Quick question: You are not making ends meet on your salary. You have a mortgage and student loans with roughly equal monthly payments. Which do you stop paying, even just for a little while?

If you chose student loan payments — “Well, they can take away my house, but they can’t take away my diploma!” — you may want to think again.

No, “they” can’t take away your diploma, but they can take away your professional license. And when “they” are the state government, no court appearance may be necessary. One day you are caring for patients as a registered nurse, and the next day you are out of work because you missed a few student loan payments.

That happened to 42 nurses in Tennessee a few years ago, and it could happen here in Illinois, too. We are another state that can revoke the professional license of a person who is delinquent or in default on student loans. Nurses, doctors, teachers, lawyers, barbers, therapists — the professions that require extra training or advanced degrees could lose their jobs or be denied employment in 22 states, according to workers’ rights advocates at Jobs with Justice.

Nearly 14 percent of borrowers defaulted on their student loans last year. Men and women who borrow to get through college graduate with, on average, $33,000 in student loan debt. If they go on to medical school, they will have to cough up more than that to cover tuition for one year. (The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates med school tuition can be as high as $55,000 per year.)

Considering all of this, would you choose to default on your mortgage instead?

OK, it’s a trick question. There are serious consequences for defaulting on your mortgage, too. If you find yourself thinking hard about this, though, or know someone who is in this tight of a spot, it may be time to contact an attorney.

Source: Mainstreet, “Falling Behind On Your Student Loan Debt Can Get You Fired,” Eric Reed, March 10, 2015