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Freshman Boot Camp: Budgeting Your Financial Aid Refund

9 Aug

One of the mantras told to college students is to “Live within your means”. While it’s good advice to generally follow, it doesn’t get at how difficult it can be to do so while you’re in college. One of the biggest challenges college students face is that their incoming flow of cash tends to be extremely irregular.Budgeting your Refund.png

You might be sitting on a big pile of cash after your financial aid refund comes in, but if you don’t budget it correctly you’ll be broke before the semester ends. So in order to avoid eating exclusively ramen at the end of the semester you’ll want to come up with a strategy for taking care of your money!

As a student, you probably have three potential avenues to get an incoming cash-flow. They are your financial aid refund, a part-time job, and cash gifts for holidays and your birthday. Your parents might also throw something your way once in a while but no one wants to have to ask just because you weren’t keeping track.

Making a realistic budget can be tough but once you know your income it does get a little bit easier. So total up what you’ll get between your financial aid refund and what you’ll get from work. If you know for sure what you’ll get for gifts you can toss that in, but that’s not a for-sure thing.

Next, start by totaling up all of your projected expenses for each month. Aside from obvious things like rent, utilities, food, and other monthly bills you’ll need to include a projected number for having fun. If you know some times of the year like Grand Prix or Homecoming you’ll be spending extra, try to account for that by varying it up by month.

What’s important here is to make sure that your total income is higher than your total expenditures. If it’s not, there’s going to be a big problem.

Assuming the numbers add up, you’ll have a little bit of a strange result. You’ll have your monthly expenditures but your income will be a combination of paychecks and a one-time refund from your financial aid.

There’s actually a surprisingly simple way to be able to make this into a steady income flow without being tempted by the big number in your checking account.

This method is called using a Holding Account. Basically you take the lump sum of money and deposit it into a bank account and set up recurring transfers to your primary checking account on a monthly basis. This way between your income from work and the transfers you’ll be able to pay your monthly expenses without having the temptation to make a big impulse purchase.

If you want to de-automate it a bit, you could actually have them both as checking accounts and write a check from your holding account to yourself on a bi-weekly or monthly basis and deposit it into your other checking account.

This system is not fool-proof but it combines the ability to pay your bills and have some fun while also putting up a small barrier to the full sum to keep you from tapping out your semester’s funds on a whim.

Something to note: make sure that your holding account doesn’t have any fees related to minimum transactions or minimum balance if you can. It doesn’t make any sense to pay one bank to hold your money when there’s plenty of others that’ll do it for free.

If you find that your financial aid refund is going to be much more than you’ll need to meet your expenses and you’re taking loans, it’s worth looking into reducing what you borrow. Remember that not only do you have to pay back what you borrow, you’ll be accruing interest on most loans until the day they are paid off.

 Student Loans: Responsible Borrowing

29 Jun

Melissa Leiden Welsh, Ph.D., CFCS, CPFFE | University of Maryland

responsible borrowing.jpg
If you are planning to attend college, a trade school, or some type of post-secondary training after high school, you will also likely apply to obtain student loans. The challenge is to select loans that match your financial needs, not only when you are a student but also when you are earning an income following graduation.

Student loan debt has generally been considered “good debt” due to a borrower’s increased earning ability upon graduation. However, the amount of outstanding debt should be proportional to a student’s projected earning ability. Check out the following suggestions to keep from falling into student debt traps.

1. Evaluating Post-Secondary School Options

There are many things to consider as you look at educational opportunities and the decision should not be taken lightly.

Do

  • Look at different types of post-secondary school and make sure you fully understand the costs (i.e., tuition and fees, room and board) associated with each one. It’s okay to “shop around” for schools.
  • Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FASFA is the gateway to federal student loans.
  • Examine and evaluate federal loan options. Federal loans will almost always offer lower interest rates than private loans, and you may be eligible for loan forgiveness programs, or more flexible repayment options.
  • Shop around for private loans if you don’t qualify for enough federal student loans. Even a slightly higher interest rate of 0.5% to 1% more can add up over extended repayment periods.
  • Examine potential career earnings upon graduation specific to your field of study. Some fields of study do not pay as much upon graduation as other fields. You may struggle to pay loans from an expensive post-secondary institution with a low paying career.
  • Get a copy of your free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com to check for unauthorized action with your personal information. You may not even have a credit report at this time, but checking it will ensure you have not been a victim of identity theft.

Don’t

  • Overlook public in-state colleges and training facilities as they often charge lower tuition with degrees matching your career goal and financial budget.
  • Select colleges or post-secondary training sites due to a friend’s enrollment. While it is difficult to change social settings in life, it is far worse to study for a degree/certificate in a field you are not truly interested in studying.

 

2. Before Signing Loan Documents

Student loans are ultimately your responsibility to repay, so make sure you are paying attention when borrowing.

Do

  • Limit borrowing to the amount you need to cover tuition, books, and educational supplies.
  • Keep a running total of loans accruing from year to year. Only looking at semester or yearly totals may leave you surprised and overwhelmed with the final summary loan total at graduation. You can use the National Student Loan Database System (NSLDS) to check your Federal loan balances.
  • Keep a folder of all student loan related forms and information brochures, preferably both physical and digital. It is not only convenient to be able to find everything in a single folder, but also can be helpful when planning and evaluating repayment options.
  • Some loans require actions to keep loans in deferment/forbearance (no payments required) while remaining as an enrolled student.
  • Keep your contact information current with each lender. It is your responsibility to report a change in your address to the lender. A lack of current address is NOT an excuse for missing a loan payment.
  • Understand the terms of the agreement in regards to how loan amortization works, how interest will be charged, and if interest will be added to the principal of the loan, commonly referred to as capitalization. Some private loans capitalize more frequently than federal loans.

Don’t

  • Turn to the signature page and sign without reading all the text of the contract you are signing.
  • Use extra funds from the refund check for pizza nights, spring break, drinks with friends or shopping trips. These expenses will cost you more because of interest.

 

3. Searching for Jobs and Preparing to Graduate

It is important to consider your student loans as you near graduation and begin looking for your first post-secondary school job.

Do

  • Work hard to graduate on time. Extra years at school mean additional student loan costs and lost years of earning. 
  • Make a spending and saving budget to follow after graduation. Determine potential costs to help guide your financial decisions such as housing. It is important to look at the interest rate of each loan and work to pay off higher interest rate loans first versus small loans with low interest rates to potentially save thousands of dollars in interest costs.
  • Visit the Student Loan Estimator to determine your estimated loan repayment totals.
  • Examine and evaluate various repayment plans. Schedule an appointment with your university loan department to determine available options.
  • Read all correspondence from loan providers thoroughly before deciding to consolidate loans – some loans are ineligible for loan forgiveness programs once consolidated with non-eligible loans and loan consolidation does not necessarily lower interest rates.
  • Be cautious when deciding to pay for loan consolidation as many federal programs and some private banks offer free loan consolidation. You may receive solicitations via the mail that offer to do it for a free, but it is always free to do yourself for federal loans.
  • Explore tax credits for student loan interest payments.
  • Choose to sign up for automatic draft payments from your bank account. Automatic payments reduce the possibility of late payments and are often rewarded with lower interest rates too.

Don’t

  • Consider not paying your loans on time. Default on student loans can greatly impact your credit report. Lenders and other businesses use the information in your credit report to evaluate your applications for credit, loans, insurance, employment or renting a home.
  • Extend loans to a longer repayment time to simply have a lower monthly payment. Those extra months and years will quickly add additional interest costs beyond the principle.

 

Resources

U.S. Department of Education Blog

Student Loan Hero

Edvisors Network

Making the Most of Your 21st Century Scholarship

27 Jun

Sarah Kercher, 21st Century Scholars Support Specialist

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As the 21st Century Scholars Support Specialist at Purdue, I often get asked about scholarship requirements, and resources available to 21st Century Scholars. After serving a year in this role, I’ve come up with four recommendations for 21st Century Scholars to maintain and make the most of their scholarship:

Know the Requirements

In order to make the most of your scholarship, you have to keep it! There are a few basic requirements that all scholars have to meet to renew their scholarship each year:

  1. Credit Completion

Starting Fall 2017, you need to earn 30 credits per year to renew your scholarship for the following year. If you started school in the fall, you have until the end of that summer to meet credit completion for the year.

  1. Full-Time Status

You must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours each semester to be considered full time.

Pro tip: Take at least 15 a semester to help you meet credit completion. This will keep you on track with your plan of study and gives you a buffer in case you need to drop a class for any reason.

  1. File Your FAFSA On Time

To receive 21st Century funding, you must file the FAFSA by April 15th. The FAFSA is available from October until April, so don’t wait until the last minute and risk losing out on a year of financial aid. Make sure you’re aware of Purdue specific deadlines to maximize the aid you’re eligible for, and file early!

Helpful Hint: You don’t have to go it alone! There are lots of opportunities to get help with your FAFSA- You can attend a local College Goal Sunday or get help from Junia McDole, our Financial Aid Administrator (see below)

Know Your Resources

Making the most of your scholarship is about more than meeting the requirements. It’s also important to take advantage of the resources available to you so that you can stay on track for four-year graduation, minimizing debt, and increasing your earning potential post-college.

  • Your 21st Century Scholars Support Specialist

My goal is to help you succeed! I’m available to answer scholarship questions and refer you to resources based on your situation, and I also offer individualized coaching to help you work through any barriers to your success. Throughout the year I provide workshops related to career exploration, academic success, and financial literacy and send monthly reminders about scholarship requirements, deadlines, and opportunities to get involved on campus. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’ve lost your scholarship, I’m here to help you navigate the appeal process.  My office is on the fourth floor of Krach, and you can schedule an appointment with me here.

  • 21st Century Scholars Financial Aid Administrator, Junia McDole

Junia can assist with the FAFSA, scholarships and grants, loan counseling, debt counseling, budgeting, work study, and other financial aid issues. She is located on the fourth floor of Krach as well, so you can visit us both in one trip! Contact Junia here.

  • Federal Work Study

If you’re looking to make some extra money to put toward your educational costs, look no further! 21st Century Scholars are eligible for the Federal Work Study program, which helps you secure a part-time job on campus where you can gain skills and experience for a future career while also earning money for your education. Click here to learn more about Work Study and use both the Student Life jobs website and the Financial Aid Office’s job posting site to search for opportunities at Purdue (make sure to click “work-study required” in the search criteria).

Note: You must check the box that indicates interest in Work Study on the FAFSA to be eligible for funding for that academic year.

Get Connected

Get to know your Support Specialist and other professionals on campus like professors and advisors. Being proactive about getting to know these people off the bat makes it easier to know where to go and feel comfortable asking them for help when you need to. Having an established relationship with campus professionals can be especially helpful if you need someone to advocate for you in the event that you have to appeal for your scholarship down the road.

Stay on Top of Purdue Email

This one may seem like common sense, but we all know how easy it is to let email pile up! Your Purdue email account is the primary way the University will communicate with you about your financial aid and 21st Century Scholarship, so it’s important to check it regularly and take action as necessary.  You’ll also get regular emails from your 21st Century Scholars Support Specialist reminding you of important dates for your scholarship and opportunities around campus that you don’t want to miss!

Insider Advice: It can be tough to switch from the email you used in high school to your Purdue account, but don’t take the risk of forwarding your Purdue email to another account. Too often messages get lost this way, and missing important emails can have serious financial and academic repercussions. Make it a habit early to check your Purdue account directly and often –soon it will become second nature!

Still have questions, or just want to get connected? We would love to meet you!  Call Student Success Programs at (765) 494-9328 to be connected to a Purdue 21st Century representative or visit our website.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter !

 

Scholarship Tips for College of Agriculture Students

7 Jun

Sherre Meyer, Assistant Director Office of Academic Program, College of Agriculture
Career Development and Scholarship Coordinator

Ag Scholarships2222.jpg

Indiana and National Scholarships are still available to College of Agriculture students for the 2017-18 academic year!

More information on the scholarships can be found at the College of Agriculture’s scholarship page. While scrolling down the webpage, look on the left side of the screen for “Indiana Agriculture Scholarships” and also for “National Agriculture Scholarships“. It takes a little more time to apply as each has their own scholarship application. Every year, many of these scholarships go unawarded, as students do not take the time to apply. Be sure to be mindful of the application deadlines. My advice is to read through each scholarship listed, and for those a student meets the criteria for – apply, apply, and apply!

The application for College of Agriculture Scholarships for 2018-19 will open in November, 2017. Go to the webpage listed above for the application. A common question is “Do I complete an application for each scholarship?” The answer is no, you only need to complete the one application.

One online application puts the College of Agriculture students into a pool for each scholarship for which they meet the criteria. Applications must be completed in their entirety to be considered. Partial and incomplete applications are deleted, so be sure to finish if you start!

Any questions or concerns about the College of Agriculture Scholarships can be directed to me at meyer10@purdue.edu, or call me at 765-494-8482.

 

Who Owns Your Student Loans?

6 Jun

Carrie L. Johnson, Ph.D. | North Dakota State University

When leaving college, whether you are graduating or taking some time off, it is important to know how much you owe in student loans and who you will be paying back. You may have kept track over the years, or maybe you didn’t. There are two types of student loans: federal and private. This fact sheet will show you how to determine the amount of student loans you owe and who you need to pay.

Federal Student Loans

The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) website is the best place to start when looking for history on your federal student loans (Direct Loans and Perkins Loans). To access your student loan information, you need your FSA ID to log in.

nslds1-2.jpg

The main page is broken down into four sections:

  1. Summary information for borrower; this includes your enrollment status and the date that status became effective.

  2. The next section will have any “warnings” that may be on your account such as nearing your aggregate borrowing limit or if you are in default on your loans.

  3. The Loans section lists every federal loan you have ever had and totals for your federal loans.

  4. Section 4 shows your Pell Grants.

To identify your loan holders and repayment amounts, focus on the third section shown below.
nslds4

By clicking on the blue button with the number in the first column you can see even more details about your loan. You will be shown the type of loan, what school you were attending when the loan was obtained, various important dates, amounts, disbursements and statuses, and your servicer information. The servicer is who you contact about repayment.

There are currently ten servicers the Department of Education uses for Direct Loans; you can find a list here. The servicer on a Perkins Loan is typically the school that extended the loan. However, some schools do have outside servicers or assign your loan to Department of Education. The example below shows what the servicer section on NSLDS looks like.

nslds3

Private Student Loans

The best way to determine information about the status of private student loans is to obtain a copy of your credit report. The credit report will include will total amount owed and the name of your lender. A free copy of your credit report can be requested by mail, telephone, or online every 12 months from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).

By going to AnnualCreditReport.com you can get access to information about your credit history, including student loan payments. You will need your personal information to log on and you will also be asked a series of security questions based on your report. You can also request your credit report by calling 1-877-322-8228 or by mail using this form.

Resources

AnnualCreditReport.com 

National Student Loan Database System

Saving for College

 

Federal Student Loans are Getting More Expensive This Year

15 May

Casey Doten, Financial Aid Administrator 

College can be an expensive investment. So it makes sense that many students have to take out loans in order to fund it. Unfortunately, borrowing federal loans for the 2017-18 just became a little bit more expensive.

The interest rates on all federal loans went up 0.69% for the 2017-18 school year. So undergraduates taking out Federal Direct loans for 2017-18 will be paying 4.45% on their loans, up from 3.75% in the 2016-2017 school year. This also impacts other types of federal loans: graduate Direct loans will increase from 5.31% to 6%, and PLUS loans for parents and grad students will increase from 6.31% to 7%.Interest rate increase.png

So how much more does this interest rate increase cost you?

A freshman taking out the federal limit of $5,500 in unsubsidized Federal Direct loans for the 2017-2018 school year will be impacted by the new, higher interest rate. Compared to those freshman who started a year before, the 2017-2018 freshman will accrue $161 over their four years of college, (plus their post-graduation grace period) before they even begin making loan payments. For a student who doesn’t take 15 credits every semester, that number will only grow higher.

Once repayment begins, interest is also applied to that $161 that accrued while the loan was in deferment. So that extra 0.69% in interest ends up costing $456 more over the life of the loan if the student uses the standard 10-year payment plan, which has the lowest total interest paid. The grand total repaid at the new, higher interest rate is $8,134 on the original loan of $5,500.

Unfortunately, this means paying $456 more than students who began only one year earlier for the same loan.

Keep in mind that this change only impacts loans which are being taken out for the 2017-2018 school year. Any federal student loans already taken out and disbursed before July 1, 2017 will not be effected by this change.

However, variable interest rate private loans from previous years may also be increasing. While the change in federal loan interest does not cause private loans to change, they both calculate their interest rates based off the Treasury Department’s auction of 10-year notes. This means that when federal loan interest rates rise, old private loans with variable interest rates can similarly expect to see an increase.

If you want to calculate your own loans for the 2017-2018 year, use a two-step process:

  1. Input your loan information into the Accrued Interest Calculator along with how many months until repayment begins (this is often years until graduation plus three months). This will give you the loan’s balance when repayment begins.
  2. Plus those loans into the Federal Student Aid repayment calculator and see what your repayment is, including information on the different payment plans available.

Even with the higher interest rates, Federal Direct loans are almost always a better option than private loans. They typically have lower interest rates and more flexible repayment plans to go along with fixed interest rates.

While this increase in interest shouldn’t dissuade you from making the investment in your education, hopefully it gives you the opportunity to think about how much you may borrow. Anything borrowed has to be paid back, with (higher) interest.

Which Student Loan Repayment Plan is Right For You?

12 May

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

Congratulations on your graduation! It’s an exciting time as you move into new jobs and new places! However, something from your past will be coming back soon – your student loans. Six months after leaving school most student loans are due for repayment. By default you are put into the the Standard Repayment Plan (which is also the most aggressive repayment option), but you have more options! Choose which Federal Loan repayment plan is the best one for your life.

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 what is forgiven 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

Dear Class of 2017, About Your Loans

10 May

From WiseBread New Graduate Help Center: Reyna Gobel, Student Loans Expert

girl surprised by letter

 

Dear Not-Yet-In-Trouble Federal Student Loan Borrower,

You might have heard that the Department of Education will be sending out letters to millions of student loans borrowers. The letters target borrowers whose grace periods are ending, as well as borrowers who exhibit signs of trouble that could lead to defaulting on their loans. If you haven’t started repayment yet but are fretting about how you’re going to possibly repay all that money — stop worrying.

I’m writing you this letter to not only give you important details about student loan repayment, but also to help you be aware of potential issues well before trouble starts.

I Defaulted — Here’s How to Avoid My Mistakes

I defaulted on a federal student loan simply because I didn’t know it existed. I had over a dozen student loans from different lenders; I forgot about one loan and went into default. It’s easy to do, but it’s also easy to avoid. Just log in to the National Student Loan Data System. You’ll see all your federal student loans on this site, along with contact information. Either arrange to pay each individually, or consolidate them into one loan. This is also a great time to get a free credit report – it can alert you to any problems you might have, like having missed a loan or bill payment.

Then, know yourself. If you can’t keep track of each individual loan, you really need to consolidate them into one loan to streamline payments (ask your loan servicer about consolidation options). Once consolidated, you can still choose a plan where payments are based on income, such as Pay as You Earn. And if you’re interested in the public service loan forgiveness program, know that it’s only available through loans originated by or consolidated with Federal Direct Loans.

Realize That Even With the Pay as You Earn Plan, You Might Have Payment Problems

The income-based Pay as You Earn repayment plan bases payments on your income and family size, but it doesn’t fully consider your expenses if your circumstances change. For example, at some point, you may have to help support a sick parent or child. You could also have bought a home when your income was higher. After a pay cut, a majority of your income could go towards your mortgage.

If you experience a financial setback, you have three options:

  • Call your servicer and see if your Pay as You Earn payment amount can be adjusted. You have to supply your income annually, and you may have forgotten to do so this year, causing your payments to set based a higher income level.
  • Ask for a deferment or forbearance, which are temporary payment breaks. Taking a break should only be done if the situation isn’t permanent. Always take a deferment when possible over a forbearance when any of your student loans are subsidized. The government pays the interest on subsidized student loans during periods of deferment.
  • If your income is lower because you took family leave for six months, you may not want to change your plan. However, for long-term pay cuts where your income-based repayment is too high for your budget, you should ask your servicer to also calculate payment options and see which payment option offers the lowest monthly payment.

Don’t Feel Embarrassed If You Don’t Know Something About Student Loans

I wrote two editions of a 240-page book on student loans, and I still don’t know everything about them. I read articles and play with the student loan repayment calculators every day. There’s always something new to learn. For instance, the public service loan forgiveness employer verification form wasn’t created until after the first edition was released. Now, thanks to that form, you can find out if you qualify for the public service loan forgiveness program right away and register for it right after you start working or after you’ve already started repayment — the choice is up to you. Never be afraid to ask your servicer questions about any of these programs.

Talk to Your Friends Who Are or Will Be in Repayment Soon

I’m not the only person who has experience with and advice about student loans. Talking to your friends can help you figure out repayment options and possibly pick better ones based on their choices and experiences. Just remember, they might have different circumstances than you, such as income level, children, or other debt that impacted their choices. Therefore, you shouldn’t copy their decisions. But you’ll be more informed and learn questions to ask your servicer. Plus, they may have missed payments, recovered, and now have advice about that. Learn from others’ student loan mistakes and victories.

The Most Important Part of This Letter?

The help you get doesn’t end here. You can tweet me anytime — @ReynaGobel— and ask questions. My articles will be posted here every week. You can ask me questions in my CollegeWeekLive web chats or get more helpful advice in my book CliffsNotes Graduation Debt.

Finally, remember you never want to receive a “dear troubled borrower” letter. The second you think you might miss a payment, talk to your loan servicer about options for a payment break or new repayment plan. With federal student loans, that one call will likely save your credit.

Reyna Gobel is a writer, author, public speaker, and student loans expert.  Her financial advice appears on Wise Bread’s New Graduates Help Center, in her video course How to Repay Federal Student Loans, in CollegeWeekLive newsletters and keynotes speeches, and in her audiobook How Smart Students Pay for School, now in its second edition. Be sure to check out her website for more helpful information on repaying your student loans.

So You’ve Graduated College: Now What?

3 May

Congratulations! You did it!

Graduated College NExt.jpg

As you’re taking your last finals, you can finally relax for a day before you start worrying about what comes next. You may have your future planned out perfectly, or maybe you were so focused on finishing you have no idea what comes next. Either way, that’s okay!

Searching for Jobs

The number one thing on most people’s mind post-college is the job search. The most common question during the job search: Which Jobs Should I Be Applying For? Between those tips and our Job Searching Pinterest board you should be good to go for all of your resume, cover letter and interviewing needs!

Where you live may be determined by your job search, or it might be the other way around! If you’re not sure where you’ll be laying your head, we help you weigh your options.

Student Loan Repayment & Forgiveness

Six months after graduation, your student loan repayment will come knocking. Even if you paid attention during your exit counseling, it’s likely you’ll run into questions you aren’t sure how to answer. Our first recommendation is not to panic, you’ll be okay!

You may be curious as to what your options are for student loan repayment and what might be best for you, but some inspiration from someone who is going through repayment might help your confidence.

If repayment starts to get away from you then you might have to deal with a default, which isn’t ideal but it’s not the end of the world.

If you became a teacher, you’ll probably want to check out the 4 loan forgiveness programs for teachers.

Grad School

Maybe instead of going into the working world, you’ve decided on grad school? Other than knowing your loans are going to stay in deferment (but gathering interest if not subsidized), you’ll want to stay on track of the graduate school application checklist.

Taxes & Credit

Nothing will make you feel more adult than having to pay taxes. But luckily your time in school has some tax advantages. Your school should provide a 1098-T form to use as an educational credit on your taxes for tuition you’ve paid, but once you start paying down interest on student loans you’ll also be able to use a 1098-E form!

Last, but not least, in the adult realm is credit! Luckily your student loan payments can help you build your credit. Understanding your credit score is going to be very important if you look into car loans or a mortgage for a house!

All in all, being in the adult world is pretty nice. You don’t have to worry about tests and homework, it’s a lot easier to find a nice life routine, and it’s a lot easier to have quality time with pets (or other humans). So use these resources well and make your transition into post-college as easy as possible!

Save Money & Time: Take 15 Credits!

28 Apr

Casey Doten, Financial Aid Administrator

One of the best things you can do for yourself in college is keeping yourself on track to graduate on time. Only 3 in 10 students in Indiana finishing their Bachelor’s degree within 4 years and that creates financial challenges for students who fall behind on graduation. Not averaging 15 credits per semester puts you off of a 4 year graduation plan which comes with a host of potential issues.

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First and foremost is the cost of attending one extra year of college. An extra year at Purdue costs an extra $10,002 for in-state tuition ($28,804 for nonresident). Not to mention the costs of housing, food, books and other school supplies, and the cost of travelling home a few times per year. All in all, the estimated cost to be a Purdue student is $23,032 each year ($41,994 for nonresidents). That’s a lot of extra money to spend for the same degree that can be obtained in four years.

Remember: tuition at Purdue is at a flat rate for anyone taking 8 or more credits hours, so whether you’re attending part-time with 8 credits or are registered for 18 credits, the cost is the same!

If the extra tuition expenses isn’t enough of a downside for taking more than 4 years, the extra year lost also gives a couple other undesirable effects:

More time for student loan interest to accrue:
If you had borrowed all the $27,000 available to you in Federal Direct Loans for your first four years your balance on those loans would increase from $1,080 with an extra year of interest to accrue (assuming a 4% interest rate). This isn’t even considering any extra borrowing for the additional time or the interest that accrues during the repayment portion of the loan.

Lost wages and retirement: NerdWallet recently did a study into the impact of taking extra years to graduate. One extra year would result in approximately $46,355 in lost income and $82,074 in lost lifetime retirement savings!

Adding up the tuition paid, lost wages and retirement savings equals an incredible $138,431 for the extra year to get the degree ($157,233 for nonresident). Obviously this is not an ideal situation, so here are some tips to help keep you on track for graduating in four years!

So what can you do?

Take 15 credits every semester! Almost all degree require 120 credits which smoothly divides into eight semesters of 15 credits. While it might be tempting to take less credits your first semester or two, you’ll have to make those up another semester which you may regret when you’re taking those extra credits along with upper-level courses. Plus, students who start out at 15 credits per semester are more likely to graduate.

It may be obvious, but it’s important to pass your classes and earn grades that allow them to count for requirements. Many courses in your major or that you need for pre-reqs require you to earn Cs or higher to count. So contrary to what people may say, Ds do not really get degrees.

If you’ve fallen off the 15 credits per semester average, you can make either make it up during the summer or by taking extra credits in a fall/ spring semester. If the idea of taking 18 credits is a turn off, plan on taking summer courses! You can receive scholarships through both the financial aid office and the Think Summer office if you qualify.

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