Editor's note: College is expensive. Even before the recession leveled America's economy, the rising cost of education prevented many prospective students from paying their tuition without a help. I spoke to Aurora Meneghello and Serge Bakalian, filmmakers working together on Default, a forthcoming documentary on the private sector of student loans. 

1. How did you both get involved with the project?

Serge Bakalian: Many of our friends and colleagues were burdened by an enormous amount of student loan debt. We wanted to make this film because the information out there about student loans just touches the surface of the problem.

2. How does "Default" address the student loan industry?

Aurora Meneghello: This film shows the borrowers’ stories.

Bakalian: Default is a documentary on the private sector of student loans. With private loans, there are no regulations, no caps, and borrowers can end up borrowing at a really high rate of interest.

DEFAULT - The Student Loan Documentary from Default on Vimeo.

3. How do you break down private vs. federal student loans?

Meneghello: Private lenders must disclose how much money you are borrowing and at what interest rate you must pay it back. Federal loans are exempt from providing those requirements, so many people with federal loans don’t even realize what interest rate they’re borrowing at. Regardless, there is no safety net for people who can’t pay their loans back. If you default, private lenders can add up to 20 percent of your original balance in fees. Federal lenders have even more power: they can garner your wages and take your tax refund. We need a safety net for people who try to pay off their loans, but sometimes it's just not possible. 

4. Why make this documentary now?

Meneghello: Michelle Obama said they were only able to pay back student loans because Barack had a best-selling book. Even the leader of this country struggled with the student loans.

5. What responsibility does the university hold in the web of issues related to student loans?

Meneghello: Why does a financial aid office authorize a 21-year-old student to accrue $80,000 of debt in student loans? Typical recent graduates make about 40,000 dollars a year. When graduates have borrowed upwards of $80,000, how can these young people pay off their loans? Don’t the statistics indicate recent graduates won’t earn enough money to pay off high loans? Where are the ethics of the financial aid offices involved?

Bakalian: Graduates leave college with so much debt. These graduates are not irresponsible people. They pay rent, car insurance, groceries, and their daily expenses. But on top of that, they have huge loans. It’s not just about the relationship between the legislators and the financial institutions. Colleges are also at fault.  

6. There is talk about eliminating the private lending sector. What's your take on that proposition? 

Meneghello: The government isn't trying to eliminate the private lending sector. They are trying to eliminate the Federal Family Education Loan. Students who get the Federal Family Education Loan receive aid from the private lender but the government sets the interest rate. If the borrower can't pay back the money in twenty years, the government will pay the discrepency. The government is trying to reform and replace this type of loan with the Direct Loan program.

7. What is the call to action in "Default"?

Bakalian: We want to properly inform parents and students about student loans before they borrow the money. The people who have the power are those who sign the loan documents. We're also hoping for legislative change.

Meneghello: It’s the best kept secret in the U.S that so many people have student loans. Through the documentary, we need to start a conversation on student loans. 

8. What's your advice for students contemplating what kind of student loans to take out?

Bakalian: Don't take a private student loan. Exhaust the federal system before considering a private loan. It’s not worth it.

Meneghello: It’s important for people to be realistic about expectations of an undergraduate degree. If you look at the numbers, the average profession salary for recent graduates is $40,000. If you borrow $40,000 in student loans, that's just too much debt to take on.

9. Should schools be responsible for teaching young students about financial responsibility?

Bakalian: There's a need for financial education in this country. Maybe as early as elementary school or middle school. Young people are clueless about how money works. That is one aspect of the problem. They don’t understand interest rates and other financial jargon. Students don't want to talk about their finances. It’s a taboo subject in our society. 

10. How does class play into this issue of the student loan industry in the U.S? 

Bakalian: We don’t live in a society where the middle class is supported. Education is a fundamental aspect of bridging class but we're allowing more people to fall to the bottom. It's outrageous that borrowers are burdened with debt for the majority of their productive lives. There is no social mobility when you are burdened with $100,000 debt.

Meneghello: In 2004, nearly two-thirds of graduates from public universities had student loans. More than 40 percent of college graduates blame student loans for why they don’t pursue graduate school. Nearly 72 percent of PhDs who earned their degrees have zero undergraduate student loan debt. When you talk about class, the sooner you borrow, the less likely you are to get a graduate degree and doctoral degree.