Tag Archives: loan repayment

 Student Loans: Responsible Borrowing

29 Jun

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

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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

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

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