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Important Details on Employer Student Loan Assistance Programs

April 17, 2020

For student loan borrowers whose incomes have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the new CARES Act promises some much-needed relief. But beyond benefits like payment suspensions and interest waivers, the CARES Act delivers additional help in the form of employer-offered student loan benefits.

 

By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a 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.

 

For companies looking to attract top talent, it makes sense to pay attention to issues that affect employees’ lives. For young workers, one of the most significant problems is student loans. According to the Brookings Institute, over 42 million Americans have student debt.

 

To stand out from other employers, offering student loan repayment assistance is a desirable benefit. In fact, one survey found that 60% of adults with student loans said they would think about switching to an employer that offers student loan repayment aid. Now, thanks to the CARES Act, employers can take advantage of tax breaks to help their employees deal with their debt during this difficult time.

 

Challenges in Hiring

In the Society for Human Resources Management’s 2019 State of the Workplace report, the organization found that companies struggled to find workers to fill high-skilled positions. Employers in different sectors are experiencing a talent shortage, unable to find workers with specialized education and experience.

 

The industries hardest hit by this phenomenon are healthcare and technology, particularly in data analysis, science, and engineering.

 

The biggest reason companies said they struggled to hire suitable candidates? Competition from other employers. With a limited pool of skilled workers, companies have to work hard to stand out from other employers to get the best employees.

 

For skilled workers with student loan debt, one way employers can improve their compensation package is by offering student loan repayment assistance. And thanks to the CARES Act, that’s easier than ever for employers.

 

What is the CARES Act?

The COVID-19 virus pandemic devastated the United States’ economy, causing millions of people to lose their jobs or to experience reductions in income. With so many people struggling to make ends meet, the government created the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide economic assistance.

 

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the CARES Act into law. As part of the CARES Act, the following changes were made:

    • Stimulus checks up to $1,200: Individuals will receive up to $1,200 based on their 2019 tax returns, if they have already filed their returns. If not, the amount of the check will be based on their 2018 tax returns.
    • Extended unemployment protection: Eligible workers who are now unemployed can receive an additional $600 per week for up to four months.
    • Waivers of penalties for early withdrawals from retirement accounts: If people tap into their retirement accounts to make ends meet, the 10% early withdrawal penalty is waived. 
    • Federal student loan payments suspended until September 30, 2020: Federal student loan payments on Direct loans and federally-held FFEL loans and Perkins Loans are suspended for six months. During that time, no interest will accrue on the loan, and borrowers will still get payment credits toward loan forgiveness and loan rehabilitation programs.

 

How Does the CARES Act Affect Employer Student Debt Programs?

However, another benefit that is commonly overlooked is the expansion of employer student loan repayment assistance programs. 

 

Under the CARES Act, employers can contribute up to $5,250 toward an employee’s student loans from March 27 until December 31, 2020, and the payment is excluded from the employee’s income. It is also tax-free for the employer, since it’s not subject to payroll taxes up to the contribution threshold.

 

The CARES Act amended the tax code to incorporate provisions of yet-to-be-passed Employer Participation in Repayment Act, allowing employers to pay off up to $5,250 of an employee’s debt tax-free.

 

Currently, approximately eight percent of employers offer student loan repayment assistance and can take advantage of this benefit. However, it’s available to more companies if they wish to use it.

 

Previously, the tax treatment of employer student loan repayment assistance programs created a burden on both employees and companies, so this is a substantial benefit that may encourage more employers to offer this perk to their workers.

 

ELFI for Business

If you are a business owner or a human resources manager looking to improve your recruitment and retention efforts, offering student loan repayment benefits can be a powerful tool. If the idea of building your own program seems overwhelming, consider taking advantage of the ELFI for Business program.

 

The ELFI for Business program is designed to help employers recruit and retain top talent. In one survey, 86% of workers reported that they would commit to an employer for five years if they received help with their student loan payments. And, three in five survey respondents said paying off student loans is a priority over saving for retirement.

 

Employer contributions can make a dramatic difference on your employees’ debt. For example, let’s say your employee had $30,000 in student loans at 6% interest and a 10-year repayment term. If you contributed $100 per month toward the loan’s repayment, the repayment term would be reduced by three years. And, the employee would save $11,363.

 

ELFI for Business also gives your employees other tools to manage their debt, including:

  • Newsletters
  • New hire onboarding booklets
  • Webinars
  • Onsite consultations

 

Customized Student Loan Refinancing Advice

Employers that participate in the ELFI for Business program will also have access to loan advisors to help employees considering student loan refinancing.*

 

If your employees have student loans with high interest rates, refinancing can help them reduce their rate and save money over the length of their loan. And, by lowering their interest rate, more of their payment will go toward their principal instead of interest charges, so they can get out of debt faster.

 

ELFI customers have reported that they are saving an average of $272 every month and should see an average of $13,940 in total savings after refinancing their student loans1. When combined with employer contributions, refinancing can be an effective tool to pay off student loan debt.

 

Helping Employees During COVID-19

During these difficult times when so many are reeling from the coronavirus outbreak, offering benefits like student loan repayment assistance can make a major impact on your employees’ lives. Not only can it help recruit and retain good employees, but it can also build your company’s reputation and brand.

 

If you’re interested in introducing student loan repayment benefits in your workplace, contact ELFI for Business.

 


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

1Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/ Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 2/7/2020 and 2/21/2020. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon a number of factors.

 

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.

 

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Current LIBOR Rate
2020-10-19
Current LIBOR Rate Update: October 2020

This blog provides the most current LIBOR rate data as of October 19, 2020, along with a brief overview of the meaning of LIBOR and how it applies to variable-rate student loans. For more information on how LIBOR affects variable rate loans, read our blog, LIBOR: What It Means for Student Loans.

 

What is LIBOR?

The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is a money market interest rate that is considered to be the standard in the interbank Eurodollar market. In short, it is the rate at which international banks are willing to offer Eurodollar deposits to one another. Many variable 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 Variable Rate Student Loans

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 refinanced student 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. By adding the LIBOR rate to the margin along with any other fees or charges that may be included, you can determine your annual percentage rate (APR), which is the full cost a lender charges you per year for funds expressed as a percentage. Your APR is the actual amount you pay.

 

LIBOR Maturities

There are seven different maturities for LIBOR, including overnight, one week, one month, two months, three months, six months, and twelve months. The most commonly quoted rate is the three-month U.S. dollar rate. Some student loan companies, including ELFI, adjust their interest rates every quarter based on the three-month LIBOR rate.

 

Current 1 Month LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, the 1 month LIBOR rate is 0.15%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.15% (0.15% + 3.00%=3.15%). 

 

Current 3 Month LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, the 3 month LIBOR rate is 0.24%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.24% (0.24% + 3.00%=3.24%). 

 

Current 6 Month LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, the 6 month LIBOR rate is 0.25%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.25% (0.25% + 3.00%=3.25%). 

 

Current 1 Year LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, 2020, the 1 year LIBOR rate is 0.35%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.35% (0.35% + 3.00%=3.35%). 

 

Understanding LIBOR

If you are planning to refinance your student loans or take out a personal loan or line of credit, understanding how the LIBOR rate works can help you choose between a fixed or variable-rate loan. Keep in mind that ELFI has some of the lowest student loan refinancing rates available, and you can prequalify in minutes without affecting your credit score.* Keep up with the ELFI blog for monthly updates on the current 1 month, 3 month, 6 month, and 1 year LIBOR rate data.

 
 

*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.

Woman struggling with student loan refinancing misconceptions
2020-10-16
7 Common Student Loan Refinancing Misconceptions

Refinancing is kind of like leveling up. After months or even years of working hard to become debt-free, you then gain access to a higher tier of borrowing - better terms, a lower interest rate or a smaller monthly payment. Many people have misconceptions about student loan refinancing, however, which keep them from taking advantage of the benefits that student loan refinancing has to offer.   If you're new to borrowing, it's easy to get scared of changing anything about your loan repayment process - even if that means losing out on the money that refinancing can save you. Here are some of the most common student loan refinancing myths - and what you need to know instead.  

Refinancing Student Loans Takes Too Long

Don't fall prey to the misconception that student loan refinancing is a lengthy, tedious process. In fact, refinancing student loans is usually very straightforward. You fill out an application and wait a couple of days for the lender to run your credit report and verify your personal information. Once that’s been completed, you’ll be presented with the refinance offers you qualify for.   The total length of time from beginning to end should take a couple of weeks. This also depends on how quickly you respond to questions from the lender and provide any additional forms or information they request.  

Student Loan Refinancing Has Expensive Upfront Costs

Unlike mortgage refinancing, student loan refinancing has no upfront costs like application or origination fees. That’s also why there’s no downside to applying for a student loan refinancing multiple times.   Plus, most lenders don’t charge a prepayment penalty, which is a fee for repaying the loan ahead of schedule. The only fee you’ll pay is the stated interest rate. You may owe a late fee if you make a payment after the due date, but that can be avoided if you set up automatic payments.  

You Need a High Income to Refinance Student Loans

While some lenders require that borrowers have a high income to qualify for student loan refinancing, others are more lenient. All lenders, however, care about the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which is your monthly debt payments divided by your gross income. Most lenders want a DTI percentage below 50%.   To calculate your DTI, add up your monthly debt payments including mortgage, car loan, personal loan, credit card payment and any other loans. Include a rent payment if you don't own your property. Then, divide that total figure by your gross or pre-tax monthly income.   If your DTI is below 50%, then you’re likely a good student loan refinancing candidate. If it’s higher, then you need to increase your income, decrease your monthly housing payment or pay down some of your debts  

You Need a Perfect Credit Score to Refinance Student Loans

Another misconception about student loan refinancing is that you need an excellent credit score to qualify, but lenders often accept borrowers with credit scores as low as 660. This is great news for young borrowers who haven’t built a strong credit history yet, or who ran up some credit card debt in college.   What may hurt your chances of being approved are any recent late payments, bankruptcies, defaults, liens or recent applications for other loans or lines of credit. Before applying to refinance your student loans, check your official credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.   About one in five people have a mistake on their credit report, which can lead to an application being denied. Look at your credit report from all three credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - and make sure you recognize all the accounts.   If you notice a mistake, file a dispute directly with each of the credit bureaus. It may take a few weeks to have it removed from your credit report. Make sure to follow up and verify that it’s been deleted.   You can check your credit score for free through a bank or credit card provider, or a service like Credit Karma. If your score is 660 or higher, you can feel free to apply for student loan refinancing.   You can increase your shot of being approved by applying with a cosigner. A co-signer is someone who agrees to assume legal liability for your debt if you stop making payments and default. The loan will also show up on the cosigner’s credit report.   Even if you can be approved to refinance by yourself, you may receive lower interest rates if you apply with a cosigner.  

You Can Only Refinance Once

A common misconception is that you have only one opportunity to refinance your student loans. In reality, however, there’s no limit on how many times you can refinance. Many choose to refinance every time the Federal Reserve decreases interest rates because they can get a better deal on their student loans.   The only thing that might affect how often you can refinance is your credit score. If your credit dips below a certain threshold, then a lender may not approve your application. Also, you may be denied if you lose your job or your income drastically plummets.  

You Refinance All Your Student Loans

Many borrowers have a mix of federal and private student loans and assume they have to refinance all those loans at the same time.   But borrowers can choose to refinance the loans they want. They can keep their federal loans as they are and only refinance their private loans. If they have a private loan with a low interest rate and one with a high interest rate, they can choose to only refinance the latter.   In some cases, borrowers may have a better chance of being approved if they only refinance some of their loans instead of all of them.  

Student Loan Refinancing is a Confusing Process

When you apply to refinance with ELFI, you’ll be matched to a member of the Personal Loan Advisor team. Every time you call ELFI, you can speak to that same person. This minimizes the confusion and frustration involved with the refinancing process.   As of 10/19/2020, ELFI has a 4.9 rating on Trustpilot with more than 1,200 reviews. More than 90% of those are five-star reviews. ELFI also has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.  
  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.
Man feeling overwhelmed by student loans
2020-10-15
What to do When Your Student Loan Payment is Overwhelming   

Having student loans is not unusual. In fact, 45 million people have them. It’s also incredibly common to feel overwhelmed by your student loan payments.   A survey of student loan borrowers found that almost 65% of respondents said they lose sleep because of the stress caused by their loans. If you find yourself overwhelmed by your monthly student loan payment, there are some options you should consider to lessen the burden.   Before you can explore alternatives, however, you need to know the types of loans you have. Certain options are only available for federal loans as opposed to private loans. Check the Federal Student Aid website to determine any federal loans you may have, and request your free credit report to see any private loans. Once you’re familiar with your loans, you can consider new courses of action.  

Create a Budget

If you don’t already have a budget, create one! This will allow you to see if you can afford your current student loan payment. It will also show you areas where you’re spending unnecessarily. If you find there just isn’t enough income to cover all your necessary expenses, then you can begin working on different ways to reduce your student loan payment.  

Research Different Payment Plans

If your federal student loan payment is overwhelming, consider switching to a different payment plan. When you initially begin repayment, your loans are automatically put on the standard repayment plan. On this plan, your payments are based on a ten-year repayment term.   A Direct Consolidation Loan can help you change your payment plan to help make your payment more affordable. It can also help consolidate multiple federal loans into one loan. (Note: Consolidating your federal loans is different from student loan refinancing, discussed below.)   This will help you qualify for certain longer repayment plans, resulting in a lower monthly payment. One of the drawbacks of extending your payment term is you will end up paying more in interest costs over time.  

Income-Driven Student Loan Repayment

Certain loans are eligible for income-driven repayment plans. They can help make your payments more affordable and are based on your income and family size.  

Graduated Student Loan Repayment

If an income-driven repayment plan does not work for you, you can change to a graduated repayment plan. Your payment will begin low and increase over time for a ten-year term.  

Extended Student Loan Repayment

Another option is an extended repayment plan. To qualify, you must have certain loans over at least $30,000. Your payment may be fixed or may increase over time for a 25-year term.  

Look Into Refinancing

If you have overwhelming private or federal student loan payments, consider student loan refinancing. Refinancing may lower your interest rate and reduce your monthly payment. This is a good option even if your current payment fits your budget.   Refinancing can help lower your monthly payment, and can also save you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan. Refinancing means obtaining a private loan to pay off your existing student loan or multiple loans.   Student loan refinancing differs from consolidation, which is only for federal student loans and may not necessarily reduce your interest rate. You can refinance private or federal loans, or both, and can also change your student loan repayment term to better fit your needs.   Here is an example of how refinancing can save you money:   If you have $65,000 of student loans with a 6% interest rate and have 10 years remaining on your loans, you will pay approximately $722 per month. If you refinance and qualify for a lower interest of 3.61%, your monthly payment would be reduced to approximately $646 per month. This equals savings $76 per month in savings. You will also save more than $9,000 in interest over the life of the loan.   To see how much you could save, try ELFI’s Student Loan Refinance Calculator.*  

Increase Your Income

Of course, increasing your income is easier said than done. If your student loans payments are becoming overwhelming, however, it may be a necessary step. Increasing your income through overtime hours or a side hustle can make your payments more manageable. A side hustle can be as easy as babysitting or dog walking, or more involved like starting a side business based on a passion.   If you haven’t begun repayment on your loans, but know you will face a significant loan payment after graduation, consider these steps:  

Build a Budget Early

Start a budget before repayment begins that includes your future student loan payment. This will allow you to see if you will be able to comfortably afford your payment. It will also help you build an emergency fund and a strong financial foundation.  

Seek Employer Student Loan Benefits

Look for an employer that offers student loan assistance. The number of companies that are offering student loan benefits is increasing, although the benefit is still rare. Some offer monthly benefits that can help you pay your loans off faster. Others offer a yearly benefit amount for a certain number of years. Either way, extra money from an employer to help pay loans will help you reduce your loan amount faster.  

Work Toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Apply for employment that may qualify for forgiveness. If you have federal loans, certain employment can qualify for forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Certain loans and types of employment are required so be sure to pay close attention to the requirements.  

Bottom Line

If you have an overwhelming student loan payment, explore your options to reduce your payment while furthering your debt-free journey.  
  *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.