DEAR HARRY: I graduated from one of our lesser-known local colleges in 2011. At that time, I had loans of almost $30,000. I borrowed my tuition from my father's bank. While I had a job, the repayments were stiff but manageable. Since my employer's cutbacks last year, I haven't been able to keep up. The bank said that it would report me as being in default unless I catch up by Dec. 31. I always thought that these loans were protected from such labels and threats. Now, I know that the rules are different for federal student loans. I tried to switch my loans, but I couldn't do it. Is there some way out?

WHAT HARRY SAYS: None that I'm aware of. Federal student loans are a different story, as you have noted. With those, borrowers can arrange for lower payments, longer terms or even no payments until they are back on their feet. Other student loans offer no such protections against reporting a default. When Congress passed the protective provisions, it failed to extend them to bank borrowers. It has not acted since then to grant private borrowers the same protections. The provisions for reporting defaults can really give you a heavy hit. They affect your credit score and credit reports, which hurts your ability to get credit.