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Are Student Loans Impacting Your Credit Score? What You Need to Know

July 12, 2017

Even if you only have a basic knowledge of how credit scores are calculated, you may be aware of the fact that taking on debt and then paying it off in a timely and consistent manner is generally considered one of the best ways to build good credit, while late and missed payments can show up as black marks on your credit history.  What you might not know is that different types of debt can have different ramifications where your credit is concerned.

For example, the balances carried on credit cards are considered to be a form of revolving credit, according to Investopedia.  Lines of credit also fall into this category.  This type of debt includes a maximum limit and accounts are considered “open-ended”, which is to say, you still have access to agreed-upon funds even after you’ve borrowed and paid back up to the maximum.

Then there are installment credit accounts, including loans for houses, cars, and college tuition, just for example, which Investopedia characterizes as separate from revolving credit in that there are terms attached which specify the duration for payments, the number and amount of payments, and an end date for the loan.  Further, once payments are made, the money cannot be borrowed again.

These types of debt affect your credit score in different ways.  Revolving debt is potentially more damaging, as carrying high balances on credit cards could have an enormous impact on your credit score.  Revolving credit determines 30% of your score, according to MyFICO, although there are certainly other factors involved, including:

  • What is owed on all accounts
  • What is owed on different types of accounts
  • The number of accounts with balances
  • The percentage of revolving credit in use (credit utilization ratio)
  • The amount still owed on installment loans

Of course, if you find that revolving credit is severely impacting your credit score, Investopedia suggests that paying it down also has the potential to deliver significant improvements, and some people even utilize installment credit (personal loans) to pay off revolving credit as a means of lowering interest rates and shifting to a less impactful form of debt.

Although revolving credit accounts for a major portion of your credit score, installment loans can also have an impact in both positive and negative ways, according to an article from Student Loan Hero.  Here’s what you need to know about how student loans can impact your credit score.

How Can Student Loans Help Credit?

Because installment loans aren’t weighted as heavily as revolving credit when determining credit score, they may have less potential to damage your rating.  In fact, FICO statistics show that approximately 38% of consumers with student loan debt totaling over $50,000 fall enjoy a FICO score of over 700, which is considered the average score for American consumers, according to a recent article by Fox Business.  Those in the 740-799 range are considered to have very good credit, while a score of 800 or higher is considered exceptional.  By comparison, about 28% of consumers with student loan debt over $50,000 have scores under 599, which is considered a poor credit rating.

What does this mean?  It’s difficult to say, because credit ratings are based on so many different factors aside from student loan debt.  However, when managed appropriately, student loans, like any type of installment loans, could certainly improve a credit rating.

While revolving credit accounts for 30% of a credit rating, payment history is actually more important, delivering a whopping 35% of your credit score.  If you pay your monthly student loan bills on time and in full, you should be able to steadily build good credit over time, especially when you take the same care with all your other financial obligations.  Of course, this can be a double-edged sword, as well.

How Can Student Loans Hurt Credit?

While student loans don’t necessarily have the same major detractors as revolving credit, they still have the potential to harm your score if you don’t manage them appropriately, and even a single slip could cost you.

Even if you’re a responsible adult and you’re diligently paying down debt, it can be hard to juggle the many student loan payments associated with years of schooling (and taking out new federal student loans each year).  Something could slip through the cracks.  When this happens, it could have a negative impact on your credit score.

Even worse, the better your credit score, the more a late or missed payment could impact you, according to MyFICO.  This is because a higher score reflects less risk.  While a consumer with a lower FICO score is known to have some credit issues and is therefore somewhat less impacted by future problems like late or missed payments, someone with a stellar credit rating may fall further for similar infractions because the risk was not anticipated.  It doesn’t seem fair, but when paying down student loan debt, it’s important to understand the potential impact.

Why Does the Impact of Student Loans Matter?

Your credit score is used to determine whether you are approved for future loans and to calculate the interest rate and terms you are eligible for, according to Student Loan Hero.  While a single late or missed payment isn’t going to tank your score, and you can always speak with lenders about removing black marks on your credit report once you’ve rectified a mistake, you naturally want to maintain a high score if at all possible so as to improve your odds for loan approval and the best terms down the road.

How Can I Improve My Credit Score While Paying Off Student Loans?

Even if you’ve had smooth sailing so far, you may be interested in the benefits to be gained when you refinance student loans.  If you currently juggle several student loans and you’re worried about the possibility of missing a payment somewhere along the line, you could refinance and consolidate student loans into one convenient payment.

In some cases, you might even save money when you refinance student loans by lowering interest rates or transferring variable interest loans to fixed interest options.  It depends on your situation, but it’s something to consider when it comes to controlling how student loans impact your credit score.

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2019-11-18
The Average Cost of College

When it comes to shopping, many of us have champagne taste and a beer budget. We shop with our eyes and our hearts before taking a peek at the price tag. The process of selecting a college is no different. We make decisions based on location, athletic teams, available programs of study, greek life, or even where our friends apply. Unfortunately, for many people, the cost of college lives at the bottom of the checklist, despite being a vital factor to consider.    The average cost of college for the 2019-2020 school year, is $21,950 for public, four-year, in-state colleges and $49,870 for private universities. This is an increase of 2.6% and 3.3%, respectively, over the year prior, alone.    Without question, college is expensive, and very few people are talented enough to get an athletic or academic scholarship to completely or partially cover the cost of education. An even smaller number of people are able to pay for a degree out-of-pocket. That leaves the majority of college students and their families to rely on loans to pay the bills.     Further complicating matters, a lot goes into the cost of college, including your residency status, level of degree you seek (bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral), where you live (on-campus, alone, or with a house full of roommates), and even how much you eat or how you commute to campus.    To help you understand where you can save, as well as how you can cover expenses with financial aid, let’s dig into what comprises the average cost of college.   

Tuition

Average Cost: $10,440 (public) | $36,880 (private)*

Tuition is the amount you pay your university to enroll in classes. The total changes based on the number of credit hours you take and if you take courses with additional charges like science labs or residential academic programs that let you attend smaller classes in your dorm. Offers like the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) can help students save money by providing in-state tuition to out-of-state students. Despite programs like this, the average cost of college is always rising because tuition increases each year based on inflation, school budgets, and a variety of other factors.    Mandatory fees are lumped into tuition and include contributions toward campus construction and access to things like:
  • Student rec center
  • Athletic events
  • Career services
  • Student activities
  • Computer labs
  • Bus passes
  • Etc. 
 

Room and Board

Average Cost: $11,510 (public) | $12,000 (private)*

Many colleges require you to live on-campus for at least your first year of attendance. The benefit of this requirement is that you’re close to classes and resources, including dining halls and bodegas that can be paid for with your room and board fees. These costs aren’t typically part of the bill for community colleges or schools with a high population of daily commuters. However, students will still need to cover living expenses like rent, utilities, and groceries if they chose not to live at home with their parents and amounts vary based on eating habits and geographic locations. For example, rent in California is higher than in Tennessee and the general cost of living in an urban setting is higher than it is at a rural school.   

Books

Average Cost: $1,240 (public and private)*

Books can be a secret killer when it comes to college expenses. No one ever anticipates the sticker shock associated with their first $300 textbook. These costs also include necessary technology like tablets or laptops for note-taking and essay writing. It also can include special supplies like graphite pencils and drawing paper for art majors or scrubs or stethoscopes for nursing majors. These semesterly shopping trips can do real damage to your checking account and add to the average cost of college.   

Transportation

Average Cost: $1,230 (public) | $1,060 (private)*

So far, we’ve focused on what you’ll need to pay to get by on campus, but we haven’t talked about the expenses associated with getting to campus. These costs impact resident and commuter students and range from airplane tickets and bus fare to parking passes and tanks of gas.    

Financial Aid 

When factoring the average cost of college, the other side of the ledger is represented by financial aid in the form of scholarships and need-based grants. With these awards, that don’t have to be repaid, the cost of tuition is reduced.    In addition to scholarships and grants, federal and private loans are available to help cover the cost of college. Private lenders offer student loan options for undergraduate students, graduate students, and even parents. Loans cover everything from tuition to personal expenses that you’ll occur during your college years, like cell phone bills, clothes, laundry, or even a bed for your apartment. The biggest thing to keep in mind when taking out loans is to borrow only what you’ll need. It’s necessary to have money to pay bills while you’re a full-time student, but borrowing too much can put you in a bind when it comes time to pay back those loans.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
2019-11-11
Avoiding Identity Theft: Student Loans Edition

Identity theft seems like something that will never happen to you, that is, until it does. And when it hits, it can cause a lot of trouble—impacting your bank accounts, credit report, taking out loans and requiring a lot of time and effort to correct. When a thief has access to your personal information, there’s no limit to the havoc they can wreak. While charges on credit cards and unauthorized bank account withdrawals are more commonly associated with identity theft, student loan fraud can happen as well.    Most people know to take necessary precautions, like shredding important documents and having facial ID or passcode set on their phone, but it seems like these steps are never enough. Identity thieves can get to your information through data breaches, stolen mail, stolen wallets, email scams, and even though your internet connection. Without altogether avoiding technology or living in a vault, how cautious do you need to be? Very cautious, as it turns out.   Let’s look at how to avoid identity theft, then what to do if the theft involves unauthorized student loans. 

Avoiding Student Loan Identity Theft 

Use Safe Internet Connections When you Cyber Monday shop in a cafe or buy Wi-Fi at 30,000 feet, you put yourself at risk for identity theft. Public Wi-Fi connections are full of fellow internet surfers, and they don’t all have good intentions. Though convenient, public Wi-Fi may not have the proper security and encryption measures in place. When a fraudster gains access to your personal information via public Wi-Fi, it’s known as a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. Once they’ve gained access, thieves can spy on your internet behavior and steal usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, etc.    Needless to say, it’s best to avoid anything on a public network that requires you to log into accounts or make purchases. This includes applying for colleges and student loans. Be sure you’re always working from a safe, trusted internet connection and make sure your device or computer has the latest software installed.   Don’t Keep Your Social Security Card in Your Wallet At some point, you’ll likely be asked to share your Social Security number at the doctor’s office, your bank, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or even your job. And because of that, it’s tempting to keep your Social Security card in your purse or wallet for easy access, but doing so can open the door to identity theft.    When your SSN lives next to your credit cards and driver’s license, you give thieves everything they need to steal your identity. Instead, keep your Social Security card with other important documents in a personal safe at your house or in a rented safe deposit box at a bank or credit union. Read more about when you should and shouldn’t give out your Social Security number.   Be Weary About Who You Share Information With When applying for student loans, work directly through fafsa.gov for federal loans or through reputable financial institutions for private loans. How can you tell if a site is reputable? You should be able to easily find contact information on their website and speak to a real person when you call. Reputable websites also work through encrypted connections, helping reduce the risk of identity theft by sending your data across the internet with additional layers of protection. You can tell if a website is encrypted by its web address: “HTTP” sites are not encrypted while “HTTPS” sites are.    If you do find that your identity has been used to take out unauthorized student loans, the below tips can help you get back on track.   Recovering from Student Loan Identity Theft If you received a call or letter from a loan servicer warning that your account is past due, despite not having a student loan with that institution, you might be the victim of identity theft. Student loan identity theft might also be discovered during a routine credit check or by a credit monitoring service. Regardless of how you find out, once you do, here’s who to contact:
  • Contact the lenders that opened the accounts. Their fraud departments can freeze the accounts to prevent any further damage. 
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to complete an Identity Theft Report. This report will provide a detailed recovery plan and layout the appropriate steps. It will also pre-fill forms and letters you’ll need, saving you precious time. 
  • Contact the police and file a police report. A police report may be needed to help clear things up with lenders, credit agencies or the Department of Education.
  • Contact the school where the fraudulent account was opened, notify them of your incident and ask for a letter stating that the account is closed.
  • Contact the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®) and have them place a free fraud alert on your credit report. Doing so lets each one know to take extra precaution before approving new lines of credit. You may also consider a credit freeze, which prevents any new lines of credit from opening until you have it lifted. 
  Keep An Eye On Things If you haven’t signed up for a credit monitoring service, now is the time. The big three reporting agencies offer these services, as do third-party platforms like Credit Karma®. You can set up alerts to be notified of any new activity tied to your personal information. If you don’t want to sign up for a service, at least do your due diligence by checking your credit frequently. You can get your credit report at no cost every 12 months from each of the main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Request your report at AnnualCreditReport.com.   Remember, fraudsters will stop at nothing to access your personal information, and they’re good at what they do! It’s troublesome to have any aspect of life tampered with, but especially so when it comes to student loan identity theft. It pays to know ways to help protect yourself, and if the unfortunate does happen, how to begin the rebuilding process.  
    Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
2019-11-08
Student Loans: What are Deferments and Forbearances?

When you graduate from college with student loan debt, you typically have a 6-month grace period before you have to start paying off your loans. Once your grace period is over, however, you may not be in the best position to start paying them, such as experiencing economic hardship. In these situations, you may be able to request a deferment or forbearance that will adjust your loan payments to make them more manageable or delay them altogether.  

What is a Deferment?

A deferment allows you to temporarily postpone or stop making student loan payments. You’ll want to be careful about requesting a deferment depending on the type of loans you have, because some will cover the interest during deferment, and some will make you responsible for paying the accrued interest during deferment. For Federal Subsidized Stafford Loans and Federal Perkins Loans, the government will pay interest during the deferment period, while they will not with Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loans. Also, parents are responsible for paying interest on Federal PLUS Loans while in deferment.   There are various reasons why you could qualify for deferment, including: 
  • Experiencing unemployment
  • Economic hardship
  • Student enrollment
  • Graduate fellowships
  • Rehabilitation training
  Technically, you are entitled to deferments – if you qualify for one and submit a request in a timely manner, your loan servicer is required to grant a deferment. However, this doesn’t mean you can stop paying once you submit the request – keep making monthly payments until the request is approved to avoid taking any knocks to your credit score. Once the deferment is granted, be sure to know when it ends, and be prepared to start making payments from that point forward, as that will be expected.  

What is a Forbearance?

In the case that you don’t qualify for a deferment, you may have to request a forbearance on your student loans. When in forbearance, you can either make reduced payments or no payments at all for a limited period of time. In almost all forbearance cases you will be responsible for the interest that accrues on your student loan balance   The two types of forbearances are discretionary and mandatory. Discretionary forbearances are up to your loan servicer to grant, but you can request them in cases of financial hardship or illness. For mandatory forbearances, if you meet the eligibility criteria for the forbearance, your loan servicer is required to grant the forbearance. You can request a mandatory forbearance if:
  • Your federal student loan debt exceeds 20% of your gross income.
  • You are serving in a medical or dental internship or residency.
  • You are serving in a national service position for which you received a national service award.
  • You are performing teaching service that would qualify for teacher loan forgiveness.
  • You qualify for partial repayment of your loans under the U.S. Department of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program.
  • You are a member of the National Guard and have been activated by a governor, but you are not eligible for a military deferment.
  As with deferments, you must continue to make your monthly payments until the request for forbearance is approved by your loan servicer. Going into forbearance will not cancel out or erase any missed payments you have, so if you are in need of a forbearance, it may be better to request it quickly as to avoid any effects on your credit score.    Managing student loan payments isn’t always easy. If you’re having trouble making payments on your loan, you should contact your loan servicer immediately and learn about your options. It’s important for them to be aware of your specific situation so they can provide you with the appropriate information and help you avoid defaulting on your loans. If you default, you are not eligible for a deferment or forbearance.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.