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Graduate School

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Get a Graduate Degree?

June 7, 2019

The most recent data from the Digest of Education Statistics show that over 54% of those completing graduate studies take on student loans, and the average loan amount for grad school is over $70,000. With so much at stake, isn’t it worth a serious analysis of the value?

 

Develop a Decision Matrix to Help You Decide

A decision matrix is an analytical tool that helps you compare different factors when making a choice. If you are about to take on more student debt to continue your education, a personal decision matrix that weighs the following questions can help you clarify your values and decide what makes both personal and financial sense.

 

  • Why do you want a graduate degree? Motivation is a complex process, and you may not know what is driving you to continue your education. A little self-analysis is in order. Do you think graduate work will elevate your prestige, make you an industry authority, or help you find a more challenging job? Or are you afraid of leaving your college comfort zone and entering the workforce?

 

  • Do the jobs in your field of study match your talents and disposition? Do you thrive in a fast-paced environment or enjoy working with the public? Perhaps a predictable or solitary workplace suits you more. If you’ve never been employed in your chosen field, it might be wise to work for a while after completing your bachelor’s degree. You’ll get a better understanding of employment opportunities and personal satisfaction levels before investing more time and money toward an advanced degree. Working before pursuing a graduate program has two other distinct advantages:

 

  1. You can make progress toward paying off undergrad student loans.
  2. You will have time to solidify your life and career goals.

 

  • Will a graduate degree improve your employment and earning potential? Before committing to graduate school, do your research. Monitor the job market on sites like Indeed, Monster or Study job requirements, salaries, and the number of job openings. Talk to individuals in your field—both those with graduate degrees and those with four-year degrees. Will an advanced degree make enough difference in job availability, career stability, and earning potential to offset the time and money required to obtain it?

 

  • Are there alternatives for enhancing your employment value? Explore professional or specialized certifications that could make you more valuable to an employer. Obtaining certificates is usually less expensive than continuing with graduate studies, and added training indicates to employers that you take the initiative and possess advanced skills.

 

  • How will you pay for your advanced degree? If you already have student loans, adding more debt for graduate school could further delay your ability to achieve many financial milestones: marriage, purchasing a home, traveling, or starting a family. Often, grad school loans come with a higher interest rate and greater accumulated balance than undergraduate loans. You’ll need to determine whether the added earning potential of an advanced degree justifies the payments and payback period. It may also be worthwhile to explore alternatives like part-time studies and employer educational benefits to lessen the student loan burden.

 

Refinance Student Debt in Three Easy Steps With ELFI

You’ve graduated with a college degree and increased your earning power. Now, get the most for your money by refinancing your student loans with Education Loan Finance. Our competitive interest rates, personalized service, and nationwide availability give you the power to manage your debt and achieve your goals. With ELFI, you could be just three steps away from a brighter future!

 

Click Here to Learn More About Refinancing Student Loans

 

 

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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.

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2020-10-23
Ace Your Interview: Job Interview Tips

Life after graduation is full of responsibilities, like taxes, groceries and full-time jobs, but also full of opportunities. To capture these opportunities, you need to be prepared, and the best way to do that is to make sure you give the best job interviews possible. Here are a few job interview tips to help:  

Write a Top-Notch Resume

First step: get your
resume into shape. Make sure you fill it with your valuable work experience and qualifications. Your goal is to showcase the most successful and productive version of yourself possible.   Volunteer work, certifications, awards, and other accomplishments can all have a place on your resume. Many people like to build from resume templates you can find online, but if you use a resume template, just be sure you’ve thoroughly checked the verbiage to make sure it doesn’t sound scripted.   Your resume should show off your unique talents and skill set, as well as any numbers or figures that back up your work.  

Do the Research

One of the most important job interview tips is doing research beforehand. You want to be knowledgeable about both the job and the employer when you are being interviewed. Look at the company website to learn about company history, accomplishments, and other information. Also, take some time to read recent news about the company.   When you know what the company is looking for, you’ll be able to easily answer questions about how you will fit into the work environment.  

Know the Common Questions

Many interviewers ask the same, basic questions to better understand their candidates. While some may ask curveball questions, as well, you’ll be a step ahead if you come prepared with answers to common questions.   Examples include “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” Even though these sound like very basic questions, it’s important to give a thoughtful answer. Take your time thinking through responses prior to the interview. Indeed has a fantastic list of 125 such questions to ensure you are never at a loss for words.   Don’t stress about knowing all the answers; just practice the ones you think are most important. Then, if they ask you something unexpected, you’ll have a few ideas to pull from.  

Practice

Once your research is done, it’s time to practice. Ask a friend, parent, sibling or roommate to run through interview questions with you. Focus on answering smoothly and confidently.   In a similar vein, treat any job interview you go to as practice. If you don’t get the job, you’ve still gained valuable interview experience.  

Ask Questions

One job interview tip some people don't think about is to prepare your own questions.   A job interview isn’t just an opportunity for a prospective employer to learn about you. It’s also a chance for you to learn about them. Ask questions you really want answers to, not just questions you think will impress the interviewer. Honest questions demonstrate interest and can help you decide whether you’d like to work for the company.   Ideally, you should prepare your questions in advance. That way, you’ll be ready when the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?” If you’re at a loss for words, questions about corporate culture and growth opportunities are always good options.  

Dress the Part

When dressing for a job interview, you should think about the first impression you’d like to make on your potential employer. If you aren’t sure about an outfit, err on the side of caution. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. When in doubt, it’s hard to go wrong with simple, business-professional clothing.   Of course, this is by no means an all-purpose interview cheat code. Different employers will expect their employees to wear different things. An interview at a bank will require far more formal dress than an interview at quick-service restaurant.   Again, though, err on the side of caution. You likely won’t be passed over for a job because you were too well dressed. To top it all off, research has shown that dressing up can significantly boost your confidence.  

Follow Up

After the interview, consider sending a thank-you email to the hiring manager. Express your gratitude for the interview and impress upon them your interest in the position. Be enthusiastic. You’ve got one more chance to make a positive impression.   If you get the job, congratulations. That’s fantastic. If you don’t, don’t stress. You’ve done the best you could do, and you’ve gained valuable interview experience to boot. Sometimes it takes time to find the perfect job. With your interview experience, you’ll be all the more likely to get it. If you’re looking for a job in the medical field, check out this article on common resume mistakes for medical professionals.  
  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.
2020-10-20
Engineering School Student Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is a fantastic option in many high-earning professions, and engineering is no exception. Most engineering students pursue bachelor’s degrees, and the average engineer’s student debt falls roughly in line with the national average of $35,173.    While engineers work hard to earn their degrees, the payoff is oh, so worthwhile. The average entry-level salary for engineers is $57,506, and the average salary across all experience levels is $79,000. This varies by the type of engineering you choose, as well. Big data engineers are among the highest-paid in 2020, with a median salary of $155,000.   Engineering students are often top candidates for student loan refinancing because of their low debt-to-income ratios. Here are a few more things you should consider refinancing your engineering student loans:  

Benefits of Student Loan Refinancing for Engineers

Student loan refinancing is a strategy that can help engineers better manage and pay off debt. When you refinance your engineering student loans, a private lender will “purchase” your debt from your original lenders. You can request rate quotes from several different lenders, then refinance with the one that offers you the most competitive rate. Decreasing your interest rate means you’ll pay less over the life of the loan.   Here are just a few of the benefits of student loan refinancing for engineers:
  • Ability to consolidate student loans into one monthly payment
  • Option to choose between fixed and variable student loan refinancing interest rates 
  • Chance to earn a lower interest rate, potentially lower than federal student loans 
  • Opportunity to change your student loan repayment term
  To see how much you could save by refinancing your engineering student loans with Education Loan Finance, try our Student Loan Refinance Calculator.*  

How to Refinance Engineering Student Loans

Refinancing your student loans is normally a quick and simple process, and you can apply in minutes at home. If you’re curious about the process of refinancing, take a look at our student loan refinancing guide.   Researching lenders has very few downsides. Most lenders prequalify applicants using a soft credit check, which won’t hurt your credit score. Just know that before you can officially refinance your loans, your lender will likely need to do a hard credit check.   Here are the next steps to take if you’re thinking about refinancing your engineering student loans:
  • Figure out which how much or which loans you’d like to refinance. 
  • Make sure you meet student loan refinancing eligibility requirements.
  • Shop around and compare pre-qualified rates from multiple lenders. 
  • Submit an application to refinance your student loans 
  • Finalize the loan application by reviewing the loan terms & signing the documents provided by the lender. 
 

Alternatives to Pay Off Engineering Student Loans

If student loan refinancing doesn’t seem like the right fit, you have plenty of alternatives to explore. From student loan assistance to student loan forgiveness, engineers may qualify for a variety of repayment options.  

Student Loan Forgiveness for Engineers

  Select engineers may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). If you do qualify, you’ll make payments for a specified amount of time, normally 10 years, then the remaining balance will be forgiven. You will, however, still have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount.   Here are a few ways in which engineers may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness:
  • Working in areas of national need could provide up to $10,000 in loan forgiveness over five years of service
  • Working for a non-profit, government agency, or other eligible employers could provide loan forgiveness after 120 payments (10 years)
  • Working as a teacher could provide up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness if working at a low-income school or other eligible agencies
  If you aren’t sure which is right for you, research student loan refinancing vs. PSLF. While both may help decrease your debt, it’s important to know how they compare before taking the next steps.  

Income-Based Repayment Plans

If you don’t qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you may also choose to pursue an income-based repayment plan. These types of plans set a monthly payment as a percentage of your income. Income-based repayment may be a good fit for entry-level engineers who are still working toward higher salaries.   Here are a few types of income-based repayment plans available to engineers:
  • Pay-as-You-Earn (PAYE): PAYE plans are based on a percentage of your adjusted gross income and family size. They are available to individuals who borrowed after 10/1/2007, or those who received eligible Direct Loan disbursements after 10/1/2011.
  • Revised Pay-As-You-Earn (REPAYE): REPAYE plans are similar to PAYE plans, but do not have date restrictions on the loans. They do take your state of residence into consideration, however.
  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR): IBR plans require you to be experiencing financial hardship. If you qualify, they are based on a percentage of your adjusted gross income and family size.
  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR): Many individuals who can’t qualify for PAYE or IBR plans apply for ICR. These start as a percentage of your adjusted gross income, then grow as your income grows.
 

State Student Loan Assistance Programs

Engineers are highly valued in the professional world. Some states and private organizations have created student loan repayment assistance programs for STEM professionals, with the goal of encouraging students to pursue these careers.   If you’re an engineer looking for student loan assistance, here are a few examples of state-driven programs you may be eligible for:
  • Harold Arnold Foundation
  • Wavemaker Fellowship
  • North Dakota DEAL Loans
 

Employer Student Loan Repayment Assistance Programs

Some employers provide student loan repayment assistance as a job benefit, which operates similarly to a 401(k). You designate a certain dollar amount to your student loan payments each month, and your employer matches your contribution up to a cap amount. These types of benefits can help improve employee retention rates while supplying necessary financial aid.  

Refinance Your Engineering Student Loans with ELFI

If you’re ready to refinance your engineering student loans, ELFI can help. By refinancing your engineering student loans with ELFI, you’ll enjoy benefits including:
  • No application fees 
  • No origination fees
  • No penalty for paying loans off early
  • If approved for refinancing, ELFI has a referral bonus program
  Ready to get started? Learn more about student loan refinancing with ELFI and apply today: https://www.elfi.com/student-loan-refinancing/.*  
  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.
Employer student loan repayment benefits keep employees happy
2020-10-13
How to Help Your Employees Pay Off Student Loans

Traditionally, employer benefit programs are focused on two things: investing and healthcare. Keeping your employees healthy and financially secure helps decrease turnover and increase productivity.   But when employees are buried in student debt, investing in retirement feels fruitless. Before they can focus heavily on planning for the future, they need to decrease their current student loan balances.   As an employer, you have the power to make a significant difference in your employees’ debt repayment timeline. Here are a few ways to do just that - and why helping your employees become debt-free is a smart business decision.  

How Student Loan Benefits Work

Currently, employers offer a variety of student loan repayment assistance methods. These include:  

Educational Support

The least expensive method is offering financial education to employees. This would typically involve hiring an outside expert to offer group meetings or one-on-one coaching. These can be done in-person or online.   These sessions can be helpful, especially if done repeatedly throughout the year. They may be offered on their own or in conjunction with direct monetary support.  

Sign-up Bonus

Some employers pay a lump-sum toward an employee’s student loan balance when they join the company. This is a one-time benefit used to attract new employees, but it can also be seen as unfair to existing employees who never received a sign-up bonus.  

Matching 401(k) Contributions

Many companies offer matching contributions to an employee’s 401(k) account. In these cases, the individual contributes their own money and the employer matches a certain amount.   One way that companies are combining student loan and 401(k) benefits is by matching student loan payments with a 401(k) contribution.   Here’s how it works. The employee makes a student loan payment, and the money comes directly out of their paycheck. In exchange, the employer contributes that same amount to their 401(k) account. This allows the employee to balance student loan repayment with saving for retirement.  

Matching Student Loan Contributions

Employers may also offer a dollar-for-dollar matching payment to the employees’ student loans. If the borrower pays $200 to their student loans, the employer adds an additional $200. This is the most straightforward way to help your employees become debt-free.   Most companies that offer a matching student loan payment option will have an annual and lifetime limit. For example, the office chain Staples pays $100 a month for three years for eligible employees. Insurance company Aetna pays up to $2,000 a year for full-time employees, up to $10,000 total. Part-time employees receive up to $1,000 a year, up to $5,000 total.   Like 401(k) contributions, some companies require employees to work for a certain number of months before they become eligible for student loan repayment benefits.   As part of the CARES Act passed in March 2020, any student loan repayment benefits, up to $5,250, made by an employer between March 27, 2020 and December 31, 2020 will not count as taxable income. Unless this provision is extended, student loan repayment benefits will then be taxed after that date.  

How Student Loan Repayment Benefits Employers and Employees

The total US student loan balance grows at a rate of about 7% every year. In 2019, the average graduate had $35,397 in student loans. New hires often bring mountains of student loan debt with them, and student loan repayment benefits can make a huge difference.  

Decreasing Student Loan Stress

A recent study found that more than 85% of individuals with student loan debt name it as a major source of stress, and 33% call it out as one of their top three stressors. A 2019 survey from Marketplace-Edison Research found that those with student loans had two-thirds more economic anxiety than those without student loans.   “When I was paying off student loans I was very anxious and stressed,” said Melanie Lockert, host of “The Mental Health and Wealth” show. “I don't think it affected my productivity per se, but it affected my quality of life and how I felt while doing the work. Of course, those feelings can indirectly affect work as well.”   Employers reap the rewards when workers have less financial stress. According to a study from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP), about 60% of employers said they noticed workers found it hard to focus because of personal financial problems. Another 34% of employers said they noticed absenteeism and tardiness also related to financial stress.   This isn’t a new revelation - it’s basic psychology. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that humans need to feel physically safe before they can improve their psychological well-being. The same is true with financial stress. If your employee is worried about defaulting on their student loans, they may be too preoccupied to concentrate on work, and too emotionally drained to come up with innovative ideas or brainstorm new solutions.  

Increasing Focus and Employee Retention

When employees feel financially secure, they’ll be more productive and attentive while on the clock. Even if it seems like your employees are producing decent results, they could likely accomplish even more if their attention wasn’t split between work and their student debt balance.   Student loan repayment assistance programs could also improve employee retention. 41% of surveyed companies offering student loan assistance have found it improves recruitment and 38% believe it has improved employee retention rates.   The data backs up those responses. Healthcare company Trilogy offers $100 a month in student loan repayment assistance to both full-time and part-time employees. Employees who utilize this program stay at the company 2.5 times longer than those who don’t.   Since it costs several thousand or even tens of thousands of dollars to train a new employee, it may actually be less expensive to pay their student loans. That’s not even considering the intangible benefits that come from having a roster of experienced, loyal employees.  

Offer Employer Student Loan Repayment with ELFI for Business

If your company is interested in adding student loan repayment assistance as a workplace benefit, they can join ELFI for Business. ELFI will create a student loan repayment program designed for your employees, managing the actual payments so your accounting department doesn’t get bogged down with the details.  
  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.