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Student Loans

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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woman asking employer for student loan assistance
2020-08-05
How to Ask Your Employer to Help Pay Student Debt

These days, employers offer all kinds of benefits to keep employees, from kombucha on tap and innovative new office spaces to ping pong tables and video game rooms. The list of benefits seems to grow all the time.   When you think about it, though, how much do you really need that kombucha on tap? Instead, what many graduates need is help with their ever-mounting student loans. In combination with other methods of dealing with student loan debt, employers can play a valuable role in ensuring their employees’ financial stability.   Employers are beginning to recognize this trend, as well. That’s why some have begun to offer help to employees with student loan debt. While an uncommon practice at the moment, some companies now offer options to help employees pay back their student loans.   The practice is rapidly becoming more popular, and if you’re lucky, your employer may already offer a student debt relief program. Here are several ways employers are already helping to reduce their employees' student loan debt.  

Financial Education

Employers have begun to understand that their own financial success is tied to the financial success of their employees. As a result, some employers have begun to offer financial education opportunities.   These opportunities come in many forms, including workshops, webinars and even counseling. While many employees already have a firm grasp on financial concepts, these programs can still be incredibly beneficial to those weighed down by student debt as they often cover lesser-known tactics and reinforce familiar strategies.  

Student Loan Repayment Signing Bonuses

Another method of helping employees with student debt is the signing bonus. For example, some companies offer $1,000 towards student loans for new hires. This $1000 can drastically reduce the amount graduates pay in interest over the life of their student loans and is an effective way for companies to hire and keep dedicated, hardworking employees.  

Employer Repayment

The most exciting benefit employers are beginning to adopt is direct assistance with student loans. Now, in addition to savvy fiscal advice, some companies are backing up their support with dollars and cents.   A few companies now offer yearly bonuses to help pay back student loans. One of the most generous of these companies is Nvidia. Employees earn $6,000 a year towards their student loans up to a $30,000 maximum. Several companies offer comparable or lower amounts. Regardless of the repayment amounts, this innovative strategy provides a new way to fight back against student debt.   A variation of this policy is occasionally used, as well. In this variation, employees who don’t take their PTO can trade their PTO days for student loan assistance. With many in the United States not taking their PTO days anyway, this is a compelling option for student loan borrowers.  

Contributions to 401(k) Plans

It may seem strange for 401(k) contributions to go hand-in-hand with paying off student debt. You might even expect to have to choose between them.   If you’re employed by Abbott Laboratories, though, you don’t have to choose. Employees who contribute at least 2% of their pay toward student loans are eligible for the full 5% employer matching in their 401(k), even if they do not otherwise contribute to their 401(k). Abbott Laboratories is the first company to offer this incentive to help employees to pay off student debt, and hopefully many companies will follow in their footsteps.   Sadly, these types of programs are not as commonly offered as they should be, but that isn’t necessarily bad news for you.   If student loan assistance programs are something that you would like to see at your company, then make an appointment to speak with either your boss or to human resources. In this day and age, the competition for the best employees is fierce, and employers are always looking for ways to keep employees happy. In some cases, it may even be cheaper than a raise.   It’s also worth mentioning your interest in such programs while negotiating your salary and benefits package for a new job. They may include it as an additional benefit.   If your employer already provides these benefits, that’s fantastic! You’re already one step closer to being unburdened by student debt. If you're curious about how to finish the job and free yourself from student debt completely, one great way to do that is Student Loan Refinancing. You can learn more here.  
  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.
calculator showing interest
2020-08-04
Student Loans: What is the Difference Between a Principal and an Interest Payment?

If you’re planning on going to college, you should be prepared for potentially high costs. The average cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year university for an in-state student is $10,440, while it’s $36,880 at a private school.    By Kat Tretina   While those numbers are pricey enough on their own, financing can add to the expense. If you borrow money to cover the total cost of attendance, you’ll end up repaying more than you initially borrowed because of interest charges — what lenders charge you in exchange for lending you money.    When dealing with student loans, it’s important to understand how student loan interest rates affect your repayment and how your extra payments are applied to your debt.   

How Student Loan Interest Rates Affect Your Loan Balance

Student loan interest rates can cause your loan balance to grow over time. The higher the rate, the more interest that accrues.    For example, if you took out $30,000 in student loans and qualified for a 10-year loan at 4% interest, you’d pay $6,448 in interest charges on top of the $30,000 you borrowed.    But if you qualified for a $30,000 loan at 5% interest — a difference of just 1% — you’d pay $8,184 in interest charges. The extra percentage point would cause you to pay over $1,700 more in interest charges.    However, you can cut down on interest payments by paying off your debt ahead of schedule. When you pay off your loans early, less interest accrues over your loan's life, allowing you to save money.   

The Difference Between Principal and Interest Payments

When you enter into repayment, your loan payments cover two different aspects: 
    • Interest: Interest that has accrued to date
    • Principal: The original loan amount
  When you make a payment, lenders typically apply the payment to any fees first, such as late fees or returned payment fees, then to interest charges. If any money is left over, they will apply the excess to the principal balance.   

Education Loan Finance Student Loan Repayment Options

If you take out private student loans from ELFI*, you can choose from the following repayment options: 
    • Immediate repayment: You make payments toward the principal and interest right after disbursement
      • Best for: You’re working while in school and can afford the payments. You want to pay the least amount of interest possible. 
    • Interest only: While you’re in school, you make payments that only cover the interest that accrues on the loan. 
      • Best for: You can’t afford to make full payments, but you want to minimize interest charges. You’re working part-time or have some income while in school. 
    • Partial payment: With partial payments, you make a flat-rate payment — typically $25 — while you’re in school. 
      • Best for: Money is tight while you’re in school, but you want to chip away at some of the interest that accrues. 
    • Fully deferred: If you opt for fully deferred repayment, you don’t make any payments at all while you’re in school. This is the most expensive repayment option, as more interest accrues over the life of the loan. 
      • Best for: You are in a rigorous academic program and need to completely focus on your studies, so you don’t want to make any payments while in school. 
  Use the private student loan calculator to see what your payment would be and how much you’d repay over the life of the loan under each repayment plan.*   

Student Loan Repayment Strategies to Pay Off Your Debt Faster

Once you graduate, there are ways to accelerate your debt repayment and reduce the amount of interest that accrues.   

1. Make Extra Payments

If you want to pay off your debt faster and are thinking about different student loan repayment strategies, consider increasing your minimum monthly payments.    More of your payment will go toward the principal each month, reducing how much you’ll pay in interest and allowing you to pay off the debt ahead of schedule.    For example, if you had $30,000 in student loans at 5% interest and a 10-year repayment term, your monthly payment would be $318 per month. If you only made the minimum payments, you’d repay a total of $38,192 by the end of your loan term.    If you increase your payments to $368 per month — an addition of just $50 per month — you’d pay off your loans 20 months early. And, you’d repay just $36,731. By adjusting your monthly payment, you’d save $1,461.   

2. Use the Debt Avalanche or Debt Snowball Methods

If you have multiple student loans, consider using either the debt avalanche or debt snowball method to tackle your debt.    With the debt avalanche method, you make extra payments toward the loan with the highest interest rate.    With the debt snowball, you target the debt with the lowest balance first.    Which is best for you? It depends on your goals and personality. Learn more in our breakdown of the debt snowball and debt avalanche method repayment strategies  

3. Refinance Your Debt

Student loan interest rates have a big impact on your overall repayment. By refinancing your student loans,* you can qualify for a lower interest rate so more of your monthly payment goes toward the principal. Over time, refinancing can help you save a significant amount of money.   

The Bottom Line

By understanding how payments work and how student loan interest rates affect your total repayment, you can pick a repayment plan that works for you.    If you still have questions, ELFI’s Personal Loan Advisors can walk you through the loan application process and answer any questions you have.*  
  *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 reading new about student loans
2020-07-31
This Week in Student Loans: July 31, 2020

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:
white house

Trump: Student Loans May Be Suspended For “Additional Periods Of Time”

With a second stimulus package on the way, Trump has stated that student loan suspensions may be extended past the already in place deadline.  

Source: Forbes

 

GOP Coronavirus Relief Proposal

Here’s How the Latest GOP Coronavirus Relief Proposal Would Impact Student Loans

The GOP has released their coronavirus relief proposal, but experts claim that it is largely ineffective in helping student loan borrowers.  

Source: CNBC

 

student loan servicers

What to Know About Changes Coming to Student Loan Servicing

In an attempt to streamline student loan servicing, the US government has signed contracts with five companies to provide customer service and back-office support to federal student loan borrowers.  

Source: U.S. News & World Report

 

man researching whether to refinance student loans

Should You Refinance Student Loans? What to Consider as Legislators Debate New Stimulus Package

Refinancing rates are incredibly low, but due to the second stimulus package not yet being put in place, student loan borrowers are unsure of when the best time to refinance will be.  

Source: Newsweek

  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.