Congress should allow institutions to mandate counseling throughout the life of a student loan says a report from TG Research and Analytics Services.

Currently, federal law allows for counseling to be required only at the start and finish of a loan, but the group said institutions can see which students are more likely to be in danger of default through their continuing borrowing habits and academic performance.

The group also called for the counseling to begin in high schools with the help of federal grants.

“Federal student loan guidance at the high school level could help ensure that more at-risk students are better prepared for the financial challenges of higher education,” the report said.

In another recommendation, they said students should begin receiving counseling when they fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

The standard procedure to begin counseling only after they decide to enroll at an institution that has offered them a financial aid package could be too late in the game for students to discover their most affordable college financing option, the group cautioned.

“A student who enrolled at a community college to avoid debt might have preferred to start at a four-year institution if he had known that income-driven repayment was available. A freshman at a private college might wish that she had chosen a public university on seeing her projected cumulative borrowing and standard monthly payment relative to income,” according to a report by TG Research and Analytic Services on which the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators collaborated.

The group contended many problems students have in paying off college loans may be more from their lack of knowledge on how the lending operates rather than the student loan system itself.

The administrators added additional counseling is needed so students borrow responsibly, know their payment options and successfully pay off their education debt.