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My Student Loan Journey Pt. 2: Climbing the Mountain of Debt

10 Feb student-loan-journey-jumping-outta-debt

Casey Doten, Financial Aid Administrator – Purdue University

I knew going into college that I’d have to take out student loans to help finance my degree. While getting myself $48,600 into student loan debt was less than ideal for me, I was able to earn my degree. However thanks to the miracle of interest, my student loan debt had increased from the $48,600 that I had borrowed to $54,800 by the time that I began repayment.

The scary part? That $54,000 could have been even higher. Thankfully I had a couple of things going in my favor that helped to prevent that. A good portion of my federal loans are subsidized and did not accrue interest during school. I also had a loan which required me to make quarterly payments to help keep the interest from adding up (unfortunately these payments always hit me at the worst times in college). Had I not had either of those two factors, my loan debt would have been $59,900 when I finally started repayment.

So how have I gone about tackling this $54,800 debt? Being honest, it hasn’t been perfectly approached at all times but after a few initial mistakes I’ve come up with a plan and am paying it off as quickly as I can.

my student loan journey 2.jpgMaking mistakes early on

During my grace period of six months between graduation and my first payments becoming due, I had saved up a little money working two part-time jobs, but I never put anything toward my loans. As my grace period ended, I was able to get a full-time job along with working ten or so hours a week on the side.

So in November my repayment officially began. I had always heard people say “If you can afford to pay a little extra on your student loans, you should do it”. Getting rid of my student loans was a priority for me, so even though I wasn’t exactly swimming in money I paid extra on my loans. If my payment was $115 for a loan, I’d pay $150. The problem is that my approach of paying a little extra on every loan per month was one of the least efficient ways possible.

Pay more on loans with higher interest rates

What I should have been doing was approaching my repayment with a real plan rather than just tossing a few extra bucks at it.

I learned about the avalanche and snowball debt payment methods from some friends and after some research realized I could take my loans head-on with a plan. I started paying the minimum on every one of my loans except the one with the highest interest rate where I put all that extra money I had previously spread out between the other loans.

Using this avalanche method, I paid on the highest interest loan and then when that was finished up I took that money and started paying it to the next highest interest loan. This approach helps me pay the least amount of total interest possible.

Understand options & repayment plans

Despite the fact that I’ve been able to meet my monthly loan payments, I realized decided to enroll in an income based repayment plan. This brought my monthly payments on my federal loans down from over $300 to around $70 each month. Why did I choose an income based repayment plan when I wasn’t having troubles making my repayment? I found out that having a lower amount due each month could both help my repayment plan and allow me to be more flexible in my finances.

For my repayment, it allowed me to pay less on several of my loans and kept interest from my subsidized loans from accruing (the interest can be covered for up to three years). I took the $230 I wasn’t obligated to pay to all of my loans and rolled it into the extra I had already been putting toward my highest interest loan.

The other perk was that it gave me a lot more financial flexibility, so if unexpected events popped up I could just pay the minimum on my loans and use the money I would have paid to cover whatever emergency happened.

Luckily I never ended up needing this and I have been able to double down on my avalanche repayment and target my highest interest loan with the money I would have been paying otherwise been spreading out to my other loans.

Make payments right away… or make them automatic

Before I started making my loan payments, I felt like I was making just enough money to get by. I didn’t believe I could find $600 per month just for student loans, let alone money to pay ahead. The secret that I found was to make my student loan payments right away once I got paid. Rather than having to worry about what is left to make my loan payments, I prioritized them and made the extra payments part of my mandatory bill paying routine at the beginning of each month. I also found out that one of my private loans and my federal loans offered a small interest rate reduction for enrolling in automatic payments, which I promptly enrolled in to reduce the total interest I would pay over the loans’ lifetimes.

Roll over other debts

During my first year and a half of repayment, two things events had an effect on my debt: my college beater Jeep died on my commute to work forcing me to buy a different vehicle, and I got proposed to my then-girlfriend, now wife. This gave me another $450 per month in payments to make between the car and ring. This squeezed my personal budget to as thin as it could possibly get, but I still made sure to prioritize getting these payments in right away after getting paid. I realized I that I could make this new budget work, so after paying both off I took $350 of that and rolled it into my student loan payments helping me accelerate my impending pay-off even further.

Where I’m at Today

As of this moment, I still have $42,246.38 left to go. I’ve made great progress but I’m still paying over $200 every month on interest alone. It can be depressing to realize how much I’m losing every month to interest, but I know that my current life wouldn’t be possible without the degree I earned and the experiences I had. Rather than concentrating on how far I have to go, I prefer to reflect on how amazing it feels to know that I’ve paid my loans down more than $12,500 in student loan debt in 27 months in addition to over $9,000 between my car and wife’s engagement ring. The end might not be near but that doesn’t stop me from taking one step at a time toward being student debt free.

4 Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers

25 Jan

1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program Forgives the remaining balance on your Federal Direct Loans after 120 qualifying payments (10 years). View complete program details at StudentAid.gov/publicservice. Here are some highlights: This program has the broadest employment qualification requirements of the federal programs listed—it doesn’t require that you teach at a low-income a public…

via 4 Loan Forgiveness Programs for Teachers — ED.gov Blog

Phishing, other kinds of tax scams rank No. 1 — don’t fall victim 

19 Jan

Kirsten Gibson, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP)

If you receive an email, text or social media message from someone claiming to be affiliated with the IRS, it’s almost certainly a scam. Question phone callers claiming to be IRS representatives, too. If you remember only one thing this tax season, other than to file your return, it’s this: the IRS will not contact a taxpayer asking for personal information via email, text message or social media.

Senior Woman Giving Credit Card Details On The Phone

Tax season is ripe for scamming. As taxpayers figure out how to file their taxes in accordance with federal student loan rules, President Barack Obama’s health care law and a myriad of other complications, scammers gear up to take advantage of a period of confusion. The Better Business Bureau consistently ranks tax scams as the top type of scam in the United States by a wide margin.

“Identity theft is always a huge concern,” says Greg Hedrick, Purdue’s chief information security officer. “Criminals who acquire enough of a person’s information, including a Social Security number, may attempt to use those details to fill out a false tax return and claim a refund under another person’s name. Of course, this could also lead to the rejection of a person’s real return.”

Should you find yourself engaging with someone who claims to be from the IRS, pause to assess the situation. The person writing the message or on the phone will probably be insistent that it’s an emergency and action must be taken immediately. They might also threaten you with arrest, deportation or loss of driver’s license.

The callers who commit this kind of fraud often:

  • Use common names (like Jones or Smith) and fake IRS badge numbers.
  • Know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number.
  • Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • Send bogus IRS emails to support their scam.
  • Call a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles (and the spoofed caller ID again supports their claim).

If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here’s what to do:

  • If you owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
  • If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to Treasury Inspector General Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.

According to TIGTA, since 2013 more than 1.8 million people reported calls from scammers and more than 9,600 victims paid the impostors a total of more than $50 million.

Individuals also might want to sign up for a credit freeze with each of the three credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax – to further guard against fraud this tax season. The freeze can be initiated for free within minutes online at the Indiana Attorney General’s website. Once a freeze is initiated, you can temporarily lift it anytime to apply for new credit or a loan.

Students, faculty and staff should contact the police if they think they have been a victim of identity theft.

 

3 details you should know while preparing for tax season 2017

12 Jan stocksnap_hbmxo40weg

Tax season can be an exciting time for savers. This year, more Americans are opting out of a tax time splurge and focusing on getting ahead with their tax refunds.

Early filers can still file as they normally would, but we’ve got a couple tips in mind for how your household can use this information to make the most of your tax time preparations:prep-for-tax-season

  1. File a tax return, even if you do not owe any tax or are not required to file.You can’t get the EITC unless you file a return. End of story. Since the IRS estimates that about 25 percent of taxpayers who are eligible for the EITC fail to claim it, this is a vital first step in determining your eligibility.Bonus? If this is the first year that you are claiming the credit, you can use the EITC Assistant to see if you qualify for tax years: 2015, 2014 and 2013. You can file any time during the year to claim the EITC. Something to know: A new tax law will delay refunds that claim the EITC or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until February 15. Learn more here.
  2. Decide where and how you will file your taxes and know your free options.Unless you know your return is going to be complicated this year, paying someone to file a tax return should always be a last resort. Decide whether you’d rather file online or in person, and then check out these free filing options:
    • Use Free File on IRS.gov– This free software walks you through a Q&A format to help prepare your return and claim every credit and deduction for which you may be eligible.
    • Try the Free File Fillable Forms– If you’re comfortable preparing your own returns, this option is for you! It allows you to file electronically using online versions of IRS paper forms.
    • Visit a free tax preparation site– If your total household income is less than $54,000 a year, you can seek free tax prep at one of thousands of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), Military Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (M-VITA), and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites. To locate the nearest site, you can search online or call the IRS at 800-906-9887.
  3. Make a plan for your tax refund that accounts for the EITC/ACTC delay.We know it can be hard to come up with alternative funds if you already had plans for your refund early in the year, but don’t be suckered by refund anticipation products provided by many commercial tax return preparers. The loan fees will have you seeing red.If you start your planning by dedicating your refund, or at least part of it, to savings, you can get ahead of your savings goals. Enter  the SaveYourRefund promotion with $35,000 in cash prizes and 101 chances to win simply for saving a portion of your refund. For more information and how to commit to saving prior to filing your return , visit saveyourrefund.com.

Tammy G. Bruzon works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org.

Choosing a Federal Student Loan Repayment Plan

14 Dec

All information on repayment plans is from this article by David Evans, Ph.D.
Additional info added by Casey Doten, Purdue Financial Aid Administrator

There are two main types of repayment plans you can choose from: traditional and income-driven. For borrowers that will qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), income-driven plans may be the better option. Income-driven plans will require an annual verification of income. This fact sheet describes each of the repayment plans as well as pros and cons of each. For more information about each of the repayment plans visit the Federal Student Aid website.

Traditional Plansstudent-loan-repayment-plans

Standard Repayment Plan

The Standard Repayment plan consist of equal monthly payments over a 10-year period of time. This repayment plan is good for those who can handle making their monthly payments and make enough money to afford them. This payment plan is best for those who have minimal other debts and start working right out of school.

The Pros: You’ll pay off your loan faster compared to other plans, and pay less interest as a result.

The Cons: Your monthly payments will be higher than those made through other plans.

Graduated Repayment Plan

The Graduated and Extended Repayment plans could be an option for you if your income is low when you graduate but will increase quickly. Under a graduated plan, payments start out low and increase during the repayment period, usually every two years. This is a good plan if you can’t afford your current payments but know you will make more money in the years to come.

The Pros: Your loan is still paid off within 10 years.

The Cons: You’ll pay more interest over the lifetime of your loan compared to the Standard Plan.

Extended Repayment Plan

An Extended Repayment Plan is an option if your loan amount is more than $30,000 and you want to stretch your repayment to 25 years.

The Pros: Smaller monthly payments (since they’re spread out over as many as 25 years) and more time to pay off your loan.

The Cons: You’ll be saddled with payments for a longer period of time as well as pay more interest.

Income-Driven Plans

If you qualify for an Income-Driven plan, these are often the most attractive options if you’re willing to recertify your payment each year (it’s not very difficult). However, some of these are contingent on when you took out loans! If you’re interested in student loan forgiveness*, you’ll need to be enrolled in any one of these plans.

Income Based Repayment Plan

If you’re not making enough money to cover all of your monthly expenses the Income Based Repayment (IBR) Plan would be a good option. There are two separate calculations for IBR which are dependent upon when you took out your student loans.

The Pros: The IBR plan takes into account your annual income as well as your family size. Your payment will be 10% of your discretionary income** if you were a new borrower on or after July 1, 2014. Otherwise it will be 15%. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 (for undergraduate loans) or 25 (for graduate loans) years.

The Cons: You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF (this is true for all loan forgiveness).

Income Contingent Repayment Plan

If you have a federal Direct Loan (other than a PLUS loan), you could opt for the Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan. Your payments could be as low $5 or even $0.

The Pros: Your monthly payment will be the lesser of 20% of your discretionary income or on a repayment plan with a fixed payment over 12 years. You can have your remaining loan balance forgiven after 25 years of regular payments.

The Cons: You’ll pay more over the lifetime of your loan than you would with a 10-year plan, your payment could be lower than the monthly accrued interest and your loan principal will grow. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan

The Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan is only available for those with Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. Payments are based on your annual income, family size, and total loan amount. You would pay the loan off in fifteen years.

The Pros: Each lender has their own calculation, but generally it is between 4% and 25% of your monthly gross income, although your payment must be greater than or equal to the interest that accrues.

The Cons: It’s only available for up to five years. After that time, you must switch to another repayment plan. You must reapply annually, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll have continued enrollment in the plan.

Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

The Pay as You Earn Repayment (PAYE) Plan is another option for those not able to afford their current monthly payments.

The Pros: The PAYE plan takes into account your annual income as well as your family size. Your payment will be 10% of your discretionary income. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 years.

The Cons: PAYE is only eligible to those who were new borrowers on or after October 1, 2007 and must have received a disbursement of a Direct Loan on or after October 1, 2011. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

The Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment (REPAYE) Plan is very similar to PAYE. This plan was created to allow more borrowers the opportunity to have their payments lowered to 10% of discretionary income.

The Pros: Not dependent upon when you took out your student loan, the payment will be 10% of your discretionary income. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 (for undergraduate loans) or 25 (for graduate loans) years.

The Cons: If you are married, your spouse’s income will be considered whether taxes are filed jointly or separately. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Summary

Federal student loans offer various ways for repayment. If you are in a situation (like so many others who have taken out student loans) that is not ideal for standard repayment of your loan, consider these options. There is a lot to consider when you are trying to decide which repayment plan to choose. Using the Federal Student Loan Repayment Estimator can help you make your decision by showing you what your payments would be under each of the plans described above.

*A note about loan forgiveness: There are two different kinds of loan forgiveness, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and loan forgiveness from your income-driven repayment plan ending. While both plans require you to be enrolled in an income-driven plan to reap the benefits there are some key differences:
-PSLF requires being employed at a qualifying employer in public service (non-profits, government, etc.) for 10 years/ 120 qualifying payments before forgiveness takes place. Standard forgiveness is after 20 or 25 years depending on your repayment plan.

-Any loan amounts forgiven under PSLF are tax-free, but not under standard forgiveness! So if you still have a balance on your loans after 20 (or 25) years, you will owe taxes on it as if it is income. While it’s still better than paying the amount back, it’s important to know it will have ramifications.

**Discretionary income = Your income – 150% of the poverty level in your state for your family size

Becoming Credit-Wise: What Students (and You!) Should Know

5 Dec becoming-credit-wise

Note: The following article was written for Financial Aid administrators, but has information that is useful to anyone looking to learn about credit.

By Jeff Hanson, Director of Borrower Education Services, Access Group Published by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA)

becoming credit wise.jpg
As a financial aid administrator, you know your students need to understand their student loans and manage their spending well. Understanding how credit works is an essential part of that, especially for students who must supplement their federal loans with private, credit-based loans.But do your students— and you—really know enough to be truly “credit-wise”? Students may know the basics, such as having the highest credit score possible will help them get credit at an affordable price. But do they know what it takes to get a high credit score (say 800 or more)? And that most students probably score far below this number? Do they know that their credit score can impact the cost of credit, their ability to obtain other financial products such as auto insurance, or their employability? And what happens when they miss a payment or start accumulating credit card debt—how much can this lower their score? Students should never underestimate the value of good credit. Those who need private education loans, as increasing numbers of students do, will find that their credit history is likely to affect their ability to obtain the needed funds, and can even affect the cost of their loans. The better the student’s credit, the greater the probability that he or she will get the loan, and the lower the cost of that loan. Good credit does count! Building up a good credit history comes from understanding how credit reporting and credit scoring work, and from practicing sound financial habits.

Credit Reports

A credit report is a summary of the information contained in an individual’s credit history, which creditors use to evaluate the likelihood that the individual will repay future loans. A credit history is generated from credit account information and payment records that creditors have reported to authorized credit reporting agencies, so anyone who has at least one credit card, a consumer loan (such as a car loan), student loans, or any other form of personal credit should have a credit history with an authorized credit reporting agency (see the list at the end of the article). In essence, credit reports provide a sense of an individual’s willingness to repay a loan, based on his or her past credit performance. Students can think of their credit report as their “credit transcript.” Whether students think they have credit problems or not, it’s a good practice for them to review their credit reports from each of the three national credit reporting agencies at least once a year to be certain that all reported information is accurate. In fact, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, Pub. L. 108-159, 117 Stat. 1952 (FACT Act) entitles all consumers to obtain a free copy of their credit report upon request from each of the three agencies once every 12 months. More information about obtaining these free reports is available from the Annual Credit Report Request Service at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 887-322-8228.

Credit Scores

If the credit report is the credit transcript, the credit score is the “credit GPA,” and just as with grades, the higher the better. The credit score is a numerical value based on credit account information in a person’s credit report that focuses on individual borrower behavior. Unlike the credit history, which consists of raw data, credit scores are measures of future credit risk based on an assessment of that raw data. Credit scoring is a quick, accurate, consistent, and objective method that helps lenders’ quantify how well individuals have managed their credit. The higher the credit score, the greater the statistical likelihood that an individual will repay a future loan on time. Credit scoring was first developed by Fair Isaac Corporation, which created the credit scores used most widely by the credit industry and are often referred to as FICO® scores. Credit scores are calculated using a statistically derived mathematical formula that provides a numeric prediction of credit risk. The formula itself, which is proprietary, was developed by examining the credit reports of millions of people at two points in time (typically 24 months apart).

Factors Affecting Credit Scores

Paying your credit card bills on time each month has the greatest affect on your credit score. However, contrary to popular belief, a flawless payment history is not sufficient for good credit. A number of factors impact your credit score, including:

  • promptness in paying bills;
  • total debt;
  • amount owed on all credit card accounts;
  • age of credit accounts;
  • number of credit card accounts including number of credit inquiries;
  • the proportion of credit card balances to total available credit card limit;
  • number of credit card accounts opened in past 12 months;
  • number of finance accounts; and
  • occurrence of negative factors such as serious delinquency, derogatory public records, past due accounts that have been turned over to collection agencies, bankruptcies, student loan defaults, and foreclosures.

FICO® scores assess all such negative factors in three ways by evaluating:

  • how recently they occurred,
  • their severity, and
  • their frequency.

The more recent the occurrence, the farther the score will drop. The larger the balance affected (severity), the farther the score will drop. And the more frequently such negatives appear on one’s credit history, the farther the score will drop. Two factors that warrant further review are credit inquiries and student loan debt:

Credit Inquiries

Requests for your credit record can also affect your credit score. Only “hard” inquiries made during the past 12 months, however, have a potential negative affect on your score. Hard inquiries are those made by creditors when you apply for a loan or a new credit card. In such cases, you must give permission for your report to be “pulled” (provided to the creditor). All other credit inquiries are “soft” inquiries and are not a factor in scoring. Soft inquiries include:

  • Self inquiries—your requests for a copy of your own credit report or credit score;
  • Promotional inquiries—those made by companies wanting to offer you an opportunity to apply for credit;
  • Administrative inquiries — inquiries made by your current creditors who want to monitor your credit activities, as well as inquiries from the credit-reporting agency that’s maintaining your credit history (this typically occurs when you have disputed an item that’s contained on your credit report); and
  • Inquiries from prospective employers— although they have the right to obtain your credit report with your permission, these inquiries are not for the purpose of obtaining new credit and so do not impact your score.

Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt affects credit scores, but it does not necessarily result in a low credit score unless the borrower has a “thin” credit file. A “thin” file is one that contains three or fewer “trade lines” (credit cards, car loans, etc.). These files are more susceptible to lower scores because they contain less positive information to offset any negative impact of increases in student loan debt. (Note that the majority of Access Group private loan borrowers have more than three trade lines.) As installment debt, student loans typically are viewed more favorably than revolving debt (credit card debt) in credit scoring. However, although increasing installment balances (for example, because of additional student loans) can have a negative impact on credit score, as students advance from year to year in their program of study, payment delinquencies and increasing credit card debt appear to have the greatest negative impact.

Weighing the Factors

The factors affecting credit scores are not equally weighted in the scoring process. As Fair Isaac reports at www.myFICO.com, payment history has more impact—about 35% of the score—than the other factors. Thus, making payments by the due date is very important. Missed payments, one or more delinquent accounts, and serious derogatory items such as student loan defaults, bankruptcy, charge-offs of accounts, etc., can have a significant negative impact on the score. The amount of debt, especially credit card debt, is the next most significant factor, typically accounting for about 30% of the score. Total debt is important, particularly the percentage of revolving credit (credit cards) being used. Utilization is the amount of credit card debt you have as a percentage of your total available credit card limit. The smaller a person’s credit utilization rate, the less likely it is to have a negative affect on the person’s FICO® score. Thus, it is important to keep credit card balances low, since lower is better. But this does not mean credit cards should not be used once in a while. In fact, some minimal use of credit cards can be beneficial to establish a positive payment history. This does not require the accumulation of credit card debt, however. Rather, simply using a credit card occasionally each month for small purchases and paying the credit card bill in full each time will achieve this goal. The other three factors—length of history as measured by the age of your oldest credit account, new credit as measured by the number of new accounts opened and the number of “hard” inquiries made within the past 12 months, and account mix (relative proportion of installment accounts, revolving accounts, finance accounts, etc.) generally have a lesser impact on scoring, but cannot be ignored when managing your credit.

What’s the Score?

Although there are no well-established statistics regarding the average credit scores of college students, 60% of all consumers with established credit histories have FICO® scores above 700 (using a scale of 300 to 850) according to Fair Isaac. Scores above 700 generally are considered to be “good,” and scores above 775 are viewed as “very good” to “excellent” by most lenders. It is possible to estimate what the credit score might be for a typical student. Fair Isaac Corporation and www.Bankrate.com have joined forces to offer an online FICO® Score Estimator, which provides a credit score range, rather than a specific score, at no cost to consumers at www.bankrate.com/finance/credit/what-is-a-fico-score.aspx. Using the basic Fair Isaac methodology, it provides an estimate based on the answers to a brief series of questions about credit use and payment behavior. We used the FICO® Score Estimator to predict likely credit scores for a typical third-year undergraduate, who has both education loans and credit cards, using four scenarios. For the first scenario, this hypothetical student’s credit characteristics are as shown in the table at left.

  1. “No payments missed” scenario. The estimated FICO® credit score range for this individual is 715-765. Lenders would probably consider this person to have a “good” history, and although they might not offer their best interest rate, they are unlikely to deny credit based solely on this credit score. Of course, before extending credit, the lender might also require the borrower to meet a minimum income threshold or provide loan collateral.
  2. “Missed payments” scenario. What happens if the hypothetical student’s credit characteristics change? In this second scenario, suppose the student suddenly becomes delinquent on an account and is 30 days late in making the payment. Assuming this is the only change, the estimated score range drops to 620-670. This would represent an average drop of 90 points, and the borrower’s credit would now be considered only “fair.” The individual would be more likely to have trouble getting some forms of credit, such as a private student loan, on his or her own signature. If credit were granted, it probably would be at a higher interest rate and have other restrictions and/or costs.
  3. Higher credit use scenario. By contrast, suppose the record showed greater utilization of credit cards. Starting from the original “no-payments- missed” scenario, suppose in this third scenario that the amount of credit card debt was at 50% of the available credit limit. The estimated score range drops to 645-695—a “fair” credit rating. This is better than the missed payment scenario, but would still cause an average drop of 70 points in the score from the original scenario. If credit card utilization increases to 90% (credit cards are nearly “maxed out”), the estimated score range drops to 620-670—the same impact as a 30-day delinquency.
  4. Both 30-day delinquency and 90% utilization scenario. If this hypothetical student had both a 30-day delinquency and was at 90% utilization of credit cards, the estimated score range falls to 565-615. This would create serious credit issues for the student and would make it very difficult to obtain most kinds of credit. Thus, two simple missteps— missing a payment and maxing out credit cards—could take our hypothetical student from having good credit to a situation where credit (particularly private education loans) might be very difficult to obtain and much more expensive.

Obtaining Your Credit Score

The easiest way to obtain your FICO® credit score is to go to the Fair Isaac consumer Web site at www.myFICO.com. From this site you can request your FICO® credit scores calculated by the three national credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—and can purchase your FICO® credit score from one, two, or all three of these agencies.

You will receive an explanation of the score, a copy of the credit report that was used to generate that score, and an explanation of the positive and negative factors that are affecting your score. Be aware that your credit score may vary from agency to agency, because the information on your credit report at each agency may differ. More information about credit scores and the scoring process can be found at www.myFICO.com. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission provides consumer information about credit scoring at www.ftc.gov.

Good Credit Really Counts!

To sum up, to get the credit needed, when it’s needed, at an affordable cost, it is essential to understand credit reporting and credit scoring. But knowledge alone is not enough. Being creditwise also requires practicing good habits. The credit tips listed below provide a framework for practicing those good habits and can help students avoid the types of pitfalls illustrated in the hypothetical credit score scenarios presented here. This will help them avoid the frustrations, anxieties, and fears associated with credit problems.

Tips for Maintaining Good Credit

You can use the following tips to help students develop and maintain a strong credit record; one that should allow them to borrow the funds they will need to fulfill their educational dreams and successfully achieve their other long-term goals. In fact, many of these tips probably are good ideas for everyone, not just for students.

  1. Develop and follow an affordable monthly budget.
    Live below your means while you’re a student; learn to stretch your dollars; be thrifty.
  2. Pay all your bills on time.
    Just one late or missed payment can have a noticeable negative impact on your credit score.
  3. Notify your creditors immediately whenever your address changes.
    Typically you can provide information updates by phone or via the creditor’s Web site. But remember, it’s your responsibility to keep them informed.
  4. Minimize your credit card debt.
    Keep credit card balances as low as possible. Do not exceed 30% of your available credit limit.
  5. Avoid charging more on your credit cards than you can afford to repay in full each month.
    Get in the habit of using cash, not credit cards, whenever possible. Credit card debt that carries over from month to month can be very costly and may lower your credit score.
  6. Record every credit card purchase you charge just as you record every check you write.
    Tracking your charges is important so that you always know exactly how much you must repay.
  7. Limit the number of credit card accounts you maintain.
    You probably don’t need more than three major credit card accounts. Avoid opening new department/retail store charge accounts; they typically can only be used at the store that issued the card and they tend to have the highest interest rates of any credit cards.
  8. Be careful about opening new credit card accounts and closing older ones.
    It’s beneficial to have the longest possible credit history to show that you’ve maintained your credit accounts responsibly over time.
  9. Maintain accurate records of your credit accounts. 
    Keep copies of all documents relating to your credit accounts. These documents should include the application, promissory note, account terms and conditions, disbursement and disclosure statements (if applicable), and lender correspondence.
  10. Obtain a copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit-reporting agencies at least once a year and review it for accuracy.

Promptly notify the reporting agency of any errors; it can take several months to correct those errors.

Credit Resources

Credit Reporting Agencies
For more information on credit reporting or to obtain a copy of your credit report, you can contact a credit reporting agency. The three national credit reporting agencies are:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
This service was established by the three national credit reporting agencies in response to the requirements of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act of 2003, which provides consumers with the right to obtain a free copy of their credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies once every 12 months. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com for more information.

Bankrate.com
For information on all aspects of credit and personal finance, visit www.bankrate.com.

Fair Isaac Corporation
For more information on credit scoring or to purchase your credit score and report, visit Fair Isaac’s consumer Web site at www.myfico.com.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
For help with credit reporting problems, call 877-382-4357, or visit www.ftc.gov for information and free publications about credit.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS)
For help managing your budget or your debt, call 800-388-2227 for the CCCS office nearest you or visit the national Web site at www.nfcc.org.

Note: Contact information for the above resources is provided for information purposes only. This does not constitute an endorsement, by the author, Access Group, or NASFAA, of these entities or the information and services they provide.

Jeffrey E. Hanson is director of borrower education services for Access Group, Inc., in Wilmington, Delaware. Transcript wishes to thank Craig Watts, public affairs manager for Fair Isaac, for his assistance with this article.

Graduate School Application Checklist

30 Nov

Lee Gordon
Director, Office of Graduate Admissions, Purdue University Graduate School

Special Considerations for Application Deadlines

  • Application deadlines vary! You may need to adjust this timeline to meet the deadlines of the programs you apply to, so be sure to note each program’s application deadline. This timeline is based on a January 1 deadline.
  • If you find more than one deadline for your program of interest, use the earliest deadline to set your timeline; this is most often the one you must meet to be considered for fellowships and other financial assistance.
  • Access more resources at https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/prospective/preparing/

Summer Before Senior Yeargrad school application checklist.png

  • Identify your goals and consider whether or not graduate school is right for you.
  • Write a draft of your personal statement.
  • Research program options and requirements by browsing through graduate program guides (online and hard copy), university websites, and other resources.
  • Research fellowships and other types of financial assistance. Consider government agencies, philanthropic organizations, the schools you apply to, and professional organizations or honor societies as potential sources of funding.
  • Register for required standardized tests.

August-September

  • Meet with faculty members in your department to discuss your personal statement, possible programs to consider, and potential fellowships and other funding sources.
  • Determine the schools to which you will apply.
  • Get organized. Create a file for each school you will apply to and keep all related application information in the appropriate file.
  • Prepare for standardized tests.
  • If your area of interest is STEM, register and attend the Big Ten+ Graduate School Exposition. Hosted annually on the campus of Purdue University, the Grad Expo features educational workshops, an elite graduate school fair, networking receptions, and more!

September-October

  • Take standardized tests and request that your scores be sent to the appropriate schools.
  • Complete your personal statement and have it reviewed at the CCO.
  • Requests letters of recommendation from faculty; provide a copy of your personal statement and résumé/ curriculum vitae to each professor. Give your recommenders the appropriate information to submit their letters. Many recommendation letters can be submitted online and your recommenders will receive an email with instructions when you list them on your online application. If your school requires hard copy letters, give your recommenders the appropriate address.
  • Order transcripts from all post-secondary institutions and request official copies be sent directly to the schools to which you are applying.

November

  • Complete application forms. (Do a draft first!)
  • Mail application materials (if not Web-based) one month in advance of the application deadline. Pay close attention to the instructions; all documents may not go to the same address.
  • Remind your recommenders of when they must submit your letters of recommendation (i.e., the application deadline of each program – consider telling them a deadline one to two weeks earlier than the actual deadline in case something falls through at the last minute).
  • Make copies of all application pieces for your records

December

  • Check with schools to verify that your letters of recommendation, test scores, transcripts, and other required documents have arrived to complete your application by the deadline.
  • Remember that many offices will be busy at the end of the semester and over winter break, so do not wait until the last minute.

February-March

  • Schedule campus visits to locations in which you are interested. Some programs may have planned visitations for admitted students; inquire about this.
  • Prepare questions for each school to gain more information about academic programs, student life, and professional development opportunities.
  • Conduct informational interviews with students in the programs to which you have applied to gather their perspective.

April

  • Mail acceptance forms and, if required, deposits.
  • Notify schools that you will not be attending after making your decision.
  • Send thank you letters to the writers of your letters of recommendation. Be sure to let them know where you’re going to school!

Want to join Purdue’s prospective student mailing list to receive additional tips, deadline reminders, and funding information?
Visit www.purdue.edu/grad and click on Request Info.

6 Tips from ITap to Help You Detect Phishing Emails

27 Oct phishing-image22

Phishing image22.pngKirsten Gibson, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), 765-494-8190, gibson33@purdue.edu

Falling for a phishing scam or accidentally downloading malware can be expensive. It could result in identity theft or ransomware taking your files and data hostage. Your personal information, time and money are all, obviously, valuable to you.

Taking the time to review tips and advice about cyber-security could end up saving you money and a headache.  purdue it phishing security.jpg

In the past month alone, Purdue’s security team diverted campus users 2,537 times from a known phishing site to a Purdue-supported educational page about phishing. And those are only the known phishing sites students, staff and faculty were exposed to from scam emails.

“The primary purpose of phishing is to collect sensitive information and exploit it to gain access to otherwise protected data,” says Franco Cappa, director of information security services for ITaP. “Everyone who works for Purdue is vulnerable to phishing scams.”

The most important thing to remember is that anyone can fall victim to phishing if they’re not paying attention and taking proper precautions. Here are some warning signs that you’ve received a phishing email:

  • The message contains general salutations and signatures. Most phishing attempts begin with generic phrases such as “Greetings valued customer” or “Dear account user.”
  • The URL link is an unsecure address. Emails containing Web links should always be scrutinized. One way to verify a link’s legitimacy is to hover your mouse cursor over embedded links and make sure the link uses encryption (https://).
  • The sender requests personal information. Messages soliciting passwords, Social Security numbers and other personal information are most likely scams.
  • The message asks you to take immediate action. Hackers want you to respond without thinking. Watch out for language directing you to update an account, download an attachment, visit a website or give out personal information.
  • The message contains a suspicious attachment. Legitimate organizations, including Purdue, rarely send attachments via email. Opening attachments can cause automatic malware downloads or lead to compromised personal information.
  • The email promises something too good to be true. Any message offering a cash scholarship or an increase in email storage quota with a single click is a scam.

When you see suspicious email in your Purdue inbox, report it to abuse@purdue.edu with the email included as an attachment.

To attach an email in Windows using Outlook with Purdue’s Exchange service, create a new message and choose “Attach Item” from the drop-down list on the message menu bar. Then select “Outlook item,” and attach the email in question.

On a Mac, right click or control click the suspicious message and choose “Forward Special” and “As Attachment” from the drop-down list.

For additional cyber-security information, and free anti-virus software, check out the SecurePurdue website.

For more ITaP news, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Your Federal Loan Repayment

23 Sep repay-banner

Honest businessman

Alanna Ritchie is a content writer for Debt.org, where she writes about personal finance and little smart ways to spend (and save) money. Alanna has an English degree from Rollins College. Join our Debt.org Google+ Community

repay-banner

As you fill out your intent to graduate forms and begin looking into the post-college future, your stomach might start to turn. You might start to panic and it may become difficult to breathe as you start imagining your monthly student loan payments. Stop, take a step back, BREATH, and let’s think about the situation.

But guess what? There’s good news!

Not only do you have a six month grace period after you leave school or drop below half-time attendance for your federal student loans, you also have numerous options for repayment plans. A grace period is a period of time after borrowers graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment where they are not required to make payments on certain federal student loans. Some federal student loans will accrue interest during the grace period, and if the interest is unpaid, it will be added to the principal balance of the loan when the repayment period begins. Repayment plans are designed to accommodate the needs of graduates entering the job market and receiving introductory salaries, while carrying the responsibility of handling additional bills, like rent, insurance, gas and groceries.

You do have options. If the standard ten-year plan with fixed payments is too much for you to handle, contact your lender to negotiate payments that match your budget. Not sure who your lender is? You can view all your federal loans and their lenders online from the National Student Loan Database.

Which Plan Meets Your Needs?

Cartoon Family Portrait

Federal student loans come with a variety of repayments plans that are offering based on requirements such as income, family size, or loan type. Examples of federal loans include Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loans, which could be Subsidized Stafford loans, Unsubsidized Stafford loans, or PLUS loans. There are three main categories of repayment plans for you to consider.

First, the Graduated Repayment plan will allow you to begin making lower payments. Although, like the Standard plan, this plan must be completed in ten years, the lower payments gives you time to increase your salary. Every two years, your monthly payments will increase.

Second, if the Graduated plan is still more than you can afford, the Extended Plan allows you to take up to 25 years to repay loans. There is more flexibility with this option, as you can choose between a fixed or graduated payment.

Finally, there are four different repayment plans that consider your income as a factor. Some of these plans also consider factors like family size, spouse’s income, and total amount of loans. Although these have similar-sounding names, each has specific requirements and formulas which influence the monthly amount you will owe.

Four plans with income factors:

Federal Loan Consolidation

While you are researching different payment cycles and methods, you may consider a Federal Loan Consolidation. A Federal Loan Consolidation allows you to merge all your Federal Student Loans into one loan. This can include your Subsidized Stafford Loan, Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, and Perkins loans. Once all your Federal Student Loans are merged into one loan, you will only have one monthly payment and one interest rate attributed to the loans. However, note that this will likely not reduce your overall interest rate since it is weighted by loan. As you can see, a Federal Consolidated Loan may allow for an easier way to manage monthly repayment.

How Can You Prepare Now?

cartoon roadmapGet in the habit of putting a portion of your paycheck in savings now, before you start paying back your loans. This will force you to make a budget and spend less every month, so when the time for repayment comes, it will be easier to part with this percentage of your paycheck.

The money you save up during your grace period can also be used as an emergency fund of accessible cash for unexpected situations. This cushion can enable you to afford your loan payments even when you have unexpected expenses such as a flat tire, broken arm or speeding ticket. Preparing yourself for the future can protect your loan debt from growing any larger.

Make sure your loan servicer has updated information, including your phone number and email. Your servicer will need this information in order to communicate any new information on your loans, including when your next bill is due.

Choosing a plan and taking a proactive approach with your finances can help you smoothly adjust into your repayment period.

Graduation Bucket List

30 Jul

Leah Bergman, Purdue Alum
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

graduation cap

Whether you’re starting your first day at Purdue or finishing up your last semester, these are some traditions you should take part in before you walk across the stage in your cap and gown.

  1. Boiler Traditions

It is said if you walk under the bell tower you will not graduate in 4 years so be sure you wait until after you have your diploma in hand. Some also say if you kiss your true love at midnight then you will get married or when a couple walks under the bell tower after graduation they will get engaged.

Fun Fact: If you look closely you will notice the “4” on the clock face is actually“IIII” instead of the Roman number “IV”. This is because the Roman numeral “IV” resembles Indiana State University’s abbreviation “IU” and Purdue does not want anything on their campus to represent their rival.students running through fountain

Whether you’re celebrating your first week of college, the end of finals week, or graduation a fountain run is always a good way to do it (might be difficult for you December grads). A fountain run involves running around in Loeb Fountain, which is located next to Beering Hall, and then running across campus to the Engineering Fountain. It is a great way to cool off and celebrate with friends!

  1. Grand Prix Race

Grand Prix is a week-long event filled with parties, activities, costumes, and more. It all ends with the annual Grand Prix race where several people compete in a Go-Kart race in cars they built themselves. This is a week everyone talks about for years to come and many alumni will come back just to celebrate and partake in this tradition.

  1. Football! Boiler Up, Hammer Down!

football

Whether it’s at Ross-Ade or Mackey Arena you need to attend at least one rivalry game during your time at Purdue. IU is Purdue’s biggest rivalry so these games are sure to always be exciting. Within the first quarter you will learn there are many traditions within sports itself.  Quietly watch your peers and join in once you get the hang of it, participation just increases your comradery and the entertainment value exponentially.

The football game is known as the Old Oaken Bucket because Purdue and IU compete for the trophy (which is literally an old oaken bucket) with this name each year. No matter which type of game you attend, a Purdue vs. IU game will be memorable. Spirits are high those days and it is a great day to show your Boilermaker pride and help show that we are better than Hoosiers.

Once you are of age, you will want to make sure you participate in Breakfast Club at least once before graduation.  Imagine walking down State Street early one Saturday morning and seeing Mario and Luigi, some Disney Princesses, and Superman. But it’s not even October yet. No, it’s Breakfast Club! Every Saturday morning of a home football game and the Saturday of Grand Prix students of age partake in this crazy tradition. Students dress up in creative costumes and line up outside the bars starting at about 5 or 6 in the morning and keep partying until the game, or race on Grand Prix, starts.

  1. Go Sledding at Slayter Hill

Winter takes up a huge chunk of the time while students are in classes at Purdue. A great way to celebrate the first snow, finals being done, or just a weekend with friends is sledding down Slayter Hill. Don’t have a sled? No problem! You can use a laundry basket, mattress, pool toys, or even a tray from the dining courts (although it is not encouraged to steal the trays, some are usually laying around the bottom of the hill during the winter). Get creative with your sledding device and slide down Slayter Hill.

  1. students filling up fountain pops

    Photo By: Purdue Marketing & Media

    Have a Den Pop

If you have 60 cents you can do this one now! Den Pops are sodas that are as big as your head. You get them from the Discount Den and on the wall is a list of creatively named recipes for different Den Pop flavors to create. Or, if the creative juices are flowing, you can create a unique drink and your own recipe. These are a great way to cool down during those last few weeks of class, a refreshing drink after a hard exam, or really anytime!

These are just a few of the many traditions Purdue has. Look around for more to add to your bucket list or create your own with your friends. Boiler Up!

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