A mere $600 stood between Christian Fair, 20, and his future this semester, when the U.S. Department of Education denied his parents a loan to help pay for his tuition and textbooks.
The federal Parent PLUS loan program allows parents of undergraduate students to help pay for their children's college.
While qualifying for those loans already required a credit check, the DOE in 2011 unexpectedly tightened its underwriting terms to include charge-offs and medical bill collections, rendering thousands of parents ineligible.
"To me it ($600) was a big amount because my parents and I couldn't afford it," said Fair, a computer science student at Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina. "I really thought I was not going to go through my sophomore year."