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2019-10-28
Preparing for FAFSA: Parent Edition

If you plan on sending your child to college, you’ve probably given some thought to financial aid. When you think of financial aid, the FAFSA may come to mind first.    Already know what FAFSA is? Skip ahead to the next paragraph.    The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, must be submitted for your child to apply for federal and state financial aid for college, such as federal grants, work-study programs, and student loans. This application must be submitted each year that your child will require financial assistance. College admissions officers recommend that you complete the FAFSA application even if your child may not need financial aid. Some private scholarships at certain colleges even require the submission of the FAFSA application. Each school that you have listed on the FAFSA will receive your financial information after you’ve completed the form.    When it comes to preparing your child for college, it’s important to understand the FAFSA process and the steps you should take when submitting it. Here are the things you should keep in mind when submitting the FAFSA with your child.  

Submit the FAFSA Early

While this isn’t common knowledge, financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis in some states, specifically when it comes to Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG grants) and federal work-study programs. Because of this, it’s important to find out your prospective or current college’s priority deadline and submit your FAFSA application before it.    While filing after the priority deadline won’t impact your child’s eligibility to receive federal student loans, they may end up taking out more in student loans due to missing out on other federal aid and even money from the institution. You can start the FAFSA application here. Find out some other important reasons why completing the FAFSA early is critical.  

Create Your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID

The U.S Department of Education replaced the Federal Student Aid PIN with the FSA ID in 2015. Your FSA ID will be the username and password you will use to access certain federal student aid websites, including fafsa.gov, studentloans.gov, and even the myStudentAid mobile app   If your child is a dependent student and submits the FAFSA online, both you and your child will need to create an FSA ID. An FSA ID is required to sign the online FAFSA application, and you and your child cannot share an FSA ID since it serves as a signature and must be unique to each person. You can create your FSA ID here.  

Use the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet

Before your child files the FAFSA online, it’s smart to check out the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet. This worksheet consists of the questions you’ll see on the FAFSA so you can know the information your child will need when filling it out.    Keep in mind that the FAFSA on the web worksheet is not part of the FAFSA application and will not be submitted – it’s simply a helpful guide for knowing what to expect on the FAFSA so you can organize your information. The questions are listed in the same order as they appear on the website and the app.  

Gather Your Documents

When filling out the FAFSA, your child will be asked for basic personal information as well as information about your family’s financial situation. Depending on your situation, you and your child may need the following documents while filling out the application:   
  • Your child’s driver's license and Social Security card
  • Income tax returns from the prior-prior year
  • W-2 forms and other records of money earned
  • Current bank statements
  • Records and documentation of other untaxed income received such as welfare benefits, Social Security income, veteran's benefits, AFDC, or military or clergy allowances
  • Records of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investments
  • Current mortgage information
  • Business or farm records (if applicable)
  Most of the above-mentioned steps can be completed before October 1st, which is the earliest your child can submit the FAFSA for the following academic year. By being prepared, you can help ensure that your child's FAFSA will be filed on time so he can get as much aid as possible for your family's financial situation. For more information on the FAFSA, check out our blog, "What is FAFSA? And Why You Should Care," and watch our quick video, "FAFSA 101: What You Need to Know About Paying for College."   While financial aid and grants are certainly helpful methods of paying for college, sometimes they don’t cover the complete cost of school, meaning that additional expenses will need to be covered out-of-pocket or through student loans. When considering applying for federal or private student loans, it’s important to look at the details to determine which type of student loan will be best for you and your child’s future.    If you need assistance in working through your options, contact ELFI. We have years of experience devoted to helping students realize their college dreams, so don’t wait – give us a call today.*  
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.
2019-10-25
Should You Refinance Parent PLUS Loans?

Parents spend their days and (sleepless) nights trying to create the best life for their children. We bake cookies for bake sales, we spoil them on their birthdays, we shuttle around town to dance classes and lacrosse games, and we even take out loans for them—big loans—to help them pay for college. So what happens when your baby is all grown up and graduated from college? You cry. You celebrate. Then you get to refinance your Parent PLUS Loan so you can put a little money back in the “Me” column of your budget.

 

Back up. What’s a Parent PLUS Loan?

Skip ahead if you’re already the proud owner of one of these loans.

 

A Parent PLUS Loan is a federal education loan taken out by parents to help pay for their child’s college tuition. The U.S. Department of Education actually offers Direct PLUS Loans to parents or graduate and professional students—the loan is simply called a Parent PLUS Loan when it's made to a parent.

 

These loans are available to moms and dads of dependent undergraduate students and offer one way to pay for your dependent child’s college education. Parent PLUS Loans differ from other college loans because the parent assumes complete financial responsibility (i.e., if payments aren’t made on time, it affects the credit score of mom and/or dad). While some parents may be eager to help foot the bill for their child’s education, you should always explore private student loans, since Parent PLUS Loans come with origination fees while private student loans typically do not. You should also compare the interest rates on the Parent PLUS loans to rates offered by private student loan companies such as ELFI.1 When evaluating the costs of Parent PLUS loans vs private student loans, you should compare the annualized percentage rate, or APR, which includes both interest and origination fees. In addition, private lenders offer the ability to have your child/dependent be a co-signer on the loan whereas the Parent PLUS loan does not.

 

Options for Refinancing Parent PLUS Loans

Even though your child/dependent may not have graduated from college yet, you can lower your debt burden by taking advantage of refinancing your Parent PLUS loans (and private student loans) and potentially saving money by either lowering your interest rates and/or extending the term of your payment. The good news about refinancing Parent PLUS loans is that you can refinance the loans more than once, assuming you qualify. So you can refinance your Parent PLUS Loans at any time with a private lender even before your dependents/children graduate! If you have multiple Parent PLUS loans, you can combine them all, if economic, when your dependents/children graduate as well!

 

Even though Parent PLUS Loans are originated through the U.S. Department of Education, you can refinance them through a private lender. Refinancing your Parent PLUS Loans with ELFI1 could mean:

  • Lower Interest Rates
  • Different Interest Types (Variable1 vs Fixed)
  • One, Simple Payment
  • Choose a New Repayment Term Length
 

If you’re a parent who financially supported your child’s education through a Parent PLUS Loan, see if you qualify to refinance that Parent PLUS Loan or simply learn more about our Parent Loan Refinancing options. Refinancing could establish flexible repayment plans and competitive interest rates that could lower your monthly payments or total cost of the loan. ELFI Customers reported saving an average of $309 every month and an average of $20,936 in total savings after refinancing student loans with Education Loan Finance.2

 

If you’re considering refinancing your Parent PLUS loans and/or your private student loans, consider a refinanced Parent Loan from ELFI.1 ELFI provides parent loans with flexible payment terms of 5, 7, and 10 years and no penalties for paying them off early.1 You can refinance both your Parent PLUS loans and your private loans into a single private loan. Rest easy knowing you’ve secured a low-interest rate and chosen a repayment plan that’s tailored to fit your lifestyle.

 
1Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. The interest rate and monthly payment for variable rate loans may increase after closing. Your interest rate 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. To qualify for refinancing or student loan consolidation through Education Loan Finance, you must have at least $15,000 in qualified parent loan debt and the student must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary Education Loan Finance institution. Education Loan Finance Parent Loans are limited to a maximum of the 10-year term.  

2Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 8/16/2016 and 10/25/2018. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon several factors.

 

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.

2019-10-24
Helping Your College Student Make Smart Career Decisions

As a parent, you obviously want what's best for your child. Whether you have opinions about what career path they should take or want to give them the freedom to choose on their own, it's pretty hard not to wonder what occupation they will end up choosing or falling into. The truth is, deciding on a career is a process that takes time for many students. Sometimes letting them decide is the easiest route – but there's nothing wrong with providing a little guidance along the way. Here are some tips to guide your child toward making smart career decisions.  

Encourage Them to Research and Explore

Whether your child is set on a specific career path or is rather undecided, it's important to encourage them to explore different career paths. If they are set on a specific career, you should provoke them to research the career – from understanding what the day to day job functions will consist of, to getting a grasp on the typically starting salary and potential earnings, doing the research will help them either solidify their decision or explore new options. If they are unsure of what they want to do, then you should brainstorm ideas with them. Find out their likes and dislikes, provide them with resources, and perhaps point them toward the Kuder Career Planning System.  

Encourage Open Communication

Your child needs to feel that they can come to you with career questions and ideas. You know your child better than anyone, from their likes and dislikes to personality traits. Allowing them to bounce ideas off of you will be an effective way for them to nail down their career path and feel more sure of their decision. Be sure you don't dismiss certain careers they are interested in due to bias. Likewise, don't force them into a career path due to your personal opinions. Allow them to discuss the pros and cons with you objectively and provide your honest opinion as to whether you think the career path will make them happy. If they are unsure about their career and don't talk about it often, probe them with questions that will help them understand what type of environment they want to work in. Ask which classes they have enjoyed, which they have disliked, which issues they are passionate about, etc. Taking initiative to have conversations will be a positive influence in their career decision.  

Encourage Networking

Students to take advantage of networking opportunities have a much easier time deciding on their career path than those who do not. Be sure to promote the importance to networking with professionals in a variety of fields to your child so that they can get a real-world perspective on their prospective career paths. This will also provide them the opportunity of potentially getting a foot in the door with an employer in the career path. By networking before they finish school, they will have a list of valuable contacts before even getting into the job market and a better grasp of what they want to do.  

Encourage Them to Build Their Resume

At the end of the day, your child will need to build real-world experience in order to get an effective start to their career. Building experience that they can add to their resume is important whether they are undecided or have their career path planned out. Emphasizing the importance of job-shadowing, volunteering, and obtaining internships or part-time jobs will help your child build their resume and be ready for success in their career, all the while helping them solidify their career decision.   Being objective and allowing your child to choose their career path can be difficult, but if you follow the principles above and encourage your child to be proactive in choosing a career, they will be set to start on a good career path.  
  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.
University of Kansas
2019-10-22
Campus Tours: 6 Stunning Colleges and Universities in the Midwest

There’s something truly extraordinary about America’s Heartland. From amber waves of grain and gently-sloping hills to The Great Lakes and vibrant cities like Chicago and Kansas City, the warm and welcoming atmosphere is felt almost immediately. Along with our friends at eCampus Tours, we’re highlighting six stunning college campuses you can experience from the comfort of your own home – although we wouldn't blame you for wanting to make a trip in person.  

University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA Located on the bank of the Iowa River, The University of Iowa has almost 33,000 students from all over the globe. It’s also been listed #34 on U.S. News & World Report's “Best Public Universities” list and one of the top 200 universities in the world by U.S. News & World Report. The city itself is one of the largest in the state and has been named as one of the best places to live by Livability.com.   This college campus tour begins at the Pentacrest and the Old Capitol building – once the site of the state’s legislature. Stops include the Riverfront Student Union, Kinnick Stadium, home to the Hawkeyes, and Rienow and Slater residence halls. Tour here.   University of Iowa

Creighton University

Omaha, NE One of 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the US, Creighton enrolls almost 9,000 students and has built a reputation for offering exceptional academics coupled with a low student-to-faculty ratio, highly competitive athletics and value. They’ve also been named one of the top National Universities by U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 list of “Best Colleges.”   This college campus tour begins at the Morrison Soccer Stadium and continues to the apartment-style Opus Square housing complex and the relaxing Jesuit Gardens, where students can be seen tossing Frisbees® and enjoying the Midwest sun. Your virtual tour isn’t complete without a stop at Creighton Hall. Tour here.    

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI Well-known for its championship athletics and high academic standards, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor can claim a lot of accolades, including recently being named the #1 U.S. Public University by QS World University Rankings and #4 Top Public School in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report.   Highlights on the eCampus Tour include a peek inside Michigan Stadium, home to 11 claimed national football titles and Pierpont Commons -- the location of the North Campus student union. Tour here.   University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

North Dakota State University

Fargo, ND This research university educates over 14,000 students and is one of the largest in the State of North Dakota. NDSU offers a comprehensive selection of courses of study – from Agribusiness and Applied Economics to Pharmaceutical Sciences to Communication.   The tour stops by the Wallman Wellness Center, a popular spot for group fitness and aquatics, as well as the Engineering Center, the largest academic program on campus. Reed/Johnson Hall provides students with a glimpse of dorm life while the Memorial Union can provide a taste of dining options and rec activities. Tour here.  

University of Kansas

Lawrence, KS Just 55 students enrolled in the university back in 1866, but now, it’s grown to almost 28,000. As the state’s flagship university, KU places a big emphasis on research and service across five campuses. Thirteen academic schools offer over 400 degree and certificate programs, ranging from aerospace engineering to Slavic languages & literatures.   The eCampus Tour includes stops at the main union on campus, Kansas Union, and provides an impressive look at the $17 million Student Recreation Fitness Center. Tour here.   University of Kansas

Carleton College

Northfield, MN Located just 40 miles outside of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Carleton College is a small, private liberal arts college that challenges students on ‘how to learn for a lifetime.’ Though the campus spans over 1,000 acres, including an 880-acre arboretum, they take pride in how close-knit their community has become.   The virtual tour begins at the Japanese Gardens, which stays true to Japanese gardening principles and continues to Goodhue Bridge, which covers one of two lakes on the expansive campus. Finally, e-visitors can stop by the rec facility and dining center before checking out the Laurence McKinley Gould Library. Tour here.   Carleton College     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. Ready to take the plunge? Click here to learn about our great rates and flexible terms for private student loans*.   *Subject 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.
Photo of graduation cap on top of a pile of money
2019-10-21
Financial Aid Options for Middle-Income Families

It’s no secret that college comes with a hefty price tag. Every year, families have to figure out how they’re going to pay thousands of dollars in school bills. While some may have the resources to pay tuition, many just do not have that kind of money lying around. Thankfully, there are plenty of options when it comes to reducing the cost of college. We’re sharing the steps middle-income families can take to secure various types of financial aid.  

FAFSA

If you’re looking for financial aid options, you should start by filling out The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA. Even as a middle-income family, you may still receive some need-based aid, especially if your student plans on enrolling at a higher-cost school. Further, many scholarships require the student to fill out the FAFSA anyway. Over $120 billion are awarded through federal grants, work-studies and loans every year, so why not throw your name in the hat? The FAFSA opens October 1 every year, and you can apply as early as the year before your child’s first day of college. The earlier you apply, the more likely your child is to receive financial aid.  

Scholarships

Perhaps the best thing your child can do is research and apply for scholarships, and it pays to go local. Many locally-owned businesses and organizations offer scholarships for graduating high school students. You or your spouse could also ask your employer if they provide any scholarships or financial aid for employees’ children. After exhausting local options, your child may want to research national opportunities. A quick web search could reveal countless free scholarships – Niche®, Fastweb®, and eCampusTours® are an excellent place to start. Just remember, scholarships are not exempt from internet scams, so do your research and make sure they’re legitimate. The FTC warns families to be cautious if the following lines are included in the application:
  • “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
  • "You can't get this information anywhere else."
  • "I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship."
  • "We'll do all the work. You just pay a processing fee."
  • "The scholarship will cost some money."
  • "You've been selected" by a "national foundation" to receive a scholarship – or "You're a finalist" in a contest you never entered.
Source: FTC   Finally, seek out the colleges that offer the best financial aid packages. Student Loan Hero recently highlighted 50 U.S. Colleges With the Most Generous Financial Aid Packages, and yours may be on their list! If it’s not, reach out to your school’s financial aid office, and they’ll be happy to provide you with all of your options.  

Tuition Discounts

While you’re asking about scholarships, inquire about tuition discounts.   Sibling Discounts: Sometimes, if more than one child is enrolled at the same college or university, the school may offer a tuition discount. Often the discount is only applied to one sibling’s tuition, but it is still helpful for the family’s overall finances. These discounts can range from a flat rate to a percentage off each semester or each year. If your children are planning on enrolling at the same school, this option is worth seeking out.   Military Discounts: Colleges may also offer discounts to military veterans and their families. The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 ensures veterans and dependent family members will not be charged out-of-state tuition if they meet specific requirements. Again, check with the school’s financial aid department to see if they offer “military-friendly” discounts.   Alumni Discounts: If you attended your child’s school of choice, your child may be eligible for scholarships, discounts, or other benefits. Many colleges have legacy programs, competitive scholarships, or even special legacy tuition rates. If you have other family connections to the university like grandparents, make sure you talk to an admissions counselor about the financial aid options available.  

Tax Rewards

Middle-income families are perfectly positioned to receive tax credits for college expenditures. For example, the Lifetime Learning Credit provides a 20 percent tax credit for the first $10,000 in yearly, qualified tuition expenses. Programs like this, as well as tuition savings plans, offer a few different ways for middle-income families to receive tax benefits.  

Federal Loans

If you’ve taken advantage of all your aid options and find you still have a debt to pay, it may be time to consider loans. Non-need based federal loans such as the Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan for students and the Federal PLUS Loan for parents can bridge whatever gap you find in your aid and your expenses. Federal education loans generally have low-interest rates or may be tax-deductible, so they’re a smart alternative to using a credit card, for example.  

Private Loans

You may find that you still need financial assistance after exhausting all the options above. If that’s the case, private student loans may be an option. We always recommend you take advantage of grants, scholarships, and federal aid before taking out a private student loan. To learn more about ELFI’s private student loan options1, click here.  

Other Qualifications

Remember that financial aid in the form of discounts and scholarships aren’t always one and done. Even if you’re getting a scholarship based on your family history or some type of local competitive scholarship, you may be required to meet certain qualifications to receive the money. Sometimes you might be required to complete a number of service hours or stay enrolled in school full-time to keep your scholarship, for example. Make sure you know any additional qualifications or requirements before applying for the scholarship or another type of aid - you don’t want to be caught off-guard.   The cost of college can present a challenge for families at all income levels. If you find yourself in that position, don’t despair. The options in this article are a good place to start searching for financial assistance. No matter what, don’t lose sight of the end goal: getting a degree and ultimately establishing a sustainable career. If you’re already looking for financial aid, you’re well on your way.    
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 credit report
2019-10-18
Will Applying for a Student Loan Hurt My Credit Score?

So you’re looking for student loans to finance your education – good for you! Student loans can be an option to bridge the gap when financial aid doesn’t cover the full cost of your tuition and college expenses, which is the case for about 43 million Americans. Nonetheless, it’s smart to think about how student loans can affect your financial future and whether applying for a student loan will hurt your credit score.   First off, let’s explain what a credit score is. Simply put, it’s a three-digit number that indicates your relative credit risk. One of the most common credit-scoring model is a FICO® score. Ranging from 300 to 850, the higher the number, the more likely (theoretically) someone is to pay their bills on time. Factors that determine your credit score include:
  • Payment history
  • Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI)
  • How established your credit is
  • Credit mix
  • Recent applications for credit
  Needless to say, a major indicator of your financial well-being is indicated in your credit score.  

How Applying for Private Student Loans Affects Your Credit Score

  Whenever you apply to take out a loan, a credit inquiry from one or several credit reporting agencies will likely occur. If you have a solid credit history, the effects are usually minimal. However, the effects will typically be larger for someone with little-to-no credit. According to an article by Bev O’Shea posted on Nerdwallet, whatever impact your credit score suffers should fall off after 12 months, and after about 24 months, the inquiry should disappear from your credit report entirely.   There’s also an important distinction between a “soft” and “hard” credit inquiry.   A “soft pull,” as it’s known, can be done just in connection with pre-qualification for a loan, whether it’s a credit card offer you receive in the mail, mortgage, student loan, or car loan. Some employers will do a soft pull of your credit as well. Soft pulls do not impact your credit score.   A “hard pull” generally requires your consent and happens when you apply for the credit you’re seeking. It’s the hard pulls that show up on your credit report. It’s important to monitor your credit report and dispute any hard inquiries you didn’t authorize.   In the case of private student loans, a prequalification will not affect your credit, whereas applying for a loan will show up on your report.  

Applying for Multiple Private Student Loans

  So, what if you submit multiple applications? Will they all affect your credit score? It’s hard to know for sure, as credit-scoring model companies don’t provide a lot of detail about their models. Generally speaking, credit-scoring models appear to take into consideration that if an applicant has multiple inquiries for a student loan they may be shopping for the best rate. One key point is that the closer those inquires are together, the less impact it may have on your credit score.   In other words, shopping around to find the best loan option for you should not affect your credit score dramatically and is likely not a major cause for concern. By applying for multiple private student loans, you can see which lender will actually give you the best rate – important when it comes to saving money over the life of your loan.   ELFI offers a variety of private student loan options for financing your undergraduate or graduate education, as well as private student loan options for parents.* Check out our full list of frequently asked questions or contact ELFI at 1-844-601-3534 to speak with a Personal Loan Advisor.   *Subject 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.
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.