In a recent column on how to keep student-loan debt under control, I made the point that we need to apply out-of-the-box, even radical ideas to tackle spiraling college costs and student-loan debt. Readers quickly sent me their feedback.

-- Limit borrowing. One reader would put more responsibility on lenders rather than borrowers by making private student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. "As soon as lenders realize they might lose the principal on their loans after graduation, they will pull in their horns and make fewer loans." The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators sent me its own recommendations, which include letting institutions set loan limits for certain categories of borrowers and making income-based repayment the automatic default for all borrowers.

-- Let the market rule. Another reader, "Tom," proposes to get tuition under control by severing financial aid from the college application process. As it stands now, he observes, a school gathers all your financial information and knows exactly how much you can afford to pay out of pocket. Tom compares this to walking onto a car lot where there are no prices on the cars. When you ask for a price, you're told, "That depends. How much can you afford to pay each month?" Instead, says Tom, "let the free market determine the price of the school. Students know the price, they secure financial aid on their own, and the money goes to the student, who pays the school."

-- Figure out the payoff. I made the point that families have to figure out how student loans will fit into a postgraduate budget. I heard from Junior Achievement that JA, in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers, has developed "JA Build Your Future," a new app that lets students plug in information about career choices, higher education costs and student loans. Students are given a "return on investment" score that indicates how difficult it would be to pay off student debt based on estimated future income. The free app is available on iTunes and Google Play for both phones and tablets.

-- Get the right skills. Finally, my 25-year-old son added his two cents. Peter is firmly convinced that young people his age can acquire the marketable skills they need to get a job, and pay off their loans, through online sources such as Khan Academy ( On the same theme, I'll let another reader have the last word: "Encourage students to choose not only a career they love but also one that will pay the bills."

(Janet Bodnar is editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and the author of Raising Money Smart Kids (Kaplan, $17.95) and Money Smart Women (Kaplan, $15.95). Follow her on Twitter at Send your questions and comments to And for more on this and similar money topics, visit

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