation will look completely different. You can either address the issue or file bankruptcy. The debt doesn't go away; that's what co-signing does to your parents. When you file, it will go straight to them. If they can't pay the bill, and you can't, you are both bankrupt.

We don't know how this will work, but it's unacceptable to throw your parents to the wolves. There will be a lot of negotiation and work for the next 12 months. It's not yet time to wave the white flag.