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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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Happy couple admiring their home
2020-10-22
Should I Build Home Equity or Pay Down Student Loans?

Owning a home is a goal for many people. In fact, 40% of young millennials are saving to buy a home. If you already own a home, congratulations on achieving your goal! If you are now faced with a mortgage and student loans, you may wonder which debt you should prioritize. Should you build home equity or pay down your student loans?    Here we will explain what home equity is, how to build it and when it’s better to focus on home equity or paying down student loans.   

What is Home Equity?

When you pay on a mortgage, even if you haven’t yet paid it off completely, you’re building equity in your home. Home equity is the difference between the market value of the house and what you owe. Here’s an example of how to calculate it:  

How to Calculate Home Equity

  You can calculate your home equity by subtracting the balance of your mortgage from the current value of your home. The value of your home is determined by the fair market value of your house or the appraised value. This number is the true value of your asset (your house) since it takes into account the amount you owe on the loan.    Your home equity is calculated in your net worth. You may have heard that home equity can be “tapped into.” This means you can borrow against the equity of your home and use the money in a variety of ways. A home equity loan can cover home renovations or pay off higher-interest debt.    Your home is valued at $375,000 and your mortgage balance is $275,000. You determine the equity by taking the value of $375,000 and subtracting the mortgage balance of $275,000. The equity in your home is $100,000.   

Home Equity and the Housing Market

  Your home’s equity often increases when you make mortgage payments, especially when paying down the principal on your loan. Your home’s equity can also increase when its value rises. Although the value is determined primarily by the housing market, you can raise the value through home improvements.   Just as the value of your home can increase based on the market, however, it can also decrease based on the market. The only sure way to increase your home equity is by paying down your mortgage loan. The more of the loan you pay off, the more your equity increases.  

Building Home Equity vs. Paying Down Student Loans

  If you follow the normal payment schedule, you’ll increase your home equity slowly. If you make extra payments towards your mortgage, you can build equity faster. However, if you also have student loans, should you build home equity or pay down your student loans instead? Let’s take a look at some factors that can help determine the best course of action:   

Interest Rates

If either your mortgage or any student loan has a variable interest rate, you may want to focus on that loan first, because you are at risk that the rate can rise and leave you with a higher payment to make. In addition, if one of your loans has a much higher interest rate than the other, you may choose to focus on it first.  

Security

With student loans, in certain instances, if you are facing financial hardships you can temporarily suspend payments. Mortgages offer less flexibility with payments, therefore missing payments can result in foreclosure and losing your home.  

Loan Balances

If you have student loans with lower balances than your mortgage, you may be able to pay them off more quickly. Then, you can continue to build equity after paying down your student loan debt.   

Tax Implications

You may get a bigger tax break by building equity versus paying off student loans. However, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Interest paid on student loans is deductible, however, there is a cap on how much. As of 2020 the cap is $2,500. Your income must meet the requirements to be able to deduct this amount.    Interest paid on mortgages is also deductible, but only if you itemize your deductions. The mortgage interest deduction can be much higher than $2,500. To learn more about either of these options, consult with your tax advisor.  

Refinancing Your Student Loans With ELFI

If you don’t want to choose between building equity or paying off your student loans, then consider refinancing your student loans with ELFI. Use our student loan refinance calculator* to see how much you may be able to save.   

The Bottom Line 

Each person’s financial goals and situation are unique, so you have to make the best decision for you. Hopefully, however, knowing more about both options and which is better in certain circumstances will help you make an informed decision.  
  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.
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.