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How To Find The Best College For You

April 4, 2019

Picking the right college for you is quite a task. There are so many to choose from! Plus, with the birth of digital experiences, vlogs, and just plain slick marketing materials, it can be a challenge to determine what matters when making such a big decision. It’s important throughout the college search process to remember the main goal which is getting an education. It can be easy to become distracted by the brand new apartments on campus and the conveniences that the college offers. Yes, it’s important to be comfortable while attending school, but it’s not worth losing out on education. How do you find the right college for you? Here are some things that you should take into consideration. Not every aspect will matter to you, but it’s nice to think about big-picture options.

 

Major Malfunctions

The major that you’re interested in studying and how the college meets the major’s needs could be a huge deciding factor. For example, does the college have a good reputation, appropriate resources, and a notable department? Really take into consideration what the school’s reputation for the program.  Is your major available and are there classes that will challenge and engage you? Is the reputation of the college’s program going to further your career upon graduating?

 

Most people know their preferred major or industry before starting, but it’s common for college students to change majors. Does the school have a few appealing options for you? Get in touch with an advisor or the head of the department of your choice and see how you can find out more. You are attending college to further your education and get a career, so if that program isn’t available that could be deal-breaker.

 

Location, Location, Location

Have you always wanted to live on the east coast, dreaming of the mountains, or would you prefer to stay closer to home? Being close by to your family and paying lower in-state tuition could be great options for you. A school in the city could be a better option since you’ll have the ability to take in everything that urban life has to offer. From expansive green grounds to bustling urban towers, there are so many different types of locations you could pick. Don’t rule anything out too soon. You might be surprised how friendly a university in the city can be, or how lively you’ll find a more rural campus.

 

 

When selecting a school it’s important that you consider the distance from your home. Many people often times will want to be available to go home on some weekends or for big events. What the cost is to go home? Can you take public transportation, can you have a car on campus your first year, can a friend or parent pick you up, if needed? A primary consideration for location is the cost. In-state-schools provide a much lower cost to attend than an out-of-state school. If you know you’ll need to borrow student loans for college it may be best to stay with an in-state-school. Paying to attend an out-of-state school will mean more money you’ll have to borrow and eventually pay back. Your decision on school location should be influenced by your comfortability level with being away from home and the cost associated with the location.

 

Tally Total Cost

Cost is a huge factor in selecting a college.  Fees aren’t only limited to tuition but can be dependent on the school. One school may have lower tuition, but fees like room and board, off-campus housing, meal plans, or transportation. We touched on this previously but, if you opt for a school that’s farther from home, how much will you spend coming home to visit? If you really want to go far away from home you may need to factor in the cost of airfare to visit home. Plus, look into fees like a parking permit and departmental fees. It’s worth doing a little math to see what the total cost is before you get your heart set on one or another.

 

Finding Financial Aid

If you can qualify for financial aid and are being provided with financial aid from a college that should heavily impact your decision. Can you get more aid at one school vs. another? Are there more scholarship options available through one college over another? Does staying in-state offer enough benefits that you don’t want to leave? There’s nothing wrong with picking a school because it will offer you the most aid. Aid is especially important if you are borrowing money to attend college. Even if the school doesn’t check all of your other boxes for wants, the cost savings could help make it a front-runner. Make sure you check into scholarships and applications for aid before you make your decision.

 

What You Need to Know About Scholarships for College

 

Culture Shock

Schools usually have a discernible culture that students or faculty can feel and describe. For instance, a school with a robust exchange student program might be more inclusive and have a culture that appreciates diverse perspectives. Another school might be steeped in tradition and fit better for someone with traditional values. Schools with bigger arts programs or specialties in STEM could have a culture all their own. You really can’t get a good depiction of the culture from marketing materials. Understanding a school’s culture is the kind of thing you can ask while visiting or inquire about online in places like forums or Reddit.

 

Sweet Student Life

You will be spending a lot of time on campus. Even if you are non-traditional or live off campus. You should take advantage of entertainment, attending special activities, and participating in one or more organizations. Maybe you want a certain Greek life experience—check into it! Ask around and see what the reputation of campus life is like. Look at upcoming events and see what types of organizations you can join. It can be difficult the first year to make friends and get connected into a social group. Well-supported campus life can make this big task a breeze and set you up for some awesome lifelong friendships and memorable experiences.

 

All About Amenities

Relatively little things can make a big difference—especially if you’re between a few schools or have close contenders. Think about recreation and facilities on campus, what their sports, athletics programs or teams are like. Does the school have a special connection to a family member or your culture? Small things like cafes that better serve your dietary needs or campus dining options that stand above the rest can weigh into your decision. Your decision should not be based solely on these relatively small things, but if you’re on the fence of two universities it could be what gives you the push needed.

 

It’s important to understand how you’ll be financing college before you start looking at the school. If you plan on financing college by taking out student loans, they can impact your future. Once you understand your finances, you’ll be able to prioritize what is most important to you and start there. Remember too that schools usually have lots of opportunities for you to visit and learn more. There are entire departments of people whose job it is to acquaint you with the campus and community. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. Go in person and get a feel for the school if you can. Don’t forget to connect with potential faculty for your preferred major. You’ll probably learn a lot about what life would be like as a student, which will help make your decision much easier.

 

Happy school hunting!

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2019-12-10
Student Loan Repayment: Debt Snowball vs. Debt Avalanche

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.

 

To cope with the high cost of college, you likely took out several different student loans. According to Saving For College, the average 2019 graduate left school with eight to 12 different student loans.

 

With so much debt and so many different individual loans, you may be overwhelmed and can’t decide where to start with your repayment. If you want to pay off your loans ahead of schedule, there are two main strategies that financial experts recommend: the debt avalanche and the debt snowball.

 

Here’s how each of these strategies work and how to decide which approach is right for you.

 

The difference between the debt snowball and debt avalanche strategies

Both the debt avalanche and debt snowball methods are strategies for paying off your debt early. However, how they work is quite different.

 

Debt avalanche

With the debt avalanche method, you list all of your student loans from the one with the highest interest rate to the one with the lowest interest rate. You continue making the minimum payments on all of your loans. However, you put any extra money you have toward the loan with the highest interest rate.

 

Under the debt avalanche, you keep making extra payments toward the debt with the highest interest rate. Once that loan is paid off, you roll over that loan’s monthly payment and pay it toward the loan with the next highest interest rate.

 

For example, let’s say you had the following loans:

  • $10,000 Private student loan at 7% interest
  • $15,000 Private student loan at 6.5% interest
  • $5,000 Direct Loan at 4.45% interest
 

In this scenario, you would make extra payments toward the private student loan at 7% interest first with the debt avalanche method. Once that loan was paid off, you’d make extra payments toward the private student loan at 6.5% interest, and then finally you’d tackle the Unsubsidized Direct Loan.

 

Debt snowball

The debt snowball method is more focused on quick wins. With this approach, you list all of your student loans according to their balance, rather than their interest rate. You continue making the minimum payments on all of them, but you put extra money toward the loan with the smallest balance first.

 

Once the smallest loan is paid off, you roll your payment toward the loan with the next lowest balance. You continue this process until all of your debt is paid off.

 

If you had the same loans as in the above example and followed the debt snowball method, you’d pay off the Direct Loan with the $5,000 balance first since it’s the smallest loan. Once that loan was paid off, you’d make extra payments toward the $10,000 private loan, and then you’d pay off the $15,000 private loan.

 

Pros and cons of the debt avalanche method

The debt avalanche strategy has several benefits and drawbacks:

 

Pros

  • You save more in interest: By tackling the highest-interest debt first, you’ll save more money in interest charges over the length of your loan. Compared to the debt snowball method, using the debt avalanche method can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
  • You’ll pay off the loans faster: Because you’re addressing the highest-interest debt first, there’s less time for interest to accrue on the loan. With less interest building, you can pay off your loans much earlier.
 

Cons

  • You don’t see results as quickly: Because you’re tackling the debt with the highest interest rate rather than the smallest balance, it can take longer before you can pay off a loan.
  • You may lose focus: It takes longer to pay off each loan, so it’s easier to lose motivation.
 

Pros and cons of the debt snowball method

The debt snowball method has the following pros and cons:

 

Pros

  • You get results quickly: Since you’re targeting the loan with the lowest balance first, you’ll pay off individual loans quicker than you would with the debt avalanche method.
  • Frees up money to pay down the next loan: You’ll be able to pay off loans quickly and roll the payments toward the next loan, helping you stay focused on your goals.
 

Cons

  • You’ll pay more in interest fees: By paying extra toward the loan with the smallest balance rather than the highest interest rate, you’ll pay more in interest fees than you would if you followed the debt avalanche method.
  • It could take longer to pay off your debt: Because you aren’t targeting the loans with the highest interest rate first, more interest can accrue over the length of the loan. The added interest means it will take longer to pay off your loans.
 

Which strategy is best for paying off student loans?

So which strategy is best for paying off student loans: the debt avalanche or the debt snowball? If your goal is to save as much money as possible and pay off your loans as quickly as you can, the debt avalanche method makes the most financial sense.

 

Psychologically, the debt snowball may have the advantage. According to a study from the Harvard Business Review, the debt snowball method is the most effective approach over the long-term, as borrowers are more likely to stick to their repayment strategy. However, which strategy is best for you is dependent on your mindset, motivation level, and your determination to pay off your debt.

 

Managing your student loan debt

Regardless of which repayment strategy you choose, you could save even more money or pay off your loans earlier by refinancing your student loans. When you refinance student loans, you apply for a loan from a private lender for the amount of your current student loans, including both private and federal loans.

 

The new loan has completely different repayment terms than your old ones, including interest rate, repayment term, and monthly payment. Even better, you’ll only have one student loan with one monthly payment to remember.

 

Use ELFI’s Find My Rate tool to get a rate quote without affecting your credit score.*

 
 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

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

2019-12-09
This Week in Student Loans: December 9

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.

2019-12-05
Student Loan Interest vs. Other Interest Types

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.