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Misconceptions about Student Loan Forgiveness

July 26, 2017

When students start college, they are probably more concerned about how they’re going to cover the cost of tuition and classes than how they’re going to pay off student loans down the line. One problem at a time, right?

Of course, there are also students that carefully consider the loans they take out, the schools they attend, and their intended profession, all in an effort to reduce the costs of their education as much as possible.

For some students, a major part of their plans for eliminating education debt includes qualifying for student loan forgiveness. The premise behind these programs often assumes that college graduates make payments on their loans for a specified amount of time until certain qualifications are met to erase the remainder of the debt. While these programs can be rewarding for the borrowers who are eligible, there are, however, many misconceptions and potential pitfalls associated with banking on student loan forgiveness that could end up costing graduates in the long run. Here are a few common misconceptions cleared up.

Misconception #1: Everyone is Eligible for Loan Forgiveness

Although there are several instances in which students may become eligible for student loan forgiveness programs, you should not automatically assume that this is a possibility for you. For starters, loan forgiveness programs (as well as loan discharge or cancellation) generally apply to specific loans, specific professions, and/or specific sets of circumstances, according to the Office of Federal Student Aid.

Direct Loans, FFEL (Federal Family Education Loan) Program Loans, and Perkins Loans may all qualify for forgiveness, discharge, or cancellation, but only in certain circumstances, such as:

  • Public service loan forgiveness
  • Teacher loan forgiveness
  • Perkins Loan cancellation and discharge
  • Total and permanent disability discharge
  • Discharge due to death
  • Closed school discharge
  • Unpaid refund discharge
  • False certification of student eligibility or unauthorized payment discharge
  • Borrower defense discharge
  • Discharge in bankruptcy

It’s important to understand that these reasons may not apply to every type of loan, and some of them apply to very specific sets of circumstances. For example, the borrower defense discharge specifically relates to students seeking loan forgiveness because a school they attended misled them or engaged in other misconduct or violation of applicable state laws. This clearly doesn’t apply to every student, every school, or every loan.

Furthermore, you have to fill out an application for loan forgiveness, discharge, or cancellation and receive approval. Until then, you must continue to make payments in good faith, unless you are able to defer payments or you are granted forbearance in the meantime, according to the Office of Federal Student Aid.

If you want to find out if you qualify for student loan forgiveness, you need to do some research. It’s a good idea to check with lenders, with your school, and with the U.S. Department of Education, or more specifically, the Office of Federal Student Aid.

Misconception #2: Public Service Professions Are Automatically Eligible

According to the Office of Federal Student Aid, “The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer.” In addition, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program allows for forgiveness of Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans, and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans and cancellation of Federal Perkins Loans.

However, there are several criteria attached to these forms of forgiveness. Simply becoming a teacher, a government employee, an employee of a non-profit organization, or a member of the Peace Corps doesn’t mean you automatically qualify for student loan forgiveness.

For example, in order to qualify for loan forgiveness under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, teachers must work for five “complete and consecutive” years at a qualifying institution that serves low-income families, as well as meeting other criteria. Even so, teachers may only be eligible to receive forgiveness for a portion of loans, and this doesn’t include PLUS or private student loans.

Misconception #3: Once I’m Approved for Loan Forgiveness, It Can’t be Rescinded

Unfortunately, it’s not entirely uncommon for professionals that thought they were eligible for student loan forgiveness to find out they were wrong. According to a report issued by The New York Times, a legal filing by the U.S. Department of Education in March suggests that approvals issued by FedLoan, the administrator of the PSLF Program, may be subject to rescindment. This particular case has led to at least one lawsuit so far, but it’s not the only reason why graduates may find that forgiveness they were counting on is beyond reach.

As noted above, qualifying students must not only have the correct loan type to be eligible for forgiveness under the PSLF Program, but they must also meet criteria for qualifying employment and qualifying payments (and payment plans). After all that, borrowers still have to apply and continue to meet qualifications until such time as they’re approved. In other words, there are a lot of hoops to jump through, and a lot of ways to make mistakes that could make you ineligible for loan forgiveness.

Misconception #4: If I’m Not Eligible for Forgiveness, I’m Stuck Paying My Loans

This is partially true. If it turns out you’re not eligible for any form of forgiveness for your student loans, for whatever reason, you’re still responsible to repay the money you borrowed. Even filing for bankruptcy won’t automatically discharge student loan debt. Of course, when you’re in good shape financially and perfectly capable of paying loans, you will be required to do so. Unfortunately by the time that borrowers learn that they are no longer eligible for student loan forgiveness, they have often already accrued higher interest costs resulting from making smaller payments in the early stages of repayment.

The good news is that you have options to reduce your debt if loan forgiveness is not on the table. Once you have established a reliable income and credit history, you can, for example, explore the possibility of refinancing your student loans. This course of action gives you the opportunity to consolidate loans, reduce interest rates, and potentially reduce monthly and overall payments in the process. Whether you refinance your education debt or not, you can also cut down on the overall interest costs and time spent in repayment on your loans by making more than the minimum payments each month.

Even if you do everything you can to secure a path to loan forgiveness after a set number of years of faithful payments, you may at some point discover that forgiveness isn’t an option for you. Naturally, the earlier you can confirm your situation, the better. If you aren’t eligible for loan forgiveness, it’s best to explore other options early on so that you can save as much as possible through refinancing.

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Young woman reading student loan news
2020-05-22
This Week in Student Loans: May 22

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:
what you need to know about student loan debt relief

What you need to know about debt relief on student loans

As there have obviously been some major changes in the world of student loans recent, the Washington Post covers many frequently asked questions in this article, from the details of the Heroes Act to how the new changes affect a variety of borrowers.  

Source: Washington Post

 

college's loan default rate

Why a college's student loan default rate matters

With the extended deadline for "decision day" approaching, this US News & World Report brings to light how a college's default rate, or the average portion of students who default on their student loans, should matter to students who are choosing where to attend college.  

Source: US News & World Report

 

Donors provide students with debt relief

Anonymous donors paid off $8 million in student loans for first-generation grads

According to CBS News, a group of anonymous donors contributed a total of $8 million to pay off college loans for up to 400 first-generation college students who have overcome financial hardships, from homelessness to poverty. The donors are longtime supporters of Students Rising Above (SRA), a Bay Area nonprofit.  

Source: CBS News

 

Student Loan Debt Relief

More relief could be coming for student loan borrowers

While the CARES Act has already suspended federal student loan payments through September 30, 2020, a new bill known as the HEROES Act, passed by the House last Friday, would include additional relief for borrowers with both federal and private student loans, including potentially suspending federal student loans another year through September 30, 2021.  

Source: CNBC

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

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

Clock representing the time it takes to pay off student loans.
2020-05-21
How Long Does it Take to Pay Off Student Loans?

If you have student loan debt, do you know what your loan term is and how long your payments are expected to last? On average, college graduates think they will have their loans paid off in six years. Is this a realistic expectation to pay off loans that quickly? Here we will show you how long it actually takes people to pay off student loans. And if you are looking for ways to pay them off faster, we have some tips for that as well.     

Loan Terms

The loan term is how long it will take you to repay the loan if you only pay the amount owed each month and do not make any additional payments. For federal student loans, the average loan term on the standard repayment plan is 10 years. However, there are options to increase the loan term up to 30 years, depending on the amount of money owed and what payment plan you choose. Increasing the loan term will cause you to pay more interest over the lifetime of the loan, but may require a smaller payment compared to the standard repayment plan.    

Average Time to Repay Undergraduate Loans

Although the standard loan term is ten years, many people take much longer than that to repay student loans. The average time it takes to repay student loans depends on what degree you obtained, mainly because of the amount of loans taken out. However, it also depends on the income you are earning. If you work in a job that is in your degree field, you may be earning the average income in the sector and be able to pay off your loans in the average amount of time. However, if you are not working in your degree field and your salary is lower than the average salary for that degree, it may take more time to pay off.
  • The average amount of student loan debt for a person who finished some college, but did not obtain a degree is $10,000. The average amount of time it takes to repay the loans is just over 17 years.  
  • For a person who obtained an Associate degree, the average amount of debt is $19,600 and on average it will take just over 18 years to pay off the loans. 
  • For college graduates that earned a Bachelor’s degree they will repay an average of $29,900 in student loan debt and will take approximately 19 years and 7 months to repay the loans. 
 

Average Time to Repay Graduate Loans

Earning a graduate degree takes more time and, of course, more money. The average amount of student loan debt for graduate degrees is $66,000. However, certain degrees require much more than the average amount of loans and, therefore, more time to pay. 
  • Medical school - The average student loan debt for medical graduates in 2019 was $223,700. Because of the high salaries doctors are able to earn after residency it can take an average of 13 years to repay the student loans. 
  • MBA - If you earn an MBA the average student loan debt is $52,600 and can take 22 years and 10 months to repay.
  • Law degree - Obtaining a J.D. may cause you to rack up the average of $134,600 in student loans and it will take an average of 18 years to repay.  
  • Dentist - To become a dentist it will cost an average of $285,184 in student loans and may take 20-25 years to pay off the debt.  
  • Veterinarians - Attending veterinary school can cost an average of $183,014 in student loans. It may take veterinarians longer to repay their student loans than traditional medical colleagues because their average income is much lower at $93,830. It can take 20-25 years to repay the loans. 
 

How to Pay Student Loans Off Early

If seeing these averages makes you panic, don’t worry! Use them as motivation to pay your loans off faster. Here are some ways to accomplish that:   

Student Loan Refinancing 

Refinancing student loans is extremely advantageous for many borrowers because it can save you money on monthly payments and in interest over the life of the loan. Refinancing can also be beneficial to shorten the length of time it takes to pay off your loans and save even more in interest costs. This can be done by obtaining a new loan with a shorter term than your current remaining loan length. Although refinancing to a shorter term length will increase your monthly payment, if you are able to afford the new payment it can be a great financial move for your future. You will be paying your loans off sooner and saving more in interest.     For example:  If you have $30,000 in student loans with a standard 10 year repayment plan and 7% interest rate, your payment would be $348 per month. If you refinance to a 7 year loan and qualify for a 6.48% interest rate, your payment would only increase by $62.00 per month and your loans would be paid off 3 years earlier. You would also save $4,403 in interest!   If you did not want to increase your monthly payment you could still utilize the benefits of refinancing by keeping the same loan term and qualifying for a lower interest rate than your current rate. With the same example as above, if you refinance to a 10 year term loan with a lower interest rate it would still save you $573.00 in interest. Qualifying for an even lower interest rate could save you up to $5,590 in interest.     To see your potential savings, use our student loan refinancing calculator.*   

Make Extra Payments 

No matter what payment plan you have for your student loans, making extra payments can be a beneficial way to shorten the amount of time it takes to pay off your loans, including saving you in interest costs.    

Conclusion

Tackling student loan debt may seem daunting at times, but payments don’t last forever. If it’s your goal to pay your loans off as quickly as possible, hopefully using some of these tips will help you reach that goal. Knowing the average time it takes to pay off loans will allow you to set realistic expectations for your financial goals.   
  *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.
Chart of rates over time
2020-05-18
Current LIBOR Rate Update: May 2020

This blog provides the most current LIBOR rate data as of May 7, 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 - May 2020

As of May 7, 2020, the 1 month LIBOR rate is 0.20%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.20% (0.20% + 3.00%=3.20%). The chart below displays fluctuations in the 1 month LIBOR rate over time.

 

(Source: macrotrends.net)

   

Current 3 Month LIBOR Rate - May 2020

As of May 7, 2020, the 3 month LIBOR rate is 0.43%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.43% (0.43% + 3.00%=3.43%). The chart below displays fluctuations in the 3 month LIBOR rate over time.

  Chart of 3 Month LIBOR for May 2020 (Source: macrotrends.net)  

Current 6 Month LIBOR Rate - May 2020

As of May 7, 2020, the 6 month LIBOR rate is 0.69%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.69% (0.69% + 3.00%=3.69%). The chart below displays fluctuations in the 6 month LIBOR rate over time.

  Chart of 6 Month LIBOR May 2020 (Source: macrotrends.net)  

Current 1 Year LIBOR Rate - May 2020

As of May 7, 2020, the 1 year LIBOR rate is 0.78%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.78% (0.78% + 3.00%=3.78%). The chart below displays fluctuations in the 1 year LIBOR rate over time.

  Chart of 1 Year LIBOR May 2020 (Source: macrotrends.net)  

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.