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For Parents (Blog or Resources)

5 Things to Know Before Cosigning a Loan

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With interest rates on student loans at historical lows, 2020 offers the opportunity to obtain student loans at desirable interest rates, along with the ability to refinance student loans to a lower interest rate. Receiving a lower interest rate allows you to save money when repaying student loans by decreasing the amount of interest that you will have to pay over your loan term.

 

While it is appealing to take advantage of these lower interest rates, meeting the eligibility requirements to obtain a student loan or refinance student loans can be a barrier to obtaining these lower rates. One option for individuals who don’t meet the credit score or income requirements for obtaining a loan is adding a cosigner who does meet the requirements to guarantee the loan. However, consigning a loan comes with responsibilities. Here are several things to know before consigning a student loan or a refinanced loan.

 

You are held responsible for the entire loan

While cosigning a loan can seem like a simple favor to help a friend or family member, it actually means that you are held responsible for the entire loan amount. Cosigning a loan means that you are obligated to make payments on the loan if the primary borrower is unable to do so. While the borrower may be financially able to make consistent payments now, it’s important to keep in mind that their situation can change for the worse, whether it be through losing employment, unwise financial decisions, or simply being irresponsible.

 

Before cosigning a loan, be sure to take stock of your current and potential future financial situation to ensure you will be able to make payments if the primary borrower cannot.

 

Your credit is at stake

When you cosign a loan, the loan and payment history shows up on your credit report as if the loan is your own. When you first cosign, the lender will conduct a hard credit pull, making an immediate impact on your credit score. The overall amount of debt will also be added to your credit report, which can also affect your credit score.

 

This means that any missed payments will affect your credit score negatively. Since payment history is one of the biggest factors in your credit score, it’s important to make sure the primary borrower is making their payments and that they are aware that a missed payment affects your financial future as well.

 

Additionally, since cosigning a loan adds to your total debt, cosigning a loan may affect your access to credit in the future. Creditors will take this debt into consideration before approving you for additional credit. It’s recommended to keep an eye on your credit report after cosigning a loan to make sure it’s still in good shape.

 

You can be subject to legal action by the lender

Depending on the state you live in, lenders can pursue legal action against you on debt that goes unpaid for a significant period of time. If several missed payments occur, you may be liable to be sued for nonpayment. This typically occurs when the debt goes unpaid for 90 to 180 days, but the law varies in different states, and protocol varies by lender.

 

If legal action commences, the cosigner will be responsible for any and all costs, including but not limited to lawyer fees. While this doesn’t typically occur, keeping in mind the worst-case scenario is still important.

 

Removing yourself as the cosigner can be difficult

Another consideration to have when cosigning a loan is that it’s not always easy to remove yourself as a cosigner down the road. If you need to eliminate the liability of the cosigned debt in order to receive a personal loan, mortgage, or another type of credit later on, you may find yourself wanting to be released as the cosigner.

 

Refinancing a loan is one way to remove a cosigner, however, the primary borrower will have to qualify for the new loan in order to do so. Typically, lenders will require the primary borrower to establish a history of on-time payments before they assess whether the borrower can responsibly take on the loan themselves.

 

Your relationship could be at risk

While not a major financial risk, cosigning a loan can cause a divide in your relationship with the primary borrower if repayment doesn’t go according to plan. While the primary borrower may have all plans to responsibly manage the loan, if things worsen and you as the cosigner aren’t made aware, you may be fairly bothered by how the borrower’s actions have affected you. It’s important to establish a trust that the primary borrower will be transparent with you so that the loan doesn’t cause a problem with your relationship with them down the road.

 

Bottom Line

When it comes down to it, cosigning a loan comes with risk, and should only be done when necessary and if you fully understand the consequences if things don’t go according to plan. If you’re looking to release yourself as the cosigner of a loan, read our blog, Cosigners and Cosigner Release: What You Need to Know

 


 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no­­­ control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

 

 

 

Should You Refinance Private Parent Loans in 2020?   

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Are you a parent who took on student loans for your child to attend school? If so, you are not alone. As of 2019, over 3.4 million people have Parent PLUS loans. The payment of the loans may become burdensome as the desire to save and enjoy retirement approaches. If extra money in your budget could help, Parent PLUS loan borrowers may want to take advantage of the current low rates and refinance the student loans they took on for their children.

 

Types of Parent Loans

Before you decide whether refinancing is beneficial for you, it’s helpful to know what types of loans you have. Parents may have private parent loans that are borrowed through a private lender such as a bank, or Parent PLUS loans that are borrowed through the federal government. Parent PLUS loans are also known as Direct PLUS loans. Here’s a breakdown of how the two types of parent loans differ:

  • Interest Rates: Typically private parent loans will have a lower interest rate than Parent PLUS loans. Parent PLUS loans can have an interest rate as high as 7.06% in recent years, whereas private parent loans can have an interest rate of around 4%.
  • Loan Terms: Private parent loans can also have a fixed or variable interest rate and have a loan term from 5 to 25 years. Parent PLUS loans have a fixed interest rate and an origination fee. The loan term can last from 10 to 25 years.
  • Additional Benefits: Since the Parent PLUS loan is through the federal government it is eligible for an income-contingent repayment plan, meaning the payment is based on your income and family size.

 

Current Benefits for Parent Loan Borrowers

Currently, Parent PLUS loans are eligible for benefits through the federal government due to the CARES Act passed by Congress on March 27, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The benefits are set to expire on September 30, 2020, however, an executive order was issued on August 8, 2020, directing the benefits to continue through December 31, 2020. The protections provided by the CARES Act, and continued through the executive order, for Parent PLUS loans include:

  • The interest rate on the loan is temporarily reduced to 0%. No interest will be accruing on the loan during this time. However, interest will begin accruing again at the previous interest rate on January 1, 2021.
  • Administrative forbearance – This provides for a temporary suspension of payments during this time. Payments are set to resume in January 2021. This means you can save money to make a lump sum payment on your Parent PLUS loan when payments resume. Alternatively, you can use the money as an emergency fund if payments become difficult to make.
  • Stopped collections – Any defaulted loans would no longer be subject to collections during this time period.

 

How to Know Whether You Should Refinance

With these benefits currently in place, it is fiscally responsible to take advantage of the federal protections provided for Parent PLUS loans rather than refinancing at this time.  However, private parent loans are not eligible for any federal protections, making them prime candidates for refinancing. Currently, interest rates for refinancing are at an all-time low because of the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates in response to the pandemic. This makes it a great time to take advantage of these low interest rates for private parent loans.

 

Refinancing rates for private parent loans are as low as 2.39% for a variable interest rate and 2.79% for a fixed interest rate as of September 14, 2020. This new rate could lead to significant savings depending on your current balance, rate and loan term. At ELFI, you can prequalify to see what rate you would be eligible for. You can also use our Student Loan Refinance Calculator to get an estimate of your savings based on a range of interest rates.*

 

Not only does refinancing private parent loans save you money monthly by securing a lower interest rate, but refinancing to a lower interest rate also saves you in interest costs over the loan term. In addition, the other benefits of refinancing private parent loans are:

  • Combining multiple private and federal Parent PLUS loans into one loan with one payment
  • Changing the loan term length by either shortening it to save on interest costs or lengthening it to lower your monthly payments

 

If refinancing sounds right for you, it’s important to know the eligibility requirements. These will make you more likely to qualify for the best rate at ELFI:

  • A strong credit history, with a minimum credit score of 680
  • Steady employment with a minimum income of at least $35,000

 

When you refinance student loans at ELFI there is never an application fee or origination fee. You will also never pay a prepayment penalty.

Bottom Line

Although interest rates are at a record low, it is advantageous to benefit from the current Parent PLUS loan protections for the time being. Then, in 2021, you can take advantage of the low interest rates if you choose to refinance. If you have a private parent loan, now is a great time to lock in a lower interest rate and start saving some money.

 


 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no­­­ control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

Financial Aid Options for Middle-Income Families

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It’s no secret that college comes with a hefty price tag. Every year, students and their families have to figure out how they’re going to pay thousands of dollars in school bills. While high-income families may have the resources to pay tuition, footing the entire bill just isn’t realistic for some families, especially if they have more than one child attending college. This is why many students rely on financial aid to fund their education.

 

It’s generally known that students from lower-income families can qualify for special scholarships and grants that help fill the gap to fund their education, but for families around the middle-income tier, financial aid options may be harder to come by and make them feel that their options are limited. Rest assured that there are options for middle-class families to receive the financial assistance they need – it just may take a bit more effort.

 

FAFSA

When it comes to looking for financial aid for college, the FAFSA is a great place to start. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid has no income cutoff for eligibility, so your child could still receive some need-based aid from the FAFSA, especially if he or she plans on enrolling at a higher-cost school. The FAFSA opens October 1 every year, and you can apply as early as the year prior to your child’s first day of college. The earlier you apply, the more likely your child is to receive financial aid. 

 

Scholarships

Researching and applying for scholarships has continually proven itself worthy of the effort. Many scholarships are merit-based instead of need-based, so your child may be eligible for many different scholarships depending on the qualifications. Start by looking for local scholarships – many locally-owned businesses and organizations offer scholarships for graduating high school students. If your child visits the school guidance office, they may have some applications on file. You or your spouse could also ask your employer if they offer any type of 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 a good place to start. Finally, many colleges offer merit-based scholarships and endowment scholarships. Make sure your child looks for institutional scholarships at the school he or she plans to attend. You may discover that if your child joins a club or raises a standardized test score by a couple of points, he or she could receive thousands more dollars of financial aid.

 

Tuition Discounts

If a family member, such as a parent or grandparent attended the same college or university you’re enrolled in, you may receive a tuition discount. There may be additional requirements to qualifying for this discount, such as, your family member being active in the school’s alumni association or maintaining a certain GPA.

 

Tax Rewards

Middle-income families are perfectly positioned to receive tax credits for college expenditures. For example, the Lifetime Learning credit has income requirements that exclude those who earn over and under certain amounts. 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 financial aid options and find you still have more 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 for you. 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 options,* click here.

 

The cost of college can present a challenge for families at all income levels, but middle-income families often struggle the most to find good financial aid options because their finances fall between affording college and needing assistance. If your family is in this situation, don’t let it get you down. The options in this article are a good place to start searching for financial assistance. Don’t lose sight of the end goal – getting the degree you want and establishing a successful career. If you’re already looking for financial aid options, you’re well on your way.

 


 

*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.

7 Tips for Parents Paying A Child’s Student Loans

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By Tracey Suhr

 

$233,610. This is the amount of money today’s average American family can expect to spend raising one child. If this seems like a lot, get ready for more sticker shock since this doesn’t include the cost of college. The average tuition at a public in-state school for the 2019-2020 school year is $10,116. Multiply that by four years (plus student loan interest), and you’re adding another $50,000+ to the total cost of raising a child. 

 

If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely well aware of the cost of college, and you might now be looking for ways to help your son or daughter pay their college debt. Your recent graduate likely has a student loan (and if they’re lucky, parents who offered to make payments toward that loan). Or you might have taken out a parent loan* to fully cover the cost of college for your child. Either way, those loans are staring you in the face, begging to be paid.

 

Luckily, there are no rules against helping your son or daughter pay off student loan debt. Here are some tips for parents who are paying a child’s student loans.

 

Set Up Automatic Payments

The easiest way to help manage your child’s student loan debt is by setting up automatic payments from your checking or savings account. We all get busy and forget items on our to-do list. And while one or two missed payments might not make a difference, several can result in late fee charges and dings on your credit, especially if the loan is in your name or if you were a co-signer for the loan. 

 

Play By the Rules (Tax Rules)

If you help pay your child’s student loan debt, you might need to pay gift tax and file a gift tax return during tax season. A gift tax applies to the giver (that’s you) and to any contributions more than $15,000, as of 2020. Tuition is excluded from gift tax but, unfortunately,  loan payments are not. Double-check current IRS regulations around loan payments before making the decision to help pay your child’s student loan debt. Here is a current FAQ list around gift tax.

 

Focus on Loans with High-Interest Rates

Look at all your loans—car loans, mortgage loans, credit card debt—and focus on those with the highest interest rate. If you have a credit card with an 18% interest rate, and the interest on your child’s student loan is just 8%, it would be wiser to focus on paying your card first. Even adding an extra $50 or $100 per paycheck to those higher rate loans can help in the long run.

 

Prepay the Loan

If you receive a bonus or a cushy tax return, allocate those extra funds toward the student loan debt. By paying down your child’s student loan faster, you can reduce the total amount of interest paid over the life of the loan by paying less monthly interest. 

 

You can also allocate extra funds toward paying your child’s student loans by rearranging other existing finances. For example, if you have multiple credit cards, consolidate the balances into one loan. A single loan with a fixed interest rate that’s lower than the APR on your credit card will help you simplify and save. 

 

Refinance Student Loans

Refinancing student loans is another way to simplify payments and readjust finances. Whether the loan is a parent loan or student loan, reducing the interest rate lowers monthly and total loan payments. You can also change the term of the loan to 5, 7, or 10 years to help lower monthly payments, allowing you to reallocate funds to other expenses or debts (refer back to our tip about paying off debts with high-interest rates first).

 

Related >> Should You Refinance Parent PLUS Loans?

 

ELFI offers student loan refinancing options for both parents and students, with some of the lowest student loan refinancing rates available and flexible terms. We also have no application fees, no loan origination fees, and no penalty of paying off your student loan early. See how much you could save with ELFI Student Loan Refinancing*.

 

Set Up Biweekly vs. Monthly Payments

You might have noticed that some months, you get an extra paycheck. This is because the 52 weeks in a year don’t evenly divide into four weeks for every 12 months. You can take advantage of these extra four weeks by setting up biweekly loan payments. If your monthly payment is $300, and you readjust to paying $150 every other week, you pay the same amount each paycheck, but end up with an extra loan payment paid over the course of a year. This pays your student loan debt faster. Another bonus? This tip works for paying off any loans, not just student loans. 

 

Fully Understand Your Offer

Paying your child’s student loans, whether partially or in full, is a generous offer. It can help your new graduate get on his or her feet in the working world. It can also help free up money for dealing with other debts or life’s unexpected surprises. Since your offer also impacts your financial situation, be sure you fully understand the pros and cons. Consider how close you are to retirement, and if your 401k or other funds will suffer. Be aware of the balances and interest rates in your other debts. 

 

Whether or not you chose to help your child pay their loan, student loan refinancing (or even refinancing your parent loan) can help avoid the hassle of multiple payments and get a more affordable rate and flexible terms. See if you qualify for student loan refinancing*. 

 


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Helping Your Child Refinance Their Student Loans

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By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been featured in publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. She is focused on helping people pay down their debt and boost their income.

 

As a parent, it can be frustrating to watch your child pay so much toward their student loans each month rather than use their money to buy a home or invest for their futures. One strategy your children can use to accelerate their debt repayment and reach their goals faster is student loan refinancing. With this approach, they can get a lower interest rate and save money over the length of their loan.

 

If they don’t know where to start or how to go about refinancing student loans, there are several ways parents can help.

 

1. Research different lenders

There are dozens of student loan refinancing companies out there, but they’re very different from one another. Help your child find the best lender for them by considering the following factors:

  • Fixed and variable interest rates: Not all lenders offer refinancing loans with fixed and variable interest rates. If your child wants to pay off their debt as quickly as possible, opting for a variable-rate loan can be a smart idea. Variable-rate loans tend to have lower interest rates at first than fixed-rate loans, helping them save money.
  • Competitive rates: The rate your child can qualify for can vary widely from lender to lender. Get quotes from multiple lenders to get the best rate possible. With Education Loan Finance, your child can get a rate quote without affecting their credit score*.
  • Forbearance options: Most student loan refinancing lenders don’t offer forbearance in cases of financial hardship, but there are a few that do. That perk can be a significant benefit if your child loses their job or becomes ill.

 

2. Look up their student loans

To pay for school, your child likely took out several different student loans. Over time, those loans can be transferred and sold, making it easy to lose track of them. To help your child refinance their student loan debt, help them locate their loans and identify their loan servicers.

  • For federal student loans: Have your child log in to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) with their Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Once they’re signed in, they can see what federal loans are under their name and who is currently servicing the debt. Remember, the NSLDS contains sensitive information, so make sure your child never shares their FSA ID or other account details.
  • For private student loans: Private student loans won’t show up on the NSLDS. Instead, your child will have to review their credit report to find their loans. They can do so for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. The credit report will list all active accounts under their name, including student loans.

 

3. Create a monthly budget with your child

Even if your child earns a good salary and has excellent future earning potential, it’s a good idea for them to come up with a budget before moving forward with the student loan refinancing process. By seeing how much they have coming in and how much they spend each month, they can better come up with a plan to repay their loans.

 

You can sit down with your child and make a budget together. While you can use paper and pen, your child may find programs like Mint or You Need a Budget — which automatically sync with their financial accounts — more intuitive.

 

Make sure your child considers all of their expenses, including rent, utilities, student loan payments, and extras for entertainment. A portion of the money left over after covering their set expenses can be put toward additional student loan payments, reducing the interest that accrues over the length of the loan.

 

If your child wants to pay off their debt as quickly as possible, there are a few lifestyle changes you can suggest to help them reach their goals: 

  • Get a roommate: While it may not sound glamorous, getting a roommate can cut your child’s living expenses in half. If your child puts the money saved toward their student loan balances, they can cut months or even years off their loan term.
  • Increase income: Boosting income is key to your child’s financial success. If they’ve been working for a while and have been performing well, encourage them to ask for a raise at their next review. Or, they can work additional overtime hours or freelance on the side to earn extra money.
  • Cut back: Review your child’s bank and credit card statements with them and look for areas where your child may be able to cut back. For example, maybe they can skip dining out so often and cook more at home. Over time, the savings can be substantial.

 

4. Show them how to check their credit report

When your child applies for a refinancing loan, the lenders will review their credit report. Before your child submits an application, help them check their credit.

 

Your child can view their credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. Review it alongside your child and look for errors, such as accounts that don’t belong to your child. If there are any issues, help your child dispute them with each credit bureau to improve their credit report.

 

5. Co-sign their student loan refinancing application

If your child recently graduated, they may have insufficient credit to qualify for a student loan refinancing by themselves. If that’s the case, you can help them manage their debt by acting as a co-signer on the loan.

 

As a co-signer, you’re applying for the loan along with your child. If your child can’t keep up with the payments, you’ll be liable for them, instead. Because you share responsibility for the loan, there’s less risk to the lender. Having a co-signer makes it more likely that a lender will approve your child for a loan, and give them a competitive interest rate.

 

Refinancing student loans

Student loan refinancing can be a smart way for your child to tackle their debt. However, recent graduates may not be aware of refinancing or how to proceed. As a parent, you can help your child tackle their debt by walking them through the refinancing process. With your help, they can refinance their education loans and become debt-free years earlier than expected.

 

Looking for more tips as a parent of a college graduate? If you took out student loans in your own name to help pay for your child’s education, parent student loan refinancing can be a smart strategy for you, too. With Education Loan Finance, you can refinance as little as $15,000 in parent loans and have up to 10 years to repay the loan.*

 


 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Preparing for FAFSA: Parent Edition

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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.

Should You Refinance Parent PLUS Loans?

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Parents spend their days and (sleepless) nights trying to create the best lives 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.

 

Refinancing Parent PLUS Loans can feel especially freeing since they often have a higher interest rate than the loans private lenders offer. For the 2019-2020 school year, Parent PLUS Loans carried a heavy interest rate of 7.08%. 

 

If one or more of the following apply to you, then refinancing could be a great way to shed some of that interest from your monthly loan payment:

 

  • You’re gainfully employed in a mid- to high-income job
  • You have a low debt-to-income ratio
  • You have a good credit score 
  • Your loan has a high variable interest rate
  • You want to avoid hidden fees
  • Federal Reserve rate cuts have resulted in low refinancing rates

 

When Not to Refinance a Parent PLUS Loan

Depending on your financial situation and long-term goals, refinancing right away may not be the ideal choice. For example, if you’re currently using an alternative federal repayment plan like a Graduate or Extended Repayment plan, it may be wise to consider the pros and cons of refinancing and letting go of these benefits.

 

Additionally, if your job with a qualified nonprofit or governmental agency makes you eligible for any type of Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you may choose to crunch the numbers before refinancing.

 

If you’re still on the fence, here are a few additional scenarios in which refinancing may not be your best option:

 

  • You’re expecting your income to drop in the near future
  • You recently declared bankruptcy
  • Your credit score recently dropped
  • Refinancing will slow down your repayment plan

 

What is 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. 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 ELFI1.

 

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). Refinancing can potentially save 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 student 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!

 

Although Parent PLUS Loans originate through the U.S. Department of Education, they can only be refinanced through private lenders. 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

 

How to Refinance Parent PLUS Loans

To ensure you receive the best possible interest rates, it’s important to get organized before refinancing. Here are a few steps to optimize your finances before signing on the dotted line:

  1. Take stock of your credit score and correct any errors
  2. Calculate your total loan balance to determine the amount you’ll need to refinance
  3. Compare several lenders’ rates
  4. Choose the lender that best meets your needs
  5. Apply to refinance your Parent PLUS Loan with the lender you’ve chosen

 

Refinancing Parent PLUS Loans to Your Child or Student

One reason many parents refinance their Parent PLUS Loans is to shift the responsibility to their children after they graduate and become gainfully employed. 

 

Especially if you’re looking to save for retirement or to meet other monetary goals in the near future, refinancing your Parent PLUS Loan could offer the financial freedom you’re looking for. Refinancing can also help your child build credit by making their own loan payments. 

 

If your child’s credit score is stronger than your own, refinancing is an exceptional option, as your child may be eligible for lower interest rates.

 

Risks of Refinancing Parent PLUS Loans

While refinancing has several pros, if you rely on federal loan benefits, take the time to consider whether refinancing will move you toward your goals. Saving is always a priority, but never at the expense of moving further away from the financial finish line.

 

If you currently use an income-based repayment plan, refinancing your Parent PLUS Loan with a private lender means you’ll lose this benefit. Before refinancing, take the time to determine whether the change will help or hurt your long-term financial health.

 

Additionally, some nonprofits and government agencies are eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness after a certain period of time. If you’re a long-standing employee with one of these organizations and are around the corner from having your loans forgiven, crunch the numbers before refinancing to be sure it won’t cost you more in the long run.

 

Finally, private lenders don’t recognize federal loan deferment or forbearance, so be sure before you switch lenders that refinancing is the best choice. Take some extra time, if need be, to ensure you make the best money move for your current financial situation.

 

Refinance Your Parent PLUS Loan with ELFI

If you’re a parent who financially supported your child’s education through a Parent PLUS Loan, see if you qualify for student loan refinancing 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 Finance2.

 

If you’re considering refinancing your Parent PLUS loans and/or your private student loans, consider a refinanced Parent Loan from ELFI1. ELFI provides parent loans with flexible payment terms of 5, 7, and 10 years and no penalties for paying them off early1.

 

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.

 

If you’re ready to refinance your Parent PLUS Loan, click here to learn more and to start your application.

 

Sources

 


 

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 $11.10 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.

Financial Aid Options for Middle-Income Families

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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.

Motivating Your Student to Apply for Scholarships

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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.

How to Build Your Child’s Credit Score When They Don’t Have One Yet

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From the 2007 Housing Crisis, 2008 Stock Market Crash, and now the student debt crisis there is no surprise parents nationwide are looking to educate and protect their children on finances. Many people during these national events lacked basic financial know-how and self-discipline. Gen-Xers and millennials, starting to have children of their own, worry that a new generation could be seduced by the allure of instant gratification and the digital disconnect between earning and spending money. What as a parent can you do for a young child to teach them finances and help them learn the basics? Here are some basic tips to help your children build healthy credit and learn to use it responsibly.

 

Start With Basic Financial Life Lessons

Whether your child is 2 or 22, financial education is the key to building good credit and financial independence. Erin Lowry, business blogger and author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together, explained in a recent podcast that her parents taught her about delayed gratification early in life. “I was really encouraged from a very young age to start making money, especially if I wanted something,” Lowry said.

 

Saving for discretionary purchases is a lesson many young children can miss. A growing number of young adults also don’t have realistic expectations of their future earning power. Lowry grew up in a different reality. She explains that her first successful enterprise was at age 7, selling doughnuts at a family garage sale. Before she could feel too excited about her earnings, her father adjusted the amount she made by taking out the cost of the doughnuts and wages for her sister. He explained that the money left was her profit. “He actually took the money,” she remembers. “That is something that has stuck with me forever.”

 

It’s never too late to teach lessons like these. Resources for financial education are abundant in print and online, and parents can refer adult children to Lowry’s book and her blog, brokemillennial.com. For younger children, check out this post by Dave Baldwin, “The Five Best Apps for Teaching Kids How to Manage Their Money.”

 

Three Tips for Establishing Good Credit for Your Children

Parents with good credit and a clear vision of their children’s financial future can take these three actions to ensure a sound credit score for children reaching adulthood.

 

TIP 1: Make your child an authorized credit card user.

There is no minimum age to most credit cards, so you can add your child as an authorized user as early as you like. The best part is you do not have to give the child access to the card, just keep it in a safe place. It’s imperative that you use the credit card wisely and are able to pay the minimum monthly balance on the card. If you are unable to make payments on the card that could negatively affect your child’s credit history too. Try to only use the card for reoccurring balances like gas or food shopping.

 

When your child comes of age to have their first credit card in adulthood, they will benefit from your history of timely payments and reasonable use of credit. It will also benefit them if they need a loan to attend college and you as a parent may not need to be a cosigner.

 

TIP 2: Add a FREE credit freeze to your child’s credit report until they reach age 18.

Contact each of the three reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to request a freeze in your child’s name. In some states, the freeze may need to be renewed every seven years. A credit freeze is fairly simple to implement and will protect your child from identity theft, which in turn will protect their credit history and credit score. You can also lift credit freezes when your child is ready to apply for credit.

 

It may seem like an extreme to put a credit freeze on your two months old credit but it will only protect them in the long run. Identity theft to children is an unfortunate reality in the United States. According to CNBC, more than 1 million minors were victims of identity theft or fraud in 2017. What may be even more surprising is that data breaches are just as much a problem for minors as for adults, if not more. According to CNBC, only 19% of adults were fraud victims compared to a staggering 39% of minors due to data breaches. This can happen to your child, but it can be prevented. You have the power to protect your children from falling victim to fraud. Not to mention a credit freeze is free thanks to recent laws passed by the federal government, so it won’t even cost you or your family a dime.

 

To learn more about protecting your child’s credit and preventing identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information site.

 

TIP 3: Set up a secure credit card account for your child to use.

A secure credit card is similar to an unsecured or the “normal” type of credit card. The only major difference is that a deposit is used to open a secured credit card account. The amount of secured credit card deposit is usually the credit limit of that secured credit card. Now, as long as all payments are made on time and in full at the end of the designated period you’ll receive your deposit back. Additionally, that fact that all payments were made on time and in full means that you should see that reflected in your credit report and you may even see that reflected in your credit score. If your child fails to make on-time payments or fails to pay the full amount of the card this could hurt your child’s credit instead of helping it.

 

If you choose to give your teenager a secured credit card you should be certain that you discuss the responsibilities of card with them. Make sure your child is committed to paying on time, staying within the credit limit, and using the card for only appropriate expenses you have discussed in advance. This is a great responsibility to provide a teenager because it really gives them the ability to start developing good financial habits. Whether that is putting an alert in their cell phone when the payment is due or if that is handwriting it on a calendar. Additionally, your child will have the opportunity to really learn to budget and live within their means. These are fundamental finance lessons and habits that will help to lay the groundwork of what could be a very financially responsible young person.

 

Financial Outlook

 

Regardless of what ways you choose to teach your child about credit or build their credit, know that your outlook on finances can easily become your child’s. If you find yourself scared of money, it’s likely your child will too. So often children learn relationships based on what they see their parents doing, so be sure that you’re laying the right framework for them to be successful. It doesn’t have to be an overly complex and if you aren’t sure that what you are teaching them is correct try looking locally for classes or programs. You should be able to find some financial literacy courses either online or within your local community. These can really help your child to familiarize themselves with common financial terms and create good financial habits. Good financial habits include how to save money, charitable giving, and even what taxes are.  No one knows your child better than you and no one wants them to succeed more than you, so be sure to give them the right tools and resources to do so.

 

Ask These 10 Questions When Hiring a Financial Advisor

 

 

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