Attending College as a Non-Traditional Student

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home-office-599475_640Femme Frugality writes about money as it pertains to young adults, brides, parents, Pittsburghers, and, of course, college students. You can read her blog here.

Recently Michelle shared that W was returning to school, and asked for some tips for non-traditional students. I recently graduated, and now my fiance is going to college for the first time.

We’re about as non-traditional as it gets, both being far beyond “traditional” college age, and having children. So I’ve got a plethora of tips that have been helping us get through this stage in our lives. And Michelle was kind enough to let me share them in a post.

Work as Little As Possible

I know that sounds crazy. As a non-traditional student, you’ve got very grown-up bills to pay. But trust me. If you’re serious about your degree, trimming down your work schedule will help not just your grades, but your overall mental health. I am not suggesting you go into debt in order to go back to school. (Both my fiance and I are doing this without any loans.)

What I am suggesting is that you sit down and look at your monthly budget. Look at your bills, how much you’ll need to be contributing to your emergency fund, how much you’ll need for other essentials such as gas and groceries, and a realistic entertainment category (though it might not be a bad idea to trim it down a little bit if you can).

Figure out the lowest number you’re willing to commit to (be realistic about this) for your overall monthly budget.

Now, figure out the minimum number of hours you’d have to work in order to meet that number. The next step is having a conversation with your boss about lowering the amount of hours you are working every week as you return back to school.

I was really lucky when I decided to go back to school. I was able to not work at all. Granted, part of that was because I was having a child at the beginning of my return to my education, and daycare costs would have been more than my working salary at the time.

My fiance supported me through the completion of my degree, and for that I am so thankful. But I did things to contribute to our combined coffers, too. And it’s something you can do if you don’t have someone there to help you out with the bills:

Apply for Scholarships

I know this sounds obvious. But so many people don’t apply because they think they won’t qualify. Or they won’t be able to write a perfect essay. Or a million other reasons. Just do it.

Start with the scholarships at your school and branch out from there. (I wouldn’t necessarily apply at sites such as FastWeb….your odds are so low when there’s so many people competing.)

When you’re applying, first look for any scholarships you can get your hands on; they all cover tuition. But once you have your tuition fully-funded, look for scholarships that cover tuition and other educational costs. With these, your school with cut you a check for every penny that’s paid above and beyond your tuition.

For example, if your tuition is $5,000/semester and you get $6,000 funded via scholarships, the school would cut you a check for $1,000 that semester. That $1,000 (or however much over you earn in scholarships) can then be used for things like books, rent, groceries, etc. Depending on how much you earn you may find that you’re able to stop working and focus completely on school, too.

Get Involved Without Over-Committing

A great way to kick-start your career is to be involved in a fraternity, national club, or some other scholarly organization pertaining to your field. Doing so can also increase your networking power when you’re looking for a job after graduation. So join. Something. Get involved. But be incredibly aware of your constraints.

Are you working? Then don’t promise to volunteer as a full-time “job.” Do you have kids? Then don’t say you can serve as club president when the weekly meetings are held when you need to be getting the kids off the bus.

Make a Schedule

Scheduling is so incredibly important. Make sure you schedule for things like

  • class
  • work
  • study hours
  • socializing/relaxation
  • school organizations

If you’re in a relationship, have kids, or other people that depend on you, there’s even more you have to schedule for, and it’s incredibly important:

  • date nights
  • time to talk and catch up with each other
  • time to spend with your kids/whoever else may depend on you

The task can seem daunting. It can even be tempting to eliminate things on that list. But remember, you’re in this for about four years. Can you really go four years without socializing? Maybe. But you’d probably be hating life. Can you skip the talks with the girlfriend? Probably. But only if you’re trying to kill your relationship. And the studying? It’s necessary if you want to be any kind of good in the the field you’re entering. Schedule purposefully, and live life accordingly.

Spread It Out

If you’ve done the fall semester full-time and it’s just way too stressful or your grades are suffering, instead of giving up try going half-time in spring. Then you can go half-time in summer, too, and not be behind on your classes.

Most of the classes offered in summer are general electives that a lot of people need to take, so keep that in mind. If you’re receiving financial aid such as a Pell Grant or state aid, if you go half-time you’re only awarded half of your grant.

The other half that you qualify for can be applied to the summer semester and completely cover it the same as if you had gone full-time in the spring. So you’re not losing any money. At least that’s how it worked at my school.

Double-check with your financial aid office. And if you’re concerned about not having a summer break, don’t worry. Most schools have a 3-4 week break between Spring and Summer semesters, and then another 2-4 week break between Summer and Fall.

Think Ahead

If you’re going to do something like an internship at the end of your course of study, think about that now. How will that work out with work? If you have kids, how will childcare work?

Talk with your boss about it early so that they know to expect it and you all have time to work out a viable solution to give you the time you need to complete that internship (without bidding your current employer a premature adieu.) Give yourself years to figure out the whole childcare debacle instead of just weeks or months.

You Will Be Stressed.

And that’s okay. That’s normal.

That’s why scheduling things such as socialization, relaxation, and date nights are important. If you’re in a relationship with someone who is going back to school, it’s going to change your status quo. There will be stress, and stress usually leads to fights.

You will most likely fight. But that doesn’t mean that your relationship is crap. It means you’re stressed out, and you both need to find ways to cope better. Which is why scheduling time to talk and connect is so important.

Going back to school as an adult who isn’t fresh out of high school comes with a complex set of challenges.

Family responsibilities, work responsibilities, and just general grown-up bills and concerns can weigh you down. But don’t let them hold you back. Those few stressful years are so worth it. And you can hold your head a little higher than those younger kids when you walk at commencement, because you know that you had to work a little harder to hold that degree in your hand. But you didit.

What tips do you have for someone going back to college as an adult? How was your experience?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Should I Ruin My Retirement By Helping My Child Through College?

Should I Ruin My Retirement By Helping My Child Through College?

Should I Ruin My Retirement By Helping My Child Through College?Today’s topic will probably be a touchy one and it’s all about whether or not parents should start (or end) saving for children’s college expenses. Ever since I paid off my $38,000 worth of student loans last year, I have received many e-mails from parents who are interested in seeking help for their children.

These e-mails are all related to whether or not parents should risk or sometimes even ruin their retirement by helping their child pay for college.

There is usually one common theme in these e-mails – the parents are usually not on track for retirement, they have debt, or they cannot afford to help their child in college.

Here are some of the stories I have heard in these emails:

  • The parents have over $100,000 in student loans that they took out in THEIR name so their child could go to school. These parents are not on track for retirement and they have a lot of other debt besides student loans.
  • Their child is in medical school and the parents are paying for all of their college expenses plus food, car, rent, etc. These parents are not on track for retirement and they have debt.
  • Their child is in law school and the child said that if his/her parents don’t continue paying for their expenses, that they would hate their parents. This child was even more mad when the parents printed out every single blog post of mine and gave it to them (I did not tell their parents to do that, it was entirely their idea). The child said I was ruining his/her life (yup, that actually happened). These parents are not on track for retirement and they are afraid of losing their child now as well.

I know I’m not a parent.

I’m not a parenting or child expert either.

I know I don’t know what it is like to have a child and the feelings that go along with that. However, I do know that I raised my younger sister after my father passed away and her attending college did make me want to help her so that she wouldn’t have to worry about money as much.

The other day I was talking to my sister and she was bringing up different ways she could possibly side hustle so that she could make extra money. It sort of made me feel bad, and for a moment I thought about helping her financially. Luckily, she snapped me out of it and told “You’ve helped me enough already. Do not worry.”

Her saying that really made me happy. I actually had tears in my eyes!

Instead of just giving her money, I helped her with her budget, I have supported her, I helped her find side hustles so that she could make extra money, I helped her make a plan, and more.

I know all of these other things I am doing have shaped her into an awesome young lady. Yes, she has to learn things the hard way but in the end she will be just fine.

Quick note: If you are looking for information on college funding, I recommend attending the webinar 6 Steps To Quickly Secure Scholarships For College. Jocelyn Paonita Pearson, Founder of The Scholarship System, secured over $125,000 in scholarships and funding by following this system!

Alarming information about student loans.

According to the Federal Education Budget Project, around $100 billion was borrowed by students in fiscal 2014 alone. Also, the default rate on student loan debt averages around 13% to 14%. 90% of student loans in recent years are co-signed by others (mostly parents), and that is a big burden falling on parents.

That’s a lot of debt, and that’s a lot of debt that isn’t being paid for. If you are a parent cosigning on student loan debt, I hope you understand the consequences that can come from it.

Should parents help their children go to college?

Okay, before anyone thinks this is a post bashing all parents who help their children, I should say that I have no problem with parents helping their children pay to go to college. However, that’s AS LONG AS THE PARENTS CAN AFFORD IT.

I have plenty of friends who went to college where a lot of it was paid for by their parents. These parents could afford it, and that is key. If you are on track for retirement, you are not struggling, and so on, and you want to help your children attend college, then by all means go for it.

I also have plenty of friends who went to college where everything was paid for yet their parents clearly could not afford it. Some of these parents took on a second or even a third job so that their child could go to school. They racked up credit card debt and student loan debt as well. Some of these students never paid a cent towards their student loans and their parents were forced to in the end. They risked their retirements, their happiness and more. While I understand that these parents care for their children, they need to realize they are putting their retirements at risk.

Like Shannah said above in the tweet, you can take out loans for student loans, but you can’t for retirement.

When we have children, as long as we are on track for retirement then we will most likely help our children attend and afford college.

I know that my story is not the average story, but I went to college with no help at all. I paid for all three of my degrees on my own, lived on my own, worked full-time, paid for all of my food, and more, all starting just days after I turned 18 and graduated from high school.

It was tough, but I do think it is possible.

For other students, it may take longer to graduate, or it may take less, they may take on more debt, or they may take on less. Everyone’s story is different, but it does not mean it is not possible.

One great story I recently read was How I Graduated College With $100k… in Savings on Budgets Are Sexy. Many say my story is impossible, but just wait until you read this great story. You will be amazed at how awesome Will is! I’m jealous but I know he worked hard for his accomplishments.

How can parents help but not risk their retirement?

Instead of risking your retirement, you can do other things to help your child go to college. Below are some of my tips if you have children who are about to attend college:

You don’t need to help in every way possible. For some reason, there is this myth out there that helping your child go to college means you need to pay for everything for them. Instead of paying for their tuition, textbooks, food, dorm, car, and everything else, set limits. You might help by giving them emotional support, letting them stay in your home while they are in college, helping them find ways to save money for college, helping them cut their college expenses, and more.

Help them get a job. If you don’t have the money to help your child, you may want to help them find a job. This way they can pay for their own expenses. Just a little bit can go a long way.

Help them create a budget. If your child doesn’t have a budget, help them create one now. Read Does your budget suck? – Budget Categories. A budget can go a long way and help someone overcome many financial difficulties.

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There are quite a few questions for you today, because I think this topic is an interesting one. I know that not everyone will have the same opinion so I want everyone to chime in! 🙂

Do you think parents should risk their retirement and pay for college? What if the parents are on track for retirement? How much should they help, if anything at all? Will you help your children go to college?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

My $38,000 Student Loan Payoff Plan


My $38,000 Student Loan Payoff Plan$40,000.

That’s the total amount of student loans that I accumulated while I was getting my undergraduate and graduate degrees. The amount that is left is still at $38,000 now, mainly because I haven’t really bothered with student loan repayment (even though I should have!) and interest has stupidly been building up. I would have taken out more in student loans but the last couple of semesters I wised up and paid for in cash instead.

It is a lot of student loan debt, but I don’t feel completely horrible about it, I did earn 2 undergraduate degrees and a Finance MBA all for that amount. If I wouldn’t have earned scholarships or paid some of it, it would have easily been 3 or 4 times that amount.

I’ve been talking a lot about my plan to payoff my student loans as fast as possible. Back in February of 2012, I started my action plan for them to be gone. For me, it’s almost to the point where I am obsessing a little too much about my student loan repayment plan. I am constantly trying to figure out my cash flow and budget to see if I can get there any more quickly. I’m really focused on my extra income efforts and it’s an obsession now.

Luckily, I was able to graduate and find a great job back in 2010 and it helped me pay back student loans a little bit and start my student loan repayment plan. So many people told me that I wouldn’t find a job though. They were probably just trying to help me out by telling me what most kids my age didn’t know back then, but I wasn’t listening.

Now that I am done with graduate school (which I am extremely happy about being done with), I really need to start focusing and finally starting to aggressively pay back my student loans and start my student loan repayment. I’ve been paying down my student loans a little bit here and there but not enough where you can actually notice it.

My goal with my student loan repayment plan.

My goal is to have my student loans completely gone by April of 2013, or even possibly March of 2013. I know any sooner is most likely not possible since my plan is already pretty strict. Learning how to pay student loans faster is not easy though. Yes, you can read about how to pay student loans faster, but you really need to sit down and make an action plan.

In order to complete my goal, I need to pay around $7,000 per month on my student loans for around 6 months (which would make the payoff date April of 2013). This most likely sounds insane, but I know it’s possible. No, I will not be living off of Ramen noodles. I will still have the same quality of life and be doing nearly everything the same.

My main thing is that we have really ramped up our income in the past couple of months. W is currently making more than three times what he used to make at his old job, and I’m making more as well. This extra money definitely helps make this goal more attainable.

So, as long as our income continues to remain the same, then my plan should work perfectly. And if we start to make anymore money, then hopefully I will be able to fully pay off my student loans in March, however, a one month difference will not kill me.

Here’s what I have done so far and what you should start with when learning how to pay student loans faster. Also, the below can also help you if you are wanting to learn how to pay for college without going into debt.

Related content: How Do Student Loans Work?

1. Add up your total student loan debt for your student loan repayment plan.

Your very first step with your student loan repayment is to add up your total student loan debt. Use a student loan calculator if you need to.

This may sound stupid, but have you ever truly added up your total student loan debt, down to the exact cent? Enter reality and figure out how much you actually owe. I have a couple of friends who still can’t really say how much they owe, because they aren’t sure. I can understand this because some of the loans that you’ve taken out might have been from 4 or more years ago.

When I added up my total student loan debt, I wasn’t completely sure of the exact dollar amount. YES I REALLY JUST SAID THAT, I’m a bad personal finance blogger. I did know of the general area, but I was off by around $2,000. When I finally sat down and realized the exact dollar amount that I owed, reality really set in.

Once you know that exact number, it’ll help you realize that you need an student loan repayment action plan to pay it off.

Also, using a student loan calculator can help if you want to figure out your monthly student loan payment. You can find several student loan calculators online with just a simple Google search.

Related tip: I highly recommend Credible for student loan refinancing. You can lower the interest rate on your student loans significantly by using Credible which may help you shave thousands off your student loan bill over time.

2. Decide which student loans you’ll pay off first.

It’s really up to you personally. Different people prefer to attack their debt in different ways. With me, I’m trying to get rid of my student loans which have the highest interest rates. A large amount of my loans are at 6.8%.

I prefer to pay the highest so that I am gaining the LEAST amount of interest on my loans that I possibly can. If I stared by knocking out a loan than gets 0% (which none of mine do, just hypothetically), then I would still be gaining interest on my other loans and that, in the end, would not be worth it to me at all.

However, some choose to pay off the loans that have the highest or lowest amounts. This way you can really feel like you are accomplishing something when you knock out loans one by one. If you knocked out the student loans with the lowest amounts first, then you will probably feel like you’re accomplishing more and be more motivated with each student loan that you eliminate.

3. Find extra money to apply towards your student loans.

I’ve really been working hard on finding ways to earn extra income for help paying student loans. I’ve been doing great with this, but it hasn’t always been this easy. In September I made $3,275 and in October I made $3,700 (both after fees but before taxes) in extra income. Before September, I wasn’t making nearly these amounts, and I am still very surprised.

EDIT (February 8, 2013): In the month of January, I made over $6,000 in extra income. I do many things in order to reach this level, read further on my extra income page. I’m a freelance writer, a virtual assistant (read further on how to become a virtual assistant and what exactly a virtual assistant does), and blog owner in my spare time.

For me, the main thing I do to make extra money is blogging and freelancing. If you are interested in starting a blog of your own, I have a tutorial that will show you how to easily make a blog of your own in just minutes. You can find the tutorial here.

My goal right now is to throw nearly all of my extra income towards my student loans so that I can pay off my student loans fast. Now, why am I not saying “ALL” instead of “nearly?” It’s because I am being realistic. I know for a fact that I will not put all of it towards student loans, in fact, I’ve already spent some of it (not a lot though).

Related articles:

4. If you can or want to, then ELIMINATE expenses!

There are probably a couple of things out there that you do not absolutely need. Or maybe there are things in your life that you can get for cheaper. Try calling any of the companies that you do business with and see if they can lower their prices at all. This can be your gym, cell phone, internet and so on. Getting a cheaper price can make student loan repayment attainable.

There are also many other things that you can do. Lowering your auto expenses, lowering your utility bills, eating at home more often, cooking from scratch and so on are all great things you can do to lower your expenses.

We are really working on eating at home as much as we can. We used to go out to eat way too much. What’s the point of eating out at a restaurant every single day? We were being stupid, it’s that plain and simple.

Cutting your expenses can help you pay off your student loans fast and reach your student loan repayment plan with a little less stress.

If you are still in college, I recommend you read my post How To Save Money On Textbooks + Campus Book Rentals Review. I have a coupon code in there as well, so if you are interested in saving money on your textbooks, it can be a great post to read.

What are you doing to pay off your student loans quicker?

 Answer these questions:

1. How much do you owe?

2. How much have you paid off?

3. How long do you think it will take you to pay your student loans off completely?

4. What are you doing to pay them off more quickly?

UPDATE: My student loans are gone (click here to read all about it)! 🙂

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Can I Consolidate Student Loans While Still in School?

Consolidation involves combining all of your loans into one single loan through the U.S. Department of Education. It’s a strategic move that will make payments simpler, but you won’t get a lower interest rate. However, it could lower your monthly payment by extending the repayment term.

The earliest point that you can consolidate your federal student loans is when you enter into your grace period, the six-month interval prior to repayment that’s triggered when you graduate, leave school for any other reason or drop below half-time enrollment.

You can also consolidate at any point during your repayment.

Parents, however, can consolidate parent PLUS loans at any time, including while their student is still in school.

Consider making interest payments in school

What you can do while in school is make interest payments on your debt.

While you’re in school, interest grows daily on the amount you borrowed. When you start repaying the debt, the accrued interest amount capitalizes, which means it’s added to the total amount you owe.

By making interest payments while you’re in school, you can lower the total balance you’ll need to pay off when you leave.

When can I refinance my student loans?

Refinancing, unlike consolidation, is done through private lenders, combining existing student loans into one new one at a lower rate.

Most lenders require a bachelor’s degree to qualify, as well as credit scores at least in the high 600s and stable finances that allow you to pay all of your debts. Some approve borrowers approaching graduation or those who have left school without earning a degree.

You can refinance both federal and private loans, but consider holding off on refinancing federal student loans since you’ll lose out on opportunities for forgiveness and income-driven repayment.

Source: nerdwallet.com

Who Has the Lowest Student Loan Refinance Rates?

Key takeaways

  • Compare rate offers from several lenders to determine which will give you the lowest rate.

  • Borrowers with high credit scores and low debt-to-income ratios are more likely to get approved at lower rates.

  • Don’t refinance right now if you have federal student loans; you’ll lose the interest-free forbearance benefit.

The lender that has the lowest advertised student loan refinance rates may not be the one that gives you the best deal.

You’ll need to compare student loan refinance offers from several lenders to determine which has the lowest rate for you. Rate offers can vary greatly from lender to lender and will largely depend on your credit score and debt-to-income ratio, or DTI.

Here’s what you need to know to increase your odds of getting the lowest rate.

Who gets the lowest student loan refinance rate?

Many lenders require a credit score in the high 600s and a DTI of less than 50% to refinance a student loan. And the better those numbers are, the lower the interest rate you’ll qualify for.

For context, Earnest’s minimum FICO is 650, but the average score of approved applicants is 760. And while Lendkey allows up to 50% DTI, the average for approved borrowers is 27%.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to see if you can get a lower rate than you have now. Pre-qualifying won’t affect your credit, and there are no fees to refinance a student loan. If you don’t get the lowest rate on your first student loan refinance, you can refinance again when you have a higher salary and longer credit history.

How to get the lowest student loan refinance rate

Pay down other debt

Paying down your debt serves two purposes to help you get a better student loan refinance rate: It can help your credit score and lower your DTI.

Tackle your credit score with extra payments or on time payments above the required minimum. Extra payments decrease your credit utilization ratio, which is your balance divided by your credit limit. Credit utilization is a big part of your credit score, so aim to keep it below 30% for the most improvement.

The extra payments will also help you pay down your debts fast, which will increase your cash flow. Cash flow is the money you have left over after you pay your bills. Lenders look closely at cash flow to gauge how likely you’ll be able to repay a refinanced student loan. The more cash flow you have, the lower interest rate you’ll likely get.

If you can’t pay extra on your debts, you can improve your cash flow by earning extra money through a part-time job or side hustle.

Get a co-signer

Adding a qualified co-signer to your student loan refinance application could lead to a lower rate than you would get on your own.

A co-signer is responsible for your loan if you miss payments and gives the lender another person to hold accountable for the debt. The refinanced student loan will also show up on your co-signer’s credit report, and could impact their DTI.

A co-signer who exceeds the lender’s minimum requirements will give you the best shot at a lower rate. But look for student loan refinance lenders that offer a co-signer release after a set amount of successful payments. That way, you can still have the benefit of a lower interest rate and let your co-signer off the hook for your debt.

Shop around

Once you’re ready, check with several lenders to see which will give you the lowest rate. Make sure the lenders will show your interest rate offer without a hard credit check, which could hurt your score.

Use this calculator to see the rates you qualify for and how much money you could save.

Source: nerdwallet.com

Can You Consolidate Private Student Loans?

You can consolidate private student loan debt, but the process is usually referred to as refinancing.

Student loan refinancing is a financial move you make to combine all of your existing loans with a new rate and loan term. You can refinance through a private credit union, bank or online lender. Moving forward, you will make payments to that lender on the new single loan, which makes it easier to manage your debt.

Refinancing is different from federal student loan consolidation, which applies only to federal student loans and is done through the federal government. Consolidation is a step required to be eligible for income-driven repayment plans.

Ideally you’ll refinance your private student loans at a lower interest rate, which can lower your monthly payment and save money on interest overall. A lender will look at your entire financial history (credit score, income, job history and education) to come up with your new interest rate. Typical interest rates range from 2% to more than 9%.

To get the best refinancing rate you’ll need:

  • Good or excellent credit, generally defined as credit scores of 690 or higher.

  • A stable job with a steady income.

  • Access to a co-signer who can meet the above criteria, if you can’t.

You’ll have multiple terms to choose from. A longer repayment term means lower monthly payments, but you’ll pay more in interest over the life of the loan. Conversely, a shorter repayment term means you’ll pay off your loans faster and pay less in interest, but your monthly payments will be higher.

You can refinance both private and federal student loans, but it’s not always recommended. That’s because federal student loans offer income-driven repayment plans that most private lenders don’t, along with opportunities for forgiveness.

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to pay off your student loans faster

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

In 2020, Americans hit a new record for total student loan debt. There is a total outstanding balance of $1.6 trillion in student loan debt spread across 45 million people. And in 2019, the average graduate took out just over $30,000 in student loan debt to fund their education. More students are turning to student loans—and at more significant amounts. 

Unfortunately, student loans can follow you after graduation and take a huge toll on your credit. Many individuals sign up for student loans not fully understanding just how large their payments will be upon graduation. The high monthly payments often cause young graduates to make payments late or miss them entirely and default on their loans, which can wreak havoc on a person’s credit score. 

So, are you wondering how to get rid of student loans fast? Unfortunately, there’s no quick, magic solution. However, there are options out there that may help you pay off your student loans more quickly than sticking to the repayment plan automatically assigned to you. Keep reading to see what these options are so you can understand which option works for you. 

1. Consider your repayment plan options

If you have a federal student loan, you’ll automatically be enrolled in the Standard Repayment Plan. This plan spreads out your payments over 10 years and is the option that allows you to pay the least amount of interest. For this reason, if you can’t afford to make extra payments on your student loan, this is usually the best option. 

There are other repayment plans for you to consider. An Income-Driven Repayment Plan will take 10 to 15 percent of your discretionary income monthly and can span up to 25 years. If your loan is not paid off in full within those 25 years, the balance of your loan is forgiven. This option is typically best for people who make a low income. 

There are other options as well, such as the Graduated Repayment Plan and the Extended Repayment Plan, to name a few. The Graduated Repayment Plan is a 10-year loan with payments that increase every two years, so it’s ideal for people who expect their income to grow over time. The Extended Repayment Plan allows individuals to take 25 years to pay their student loan (but requires you owe a minimum of $30,000). 

Do your research and pick the plan that works best for your situation. Take the time to consider your current income, your expected income growth and the total interest you’ll pay with each repayment option. 

2. Start making payments before you graduate

If you have a subsidized federal student loan, the government covers your interest while you’re in school and for six months post-graduation. However, if you have an unsubsidized loan, interest starts accruing the day you receive your money. This means that while you’re in school, your student loan debt is growing. 

Consider making payments on your student loan while you’re still in school. If the payment can even cover your monthly interest, it will make a significant difference when you graduate. 

A word of caution: Make sure to contact your lender about early payments. Some private lenders will charge a fee for early payments. 

3. Apply early payments to the principal

If you are able to, consider making early payments on your principal loan. If you want to make extra payments, make sure to do so correctly. Most student loan lenders will take prepayment and apply it to interest first or to your next month’s payment. Neither of these options helps you pay off your loan faster. 

Whenever you make an early payment, contact your lender and specify that it should be applied to the principal amount. Additionally, while you’re on the call, take the time to verify that you won’t be charged a prepayment fee. 

4. Pay more than the minimum

Just because you picked a repayment plan doesn’t mean you have to stick to that exact monthly payment. If you ever find yourself with extra money—such as tax refunds, gifts or side jobs—apply that money to your student loan. 

You can also try to make payments twice a month instead of monthly. Many people use a biweekly payment approach for their mortgages, too. Biweekly payments mean you end up making one extra full payment in the year. If you have a $30,000 loan for 10 years at a six percent interest rate, having biweekly payments will allow you to pay off your debt faster and save $1,186.56  in interest.

5. Apply for student loan forgiveness

There are student loan forgiveness programs for specific individuals. These programs include Teacher Loan Forgiveness, Military Forgiveness, Public Service Loan Forgiveness and other versions run by state governments. 

Each of these programs has different factors for qualifying but usually requires that the individual works for a specific employer for a period of time while making payments. For example, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program requires that you complete 10 years’ worth of payments and spend that time working for a nonprofit or public sector employer before your remaining balance may be forgiven. 

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t rely on a forgiveness program as they can often be challenging to qualify for. 

6. Consider refinancing or consolidating

Student loan refinance

If your credit score is healthy or has improved, you should consider refinancing your loan at a better interest rate. When you refinance, your lender looks at your credit score and income level before determining your loan interest rate.

If your credit score is high, that interest rate may be lower than your current rate, which can save you a lot of money in the long run. Additionally, if your credit score continues to improve, you can refinance again and get a better rate each time. 

If you don’t have a good credit score, you could use a cosigner to refinance. Your cosigner’s healthy credit will allow you to qualify for a better interest rate. 

Student loan consolidation

If you have multiple student loans—usually a mix of private and government—you can consolidate them into one. When you consolidate your loan, you typically get an equal or overall lower interest payment than what you were paying before. Additionally, you only have to worry about making one monthly payment, which can relieve stress and allow you to focus on a repayment plan. 

7. Set up autopay

With many lenders, signing up for autopay gets you a slightly lowered interest rate. The added benefit of this option is that you never miss or make a late payment, both of which can severely lower your credit score. 

Have a plan for your finances

Your student loan likely allowed you to get the education you wanted. Unfortunately, it does come at a high cost. Many people are surprised to find out just how long it’ll take to pay off their student loans. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive and pay off your loan faster. 

The most crucial step is to make a plan and stick to it. This advice applies to all other areas of your finances, too—like your credit, savings and budget. When you have a plan, you can control your finances and ensure you’re staying on track. 

If you already have a student loan repayment strategy, check to make sure it’s still best for you. And if you don’t yet have a strategy, now is the time to come up with one. Work to pay off your student loans faster so you’re one step closer to financial freedom.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

How does refinancing a student loan affect credit?

refinancing student loan

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

If you’re considering refinancing a student loan, you need to have answers to all of your questions. For starters, does refinancing student loans affect credit? Fortunately, student loan refinancing doesn’t have to negatively affect your credit, but you need to know how to go about the process carefully and fully informed. Since refinancing comes with several benefits, it’s nice to know that you can consider this option without it killing your credit. 

What is a student loan refinance?

Student loans can come from two sources: federal funding and private funding. Federal student loans come with some benefits, such as subsidized interest while you’re in school and the potential to apply for a loan forgiveness program.

Unfortunately, you can’t refinance a federal student loan with the government. Refinancing is always done through a private lender. While going to a private lender may sound scary, refinancing can save you money. 

When you refinance, you take your student loan(s) to a lender and negotiate a better interest rate or a more manageable monthly payment. This can help you save thousands during the life of your loan, but how much money you save depends on a number of factors—such as fees for refinancing, the decrease in interest rate and the length of your new repayment term. 

Protect your credit during a student loan refinance

Credit inquiries and missed or late payments are the two factors that might impact your credit when you go through student loan refinancing. But if you’re careful, you can minimize the damage done to your score during a refinance.

Credit inquiries

When you initially approach a lender about refinancing, they’ll conduct a soft inquiry on your credit to see if you’re eligible. However, once you officially apply with a lender for a refinance, there will be a hard check on your credit. A hard inquiry can lower your credit score by a few points.

These few points are easy to recover if you continue to be responsible with your credit. But if you have multiple hard inquiries within a relatively short period of time, your credit score may drop significantly—potentially up to 10 points per credit inquiry. 

To avoid this situation, try to submit as few applications as possible. To be clear, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t compare your options. It’s in your best interest to approach several lenders to see who can offer you the best terms and lowest interest rate. You can still shop around and compare lenders—just don’t fully apply with every lender.

Lenders should be able to give you a good idea of your options when they pull a soft inquiry on your credit. Let your lenders know you’re comparing rates so they’ll begin to offer you more competitive terms. 

In addition, most credit bureaus have a 14 to 45 day “shopping period.” If you have multiple hard inquiries within this time frame, a credit bureau may count it as only one inquiry. Whenever possible, try to keep your inquiries to this small window of time, ideally ranging between two and four weeks.

Payments

Your student loans are tied to your credit. Every time you miss or make a late payment, it negatively impacts your credit history and your credit score. If you’re considering refinancing, you must make all your payments on both your past loan and your refinanced loan until you’re absolutely certain the previous loan has ended. After you know the transfer is complete, you can make payments on the refinanced loan only. 

When should you refinance?

When it comes to refinancing a student loan, timing can be everything. For this process to be worth it, you need to have a decent credit score and a stable income. These two factors will ensure that when you go to lenders for refinancing, they’ll offer you a lower interest rate than the one you currently have. 

Two downsides of refinancing a student loan

Refinancing isn’t the best choice for everyone, and there are two main downsides you should know about. 

Your interest rate might not decrease by much

Student loan interest rates have remained relatively low in recent years. This means private lenders don’t have much leeway and may not be able to offer you an interest rate that’s much lower. 

That being said, even a small decrease in interest can make a significant difference over the lifetime of a loan. For example, let’s say you had a $30,000 student loan with a 10-year payment period. Your initial loan interest is five percent, and a refinancing lender offers to lower your interest to four percent. A one percent difference may not sound like a lot, but it’ll save you $1,736 in interest over 10 years. 

One thing to note is to take into account any fees for refinancing when comparing your loans. If your refinance lender is charging you a $200 sign-up fee, that will eat into your savings. 

You’ll lose access to benefits of federal funding

You can only refinance with a private lender, which opts you out of any benefits of federal funding. If you opt out of federal student loans, you lose access to federal repayment options such as the income-driven repayment plan. 

You also lose the ability to apply for federal loan forgiveness programs. Several federal loan forgiveness programs for candidates such as teachers, military service members and public servants may forgive a portion or all of a loan under specific conditions. These programs are often difficult to qualify for, but it may be worth sticking to it if you were already on this path. 

Who shouldn’t refinance

If you have poor credit or unstable income, you’ll likely be denied refinancing or get an interest rate that isn’t better than your current interest rate. If this is the case for you, focus on improving your credit score and reapply for refinancing later on. 

Additionally, people who are close to the end of their loan term typically won’t see any benefit from refinancing. If you’re almost done paying off your student loan, simply focus on getting to your end goal. 

Is refinancing the best option for you?

Ultimately, the decision to refinance should be made on a case-by-case basis. You need to weigh all the pros and cons of refinancing before making a decision.

A useful tool when evaluating refinancing is a loan calculator. These online calculators help you determine just how much you can save if you refinance a loan. Don’t forget to subtract any fees from your savings to depict your actual savings accurately. 

Your student loan will impact your credit for many years to come, and your credit has a long-reaching impact on other areas of your life. Whether you refinance or continue with your regular student loan, make sure you build responsible habits with your loan repayment. Sign up for auto-pay, make additional payments if you can and track your progress. 


Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.

Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

What Is the Student Aid Index?

The Student Aid Index is a rebranding of Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. The new name is meant to clear up confusion about what EFC actually is: A number that colleges use to determine how much financial aid you can receive.

It’s not, as the name suggests, the amount your family is expected to pay toward your education, as  most families end up paying more than the EFC amount after taking loans to fill gaps in aid.

The renaming of EFC to Student Aid Index, or SAI, will be effective starting July 1, 2023, for the 2023-2024 academic year and beyond. This change was part of the FAFSA Simplification Act that was bundled into the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which included the second coronavirus relief bill.

The SAI will be used to calculate most need for financial aid, excluding Pell Grants, which have their own calculation.

How will the Student Aid Index be calculated?

The information you input on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, about you and your family’s financial profile will determine your SAI. The index will equal the sum of your parents’ available income, your income and assets.

The new simplified FAFSA, which includes a maximum of 36 questions compared with the 108 on the current application, will also go into effect July 1, 2023, for the 2023-2024 academic year and later.

Once you submit the FAFSA, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report, which details the information you included on the application and your SAI.

How will the Student Aid Index be used?

SAI is used as part of the equation for financial need, which is found by subtracting the Student Aid Index and other financial assistance from the cost of attendance at each school. Your cost of attendance includes tuition, fees and room and board. The equation essentially looks like this:

Cost of attendance – SAI = financial need

Your financial need doesn’t necessarily mean the full amount you’re qualified for. Colleges aren’t required to meet 100% of your financial need with need-based aid like grants or scholarships — and colleges can include loans on your financial aid award letter to meet need. Funding availability for aid, such as work-study, might also be limited at your school.

Source: nerdwallet.com