Student loans have come to represent a potential debt crisis of their own, as graduates with ever-more-costly degrees enter a workforce with high unemployment and pinched wages.

-For student borrowers and their families, the Project on Student Debt has a site with research reports on the issue, along with practical consumer information and links to loan-forgiveness programs, including the newer "pay as you earn" plan. The site is part of the nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success, funded by the Ford Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other charities.

-On the Project on Student Debt's page of state-by-state data, click a state on the U.S. map to see the average debt of a 2011 graduate and other facts for the state and each of its colleges and universities. The national average was $26,600.

-StudentDebtCrisis, another nonprofit, is advocating student-debt forgiveness. Its site features a 27-minute film, labeled as "a documentary dedicated to an indebted generation." The group, with the help of social media, is lobbying for legislation to forgive student loans. Almost 90 percent of U.S. student debt -estimated here at $864 billion of $1 trillion in total student loans outstanding - is backed by the federal government.

-Loan repayment is the subject of this site with the U.S. Department of Education. It begins with the statement, "Remember, federal student loans are real loans and must be repaid." There's a link on the "serious consequences" of a loan default. Borrowers can find out the general rules for being in touch with loan servicers, resolving disputes, and navigating the daunting maze of loan consolidation, deferment, and forgiveness plans.

-Read depressing stories about college debt. Business Insider posted this collection of comments by borrowers struggling - and failing - to keep up on student-loan debts of $60,000, $80,000 and $100,000.

-Consider avoiding high college debt in the first place, advises this post at the Kiplinger financial-information site. "Trouble is, many 18-year-olds are dazzled by the prospect of football weekends, frat parties and beer and don't realize what they're getting into," and parents won't say no. Strategies for reducing costs, in a list here, include being "straight with your kids," starting at a community college, and picking a marketable major.

(c)2013 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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