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This Week in Student Loans: December 9

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Please note: Education Loan Finance does not endorse or take positions on any political matters that are mentioned. Our weekly summary is for informational purposes only and is solely intended to bring relevant news to our readers.

 

This week in student loans:

Department of Education Proposes That New Entity Handle Student Loan Debt

On Tuesday of this week, the Trump administration and Department of Education (DOE) Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed that a new, independent entity manage the federal student loan portfolio, rather than the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid. Devos proposed the move at a conference this week, calling for a “stand-alone government corporation, run by a professional, expert and apolitical board of governors.”

 

When asked why they believe the federal student loan portfolio should be managed outside of the DOE, Devos claimed that the DOE was never set up by Congress to be a bank, but claims that’s effectively what they are.

 

In order to make this happen, laws would have to be passed that would separate the Office of Federal Student Aid from the DOE in order for it to be a stand-alone entity.

 

Source: Yahoo News

 


Lawmakers Call for Investigation of Federal Loan Discharge Program for Disabled Borrowers

With plenty of heat surrounding allegations against the U.S. government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for not making the qualification requirements clear, a new federal program is under fire from lawmakers this week – this one meant to forgive student loans of borrowers with “significant, permanent disabilities.” An NPR report recently revealed that the program wasn’t helping a large portion of borrowers who were eligible.

 

This loan discharge program is specifically meant to help individuals who have the most severe type of disability: Medical Improvement Not Expected (MINE). The Education Department finds eligible borrowers by comparing federal student loan records with the Social Security Administration records, then sends a letter to these disabled individuals and requires them to apply in order to have their loans discharged. The controversy lies in that that many of these borrowers are unable to apply or may not be aware of the notice they received. The NPR report revealed that only 36% of eligible borrowers have had their student loans discharged.

 

Source: NPR

 


Trump Calls on Aides for Plan to Tackle Student Debt

With Democrats such as Elizabeth Warren making bold claims for tackling student debt in the US, President Trump has called on his administration to put together a “blueprint” for how they will manage the student debt crisis. The Washington Post claims that Trump is calling for this plan as a method to combat “anxieties that Democrats such as Warren will tap into populist impulses that propelled his 2016 victory,” and that “he will need policies beyond his signature areas of immigration and trade to counter them.”

 

Source: The Washington Post

 


Rand Paul Wants You to Use Your 401k to Pay Off Student Loans

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) recently proposed a legislative act that would allow individuals to use pre-tax money from their 401k to pay off student loans, or even pay for college. The HELPER Act (Higher Education Loan Payment and Enhanced Retirement), is an initiative by Paul to “reshape the way people save for higher education, driven through tax and savings incentives,” says Forbes writer Zack Friedman.

 

Key takeaways from the act would include the ability to withdraw $5,250 from your 401(k) or IRA annually to pay off debt or pay for college, the ability to pay tuition and expenses for a dependent or spouse, tax-free employer-sponsored student loan and tuition plans, and a removal of the cap on student loan interest reduction.

 

Source: Forbes

 


 

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.

Student Loan Interest vs. Other Interest Types

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By Caroline Farhat

 

If you have student loans, you’ve probably been told at one point that it’s “good” debt. But what does that really mean? Is any debt actually good or is it all bad? Is the interest you pay on your student loans better than the interest you pay on your auto loan? 

 

As you accumulate more assets, you’ll encounter many different types of interest. It’s helpful to know how each type of interest differs so that you know exactly what you’re getting into when you borrow money. 


What is Student Loan Interest?

Student loan interest is essentially the cost you pay for borrowing the money. When you pay interest, you will be paying back the amount of money you borrowed plus the cost to borrow the money (the interest). The higher the interest rate, the more money you will have to pay in addition to the amount you borrowed. The amount you borrow is called the principal and the cost to borrow the money is called the interest. Interest is charged on both federal student loans and private student loans until the loan is paid in full. When you make a payment on a loan the interest is paid first, any amount of the payment over the interest is applied to the principal and lowers the balance of the loan. The types of rates and how interest is calculated are based on the type of student loan.  

 

Federal Student Loans: The Difference Between Subsidized and Unsubsidized

Federal student loans have fixed interest rates that are set by the government. They remain the same throughout the life of the loan. Also, federal student loan interest rates may be lower than auto loans or personal loans. Federal student loans have two different types of interest: subsidized interest and unsubsidized interest. A subsidized interest loan means the government pays the interest on the loan while you are in school or during deferment (a grace period from federal student loan payments granted for certain situations), which means the balance of the loan does not increase. Once you are out of school or the deferment period ends, you will be responsible for paying the interest on the loan. An unsubsidized federal student loan means the interest starts accruing from the day the loan is first disbursed. Although you may not be required to make payments on the loan while you are in school, you will end up with a loan balance higher than you initially borrowed. The interest on a federal student loan is calculated using the simple interest formula. Here is how to calculate the simple interest formula:

 

The principal (the amount of money you borrowed) X the interest rate = The amount of interest you will pay each year for the loan

 

Private Student Loans: The 411 on Fixed and Variable Interest Rates

Private student loans can have a variable interest rate or a fixed interest rate. A variable interest rate is based on the current market and economy and can change over the life of the loan. A fixed interest rate remains the same throughout the life of the loan. It’s important to note that rates can vary widely based on the student loan lender, which is why it is so important to do your research and only sign with a reputable company. The interest rate you receive on a private student loan is also based on certain financial factors, including your credit score. 

 

For example, ELFI customers who refinanced student loans report saving an average of $309 every month¹. If you currently have private student loans, you can check out our student loan refinance calculator to get an estimated rate and monthly payment for both fixed and variable options.² Whether you’ve taken out federal student loans or private student loans throughout your college journey, consolidating and refinancing could score you some significant savings.

 

Interest On Other Common Loans

If you’re in full adulting mode, odds are you have or are considering getting an auto loan or mortgage. Just like your student loans, these financial products come with interest as well. 

 

Interest rates on car loans can be variable or fixed rates and the rate you receive is based on factors such as your credit score and financial health. There are two ways interest is calculated on car loans: simple or precomputed. For simple interest, the interest is calculated based on the balance of the loan. If you pay extra on your car loan, the principal will be reduced and in the long run, you will be saving money in interest (woohoo). If you have a precomputed interest loan on a car, it will be calculated on the total amount of the loan in advance. This means that even if you make extra payments, you will not save any money on the interest over time. One big difference to note between student loan interest and auto loan interest is how it can affect your taxes. With student loans, the interest you pay may be a tax deduction you can take depending on your income and the amount of interest you have paid. With an auto loan, there is no such benefit.    

 

Interest on a house loan, otherwise known as a mortgage, is calculated similar to a simple interest car loan. An interest rate on a mortgage may be variable or fixed depending on which type of loan you choose. There are two major types of mortgage loans: 

  1. Principal and interest loans – You pay back the interest and the principal (the amount of money you borrowed) at the same time. This is the most common type of mortgage.
  2. Interest-only loans – This is when, for a certain period of time, payments towards the loan only go towards paying off the interest on the loan.

 

Mortgage loans are amortized, like some student loans, which means your payment goes towards more interest upfront. Then as the balance decreases, you pay less interest and the payment goes towards paying down the principal. Also, just as with some student loans, some of the interest you pay on your mortgage may be tax-deductible. 

 

Understanding Interest Can Pay Off

It’s important to understand the different types of interests and loans when determining which debt to focus on paying off first. Being strategic about how and when you pay off your debt can save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars. A good rule of thumb is to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate and then focus on your interest rate debt. Of course, if you have the option to refinance, explore that first and then develop your debt reduction plan.

 


 

¹Average 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 a number of factors.

 

²Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. Variable rates may increase after closing.

 

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.

Tips for Starting Your Student Loan Repayment Journey

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Once you graduate from college, leave college, or drop below half-time enrollment, it’s time to start thinking about when your student loan repayment period kicks in. Understanding the repayment process for your student loans is very important for a number of reasons – for one, if you don’t pay, your interest will accrue. Second, if you don’t pay, it will affect your credit score, which can hinder your ability to buy a home, buy a car, qualify for credit cards, take out a personal loan, or refinance your student loans.

 

If you graduated this past spring, your student loan repayment period will likely start around this time of year (if they haven’t kicked in already). Follow these tips to master student loan repayment and get yourself to a strong financial start after college.

 

Know How to Access Your Loan Information

A good first step is to acquire your loan information. This can typically be accessed via an online login. Monitoring your loan information will be essential during the course of repayment. If you took out Federal Student Loans, you can likely access your info at https://myfedloan.org/. If you took out private student loans, check with your lender for how to access your information. Tracking your loans will give you a gage on the status of each loan, the balance you owe, as well as interest rates for each loan. By understanding the status of your loans, you can make more informed decisions about how you want to prioritize repayment, what type of repayment plan you want to choose, or even whether you want to consolidate or refinance your student loans. 

 

Know When Your Payments Start

Immediately following graduation, you’ll likely have a grace period, or a period of time before your first payment is due. This can vary depending on the type of loan you have, and they can be different for each loan. Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal loans have a six-month grace period. Perkins loans have a nine-month grace period. There is no grace period for PLUS loans; however, if you are a graduate or professional student PLUS borrower, you do not have to make any payments while you are enrolled at least half time and (for Direct PLUS loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008) for an additional 6 months after you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment. Private student loans will have differing grace periods so contact your loan servicer for more details. Knowing when your loan will be due is imperative to starting off on the right foot when it comes to your student loans.

 

Weigh Repayment Options

When you take out federal student loans and your grace period is complete, you will automatically enter the Standard Repayment Plan. This plan allows you to pay off your debt within 10 years, with the monthly payment remaining the same over the life of the loan. If standard repayment doesn’t work for your budget, you may want to consider some other options, or perhaps even refinance your student loans. The federal student loan program offers the following Income-Based Repayment plans: 

  • Graduated Repayment Plan – Gives you a smaller payment amount in the beginning and gradually increases the payment amount every two years.
  • Extended Repayment Plan – Allows you to pay the least possible amount per month for 10 to 25 years.
  • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan or REPAYE Plan – Bases the monthly payment on you (and spouse’s) adjusted gross income, family size, and state of residence.
  • Pay As You Earn or PAYE – Monthly payments are based on your adjusted gross income and family size. You must be experiencing a financial hardship to qualify. You must also be considered a “new borrower” as of 10/1/2007 or after, or be someone who received an eligible Direct Loan disbursement on 10/1/2011 or after.
  • Income-Based Repayment or IBR – Monthly payments based on your adjusted gross income and family size. Must be experiencing a financial hardship to qualify.
  • Income-Contingent Repayment or ICR – Based on your monthly adjusted gross income and family size. Typically chosen if an individual can’t qualify for the Pay As You Earn Plan or Income-Based Repayment.Any changes to your income or your spouse’s income will affect your student loan payment. For example, if your salary increases, your student loan payment will as well. If you are married, both your income and your partner’s income are combined. Two combined incomes will increase your total income, likely increasing your monthly payment. 

 

Keep in mind that each repayment option will have positives, negatives, as well as eligibility requirements. Research each option before making a decision, and consider contacting your loan servicer if you have questions or need more information. 

 

Automate Your Payments (If you can)

Setting up automatic payments will make student loan repayment less of a hassle, will avoid late payments, and may even score you an interest rate reduction. Just be sure you have enough money in your account month-to-month to endure the payments without overdrawing. 

 

Make Extra Payments

When you make your monthly payment, it will first apply to any late fees you have, then it will apply to interest. After these items are covered, the remaining payment will go toward your principal loan balance (the amount you actually borrowed). By paying down the principal, you reduce the amount of interest that you pay over the life of the loan. Applying extra income by making larger payments or double payments will reduce the total amount you’ll end up paying. 

 

Reach Out for Help if Necessary

If you’re having trouble making your monthly payments, particularly on your federal student loans, contact your loan servicer. They will work with you to find a repayment plan you can manage or help determine your eligibility for deferment or forbearance. If you stop making payments without getting a deferment or forbearance, you risk your loan going into default, which can have serious consequences to your credit. 

 

Weigh Refinancing & Consolidation Options

If you have multiple student loans that are all accruing interest at different rates, you may want to consider student loan refinancing or consolidation to make repayment more manageable. The federal student loan program offers student loan consolidation, in which they combine your loans into one loan with a weighted average interest rate, rounded up to the nearest 1/8th percent. You can also consolidate your federal and/or private student loan with a private lender through the process of refinancing. Refinancing your student loans is much like consolidation, however it offers the opportunity to start new repayment terms and possibly lower your interest rate. Keep in mind that refinancing with a private lender may cause you to lose access to certain federal student loan repayment options that are listed above. 

 

Look Into Loan Forgiveness

If you work in a public service position or for a non-profit, you may want to consider the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program or another loan forgiveness program offered by the federal government. Other options exist for volunteers, military recruits, medical personnel, etc. Some state, school, and private programs also offer loan forgiveness. Check with your school or loan servicer to see if you may qualify for student loan forgiveness.

 

Earn Your Tax Benefits

If you are paying your student loans, you may be able to deduct the interest you pay on your student loans when filing your taxes. Deductions reduce your tax liability, saving you money and serving as a nice tradeoff for having to pay interest on your student loans. 

 

Repayment of student loans can be a long, difficult journey – but by taking advantage of your resources and staying determined to pay off your debt, it is manageable. If you need more information on paying back your student loans or the options that are available to you, contact your loan servicer.

 


 

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.

LIBOR: What It Means for 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.

 

If you decide to refinance your student loans, you’re likely looking for the lowest interest rate possible. If you want to pay off your debt aggressively, you may get a lower rate by opting for a variable rate loan rather than a fixed-rate loan.

 

While a variable rate loan may be a smart choice, it’s important to understand how lenders determine your interest rate and what factors may influence it, such as the LIBOR rate.

 

Continue reading to learn more about the LIBOR rate and how it affects your student loan repayment.

 

What is LIBOR?

To understand LIBOR, you must first understand Eurodollars. Eurodollars are bank deposit liabilities — written as U.S. dollars — that don’t fall under U.S. banking regulations. Banks that offer Eurodollars are usually located outside of the United States, and play a big role in the financial industry.

 

The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is a money market interest rate that is considered to be the standard in the interbank Eurodollar market. It’s a market for banks and financial institutions, rather than individuals. The LIBOR rate is the rate at which international banks are willing to offer Eurodollar deposits to one another.

 

That all may sound very complex and confusing, and you may be wondering why it matters to you. But the LIBOR rate can affect you directly. Many adjustable-rate loans and lines of credit, such as mortgages, credit cards, and student loans, base their interest rates on the LIBOR rate

 

How LIBOR affects your variable rate loans

When you apply for a loan, you can often choose between a fixed-rate loan and a variable rate loan. A fixed-rate loan has the same interest rate for the length of your repayment. It never changes, no matter what the market does. By contrast, variable rate loans usually have lower rates than fixed-rate loans for the same term at first. However, they can fluctuate over time to coincide with market changes.

 

If you have variable rate student loans, changes to the LIBOR impact the interest rate you’ll pay on the loan throughout your repayment.

 

Private student loans, including refinancing loans, have interest rates that are tied to an index, such as LIBOR. But that’s not the rate you’ll pay. The lender also adds a margin that is based on your credit; the better your credit, the lower the margin.

 

Your annual percentage rate, or APR, is a way of measuring the full cost a lender charges you per year for funds, and is expressed as a percentage. Your APR can be determined by adding the LIBOR rate to the margin, and including the cost of other fees and charges (if any exist) averaged over the term of the loan. If the LIBOR rate increases, the interest rate on your student loan will increase as well.

 

LIBOR Rate + Margin = Your Interest Rate

There are different maturities for LIBOR, including overnight, one week, one month, two months, three months, six months, and twelve months. Some student loan companies, including ELFI, adjust their interest rates every quarter based on the three-month LIBOR rate, while others adjust rates monthly as their loans are tied to the one-month LIBOR.

 

The LIBOR rate can fluctuate a great deal. However, most private student loan companies have caps on the interest rate, meaning your interest rate will never exceed that amount, no matter how high the LIBOR rate becomes.

 

Current LIBOR rates

As of Friday, November 22, 2019 — the last available data — the LIBOR rate is 1.917%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 4.917% (1.917% + 3.00%=4.917%).

 

The current LIBOR rate is significantly lower than it was at the beginning of 2019. On January 2, 2019, the LIBOR rate was 2.79%.

 

LIBOR rate trends

The LIBOR rate rises and falls along with market changes. Over the past 10 years, the three-month LIBOR rate has generally increased.

 

On December 2, 2009, the LIBOR rate was just 0.255%. As of November 22, 2019, the rate was 1.917%. If you had a variable rate loan during that time, that change means your rate would have risen by 1.662%.

 

The chart above displays fluctuations to the 3-month LIBOR based on the U.S. dollar from 2010-2019.

 

Future of LIBOR

LIBOR has been the gold standard that lenders have used for years to determine their rates. However, LIBOR is slowly being phased out and will be replaced with a new index.

 

LIBOR is based on transactions that aren’t as common as they used to be, so the index is considered to be less reliable than it once was. LIBOR is expected to be discontinued sometime after 2021.

 

How will that affect interest rates? The Federal Reserve has convened a committee to facilitate the transition and has recommended a new index to replace LIBOR. Lenders will likely replace LIBOR with the recommended index, or with the U.S. Prime Rate. Be sure to check your student loan documents (typically your Application & Credit Agreement) to better understand the terms of replacing the LIBOR index with a replacement index if you have a variable rate loan.

 

Managing your debt

If you’re planning on refinancing your student loans and are trying to decide between a fixed-rate loan and a variable rate loan, learning about the LIBOR rate can help you make an informed choice. If you want to see how much money you can save with refinancing and what interest rate you can qualify for, use ELFI’s Find My Rate tool to get a quote.*

 


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. Variable rates may increase after closing.

 

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.

This Week in Student Loans: December 2

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Please note: Education Loan Finance does not endorse or take positions on any political matters that are mentioned. Our weekly summary is for informational purposes only and is solely intended to bring relevant news to our readers.

 

This week in student loans:

Personal Loans Are the Fastest Growing Category of Debt in U.S.

With a fair amount of hype surrounding student loans, CNBC reported that neither student loans or credit card debt were the fastest growing categories of debt. Instead it was personal loans, growing at a clip 11% over the past year. In the article they share the reasons why personal loans can be appealing to individuals with good credit, why they may be less appealing to those with bad credit, as well as how personal loan debt differs from credit card debt.

Source: CNBC

 


Fraud in Federal Income-Based Repayment Plan?

This past July, the Government Accountability Office reported that the Education Department’s lax vetting of income and household information had been leaving popular student loan repayment programs, such as the Income-Based Repayment program, susceptible to fraud and errors. This “lax vetting” came in the form of borrowers not being held accountable for the income and number of household members they reported in their applications, which are prominent factors in qualifying. It’s since been said that this was due to the Department of Education not having access to IRS data, making them unable to verify the necessary data. This past week, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has asked the Education Department to suspend an expanded initiative to ensure that borrowers qualify for popular student loan repayment plans, claiming that the verification process “ensnares students in a jungle of red tape,” and that “The [Education] Department’s efforts to impose verification procedures on borrowers are based on unsupported assumptions.”

 

Source: Washington Post

 


Colorado Joins in Lawsuit Against Department of Education

The Denver Post reported that Colorado joined 19 other states and the District of Columbia in filing a brief in the case of Weingarten v. U.S. Department of Education. Like the other states, they are supporting those who have been denied by the Federal Service Loan Forgiveness after 10 years of public service work, claiming the Department “committed ‘pervasive errors’ in administering the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.”

 

This case has arisen in the midst of reports that 845 out of 900,000 applicants have been approved to have their student loans forgiven through the program. The article provides comments from Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office on the matter.

 

Source: Denver Post

 


Employers Continue to Join in on Student Loan Debt Repayment

This Seattle Times article highlights a number of employers that are offering benefits to help employees pay down their student loans, conveying that there appear to be a variety of benefit structures, ranging from allowing employees to swap their paid time off for student loan payment compensation, to awarding points for customer service that can be exchanged for items of cash value, including payment toward their student loans.

 

Source: Seattle Times

 


See Where Presidential Candidates Are Standing on Student Loans

Student Loan Hero’s Rebecca Safier breaks down where all 2020 presidential candidates stand on the basis of college affordability and student loan debt reform, both of which, she writes, “have become hot-button topics.”

 

Source: Student Loan Hero

 

That wraps things up for this week! Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or LinkedIn for more news about student loans, refinancing, and achieving financial freedom.


 

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.

Meet the Personal Loan Advisors of ELFI: Part 2

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This Thanksgiving, we’re thankful for the individuals who help Education Loan Finance continue to serve those with student debt with top-notch customer service – our Personal Loan Advisors! Navigating student loans can be tricky, but our PLAs are ready to answer any question you can think of when it comes to refinancing student loans. Here’s a look at a few of our dedicated Personal Loan Advisors who make ELFI great.

 


 

Colene Helveston

Meet Colene, an ELFI Personal Loan Advisor and major Florida Gators fan. With three children and three grandchildren, Colene has a deep concern for people working hard to pay off student debt. Her favorite part of working for ELFI is helping borrowers who have difficulty getting approved for refinancing – she is patient with them throughout the process and keeps them updated on all documents they need. She says it feels great when the borrower finally gets approved, is happy with their rate, and immediately leaves a good review.

Her latest review from a customer:

“Colene was wonderful in guiding me through the entire process. She was always quick to respond and explain what was needed and why.”

Thanks for all you do, Colene!

 


Drew Johnson

Meet Drew, an ELFI Personal Loan Advisor that assists customers through each stage of the refinancing process, from the application phase to the funding of their loan. His favorite part of working for ELFI is interacting with his customers and finding commonality.

Drew’s most recent review from a customer:

“Communication was top notch. Drew answered my questions quickly and clearly. I felt like I could trust him and the whole process moved along very smoothly.”

We appreciate you, Drew!

 

 


Amanda Scott

While Amanda is no longer a PLA, we are thankful for her taking on the role of Customer Service Lead! She enjoys to crotchet keepsakes for her friends and family, as well as for herself. Besides the snacks, her favorite part about working at ELFI is being able to help people navigate the student loan space.

 

Her favorite story with a customer involved dealing with a father and son – the son was applying to have his student loans refinanced, but didn’t quite meet the criteria. Amanda kept them in mind for some time and let them know when the criteria changed (which wasn’t required of her). Not only did the son qualify to have his student loans refinanced, but the father went on to refer his two daughters to Education Loan Finance, all because of the work Amanda put into helping them! Now that’s a good example of how helping others truly comes around!

 

Here’s a testimonial from one of Amanda’s former customers:

 

Great work, Amanda!

 


 

Leaders in Customer Service

These dedicated individuals and the rest of ELFI’s Personal Loan Advisors are to credit for our 4.8 out of 5.0 TrustPilot Rating and #1 Best Refi for Customer Service award from NerdWallet. As a team, they strive to provide elite service to everyone who inquires about refinancing their student loans.

 

Why Does ELFI Use Personal Loan Advisors?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for student loan refinancing. Personal loans often come with a fixed amount of time to pay them back – which means that if you’re in your twenties and just starting out on your career path, you want to be sure that your monthly loan payments are affordable. You also need to be aware that missing a payment could seriously damage your credit rating. Weighing all the refinancing options available to you can be difficult on your own, which is why we provide every customer with a dedicated Personal Loan Advisor to help them navigate the process from start to finish.

 

The appointment of a PLA is a unique feature of ELFI’s services. If you’re interested in refinancing your student loans, our PLAs are always available by phone, text, or email. One of our PLAs will be dedicated to you from the moment you apply and will work with you each step of the way to ensure your ELFI refinanced loan is the optimal fit for you. Contact us to get started!*

 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

Educate Yourself Before Taking Out Student Loans

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Taking out student loans to attend college has become extremely common in the United States. However, just because they are common does not mean you shouldn’t pay attention to what you’re getting into. It’s important to know your responsibilities when taking out a loan of any type, especially student loans. Take these steps before making an investment in your education by taking out a student loan. 

 

Educate Yourself

Before you take out a student loan, educate yourself on the details of it. Make note of the interest rates, eligibility terms, repayment terms, etc. before signing off on the loan. Our friends at eCampusTours have several articles and resources about student loans that can help you better understand your loan terms:

 

Repayment Plan

Keep in mind that when you take out a student loan, you will have to pay it back – even if you don’t graduate or aren’t happy with your education. If you want to get a grasp on what your repayment will look like following college, check out this worksheet: 

 

 

 

Ideally, you’ll secure a job in your field after graduating from college. Although you’ll want to pay off your loan quickly, keep in mind that your overall repayment shouldn’t exceed 15% of your monthly income. ELFI has some additional tips for prioritizing your student loan repayment. Here’s a worksheet that can help you determine how to repay your loans following college:

 

 

Taking out student loans is a commitment. Educating yourself on the responsibilities associated with student loans will help you make sound decisions about your education and will prevent you from feeling blindsided by your student loan debt and repayment terms later on.

 


 

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.

The Average Cost of College

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When it comes to shopping, many of us have champagne taste and a beer budget. We shop with our eyes and our hearts before taking a peek at the price tag. The process of selecting a college is no different. We make decisions based on location, athletic teams, available programs of study, greek life, or even where our friends apply. Unfortunately, for many people, the cost of college lives at the bottom of the checklist, despite being a vital factor to consider. 

 

The average cost of college for the 2019-2020 school year, is $21,950 for public, four-year, in-state colleges and $49,870 for private universities. This is an increase of 2.6% and 3.3%, respectively, over the year prior, alone. 

 

Without question, college is expensive, and very few people are talented enough to get an athletic or academic scholarship to completely or partially cover the cost of education. An even smaller number of people are able to pay for a degree out-of-pocket. That leaves the majority of college students and their families to rely on loans to pay the bills.  

 

Further complicating matters, a lot goes into the cost of college, including your residency status, level of degree you seek (bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral), where you live (on-campus, alone, or with a house full of roommates), and even how much you eat or how you commute to campus. 

 

To help you understand where you can save, as well as how you can cover expenses with financial aid, let’s dig into what comprises the average cost of college. 

 

Tuition

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

Tuition is the amount you pay your university to enroll in classes. The total changes based on the number of credit hours you take and if you take courses with additional charges like science labs or residential academic programs that let you attend smaller classes in your dorm. Offers like the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) can help students save money by providing in-state tuition to out-of-state students. Despite programs like this, the average cost of college is always rising because tuition increases each year based on inflation, school budgets, and a variety of other factors. 

 

Mandatory fees are lumped into tuition and include contributions toward campus construction and access to things like:

  • Student rec center
  • Athletic events
  • Career services
  • Student activities
  • Computer labs
  • Bus passes
  • Etc. 

 

Room and Board

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

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

 

Books

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

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

 

Transportation

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

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

 

Financial Aid 

When factoring the average cost of college, the other side of the ledger is represented by financial aid in the form of scholarships and need-based grants. With these awards, that don’t have to be repaid, the cost of tuition is reduced. 

 

In addition to scholarships and grants, federal and private loans are available to help cover the cost of college. Private lenders offer student loan options for undergraduate students, graduate students, and even parents. Loans cover everything from tuition to personal expenses that you’ll occur during your college years, like cell phone bills, clothes, laundry, or even a bed for your apartment. The biggest thing to keep in mind when taking out loans is to borrow only what you’ll need. It’s necessary to have money to pay bills while you’re a full-time student, but borrowing too much can put you in a bind when it comes time to pay back those loans.

 


 

* Source: https://research.collegeboard.org/pdf/trends-college-pricing-2019-full-report.pdf

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.

Avoiding Identity Theft: Student Loans Edition

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Identity theft seems like something that will never happen to you, that is, until it does. And when it hits, it can cause a lot of trouble—impacting your bank accounts, credit report, taking out loans and requiring a lot of time and effort to correct. When a thief has access to your personal information, there’s no limit to the havoc they can wreak. While charges on credit cards and unauthorized bank account withdrawals are more commonly associated with identity theft, student loan fraud can happen as well. 

 

Most people know to take necessary precautions, like shredding important documents and having facial ID or passcode set on their phone, but it seems like these steps are never enough. Identity thieves can get to your information through data breaches, stolen mail, stolen wallets, email scams, and even though your internet connection. Without altogether avoiding technology or living in a vault, how cautious do you need to be? Very cautious, as it turns out.

 

Let’s look at how to avoid identity theft, then what to do if the theft involves unauthorized student loans. 

Avoiding Student Loan Identity Theft 

Use Safe Internet Connections

When you Cyber Monday shop in a cafe or buy Wi-Fi at 30,000 feet, you put yourself at risk for identity theft. Public Wi-Fi connections are full of fellow internet surfers, and they don’t all have good intentions. Though convenient, public Wi-Fi may not have the proper security and encryption measures in place. When a fraudster gains access to your personal information via public Wi-Fi, it’s known as a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. Once they’ve gained access, thieves can spy on your internet behavior and steal usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, etc. 

 

Needless to say, it’s best to avoid anything on a public network that requires you to log into accounts or make purchases. This includes applying for colleges and student loans. Be sure you’re always working from a safe, trusted internet connection and make sure your device or computer has the latest software installed.

 

Don’t Keep Your Social Security Card in Your Wallet

At some point, you’ll likely be asked to share your Social Security number at the doctor’s office, your bank, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or even your job. And because of that, it’s tempting to keep your Social Security card in your purse or wallet for easy access, but doing so can open the door to identity theft. 

 

When your SSN lives next to your credit cards and driver’s license, you give thieves everything they need to steal your identity. Instead, keep your Social Security card with other important documents in a personal safe at your house or in a rented safe deposit box at a bank or credit union. Read more about when you should and shouldn’t give out your Social Security number.

 

Be Weary About Who You Share Information With

When applying for student loans, work directly through fafsa.gov for federal loans or through reputable financial institutions for private loans. How can you tell if a site is reputable? You should be able to easily find contact information on their website and speak to a real person when you call. Reputable websites also work through encrypted connections, helping reduce the risk of identity theft by sending your data across the internet with additional layers of protection. You can tell if a website is encrypted by its web address: “HTTP” sites are not encrypted while “HTTPS” sites are. 

 

If you do find that your identity has been used to take out unauthorized student loans, the below tips can help you get back on track.

 

Recovering from Student Loan Identity Theft

If you received a call or letter from a loan servicer warning that your account is past due, despite not having a student loan with that institution, you might be the victim of identity theft. Student loan identity theft might also be discovered during a routine credit check or by a credit monitoring service. Regardless of how you find out, once you do, here’s who to contact:

  • Contact the lenders that opened the accounts. Their fraud departments can freeze the accounts to prevent any further damage. 
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to complete an Identity Theft Report. This report will provide a detailed recovery plan and layout the appropriate steps. It will also pre-fill forms and letters you’ll need, saving you precious time. 
  • Contact the police and file a police report. A police report may be needed to help clear things up with lenders, credit agencies or the Department of Education.
  • Contact the school where the fraudulent account was opened, notify them of your incident and ask for a letter stating that the account is closed.
  • Contact the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®) and have them place a free fraud alert on your credit report. Doing so lets each one know to take extra precaution before approving new lines of credit. You may also consider a credit freeze, which prevents any new lines of credit from opening until you have it lifted. 

 

Keep An Eye On Things

If you haven’t signed up for a credit monitoring service, now is the time. The big three reporting agencies offer these services, as do third-party platforms like Credit Karma®. You can set up alerts to be notified of any new activity tied to your personal information. If you don’t want to sign up for a service, at least do your due diligence by checking your credit frequently. You can get your credit report at no cost every 12 months from each of the main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Request your report at AnnualCreditReport.com.

 

Remember, fraudsters will stop at nothing to access your personal information, and they’re good at what they do! It’s troublesome to have any aspect of life tampered with, but especially so when it comes to student loan identity theft. It pays to know ways to help protect yourself, and if the unfortunate does happen, how to begin the rebuilding process.

 


 

 

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

Student Loans: What are Deferments and Forbearances?

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

 

What is a Deferment?

A deferment allows you to temporarily postpone or stop making student loan payments. You’ll want to be careful about requesting a deferment depending on the type of loans you have, because some will cover the interest during deferment, and some will make you responsible for paying the accrued interest during deferment. For Federal Subsidized Stafford Loans and Federal Perkins Loans, the government will pay interest during the deferment period, while they will not with Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loans. Also, parents are responsible for paying interest on Federal PLUS Loans while in deferment.

 

There are various reasons why you could qualify for deferment, including: 

  • Experiencing unemployment
  • Economic hardship
  • Student enrollment
  • Graduate fellowships
  • Rehabilitation training

 

Technically, you are entitled to deferments – if you qualify for one and submit a request in a timely manner, your loan servicer is required to grant a deferment. However, this doesn’t mean you can stop paying once you submit the request – keep making monthly payments until the request is approved to avoid taking any knocks to your credit score. Once the deferment is granted, be sure to know when it ends, and be prepared to start making payments from that point forward, as that will be expected.

 

What is a Forbearance?

In the case that you don’t qualify for a deferment, you may have to request a forbearance on your student loans. When in forbearance, you can either make reduced payments or no payments at all for a limited period of time. In almost all forbearance cases you will be responsible for the interest that accrues on your student loan balance

 

The two types of forbearances are discretionary and mandatory. Discretionary forbearances are up to your loan servicer to grant, but you can request them in cases of financial hardship or illness. For mandatory forbearances, if you meet the eligibility criteria for the forbearance, your loan servicer is required to grant the forbearance. You can request a mandatory forbearance if:

  • Your federal student loan debt exceeds 20% of your gross income.
  • You are serving in a medical or dental internship or residency.
  • You are serving in a national service position for which you received a national service award.
  • You are performing teaching service that would qualify for teacher loan forgiveness.
  • You qualify for partial repayment of your loans under the U.S. Department of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program.
  • You are a member of the National Guard and have been activated by a governor, but you are not eligible for a military deferment.

 

As with deferments, you must continue to make your monthly payments until the request for forbearance is approved by your loan servicer. Going into forbearance will not cancel out or erase any missed payments you have, so if you are in need of a forbearance, it may be better to request it quickly as to avoid any effects on your credit score. 

 

Managing student loan payments isn’t always easy. If you’re having trouble making payments on your loan, you should contact your loan servicer immediately and learn about your options. It’s important for them to be aware of your specific situation so they can provide you with the appropriate information and help you avoid defaulting on your loans. If you default, you are not eligible for a deferment or forbearance.

 


 

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