Getting a higher education in the U.S. is expensive. The rising cost of tuition almost everywhere you look has most students looking toward student loans to help them afford undergraduate and graduate degrees.
According to a survey that polled data during 2019, as much as 69% percent of college students took out loans to afford their education. The average debt they graduated with was about $30,000. This is significant to the individual, but consider that the total student loan debt among 44.7 million borrowers in the U.S. sits at a gargantuan $1.71 trillion.
Student loan debt is significant whether you’re looking at the macro or micro scale – especially if you’re one of those millions of borrows. You may be additionally concerned about your student loan debt if you’re seeking employment with the federal government and need a security clearance.
Why Is Debt a Problem with Security Clearance Jobs?
There are a number of jobs in the federal government that require security clearances, especially those directly involved with the Department of Defense. Security clearances are necessary because they demonstrate that someone has been fully vetted and can be trusted to review and receive confidential or classified materials.
A big part of the vetting process is investigating what the applicant’s financial outlook looks like – but why does this matter? From the federal government’s perspective, it’s about risk management. If someone has bad credit or a ton of debt, they could be manipulated into revealing what they know if someone offers the right price.
Will Student Debt Impact My Security Clearance?
Not all debt is the same, and the total amount of debt you owe may not matter as much as you think, either.
Think about it: If nearly 45 million Americans have some kind of student debt, at least some of them are bound to be employed by the federal government. Also, take into account the possibility that many may also have mortgages and car payments on top of their student debt.
Not all debt is seen the same by the federal government, and what ends up mattering most is your debt-to-credit ratio. If after examining your finances it’s apparent that you’re able to make the payments you need to make and have a good history of doing so, then you probably won’t get as much scrutiny as you think you will because you owe tens of thousands of dollars (or more) in student debt.
That said, make sure you stay current on your student loan payments (as well as your other debts) and pay on time. Doing so can protect your security clearance application from unnecessary scrutiny and even rejection.
If you need assistance with any legal matter concerning your security clearance or debt, reach out to our attorneys at Claery & Hammond, LLP for help.