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Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act H.R. 795

January 2, 2019

Nothing could be better than working for a top company that helps you pay off your student loans, right? Well, a bill was introduced by legislators on 2/1/2017 that is trying to make this a reality. This bill was introduced as the Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act. In addition to the introduction of this Act, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also released a private letter ruling. What could these events mean for companies and employees who carry student loan debt?

 

Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act

First, this bill would amend the tax code by giving tax breaks to employers that provide educational assistance to employees. Educational assistance can be in the form of contributions to student loans through either a payment to the employee or lender.

Specifically, this act would allow employers to offer a tax-free student loan benefit in addition to a salary to its employees.

 

IRS Private Letter Ruling

 

Recently, there was a private letter ruling released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you want to review the contents of the private letter ruling, it can be found here. The ruling allows employers to use 401(k) plans to help employees pay down their student loan debt. It is done by taking the employer 401(k) match to pay down student loans.

 

Any employee who is eligible for a 401(k) plan would be eligible for this plan. The ruling states that the plan is a voluntary program that employees must elect to enroll. Employees who choose to participate in this plan would be eligible for non-elective contributions made by the employer to their student loan debt. These contributions would be equal to what would have been contributed to a 401(k) plan had the employee opted out of the program.

 

What Does Student Loan Debt Assistance Mean for Employers?

When managing a business, it is imperative that you stay on top of recent news. Part of staying on top of things includes understanding what challenges your employees face. Both these aspects of operating a business and understanding the needs of your employees, however, can fall hand in hand. When it comes to student loan debt assistance, it can be a huge positive for any business. Not only does student loan debt assistance help employees achieve their financial goals, but it also brings many benefits to a firm.

 

Offering a student loan debt assistance program does not typically cost a company extra. The employer contributions to student loans are what a company would have typically made as a 401(k) contribution. Therefore the costs of providing 401(k) contributions and student loan debt assistance are equal. Another positive that comes from offering a program like this is that it helps with finding top talent, recruiting, and retaining all-stars. With older generations of employees retiring in record numbers and the workforce shifting to younger millennials, it’s important to take some time to examine the benefits of providing student loan debt assistance.

 

As many millennials have student loans and report that paying them down is a priority over saving for retirement, companies should begin thinking about reevaluating their benefits package to attract millennials. Finding ways to help this generation pay off student loans could be a big boost to a company’s recruiting strategy. Offering student loan payment assistance could put a company on the cutting edge as far as millennial professionals are concerned.

 

Click to Learn More About ELFI for Business

 

According to a benefits report by OneDigital, nearly 80 percent of employees surveyed by American Student Assistance felt that an employer-sponsored student loan repayment benefit would be a deciding factor in accepting a job. This could be a huge differentiator for an employer aiming to recruit the best employees.

 

The American Student Assistance survey also showed that 86 percent of employees would feel compelled to stay with an employer for at least five years in exchange for student loan repayment assistance. Considering how much companies spend on turnover (recruiting, training, and onboarding new employees), this could mean huge potential savings on talent management costs for employers.

 

What Does Student Loan Debt Assistance Mean for Employees?

Some companies already offer student loan assistance, but these funds are usually taxed. This type of assistance isn’t as attractive as pre-tax funds because taxes reduce the impact of payments on student loans. Tax-free repayment funds from an employer could be more effective in helping graduates pay down their student loans faster. Employees would avoid incurring taxes associated with this type of assistance.

 

Many Millennials also face the question of, “Should I save for retirement or pay down debt first?” Student loan debt assistance could be a solution that addresses both concerns. Young employees would have the ability to make substantial payments towards their student loan debt. With these large payments, they will be able to cut down their repayment time. That means young employees would have the ability to start saving for retirement earlier in their career instead of trying to pay down their debt.

 

Looking to the Future of Employment and Student Loan Debt

 

With the recent Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act and IRS Private Letter Ruling, it seems student loan debt has become a problem for employees. Since employees are having difficulties with paying down student loan debt, it is time for employers to take action. Not only will employers benefit from offering student loan debt assistance programs, but it will most likely be at little or no cost to them.

 

If this act becomes a law, experts think that companies will immediately begin to rethink their benefits package and consider student loan debt assistance as a way to attract the best employees. Though it may not be easy for millennials to land a position with one of these companies, they will certainly have another factor to decide in student loan debt assistance when choosing their employer.

 

Interested in starting a conversation regarding your student loans? Give us a call: 1-844-601-ELFI.

 

5 Benefits Millennials Look For in Employers

 

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2019-05-20
Responsibilities of Cosigning A Loan

It’s often thought about pretty commonly that people will attend college. What often isn’t discussed is how people will afford to pay for their college degree. When looking for available financial aid options many look to private student loans to pay for college. Once completing the application don’t be surprised if it is denied because of your financial history or lack thereof. Unless your parents opened up a credit card account for you as an authorized user when you born, you probably won’t have a long enough credit history. Don’t be overly heartbroken, since you aren’t the only one without a long credit history. A way around not having an established credit history is to talk with a parent or guardian about being a cosigner on your student loan. This isn’t an easy process, but it can be worthwhile if both parties understand the responsibilities that are associated with cosigned student loans. Additionally, adding a cosigner to a loan may not be the right answer.   Having a cosigner can help qualify you for a student loan because the right cosigner should have an established credit history. As a lending institution, it would be too difficult to lend to a borrower who hasn’t yet shown that they are financially responsible. Adding a cosigner who is financially responsible, for a loan assures the lender that the loan is less of a risk and is more likely to be paid back.   If you like sports, think of it like a basketball game. If you’re injured and can no longer play, a substitute or someone on the team plays the game in your place. A cosigner would be your financially responsible substitute in the game of loans. If you are unable to carry the financial burden of a loan at any time and take a knee, a cosigner is expected and legally responsible to repay the debt.  Though the concept of adding a cosigner can seem fairly simple, there is a lot that goes along with it. Here are a few things to understand, before you even consider asking someone to cosign your private student loan.    

Why would you need to add a cosigner to a loan?

  There are multiple different cases why you may need a cosigner. If you have never owned a credit card, had a loan before or held any type of credit, you may have no established credit history. Even if you have had credit for a short time, there may not be enough history for the private loan company to evaluate. If you have a large loan you’re interested in taking out, it’s highly unusual that the loan will be provided to someone with a year or less of credit history. Based on your credit history a student loan company can see how often a person is paying off debt and what their credit score is. Without a credit history, it can be hard for a student loan company to evaluate if you will be on time for loan payments.  With a cosigner, the student loan company can evaluate the financial history of the cosigner and see that they are a reliable applicant.   Another reason that you may need a cosigner is that you have a bad credit score. If your debt-to-income ratio is too high, you have an unsteady income, or you have previous defaults on your credit history, this could be a reason why you’d need to add a cosigner. A cosigner can help qualify you for a private student loan. When having a cosigner, it is the cosigner’s loan and they are fully responsible for that loan too. Though your cosigner is not using the loan, it is equally their responsibility to make sure the loan is paid off. If you choose to ask a family member or friend to be a cosigner, it is important they understand the financial responsibility that they are taking. For example, if you do not pay your loan, your cosigner will have to pay it off. A cosigner will need to have a good credit history and consistently have responsible financial habits. You may be thinking of multiple different people who could be your cosigner. Before diving in, be sure to understand who can cosign your loan.  

Who can cosign a loan for college?

  When evaluating the need for a cosigner, you will need to know who is eligible. Undergraduate and graduate private loans lenders have a list of criteria that a cosigner must meet. The criteria for a cosigner will be different based on each lending institutions policy and eligibility requirements. Here’s a breakdown of some of the general eligibility requirements needed.  
  • A cosigner must be a United States citizen and of legal age.
  • Legal age will vary by state, so it is important to look up the legal age for your state of interest.
  • As for your preference, it needs to be someone you trust. Maybe start by asking a parent or close relative.
  • Needs to have a good credit score, and has to know all the financial responsibilities of a cosigner.
  • The cosigner will be required to have a consistent employer or a steady income. If a family member is not an option, consider a dependable, close friend.
  • Some private loan companies require that the cosigner have the same address as the applicant.
 

Cosigner Responsibilities

  Make sure your cosigner fully understands what they are committing to and that you both discuss the responsibilities needed from a cosigner. Being a cosigner can be unpredictable. As a borrower, you may not be able to pay off a loan that you have taken on and your cosigner will be accountable for the remainder of the student loan payments. This could affect a cosigner and their future. Go over the cosigner paperwork and discuss all the options you have. You both will have equal responsibility throughout the life of the loan.   Cosigner responsibilities include payment on any late or missing payments as per the contract of the private loan. The cosigner’s credit report will show the student loan, therefore, any late payments will affect the cosigner’s credit score. A cosigner, by cosigning, is adding more credit to their credit history. Therefore, if the cosigner needs their own loan, they may find it difficult due to the additional credit added from the private loan.   A creditor may have different ways of collecting loan debt, but they can garnish wages depending on the state the loan is originated in. If the loan is not paid, you or the cosigner’s employer may be required to refuse a portion of your paycheck and send it to the creditor. In addition, a private loan may have clauses included in the document. Be aware that a clause may require the loan amount paid in full at the time of a cosigner’s death. Meaning if you ask someone to be a cosigner and they pass away the debt may have to be paid in full at that time. The same can go for the cosigner if the borrower passes away, the full debt balance could be expected at the time of the borrower’s death. Open communication between you and your cosigner is vital. Go over all clauses, liabilities, and possibilities to ensure you are both aware of the circumstances.  

Factors to consider when selecting a cosigner

  A cosigner needs to be someone who is completely able to pay off your loan. The private loan company will want to see that the cosigner has a steady income. A steady income means that they have reliable employment or a consistent form of payment. Without a steady income, the loan company will have no evidence that your cosigner has the funds to help pay off the loan.   Your cosigner will need to have a decently lengthy credit history. Along with the cosigner’s credit history, the lender will review their credit score. A credit score will illustrate to the loan company that the cosigner has borrowed money previously and was able to pay it back on time. A private loan company is always looking for a trustworthy candidate that will be capable of paying back their debt. While the loan company will decide if you and your cosigner are qualified, it is important that you have a dependable cosigner.   Cosigning will be a long term commitment and all clauses must be considered. Good health will be a factor when choosing a cosigner. Good health may seem like an odd qualification to have. If your cosigner dies, your loan could automatically be placed in default regardless of the payments you have made. Due to unfortunate circumstances, this could have a harmful effect on your credit score.   Whether it a relative or close friend, you and your cosigner must be on the same page. Once you have a loan you both will share the responsibility of getting it paid off. Talk about financial barriers together. If you are unsure you can pay off the loan, let your cosigner know ahead of time. This could help prevent any devastating effects on your credit scores in the future.  

Benefits of using a Cosigner

  While having a cosigner is a serious decision, it does include benefits. One of the biggest advantages to adding a cosigner is that it could help you to have a better interest rate. Adding a cosigner with a good credit history, and income, private loan companies may give you a lower interest rate. How can having a cosigner get you a lower interest rate? Since your cosigner should have an established credit history and income, it means that the loan is less risky for the lending institution. If the loan is more likely to be paid back based on previous borrower history, then the lending institution will provide a more attractive interest rate on the loan. Having a lower interest rate on your loan could mean thousands of dollars saved from debt repayment.   Secondly, having a cosigner could assist you with your own credit. Since a cosigner gives you a better chance at receiving the loan, you’re more likely to establish the credit to further build out your credit history. Assuming you’re able to make the monthly payments on your student loan, you will start to build a credit history. If you are paying on time, this will help you to improve credit for future needs and purchases for both you and cosigner. Without a cosigner, you may not be eligible for the loan and would not be able to get a jump start on your credit. Cosigning for a debt is not something that should be taken lightly by anyone. This could be the right answer for you or it could be the wrong answer. It’s important to review all your options as a borrower and discuss the liabilities and responsibilities of cosigning with your cosigner.  

10 Facts About Student Loans That Can Save You Money

 
Student studying under a tree
2019-05-10
What You Need to Know About College Scholarships: Part 2

Part 1 of this series covered the basics of searching for scholarship money to lessen the cost of college and the average cost of college. Part 2 looks at scholarships available through the federal government and gives you additional information about qualifying and applying for these opportunities to help you achieve your educational goals.  

Federal Scholarships for College

  It’s a big part of the American Dream: graduating from college to pursue a productive and rewarding career. In fact, Americans value a college education so much that our federal government awards over 120 billion dollars in annual aid to help students achieve this goal. Much federal financial aid is in the form of student loans, work-study programs, and tax credits for education. However, the government also awards “free money,” which often doesn’t have to be repaid. Instead of calling this type of award a scholarship, the government calls it a federal grant. Grants are awarded based on need, plus special conditions and circumstances. A federal scholarship or grant could be your ticket to a great education at a lower cost.  

Federal Grants & Private Scholarships: What’s the Difference?

  You may be eligible for both federal grants and scholarships from your college, state, service club, foundation or business. One of the main differences between the two types of aid is the application process. Each private scholarship has its own process, and you must carefully adhere to the instructions and meet all deadlines if you hope to qualify. Eligibility for a federal grant is determined using the comprehensive FAFSA® form, which students submit to apply for all federal student aid (grants, loans, work-study and other types of federal assistance). An exception to this is military ROTC scholarships and VA programs, which have varying application processes. ROTC and VA applicants must go through the appropriate service branch or agency to apply.   Private scholarships are frequently awarded on merit (scholastic or athletic achievement), specified condition (area of study, heritage, college or state) or financial need. Sometimes, more than one criterion is used to determine the award. Federal grants are based primarily on need, although some federal programs have been established for specific purposes like promoting teacher education or community service. Such grants may have additional requirements, like academic achievement and service commitment, in exchange for education benefits. Likewise, scholarships awarded through U.S. military ROTC programs come with a specific commitment to serve.  

How Do You Apply for a Federal Grant or Scholarship?

  Application for federal grants begins by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. To apply for scholarships through military ROTC programs, you must apply with the associated military branch. Application for VA benefits can be accessed through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs website. The Dept. of Defense also offers scholarships and graduate fellowships with their own application process. Links to these federal sites are listed here:    

Resources for Grants & Scholarships Through the Federal Government

Check out these federal grant programs that could help you lower the amount of money you have to borrow to attend college.  

Pell Grants:

These grants gave eligible students a maximum amount of $6,195 toward their education in 2019 - 2020. Students may receive this assistance for up to 12 semesters of college. Available To: Undergraduate Students Qualifications:
  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. May be eligible if enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program.
  3. Must not have been incarcerated in a federal or state correctional institution.
Amount Received Dependent On:
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Defined by the Department of Education as “an index number that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school.” The FAFSA form information is used to calculate this. The formula takes into account your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, benefits, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college.
Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Financial Need
  • Cost of Attendance. Determined by your school for your program.
  • Attendance Schedule. Will you be a full-time or part-time student?
  • Are you attending school for the entire year or just a semester?
   

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants:

This is an additional grant program distributed by participating colleges and allocates anywhere from $100 to $4000 toward a recipient’s undergraduate education. Submitting your FAFSA early can have a direct impact on this type of grant. Each school sets its own deadline for campus-based funding. You should be able to see the deadline on the school’s website and if it’s not there be sure to speak with a member of your financial aid office. Available To: Undergraduate Students Qualifications:
  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.
   

Teacher Education Assistance for College & Higher Education (TEACH) Grants:

You must also be pursuing a career in teaching. In order to qualify you will need to teach at the elementary or secondary level school in a high-need field in a low-income area after graduation. Available To: Undergraduate Students, Post Baccalaureate Students, or Graduate Student (Attend a Participating School) Qualifications:
  1. Enrolled in a TEACH-Grant-eligible program.
  2. Meet academic achievement requirements (scoring above the 75th percentile on one or more parts of a college admissions test or maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25)
  3. Receive TEACH counseling to explain the terms and conditions of the service obligation. Must complete counseling each year you receive a TEACH Grant.
  4. Sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve.
 

Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grants:

Eligible students who lost a parent in military service and do not meet the need-based threshold for a Pell Grant can apply for additional college funds through this program. Available To Qualifications:
  1. Not eligible for the Federal Pell Grant due to Expected Family Contribution.
  2. Meet Federal Pell Grant requirements for eligibility.
  3. Parent or guardian was a member of the U.S armed forces, who died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11.
  4. Under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of the parent or guardian’s death.
   

SMART Scholarship Program:

The Dept. of Defense offers undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to encourage participation in the STEM sciences and recruit future civilian employees for the DoD. Available To Qualifications:
  1. Must be a U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or United Kingdom Citizen at the time of application
  2. As of August 1, 2019, must be 18 years of age or older.
  3. Ability to participate in summer internships at a DoD facility.
  4. Willingness to accept employment post graduate for DoD
  5. Minimum of 3.0 on a scale of 4.0 and in good standing.
  6. Pursuing one of these disciplines for undergraduate or graduate degrees.
 

Jobs to Reduce Student Loans

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.  
2019-05-07
What is a Prepayment Penalty? What’s the Catch?

Imagine finally paying off your loan just to find out you owe the lender more money!  All because you’ve paid your debt off early. Instead of your lender rewarding you for paying the loan off earlier than your contract states, they charge you extra. Here’s what that is, how to avoid it, and what you can do.  

What is a prepayment penalty?

  A prepayment penalty is a fee charged to a borrower. If you pay off your loan earlier before the date planned in the contract the lender could charge you a prepayment penalty.   A prepayment penalty is charged once you’ve completed paying your debt, if it was paid it off early, or it could be a fee for overpaying the scheduled amount set per year. A prepayment penalty can be a fixed amount or based on what the remaining balance of your loan was set to be. For example, certain loans may allow you to pay off 20% extra each year before facing a fee.

What are prepayment penalties for?

  When you borrow from an institution, they assume that it will take you a certain amount of time to repay the debt back, with interest. If you pay back your debt sooner, that institution may lose out on the interest that they collect. For this reason, loans like a mortgage might have a prepayment penalty to discourage people from refinancing or selling within the first few years.   You can think of a prepayment penalty as a way for the institution to ensure that it makes an adequate return amount for the credit they lent. Additionally, lenders charge prepayment penalties because if they place the loan in security and sell it, they need verification that the loan will be outstanding for a particular period of time. Having the security outstanding for a period of time will provide the buyer of the security a yield.  

Student Loans

There are so many benefits to paying extra on your student loans each month. One of the main benefits - you’ll pay less interest over the life of the student loan. When it comes to student loans, you may be surprised to find out that there are no prepayment penalties. That’s right no prepayment penalties for both federal and private student loans. According to the Higher Education Opportunity Act of August 2008: “It shall be unlawful for any private educational lender to impose a fee or penalty on a borrower for early repayment or prepayment of any private education loan.”   Before you begin making extra payments towards your student loans, you should contact your servicer. Verify that the additional payment is being applied to the principal balance of the loan and not to the interest. If the overpayment is directed to the principal you’ll be able to pay down the debt faster.  

Mortgage Loans

Mortgages don’t always have prepayment penalties, but some do. If there is a prepayment fee on your mortgage you should be able to review the details in the mortgage contract. It’s vital when signing a contract that you pay attention to the fine print. If you don’t understand something or need further clarity, be sure to ask questions.   When dealing with Mortgages, if you chose to refinance your loan there could be a prepayment penalty. Typically if you choose to refinance within the first three or five years of having the loan there may be a prepayment penalty fee that applies.  If you ever have any questions about prepayment fees you should contact your mortgage lender for clarity.  

Auto Loans

When taking out an auto loan there are two types of interest that may be used in your contract, simple interest or pre-computed interest. Simple interest works similarly to a student loan, it is calculated based on the balance of the loan. Therefore, if you have an auto loan with simple interest, the sooner you can pay your loan off, the less interest you’ll pay.   The other type of interest is pre-computed interest. This interest is included in your agreement. It is a fixed amount calculated and added on at the beginning of the contract. Using a pre-computed interest rate is typically when you encounter prepayment penalties. Similar to mortgage loans it isn’t guaranteed that these loans have a prepayment penalty, but if so, it should be in the contract. Be sure to contact your lender or institution that services the loan to find out if there are any prepayment penalties before paying extra towards your debt.  

Personal Loans

Personal loans can be used for a number of different reasons, from medical expenses to travel or even wedding expenses. When it comes to the prepayment penalty for personal loans, most companies will charge a percentage of the remaining balance. Though it’s likely your personal loan won’t have a prepayment penalty, you could still have one. Check with your lending institution or be sure to closely review your contract to see if there are any penalty fees for paying your debt down earlier.    

Soft Penalty vs. Hard Penalty

  You may have heard of two different types of prepayment penalties: soft and hard. A soft prepayment penalty would charge you a fee for refinancing, but not for other situations. A hard prepayment penalty would charge you for refinancing, prepayment, or selling (in the case of a mortgage - selling your house).  

How can prepayment penalties affect you?

  First, assuming you have multiple bills and debts that you pay each month, knowing whether any of them have a prepayment penalty can change how you pay. Imagine you have a student loan and a mortgage loan, you know the student loan doesn’t have any prepayment penalties, but the mortgage loan does. Let’s say that you’ve received some additional income and you want to put it towards one of the loans, but you aren’t sure which one. You’ll want to pay additional money toward the student loan debt because you won’t get penalized for paying it off early. Knowing a loan you’ve applied for has a prepayment penalty might motivate you to find a different borrower and give you the freedom to pay off that debt sooner without a fee.   Does this mean you should never pay off debts early? No way! There are plenty of loans and other types of debts that won’t have a prepayment penalty. The important thing is to know what you’re getting into. Read the fine print and ask questions during the application process. Also, for loans like a mortgage, there is typically a page you sign toward the end of the process that includes disclosures on things like whether there is a prepayment penalty, balloon payment, and so on. Always be aware of those disclosures before you take on new debt.  

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  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites 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.