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Female medical student standing next to professor
2019-10-17
Medical School Debt: Why Now May Be the Time for You to Refinance Student Loans

The road to becoming a doctor is a long and expensive one. After 4 to 5 years of undergraduate studies, 4 years of medical school, and 3 to 7 years of residency, many graduates are well into their 30’s before they earn a doctor’s income. Residency does come with a paycheck, but the average Resident Physician makes $58,803 a year, according to glassdoor.com. It's hard to imagine much of that is applied to medical school debt.   Americans owe a total of $1.6 trillion in federal and private student loans and newly-minted doctors carry a good portion of those loans, carrying an average of $179,000 in medical school debt, six times more than the average graduate.   Student loans can be a financial and emotional burden, even for doctors, and consolidating and refinancing those loans can be a relief on both fronts. With consolidation, you can roll multiple loans into one, leaving you with a single monthly payment. This simplifies repayment. Refinancing means agreeing to new and different terms of your loan with the goal of getting a better interest rate or term. Better rates and terms can make medical school debt more manageable.  

Why Now is the Time to Refinance

Monthly principal and interest payments on student loans can bury many borrowers. A lower interest rate can help you save thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. Better rates also mean you can pay down that medical school debt faster, also helping you pay less in the long run.   The importance of refinancing now is that you can start saving immediately. Depending on what you qualify for through private lenders like ELFI1, you could lower your interest rate, have a single monthly payment, lock in a fixed interest rate, and more. All helping you to enjoy the fruits of your hard work faster.   Another reason to refinance now is that the Federal Reserve Board lowered interest rates twice already this year. This federal interest rate applies to banks—it’s the amount of interest they charge each other to lend federal reserve funds. The benefit for you, as a borrower, is that the less interest banks pay, the less you can potentially pay.  

Refinancing Federal vs Private Loans

In our blogs, we regularly discuss the difference between private student loans and government student loans. Keep in mind, the differences between these loans come back into play for refinancing.   Regardless of your initial loan type, when you refinance your medical school debt, you take out a new loan with a private lender – ideally at a meaningfully lower interest rate. With this new private loan, you can lose access to federal benefits like:
  • Income-driven repayment plans
  • Ability to pause payments through deferment and forbearance programs
  • Loan forgiveness programs
  ELFI has a team of Personal Loan Advisors who can help you decide if refinancing makes sense for your situation. As always, we encourage borrowers to look for student loan refinancing loan options with no origination fees or application fees first.  

Downfalls to Refinancing Medical School Debt

Other than losing out on federal borrower benefits, refinancing your loans might not make sense right now. If you already have a low-interest loan, you might not see much savings. To see what you can save, use ELFI’s savings estimator tool.   Additionally, some banks charge fees that could potentially offset any interest savings. With ELFI, you’ll never pay:
  • Application fees
  • Origination fees
  • Prepayment penalties
  Finally, if you’re still in your residency or fellowship, it might make sense to wait until you have a higher income or better credit score, both of which will impact the interest rates available to you. Or you might considering having a cosigner to help you achieve an even lower rate.  

Other Options to Payoff Medical School Debt

While refinancing can lower your monthly payments and get you a better interest rate, there are other options for lowering your medical school debt.   Consider overpaying your monthly amount. This option isn’t realistic for all borrowers, but if you’re savvy enough to live simply or lucky enough to apply a spouse’s paycheck, you can quickly pay down that medical school debt. Some graduates might even have the option of taking out a zero-interest (or ultra low-interest) loan from relatives or friends. Once the student loan is repaid, you can put the excess funds toward other debts or investments.  

Understanding Your Loan Refinance Options

It is important to explore all your options when opening an initial student loan. It's equally as important to explore the best refinancing options for reducing your medical school debt. If you need help navigating those options, contact ELFI. As pioneers in the space, our management team has over 30 years of expertise in student loans and student loan refinancing.     1Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.   Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.
Adult students walking in collegehall
2019-10-16
Can I Refinance My Student Loans and Go Back to School?

Many Americans, at one time or another, have thought about their student loans as they contemplate whether or not they can afford to go back to school and pursue additional higher education. Maybe you were able to partially pay your way through college, but couldn’t quite close the gap, so you turned to federal student loans or private loans  to make ends meet. You may have been accepted into your first-choice school and you made the financial leap using student loans to fund the degree of your dreams. Whatever the case may be, you’re now in a situation where you need to change your current student loan structure in order to go back to school and take the next step in your education. Student loan refinancing may be the best option to help you lower your monthly payments and allow you to go back to school with financial peace of mind.  

So I Can Refinance My Student Loans and Go Back to School - But Why Should I?

  The short answer to the question “Can I refinance my student loans and go back to school?” is often a “yes”. There are lots of options for dealing with student debt, and those options change depending on the amount of your current student loan debt, whether your current student loan is federal or private, and what you’re looking to achieve through student loan refinancing. This means that no matter what your financial situation, you can almost certainly take advantage of a student loan refinance through a reputable private lenders such as ELFI1 provided you can meet credit criteria established by each lender.   One advisor stipulates that you should only take out new student loans that won’t overburden your financial situation by taking on too much debt or “overleveraging”. Overleveraging means taking on more debt than your income can comfortably pay for, as measured by financial ratios such as “debt-to-income ratio,” or DTI. If you already owe a lot on your current student loans and have the financial means to afford new student loans, then you might want to consider refinancing the student loans you already have to make room for the new monthly debt payments you will have on the additional student loans you take out. That’s good news for graduates who shelled out a pretty penny for their undergraduate degree.   In general, the best reasons to refinance your student loans - if you’re taking on new debt to go back to school - would be to:
  • Get a lower interest rate (and potentially lower monthly payments)
  • To take advantage of new federal or private loan programs that may be financially suitable to you, or
  • To consolidate the student loans you already have with a single, private lender rather than dealing with multiple lenders on your existing student loans.
 

Is a Student Loan Refinancing My Best Option? 

  Student loan refinancing does have some benefits that other options, such as debt consolidation programs, would not (like allowing you to release a cosigner from your previous loans). One big benefit you’ll likely receive from student loan refinancing is a lower monthly payment. The federal student loan debt consolidation program, unlike student loan refinancing with private lenders, averages the interest rates of your existing federal loans and rounds up the weighted average interest rate by an eighth of a point, so while the interest rates of some of your loans may go down, others will go up to meet the average set in the consolidation process. That means that your interest costs likely won’t change all that much, if at all.   There are many reasons to explore refinancing your student loans, including improving your interest rate, payment timeline, or ability to take on new loans with the money you could save each month. Other benefits include releasing a cosigner from one or more loans, getting better customer service or benefits than you currently get from your lender, or having the convenience of making a single monthly payment instead of multiple payments. Consider using an industry-leading private lender such as ELFI for a fast loan prequalification experience (in as little 2 minutes!) that can get you the student loan funding you need.  

What Factors Should I Consider When Deciding on a Student Loan Refinance?

  A few of the factors most graduates need to consider when refinancing their student loans have to do with not only payment size, interest rates and terms, but also the type of loan they will refinance into and their own personal financial situation. Keep in mind how this may improve your ability to get better terms or rates on your current loan or on any new student loans you end up pursuing after your refinance in order to go back to school.   For example, many graduates considering a student loan refinance in order to go back to school don’t know that there is no federal student loan refinancing program. Both private and federal student loans can be refinanced with a private lender, but neither federal nor private loans can be refinanced into new federal loans. What you started with is what you get when it comes to your federal student loan - unless you refinance with a private lender.  Federal student loan rates are set by the US congress and mandated by law - you can’t get a better deal or any rate concessions the way you might be able to do with a private lender.   Another big factor when it comes to deciding on a student loan refinance is your personal financial situation. While this is often the first question that graduates looking at a student loan refinance ask themselves, it should be asked again - can you afford new student loans to go back to school, even if you get the refinancing terms and rates you want for your current student loans?

How Do I Choose the Right Time to Refinance My Student Loans?

  Some financial experts and financial bloggers, such as NerdWallet, suggest refinancing the minute you have the credit score and income to support getting a lower interest rate, regardless of whether you want to go back to school and take on new loans in the process.   Beyond this, and the obvious timing issues presented by deciding on whether, or when, to go back to school, be aware that your income, credit score and debt situation will have an overall impact on whether you can get the student loan refinance terms you want. Making sure to weigh all your options and pick a reliable lender who can help walk you through all your loan options. ELFI’s personal Loan Advisors are trained to help you navigate this process and to simplify it for you.  

How Do I Choose the Right Student Loan Refinancing Option?

  While there are many reputable student loan refinance providers available, expert and impartial voices like NerdWallet and Student Loan Sherpa agree that ELFI (Education Loan Finance)  is one of the best. With multiple loan options, flexible repayment structures, and best-in-class customer service, ELFI can make your dreams of refinancing your student loans and going back to school a reality. ELFI also goes a step beyond and provides each borrower a personal loan advisor to help them navigate the process.    

Final Thoughts

  No matter what your degree field or career aspirations, most graduates will be faced with the choice of whether to refinance their student loans, when to do it, and how to do it in a way that fits their lifestyle. Using a reputable student loan refinance company like ELFI can help you pick the best student loan refinancing option for you, especially if you intend to take out new loans and go back to school. Check ELFI out today for the best and latest in student loan refinance options and get on the road to the career of your dreams!   1Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.   Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.
Woman holding a smartphone
2019-10-15
Best Apps for Budgeting in College

Managing money is hard, but budgeting in college? That’s a whole different ballgame. For a lot of students, you have so much to worry about with classes, work, and other involvements that finances often slip your mind. So how do you hold yourself to a budget when you can barely remember to feed yourself dinner? Luckily, we live in an age full of apps to help you get a jumpstart on budgeting and money management. Here are a few of our favorites.   Mint®. Mint is a free mobile app where you can view all of your banking accounts in the same place. It automatically updates and puts your transactions into categories so you can see where all your money is going - and where it’s coming from. It also recommends changes to your budget that could help you save money. Its features include a bill payment tracker, a budget tracker, alerts, budget categorization, investments, and security features.   PocketGuard®. Like Mint, PocketGuard allows you to link your credit cards, checking, and savings accounts, investments and loans to view them all in one place. It automatically updates and categorizes your transactions so you can see real-time changes. PocketGuard also has an “In My Pocket” feature that shows you how much spending money you have remaining after you’ve paid bills and set some funds aside. You can set your financial goals, and this clever app will even create a budget for you.   Wally®. This personal finance app is available for the iPhone, with a Wally+ version available for Android users. Like other apps on this list, it allows you to manage all of your accounts in one place and learn from your spending habits. You can plan and budget your finances by looking at your patterns, upcoming payments and expenses, and make lists for your expected spending.   MoneyStrands®. Once again, with this app, you’ll have access to all the accounts you connect. Its features allow you to analyze your expenses and cash flow, become a part of a community, track and plan for spending, create budgets and savings goals, and know what you can spend without going over budget.   Albert®. A unique feature that Albert emphasizes is its alert system. When you’re at risk for overspending, the app will send you an alert. The app also sends you real-time alerts when bills are due. Enjoy a smart savings feature, guided investing, and the overall ability to visualize your money’s flow and create a personalized budget.   Before you download any budgeting app, make sure you check out the reviews and ensure it’s legitimate. Because a lot of apps ask for your personal financial information, it’s essential you verify their legitimacy before entering your account number. Listen to what other people have to say and then choose the option that works best for you, because not every app will be perfect for everyone. Budgeting in college may be hard, but downloading an app is just one way you can make it easier. Maybe you don’t want to use an app at all. If you’re in that boat, you can check out some other approaches to budgeting here or here.   Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.
Woman sitting on floor looking at laptop computer
2019-10-14
Motivating your student to apply for scholarships

Do you find your child lacking motivation when it comes to finding grants and scholarships? While some students are intrinsically motivated and will search out and apply for scholarships on their own, other students may need a little encouragement in order to accomplish these tasks. While it can be frustrating, it's important to remember that this is likely the first time your child has had to navigate financial waters. Because of that, we're sharing some simple ways you can motivate your child to apply for scholarships before and during their college years.

Discuss college costs and finances with your child.

Your student may not fully understand how much college can cost. Hold an honest discussion with your child where you review the costs of their top college choices, how much money (if any) you will be able to contribute, the significance of creating a college budget, the realities of student loans, etc. While they may be more focused on which clubs they'll join and their newfound freedom, helping them understand the importance of financial help can make their college year much more enjoyable.

Share scholarship success stories.

Sometimes, all it takes to motivate your student to apply for scholarships is sharing how their peers are reducing the cost of college. Ask other parents which scholarships their child was able to secure, and even let your child know the lump sum their friend was able to save. Take note of the steps each student performed in order to obtain the scholarships and go over with your student ways they can implement strategies into their application process.

Assist with developing a scholarship organization plan.

When it comes to applying for college scholarships, it pays to be organized. From deadlines to account passwords to application requirements, your student will have a multitude of details to remember. Developing a scholarship organization plan will help deter your child from becoming overwhelmed, which in turn will motivate them to complete applications. Share these organization tips with your child to make the process of applying for scholarships a little easier.

Provide incentives.

Using extrinsic motivators, such as rewards, can prod your student into action. Just as you may have bribed your toddler during the toilet training phase, that same concept should work with your teenager. Consider making a deal with your child that if she applies for a certain amount of scholarships, then you will provide half of the money so she can purchase that new phone or outfit for which she has been saving up money.

Give your child a free pass.

Most teens would gladly give up their household chores to complete other tasks, even if the task involves academics. Allow your child a free pass on chores if they use that time to search out and complete scholarship applications.

Set realistic goals.

If you expect or nag your child to spend most of her free time looking for scholarship leads and filling out applications, no wonder they aren't motivated. Work with your student to set realistic goals for the number of hours spent each week on the scholarship application process.

Acknowledge and encourage your child’s efforts.

Positive encouragement can work wonders to increase your child’s motivation. By letting your child know that you have seen and appreciate their efforts to apply for scholarships, you are giving them the confidence they need to continue applying for more. For more information about scholarships, be sure to read the scholarships and grants from our friends at eCampus Tours. Your teen can also perform a free scholarship search by clicking here.   Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.
Couple sitting at table on the computer
2019-10-11
5 Financial Tips for After You Refinance Student Loans

The process of refinancing student loans can be like studying for finals: you prepare for weeks, the stress keeps you up at night, and once the big day finally passes, you feel a huge sense of relief. You might even go out with friends to celebrate. But like college, you can’t just forget what you learned. You have to apply that knowledge to the next step.    When it comes to refinancing student loans, the next step is to continue honing your financial savviness. Find other ways to reduce and quickly pay off debts so you can start spending money on the things you want, instead of the things you need! Below are five tips to consider after refinancing student loans. 

Pay Down Other Debts

Take the extra amount you paid toward that student loan and apply it to other debts. With a $50,000 loan at an 8% interest rate, you could owe approximately $480/month for 15 years. Your total interest over the life of the loan is $36,000. But if you’re able to reduce that interest rate to just 6%, your monthly payment drops to $420/month and the total interest paid is $26,000. What could you do with an extra $60/month? What could you do with an extra $10,000 over 10 years? A lot.    Consider all the types of debt and ongoing expenses you have that you could apply that $10,000 toward:
  • Credit cards
  • Car loans
  • Home loans
  • Medical bills
  • Childcare
  • Cell phone bills
  • Utility bills
  You can also opt to keep that extra money aimed at your loan. Refinancing student loans often establishes terms with no prepayment penalties. So paying off loans faster can alleviate the burden of debt. This can take many forms, including:
  • Make an extra payment: In addition to your minimum monthly payment (12 payments a year), consider an extra payment every few months. In the example above, if you save $60/month on your refinanced student loan, you will have enough money for a whole extra payment every 7 months, with no additional work done on your part. Just a little saving!
  • Pay more than the minimum: If you don’t want to worry about orchestrating extra payments, overpay during each regular monthly payment. By going above and beyond the minimum payment, you’ll keep from accruing as much interest on your principal balance. Going back to our example again, if you were to keep that extra $60 applied to your monthly payment of $420 (for a total of $480), you could pay off your loan 2–3 years earlier at a savings of $5,000. It might seem tempting to use that extra $60 as play money right now, but $5,000 could be an even bigger play day in the future!
  • Make single lump-sum payments: Use your tax return, annual bonus, or an inheritance to make lump-sum payments toward the principal balance on your refinanced student loan. Again, the mindset here is to pay off that loan as fast and comfortably as you can.  

Negotiate Other Bills or Debts

Don’t stop while you’re on a roll. Once you secure better terms for your loan, find other ways to lower your bills. Use that financial savvy you picked up refinancing student loans, and negotiate with other debt collectors. This negotiation isn’t limited to loans—you can often get better rates with your cable and internet provider too.    You also likely have a dozen or more automatic monthly payments coming out of your checking account or linked to a credit card. Some banks or apps like Truebill® and Trim® can help you find and cancel subscriptions that are unused or that you forgot you signed up for in the first place. What started as $60/month saved could possibly turn into $150/month after canceling unused subscriptions. 

Consolidate Credit Card Debt

You can consolidate loans, but did you know you can also consolidate credit card debt? If you have multiple cards that you owe money on, you can roll those cards into a single loan. Depending on your credit score and other factors, a consolidated loan can have lower interest or a lower, more achievable payment. You could also take out a personal loan with a lower rate to pay off cards directly with the credit card company.

Keep At It

Refinancing only sounds like the hard part. The real challenge comes after you sign the papers. Getting a new interest rate and a new loan term won’t save you money if you don’t make on-time payments and pay off your loan according to those new terms. Adult life has a lot more things on its to-do list. Set up automatic payments so you don’t risk forgetting. At the very least,   set monthly reminders in your calendar app to write a check or manually process your payment. 

Tell Your Friends

ELFI offers options for student loans and refinancing student loans. But did you know ELFI also has a referral program1 that can help you make (and save) even more money? Sign up and create a personalized referral link to share with friends or family. When someone refinances using your link, you’ll get a $400 referral bonus check and your friend will receive a $100 credit toward the principal balance of an Education Loan Finance loan. There’s no limit on the number of people you can refer. Learn more at elfi.com/referral-program-student-loan-refinance.     Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.   Terms and conditions apply. Subject to credit approval.   1Subject to credit approval. Program requirements apply. Limit one $400 cash bonus per referral. Offer available to those who are above the age of majority in their state of legal residence who refer new customers who refinance their education loans with Education Loan Finance. The new customer will receive a $100 principal reduction on the new loan within 6-8 weeks of loan disbursement. The referring party will be mailed a $400 cash bonus check within 6-8 weeks after both the loan has been disbursed, and the referring party has provided ELFI with a completed IRS form W-9. Taxes are the sole responsibility of each recipient. A new customer is an individual without an existing Education Loan Finance loan account and who has not held an Education Loan Finance loan account within the past 24 months. Additional terms and conditions apply.
2019-10-10
Tips for Making Friends in College

If you’re like many students, starting college means striking out on your own, forging your path through life, and developing the skills that are sure to result in financial success. At least that’s the dream, right? But what happens when going off to college means leaving behind the familiarity of your family and friends? Or living in a new city that you have no idea how to navigate? What about striving to make ends meet financially and finally understanding what it means to budget? What is Ramen anyway?   College isn’t always what we conjure up in our heads. While it is a time of self-growth and development, getting a foothold in your new chapter can be challenging.  Because of that, we’re sharing a few tips to help you embrace the unfamiliar and start making new friends in college.   

Get out of your comfort zone.

We can give you countless ideas, but they all start with this one piece of advice. If you want to make new friends, you’ll have to get a little uncomfortable. But when you think about it, that’s a massive part of what college is about, right? To create new experiences and meet people, you’ll have to leave the comfort of your dorm room and put yourself out there. We’ll talk about a few different ways to do this, but it’s essential to go into this process expecting to do more than just what’s familiar. This is about being “ok” with not having a grasp on this phase of life.  

Make friends in your dorm.

At no other time in your life will you be living with this many people. Living in a dorm doesn’t just mean living with roommates or suitemates. It means there’s a whole building of people you can get to know. Most dorms are equipped with community rooms of some kind, so an easy way to branch out and get to know people would be by doing your homework in a community room instead of your own bedroom. Since many students live on campus and don’t need a car, you could offer to carpool to the market or even create “watch parties” of your favorite TV shows. Post opportunities for group outings on the bulletin board and keep the RA in the loop of any sight-seeing trips around the city. The more you engage with people, the more your relationships will grow over time.    Bonus tip: a sure-fire way to make friends in college is to ask your mom to bake some treats and share them with people in your dorm — everybody loves cookies.   

Consider an open door policy.

Whenever it’s appropriate, don’t be afraid to leave your room door open. Besides being a signal that you welcome small talk, you never know when another student will hear what music you’re playing, show you’re watching or even overhear what you’re talking about with your roommates. Remember that the freshmen on your floor are looking for opportunities to connect, just like you are.  

Looking for friends? Join the club. 

College campuses are full of extracurricular opportunities. From academic organizations and Greek life to hobby-based clubs and everything in between, there’s likely a way you can get plugged in with students who share a common interest. “Welcome Week” is a popular semester kick-off event where clubs set up booths and give out freebies like food and t-shirts. Do your homework and make a list of some you’d like to know more about. Pace yourself, and resist the urge to sign up for everything that remotely sounds interesting. When you first start college, it can be fun to get an idea of what each group is like, but overextending yourself can backfire   Joining a fraternity or sorority is a fail-proof way of making friends in college. Many fraternities and sororities focus on community involvement and leadership development, and there’s always an opportunity for an upperclassman to guide you through your college years. If Greek life is for you, take the time to understand the process of recruiting, rushing and pledging here.  

Get an on-campus job.

Want a fool-proof way of making friends in college? Live and work in the same place. Whether it’s at the school bookstore or coffeeshop, you can literally get paid and get to know people at the same time. Visit your campus Career Services center and they’ll give you a list of all the jobs you can apply for. Better yet, they’ll be able to coach you on your interview skills and help make your resume irresistible to employers. If you’re not making regular appointments with the Career Services staff you’re missing out on a very valuable resource.  

Break the ice with a classmate. 

It may seem hard, but you can do it. Get past the awkward and get to know a classmate. If just introducing yourself isn’t your speed, then ask a classmate if they understood the assignment or if the class is what they thought it’d be. People may shy away from talking about themselves initially, so forging a bond over the dislike of oxford commas  is a fine place to start.    If you’re assigned a study group, be active and participate in discussion. Take opportunities to ask questions and pay attention to what your classmates are saying.    Making friends in college might seem like a daunting task, but just be yourself, get out of your comfort zone, and it will start to come naturally for you.    Learn more about navigating the college years What I Would Have Told Myself in College - Barbara Thomas Advice From A University of Tennessee Knoxville Graduate on Attending College   Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.
2019-10-09
Customer Review of Refinancing Student Loans With ELFI

Meet Daniel, a college graduate with an entrepreneurial spirit. He started his own tutoring business five years ago, and with the burden of student debt weighing him down, he decided to refinance his student loans this past year.   After applying for student loan refinancing with about 10 different companies, Daniel decided to go with ELFI. Here's why.     He wanted to make sure that he could get the best terms that he could. His new terms with ELFI saved him $162/month, and he's paying his loans for 5 fewer years. His loans were also consolidated into one monthly payment.   He wanted a company that matches you with one representative that assists you through the entire process. Amanda Scott, an ELFI Personal Loan Advisor, helped Daniel through the entire process of refinancing his student loans. As he says, "she was the very first phone call and the very last call I had with Education Loan Finance."   By refinancing his student loans with ELFI, Daniel freed up additional money every month that he can now use to provide for his growing family, fund the construction of his new home, save for retirement, and support his tutoring business.  
"It's a relief knowing that I have refinanced these loans – and that I can now go on with the rest of my life."
  Interested in seeing how much you could save by refinancing your student loans? Consult our student loan refinancing calculator.*  

Learn More About Student Loan Refinancing With ELFI

 

  *This is a paid testimonial. Education Loan Finance is a nationwide student loan debt consolidation program offered by SouthEast Bank, which is based in Tennessee. ELFI is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating outstanding loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your cost of education debt and/or makes repayment very simple. Subject to credit approval. See Terms & Conditions at www.elfi.com/terms. The interest rate and monthly payment for a variable rate loan may increase after closing. Interest rates will be based on the term of your loan, your financial history, and other factors, including your cosigner’s (if any) financial history. For example, a 10-year loan with a fixed rate of 6% would have 120 payments of $11.00 per $1,000 borrowed. Rates are subject to change.
2019-10-08
Student Loan Refinancing vs. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Graduates seeking enriching careers like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists can often graduate from school with a large amount of student loan debt. Student loan debt can be especially burdensome during residency.    Many healthcare professionals look to Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSFL) for relief. Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a federal government program under the U.S. Department of Education's Direct Loan Program offered to forgive qualified candidates of their Federal Direct Loans. The PSLF program can be a good option for healthcare professionals, but it is vital to understand the qualifications.     According to USA Today, the PSLF program has had 41,000 submissions, and only 206 applicants have qualified. When choosing how to proceed with your student loan debt, it is essential to be well informed and have all the facts before making a decision.   Let's review the requirements of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, take a look at student loan refinancing, and review the qualifications of both programs to see which option could be right for you.  

Facts About Public Service Loan Forgiveness

If you are a borrower of student loan debt and you work within the public or non-profit sector, you have probably heard of the PSLF program.    If you ever played the game "telephone" as a kid, you'll know that word-of-mouth from multiple individuals can get information and facts mixed up. According to Federal Student Aid, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, the "PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer."    To fully understand this Act, let's review the legislative history.    The program created under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-84) was designed to encourage student loan borrowers to remain and pursue careers in the non-profit and public sectors, as salaries in the private sector tend to be higher.  

Loans Eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Certain federal loans are eligible for PSLF. The eligible loans for PSLF are non-defaulted loans under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program.    You may know this as the Direct Loan Program or Direct Loans. According to the Department of Education, the loans provided under this program are:   

Direct Stafford

Undergraduates, vocational, or graduate students. Must be enrolled half-time in participating schools.  

Direct Unsubsidized Stafford 

Undergraduates, vocational, or graduate students. Must be enrolled half-time in participating schools.   

Direct PLUS 

For parents of dependent students accepted for enrollment half-time in participating schools. As of July 1, 2006, graduate students are eligible.  

Direct Consolidation 

Individuals with student loans that have defaulted but have made satisfactory arrangements to repay the loans.  The Federal Family Education Loan Program and the Federal Perkins Loan Program, don't qualify on their own for the PSLF program. However, if you have a loan within one of these two programs and consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan, they can qualify. Now that we understand the type of eligible loans we'll take a look at some qualifications.  

Qualifying Repayment Plan

Borrowers seeking the PSLF program must have federal Direct Loans and be on a "qualified payment plan" known as an Income-Driven Repayment Plan (IDR).    The 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan qualifies for PSLF, but to have a balance remaining, you must enter into an Income-Driven Repayment plan. If you do not enter an Income-Driven Repayment Plan, you won't have a loan balance left to forgive since you will have paid it off by the time you qualify for PSLF.  

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Income-Driven Repayment plans base your monthly federal student loan payment on your income. Income-Driven Repayment Plans Include:    

Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan or REPAYE Plan 

Bases the monthly payment on you (and spouse's) adjusted gross income, family size, and state of residence.  

Pay As You Earn or PAYE 

Monthly payments are based on your adjusted gross income and family size. You must be experiencing a financial hardship to qualify. You must also be considered a "new borrower" as of 10/1/2007 or after, or be someone who received an eligible Direct Loan disbursement on 10/1/2011 or after.  

Income-Based Repayment or IBR 

Monthly payments based on your adjusted gross income and family size. Must be experiencing a financial hardship to qualify.  

Income-Contingent Repayment or ICR 

Based on your monthly adjusted gross income and family size. Typically chosen if an individual can't qualify for the Pay As You Earn Plan or Income-Based Repayment.Any changes to your income or your spouse's income will affect your student loan payment. For example, if your salary increases, your student loan payment will as well. If you are married, both your income and your partner's income are combined. Two combined incomes will increase your total income, likely increasing your monthly payment.    Keep in mind: On an Income-Driven Repayment plan, be aware of the overall loan balance. A review of the total debt amount will take place when applying for a mortgage, credit card, or auto loan. A standard evaluation process for financial institutions is reviewing a borrower's debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Borrowers who have high DTI ratios may receive higher interest rates on their loans because financial institutions view these borrowers as higher risk. Your federal student loan balance could end up costing you in terms of higher interest rates on other types of loans.   

120 Qualified Payments

If you are on a qualified repayment plan, the next step is making 120 qualifying payments. If the total student loan balance is of concern and you plan on paying extra monthly, do so with caution. When paying over the minimum amount you will need to contact the loan servicer. For example, a common federal student loan servicer is FedLoan Servicing. When you contact the federal student loan servicer, you have to request that the extra amount paid is not applied to cover future payments. To qualify for PSLF, you cannot receive credit for a qualifying Public Service Loan Forgiveness payment if no payment is due. You will also need to pay the full amount on the bill for it to be considered a qualified payment.    A common misconception about the PSLF program is that payments need to be consecutive. Payments do not need to be consecutive to count as qualifying in some circumstances. For example, if you work for a qualifying employer and made qualified payments, but then begin to work for a non-qualified employer, you will not lose credit for the qualified payments made before working for the non-qualifying employer.1   It is essential to know that your payment cannot be any later than fifteen days after your due date to be considered a qualified payment. On loans placed into an in-school status, grace period, deferment, or forbearance, you cannot make a qualifying monthly payment. If your loan is in deferment or forbearance to make a qualified payment, you must contact the servicer and request the status waived. According to the federal government, the best way to ensure that you are making on-time payments is to sign up for direct debit with your loan servicer. You need to be working full-time for a qualified employer while making payments on the loan.   1 https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service#qualify  

Qualified Institution/Employer

Your employer plays a vital part as to whether or not you can qualify for PSLF. A qualifying employer should be a government agency or certain types of non-profit organizations. If PSLF is important to you and part of your financial plan, it is imperative that you verify this internally. If at any point your employer is no longer a qualified institution, they are not responsible for notifying you. For example, in the healthcare industry, it is not uncommon for hospitals to convert from a non-profit to a for-profit institution.    To qualify for PSLF, you need to be working full-time for a qualifying employer. Requesting the Employment Certification Form annually from your qualified employer can keep you on track for the program.   

Applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is common among borrowers with federal student loans, but the qualifications are not well-known. For that reason, we have gathered some documents and information for you. First, you should complete and submit the Employment Certification Form for Public Service Loan Forgiveness annually. If you change employers, you should also have this form completed by your new employer. If you do not submit your Employment Certification Form yearly, you will need to submit it when you apply for the PSLF program. When applying for the PSLF program, you will need to submit one for each employer where you worked while making qualified payments. If you are looking for the Employment Certification Form you can download it here.   You can download the PSLF application here. Once you've completed your forms, you have three options for submission. Forms can be mailed, faxed, or submitted through your student loan servicer. Mail your completed application to:   U.S. Department of Education  FedLoan Servicing  P.O. Box 69184  Harrisburg, PA 17106-9184    To fax your information use 717-720-1628. The last option provided for submitting your Public Service Loan Forgiveness is uploading the application to the servicer.   

The Reality of Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The PSLF program only allows forgiveness for certain types of federal loans as described above. To date, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program has rejected 99% of applicants2. If you want to qualify for PSLF successfully, you must pay close attention to the detailed eligibility requirements of the program. Many of the requirements of the PSLF program can be difficult to understand or even find. To the benefit of those who refinance, student loan refinance companies are obligated by law to disclose information regarding their offerings. Some would say that student loan refinancing has a straightforward process when compared to the PSLF program. Not only is student loan refinancing transparent and held to a number of standards, but it can also really empower borrowers with options. Borrowers who previously had little control over their student loans can now choose what repayment plan works best for their financial future.   There is no “one-size fits all” answer. You need to know your options for managing your student loan debt. Whether you choose to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness or refinance your student loans is your decision. Understand that if you choose to pursue PSLF, there is a possibility you will not qualify. Remember, according to an analysis done by USA Today, only 1 percent of student loan borrowers who applied for the PSLF program have qualified.    When deciding what path to take, consider what your financial goals are and what sets you up for the most success in the future.    2 https://ifap.ed.gov/eannouncements/091918FSAPostsNewReportstoFSADataCenter.html  

Student Loan Refinancing 

Student loan refinancing has gained popularity within the last five years. Private companies are offering student loan refinancing as a way to make student loan debt more manageable. Many benefits can be achieved when qualified borrowers refinance their student loans. Most notably they can change repayment terms to fit their financial goals and lifestyle, and combine multiple federal and private loans into one single loan with a simple monthly payment, while likely reducing the amount paid over the life of their loans.    The new interest rate provided is based upon a borrower’s credit history and credit score, in addition to other eligibility criteria, depending on the financial institution. Overall, refinancing student loans can have an impact on a borrower’s interest rate, repayment terms, and benefits.   

Interest Rates

When you take out federal studentloans, all borrowers receive the same interest rate on a given Federal Direct Loan.    The federal government does not review a borrower’s or cosigner’s credit history or credit score. When you refinance your student loans, the private company will take a look over your credit history and credit score. The private student loan refinance company will also review additional information, like income.    Many companies that refinance student loans will offer both variable and fixed rate loans. If you previously had a variable rate loan and qualify to refinance, you can select a fixed rate loan instead and vice versa.   Refinancing provides qualified borrowers the opportunity to make changes to existing student loan terms.  

Repayent Terms & Cosigners

Federal student loans do not provide borrowers with an option regarding the repayment terms on the loan. Some federal loans provide a 10-year standard repayment plan, but other federal loans can span 25 to 30 years. When refinancing your student loans, you can select from the repayment terms offered by the company. Many companies offer repayment terms of 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years.    Can you imagine paying off your student loan debt in five years? Many borrowers find that repaying their student loans faster has helped them to save money on interest. Having the ability to select repayment terms can allow borrowers the flexibility to reach other financial goals in their life. Generally, the repayment term selected will affect the interest rate on your new loan after you refinance.   If you took out a private loan for college, it is likely you may have needed a cosigner. When you refinance student loans, you could potentially remove the cosigner from the loan if you have established the necessary credit to take out a loan on your own. Removing a cosigner relieves the cosigner from the financial burden and responsibility of student loan debt and frees up the cosigner’s credit. Be prepared when refinancing your student loans in case there is a loss of benefits.  

Loss of Benefits

Federal loans offer benefits for borrowers that may not be available through a private lender like a student loan refinance company. It’s imperative to read the guidelines and fully understand them before moving forward with refinancing your student loans. One of the biggest setbacks of student loan refinancing is that once you’ve refinanced your student loans through a private company, you no longer qualify for the PSLF Program.   When you refinance your federal student loan, the debt is paid off by the student loan refinance company, and a new loan is issued to you by the refinance company. Therefore, there is no federal student loan anymore. Since that loan is now paid off, there is no balance to forgive, and in turn, you cannot utilize PSLF. This is not the only drawback of refinancing.   Many student loan refinance companies offer different benefits regarding deferments or forbearances and make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Benefits that may have been utilized while repaying your federal student loan may no longer be available through a private lender.  

Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Student Loan Refinancing? Which is Right for You?

Now that you have an understanding of the options available to you as a healthcare professional, consider what makes the most financial sense for your situation.   Student loan refinancing may be a better option if you want to pay off your debt quickly since student loan refinancing allows you to change repayment terms and may have lower interest rates. Changing repayment terms can allow you to pay down your debt faster or even extend repayment.    Another situation where refinancing may be a more attractive offer is if rates achieved by refinancing are lower than rates on your federal loan or your private loans. By achieving a lower interest rate, you will be paying less interest over time. If you are not planning on applying for PSLF for your federal loans, or you have private student loans that carry high-interest rates, you should look into the options available for refinancing student loans.    However, by refinancing your federal student loans you will lose many benefits and protections available to federal student loan borrowers. Keeping your federal protections may be more beneficial than refinancing your student loans.    Whether you choose to pursue PSLF or student loan refinance, you should be knowledgeable about the requirements and the pros and cons of each option.   

See How ELFI Can Help You Refinance Your Student Loans

   
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2019-10-07
Tour These 6 Stunning College Campuses in the Eastern US From Your Couch

If you’re like us, you have a deep appreciation for college campuses – literally any college campus. When you stop to think about it, they’re so much more than just institutions of higher learning. Often, they’re the most aesthetically-pleasing, historical, and lively landmarks within a city. We’ve partnered with the team at eCampus Tours to highlight 5 stunning college campuses you can discover right from your couch. Let’s a take a look at our favorites from the Eastern US.

 

Princeton University 

This Ivy-league standout needs no introduction. Established in 1746 and known for its high academic standards and even higher achieving students, you can experience everywhere from Firestone Library and McCosh Courtyard to Rockefeller College Common Room and Carl Icahn Laboratory without worrying about finding a parking spot. Tour here.    

University of Florida

Start at the Century Tower and traverse your way to the 90 thousand-plus seating found in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Plaza of the Americas is a well-known campus spot where you can see students lining up for Krishna Lunch, slacklining or lounging around in hammocks in-between classes. Tour here.    

Temple University

This college campus tour begins in the The Liacouras Center Sports & Entertainment Complex, home to championship Owls athletics, and where everything from concerts to wrestling matches are hosted. Take a stroll through the brick-lined Founder’s Garden and experience the bustling Shops on Liacouras Walk. Tour here.     

College of Charleston

This liberal arts and sciences university sits in the heart of historic Charleston, and though many of the Greek Revival and Federal-style buildings look like remnants from the past, it provides students with cutting-edge technology and modern curriculum. The tour begins at Sottile House and College Greenway, showcasing the school’s vine-clad fences and meticulously-maintained lawns. Other highlights include the Cistern and impressive Addlestone Library Rotunda. Tour here.    

University of Kentucky

Established in 1865 in the heart of the Bluegrass State, the University of Kentucky is a campus steeped in tradition as much as academics. From the main quad (known as the Quadrangle) and Memorial Hall, which honors casualties of WWI to Maxwell Place, home to the university President, the comprehensive e-tour provides an accurate snapshot of this university’s unbridled spirit. If you can’t make a trip to Rupp Arena, home to Wildcat athletics, an eCampus Tour is the next best thing. Tour here.     

Colgate University

This prestigious private liberal arts college in Hamilton, New York was founded in 1819. With a student population that’s about the same size as the city’s population (just under 3,000 students), this university is known for its sense of community. Nearly half of upperclassmen are involved in Greek Life, and games are often played outside of the Academic Quad. A more modern addition to the campus, the Little Hall Art and History building is home to art made by students in their classes. Colgate’s Seven Oaks Golf Course is ranked among the top five college courses in the country by Golf Digest. Tour here.   Whether you’re a rising high school senior still scoping out where to spend your college years, or like us, and appreciate everything a vibrant college campus brings to a community, we think you’ll find the over 1,300 tours on eCampus Tours well worth the visit.    Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.