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How to Pay Off Student Loans Faster

February 5, 2018

When you took out student loans for your degree, you likely envisioned a bright future full of exotic career options. And why wouldn’t you? You’d never go through all that trouble and years of hard work if you didn’t have big plans for your career. But now that you’ve started making monthly payments on those not-so-shiny student loans, you and yourself in a deserted breakroom screaming “Wiiiilson!” at the top of your lungs to an endless sea of ‘tick-tocks’ coming from the clock on the wall.

 

But before you do anything drastic, take a deep breath and remember – you’re not nearly as alone as you might feel. In fact, millions of recent grads are in the exact same situation, and each of you has the exact same question on your mind. “How can I pay off my student loans faster?”

 

If the thought alone of being debt-free is not enough to motivate you to pay off your student loans faster, consider what you could do with all that freed up money. You could finally afford that trip to Europe. How about a nicer car, you know, one that you actually enjoy driving? Whatever it is, life without debt opens up a world of financial possibilities, and there are a couple of (smart) ways to go about speeding up the process.

 

How Much Do You Really Owe?

It may seem obvious, but if you’re trying to pay off your student loans faster, the first thing you want to do is to take stock of your debt – not just your student loan debt, but any other loans you may have taken out during school (credit card, auto loans, mortgage, etc.). You need to have a clear understanding of how much you owe various lenders, and more importantly, the interest rates associated with each loan.

 

While it’s almost always in your best interest to pay off your student loans faster, there is one exception that may surprise you. For example, credit card lenders often charge much higher interest rates than student loan lenders. If you’re in a situation where you hold a large amount of credit card debt, it might be more beneficial to utilize the lower interest rates on your student loan debt. Instead, work towards paying off that credit card debt for the sole purpose of minimizing the amount of your hard-earned cash that is going towards interest.

 

Pay Off Your Student Loan Debt Faster by Refinancing

That being said, have you looked into refinancing your student loans? A whopping 62% of borrowers have yet to refinance their student loans, which is mind-boggling considering you can consolidate and reduce your monthly payments. ELFI customers on average have reported a savings of $309* a month and should see an average of $20,936 in total savings after refinancing their student loans with ELFI*! Student loan interest rates are currently dipping into historic lows. The sooner you refinance and pay off your student loans, the more money you can save.

 

Find My Rate

 

Make More Than the Minimum Payment

As you look into refinancing your student loan debt for lower interest rates, find a monthly payment that works with your budget. As you fine-tune your budget planning method, pay more than your minimum monthly payments whenever possible.
It’s imperative that you instruct your lender to apply any additional payments directly to your principal, as many lenders have found clever ways to maximize their profits by putting those extra funds towards your future interest.

 

Pay Off Student Loan Debt Faster by Applying Your Raises

As tempting as it may be to treat yourself with any raises, bonuses, or tax returns you are rewarded over the next several years, visualize a life entirely free of student loan debt! Any time you skip out on an opportunity to take a big chunk out of your principal, you’re essentially lengthening your debt sentence. Even if you don’t apply the entirety of your bonus income directly to your student loan debt, at least think twice before investing in a new big screen TV. Oh, by the way, that’s not an investment.

 

Avoid Income-Driven Repayment Programs

Most income-driven repayment programs offer lower monthly payments, which is great! Except they come at the expense of lengthening your repayment term. If you’re trying to pay off your student loans faster, it’s best to avoid income-driven repayment programs and explore other options like refinancing your student loans (which can also reduce your monthly payments without unnecessarily dragging on your repayment term for several more years).

There are plenty of articles out there about paying off your student loans, advising you to take a federal job that offers a loan forgiveness program. While it’s not the worst idea, you just spent 4+ years working towards a degree. Do you really want to spend another 5 years in a job you’re not thrilled about just so you can eliminate your student loan debt? Would it not be more fulfilling to get a job that can most fully prepare you for a long- term, purposeful career without sacrificing your current sanity?

 

Refinancing – The Smartest Way to Pay Off Your Student Loans Faster

The fact is – you’re no stranger to making sacrifices for your dreams. And while it may seem like you’re barely getting traction, you’re well on your way to the future you envisioned years ago. Obviously, there’s not a quick ’n’ easy way about it, but there IS a smarter way – by making sure you know your options. Regardless of how you choose to go about it, the smartest way to pay off your student loans faster is, without a doubt, to refinance for a lower rate.

 

What Could You Be Saving If You Refinance

 

*Average 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.

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2019-05-20
Responsibilities of Cosigning A Loan

It’s often thought about pretty commonly that people will attend college. What often isn’t discussed is how people will afford to pay for their college degree. When looking for available financial aid options many look to private student loans to pay for college. Once completing the application don’t be surprised if it is denied because of your financial history or lack thereof. Unless your parents opened up a credit card account for you as an authorized user when you born, you probably won’t have a long enough credit history. Don’t be overly heartbroken, since you aren’t the only one without a long credit history. A way around not having an established credit history is to talk with a parent or guardian about being a cosigner on your student loan. This isn’t an easy process, but it can be worthwhile if both parties understand the responsibilities that are associated with cosigned student loans. Additionally, adding a cosigner to a loan may not be the right answer.   Having a cosigner can help qualify you for a student loan because the right cosigner should have an established credit history. As a lending institution, it would be too difficult to lend to a borrower who hasn’t yet shown that they are financially responsible. Adding a cosigner who is financially responsible, for a loan assures the lender that the loan is less of a risk and is more likely to be paid back.   If you like sports, think of it like a basketball game. If you’re injured and can no longer play, a substitute or someone on the team plays the game in your place. A cosigner would be your financially responsible substitute in the game of loans. If you are unable to carry the financial burden of a loan at any time and take a knee, a cosigner is expected and legally responsible to repay the debt.  Though the concept of adding a cosigner can seem fairly simple, there is a lot that goes along with it. Here are a few things to understand, before you even consider asking someone to cosign your private student loan.    

Why would you need to add a cosigner to a loan?

  There are multiple different cases why you may need a cosigner. If you have never owned a credit card, had a loan before or held any type of credit, you may have no established credit history. Even if you have had credit for a short time, there may not be enough history for the private loan company to evaluate. If you have a large loan you’re interested in taking out, it’s highly unusual that the loan will be provided to someone with a year or less of credit history. Based on your credit history a student loan company can see how often a person is paying off debt and what their credit score is. Without a credit history, it can be hard for a student loan company to evaluate if you will be on time for loan payments.  With a cosigner, the student loan company can evaluate the financial history of the cosigner and see that they are a reliable applicant.   Another reason that you may need a cosigner is that you have a bad credit score. If your debt-to-income ratio is too high, you have an unsteady income, or you have previous defaults on your credit history, this could be a reason why you’d need to add a cosigner. A cosigner can help qualify you for a private student loan. When having a cosigner, it is the cosigner’s loan and they are fully responsible for that loan too. Though your cosigner is not using the loan, it is equally their responsibility to make sure the loan is paid off. If you choose to ask a family member or friend to be a cosigner, it is important they understand the financial responsibility that they are taking. For example, if you do not pay your loan, your cosigner will have to pay it off. A cosigner will need to have a good credit history and consistently have responsible financial habits. You may be thinking of multiple different people who could be your cosigner. Before diving in, be sure to understand who can cosign your loan.  

Who can cosign a loan for college?

  When evaluating the need for a cosigner, you will need to know who is eligible. Undergraduate and graduate private loans lenders have a list of criteria that a cosigner must meet. The criteria for a cosigner will be different based on each lending institutions policy and eligibility requirements. Here’s a breakdown of some of the general eligibility requirements needed.  
  • A cosigner must be a United States citizen and of legal age.
  • Legal age will vary by state, so it is important to look up the legal age for your state of interest.
  • As for your preference, it needs to be someone you trust. Maybe start by asking a parent or close relative.
  • Needs to have a good credit score, and has to know all the financial responsibilities of a cosigner.
  • The cosigner will be required to have a consistent employer or a steady income. If a family member is not an option, consider a dependable, close friend.
  • Some private loan companies require that the cosigner have the same address as the applicant.
 

Cosigner Responsibilities

  Make sure your cosigner fully understands what they are committing to and that you both discuss the responsibilities needed from a cosigner. Being a cosigner can be unpredictable. As a borrower, you may not be able to pay off a loan that you have taken on and your cosigner will be accountable for the remainder of the student loan payments. This could affect a cosigner and their future. Go over the cosigner paperwork and discuss all the options you have. You both will have equal responsibility throughout the life of the loan.   Cosigner responsibilities include payment on any late or missing payments as per the contract of the private loan. The cosigner’s credit report will show the student loan, therefore, any late payments will affect the cosigner’s credit score. A cosigner, by cosigning, is adding more credit to their credit history. Therefore, if the cosigner needs their own loan, they may find it difficult due to the additional credit added from the private loan.   A creditor may have different ways of collecting loan debt, but they can garnish wages depending on the state the loan is originated in. If the loan is not paid, you or the cosigner’s employer may be required to refuse a portion of your paycheck and send it to the creditor. In addition, a private loan may have clauses included in the document. Be aware that a clause may require the loan amount paid in full at the time of a cosigner’s death. Meaning if you ask someone to be a cosigner and they pass away the debt may have to be paid in full at that time. The same can go for the cosigner if the borrower passes away, the full debt balance could be expected at the time of the borrower’s death. Open communication between you and your cosigner is vital. Go over all clauses, liabilities, and possibilities to ensure you are both aware of the circumstances.  

Factors to consider when selecting a cosigner

  A cosigner needs to be someone who is completely able to pay off your loan. The private loan company will want to see that the cosigner has a steady income. A steady income means that they have reliable employment or a consistent form of payment. Without a steady income, the loan company will have no evidence that your cosigner has the funds to help pay off the loan.   Your cosigner will need to have a decently lengthy credit history. Along with the cosigner’s credit history, the lender will review their credit score. A credit score will illustrate to the loan company that the cosigner has borrowed money previously and was able to pay it back on time. A private loan company is always looking for a trustworthy candidate that will be capable of paying back their debt. While the loan company will decide if you and your cosigner are qualified, it is important that you have a dependable cosigner.   Cosigning will be a long term commitment and all clauses must be considered. Good health will be a factor when choosing a cosigner. Good health may seem like an odd qualification to have. If your cosigner dies, your loan could automatically be placed in default regardless of the payments you have made. Due to unfortunate circumstances, this could have a harmful effect on your credit score.   Whether it a relative or close friend, you and your cosigner must be on the same page. Once you have a loan you both will share the responsibility of getting it paid off. Talk about financial barriers together. If you are unsure you can pay off the loan, let your cosigner know ahead of time. This could help prevent any devastating effects on your credit scores in the future.  

Benefits of using a Cosigner

  While having a cosigner is a serious decision, it does include benefits. One of the biggest advantages to adding a cosigner is that it could help you to have a better interest rate. Adding a cosigner with a good credit history, and income, private loan companies may give you a lower interest rate. How can having a cosigner get you a lower interest rate? Since your cosigner should have an established credit history and income, it means that the loan is less risky for the lending institution. If the loan is more likely to be paid back based on previous borrower history, then the lending institution will provide a more attractive interest rate on the loan. Having a lower interest rate on your loan could mean thousands of dollars saved from debt repayment.   Secondly, having a cosigner could assist you with your own credit. Since a cosigner gives you a better chance at receiving the loan, you’re more likely to establish the credit to further build out your credit history. Assuming you’re able to make the monthly payments on your student loan, you will start to build a credit history. If you are paying on time, this will help you to improve credit for future needs and purchases for both you and cosigner. Without a cosigner, you may not be eligible for the loan and would not be able to get a jump start on your credit. Cosigning for a debt is not something that should be taken lightly by anyone. This could be the right answer for you or it could be the wrong answer. It’s important to review all your options as a borrower and discuss the liabilities and responsibilities of cosigning with your cosigner.  

10 Facts About Student Loans That Can Save You Money

 
Two girls outside looking at a credit score app on their phones.
2019-05-15
How to Build Credit While in College

As a child, it’s not uncommon to think that there are monsters hiding under your bed or maybe in your closet. You never actually think it through as to what really could be hiding but it’s something scary. Trust me, you didn’t want to ever have to come face-to-face with it. Thus, my reasoning for staying in bed every night and never moving. Oh, and of course hiding my arms under the blankets. You know you did it too! Well, at twenty-eight I think I’ve finally met those monsters.  It was my credit! Throughout my life, I was terrified of credit. I, like many others, was taught credit cards lead to lifelong debt and it could ruin my life. Not only that but any minor change like closing a credit card account affected my credit score – SCARY! Credit, like most new things in life can be intimidating or maybe even scary, but we have to start somewhere. What most people, myself included, don’t understand about credit is that it can be a great thing when used responsibly. A good credit score can help with getting a house or buying a car. I now understand that credit is not a scary thing. Credit is only something you need to be responsible with. If you are a college student looking to build credit purchase only things that you can pay for. If you cannot guarantee that you can stay on top of payments, you shouldn’t be making purchases. While in college, if you decide to build credit it can help jump-start your life after college. Filling out applications with your credit score will be easy because you’ve already started building credit.  In college, credit can be built through everyday expenses and can benefit you in the long run. Here are some simple ways of building credit that will not break the bank or “ruin your life,” but help you in the future.

Find a Credit Card

While in college, you may see a credit card offer dropped in your mailbox every week. Actually reading through the information and what the card offers is KEY. Look at interest rates and cash back rewards. Some cards have cash back rewards on points earned by using the card on things such as gas and groceries. By using a credit card for necessities and paying it off, you are earning easy credit while still in college. Some cards offer cash back opportunities on travel. If you’re going away to college, using a credit card could be a great way to earn points for a visit back home or a weekend getaway. Remember, use a credit card on things you will be able to pay back on time. This way you will be building credit while also gaining reward points to redeem on things you want to do. If you’re attending college you may want to check out student credit cards. Student credit cards can be a really great way to start building credit while you are in school. Be warned that you will still need to demonstrate a decent salary to qualify for a student credit card, simply being a student is not enough. Most student credit cards will not charge an annual fee and many offer additional perks.  

Learn How Completing College Early Can Save You Money

 

Secure Credit Cards

If you don’t qualify for a student credit card or any traditional credit card because you don’t have a credit history look into secure credit cards. They work just like other credit cards but require a cash deposit, first. This deposit is usually in the hundreds or low thousands. If you make every payment in full and on time you’ll receive back your down payment. If you do not make payments on time or in full the lender keeps your down payment.

Rent

While being in college you will likely be moving into your FIRST apartment. An apartment can be a great way to start earning credit. Putting the rent in your name and paying it on time can assist in building credit. In order for rent to go towards your credit history, your landlord must be reporting the rent payments to one of the credit agencies. If your landlord isn’t reporting your rental payments it will not help you to build a credit history. In today’s society, it is also pretty uncommon for landlords to report rent payments to a credit agency. If your landlord isn’t reporting your rent payments to a credit agency it can’t hurt to ask if they could start! When sharing an apartment with roommates, it is vital for everyone living there to pay their share of rent on time. Finding roommates that share accountability is important when you are building a good credit score.

Get a Credit Builder Loan

A loan that is in place to IMPROVE CREDIT?! Sign me up! When you have a credit builder loan, you make payments into your savings account. After one year, you will get the amount you paid back and increase your credit score! A credit builder loan does not require good credit to begin, you just have to show proof of income. Start by applying for a credit builder loan, and begin to make payments on time. In order for you to be benefiting from a credit builder loan, you must be paying on time. The pros to a credit builder loan include getting the money you put in and having a better credit score at the end of the year!

Become an Authorized User

Becoming an authorized user is a smart and easy way to embark on creating credit while in college. Being an authorized user means that you can use another person’s credit card and your name will be included on the account. The process simply has the account user add your name to the credit card account. As an authorized user, you will not be responsible for paying back debts on the credit card. This responsibility will legally be in the original account holder’s name. The main goal for being an authorized user is to increase your credit score by having an account holder with an outstanding credit history. If you have an account holder who is known for paying their debt on time, this will increase your score, because you’re on the account. Keep in mind that you should ask someone who is trusted and reliable when becoming an authorized user.

Start on Student Loan Payments

As a former college student, I know that going to school full time while working enough to have money to start paying off student loans can seem impossible. Remember, you do not have to pay off large amounts right away. While in college, consider putting money aside to start paying off loans when you can. If you start loan payments early you will start to see positive growth on your credit score. The benefits of having student loans include helping build your credit score. If you decide to start paying off loans while in school, it will be before your loan deadline and will create less to pay off later. Even if you are not able to pay off large sums, these small amounts can make for fewer payments later on and a better credit score when you graduate from college.

Credit Utilization

A top way to build credit is not to utilize all the credit that is available to you. For example, if you have a credit card with a credit limit of $2,500 and the balance is $2,500 that would be 100% credit utilization. Credit utilization is important because it impacts your credit score. The maximum recommended credit utilization is about 30%. Therefore, if your credit card had a maximum limit of $2,500 then 30% of that would be $750. In this example, to avoid negatively impacting your credit score you should not spend over $750 on your credit card. It can be difficult to be disciplined as a college student, but it’s important to remember that this money is not free. It’s also likely that this is probably your first credit card ever! Exciting, but this is a really important rule of thumb! This is a credit that you will eventually need to pay back. In an effort to build credit you want to be sure you’re creating good financial habits for yourself too. Be sure to stay disciplined and not utilize over 30% of your credit card.

BONUS: Credit Reports

While we are on the topic of creating good financial habits, the number one habit you can create is looking at your credit report. If you talk with any financial expert, this will be their number one piece of advice! Yearly, check your credit score and your credit report. Think about it like an annual physical at the doctor, but for your finances. Review your credit report to make sure that there are no errors or fraud to your credit history. If you visit AnnualCreditReport.com you can receive a free credit report from all three major credit agencies in the U.S. and a free credit report can be requested every 12 months. Having paid off debt or using credit in college will prepare you for future payments on cars, houses, and throughout your adult life. Knowing your responsibilities and taking care of payments on time is key to achieving a better credit score by the end of your college career. Consider these options when deciding how to build credit and choose one that will benefit you in the long run.  

Are Student Loans Impacting Your Credit Score?

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites 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.
Student studying under a tree
2019-05-10
What You Need to Know About College Scholarships: Part 2

Part 1 of this series covered the basics of searching for scholarship money to lessen the cost of college and the average cost of college. Part 2 looks at scholarships available through the federal government and gives you additional information about qualifying and applying for these opportunities to help you achieve your educational goals.  

Federal Scholarships for College

  It’s a big part of the American Dream: graduating from college to pursue a productive and rewarding career. In fact, Americans value a college education so much that our federal government awards over 120 billion dollars in annual aid to help students achieve this goal. Much federal financial aid is in the form of student loans, work-study programs, and tax credits for education. However, the government also awards “free money,” which often doesn’t have to be repaid. Instead of calling this type of award a scholarship, the government calls it a federal grant. Grants are awarded based on need, plus special conditions and circumstances. A federal scholarship or grant could be your ticket to a great education at a lower cost.  

Federal Grants & Private Scholarships: What’s the Difference?

  You may be eligible for both federal grants and scholarships from your college, state, service club, foundation or business. One of the main differences between the two types of aid is the application process. Each private scholarship has its own process, and you must carefully adhere to the instructions and meet all deadlines if you hope to qualify. Eligibility for a federal grant is determined using the comprehensive FAFSA® form, which students submit to apply for all federal student aid (grants, loans, work-study and other types of federal assistance). An exception to this is military ROTC scholarships and VA programs, which have varying application processes. ROTC and VA applicants must go through the appropriate service branch or agency to apply.   Private scholarships are frequently awarded on merit (scholastic or athletic achievement), specified condition (area of study, heritage, college or state) or financial need. Sometimes, more than one criterion is used to determine the award. Federal grants are based primarily on need, although some federal programs have been established for specific purposes like promoting teacher education or community service. Such grants may have additional requirements, like academic achievement and service commitment, in exchange for education benefits. Likewise, scholarships awarded through U.S. military ROTC programs come with a specific commitment to serve.  

How Do You Apply for a Federal Grant or Scholarship?

  Application for federal grants begins by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. To apply for scholarships through military ROTC programs, you must apply with the associated military branch. Application for VA benefits can be accessed through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs website. The Dept. of Defense also offers scholarships and graduate fellowships with their own application process. Links to these federal sites are listed here:    

Resources for Grants & Scholarships Through the Federal Government

Check out these federal grant programs that could help you lower the amount of money you have to borrow to attend college.  

Pell Grants:

These grants gave eligible students a maximum amount of $6,195 toward their education in 2019 - 2020. Students may receive this assistance for up to 12 semesters of college. Available To: Undergraduate Students Qualifications:
  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. May be eligible if enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program.
  3. Must not have been incarcerated in a federal or state correctional institution.
Amount Received Dependent On:
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Defined by the Department of Education as “an index number that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school.” The FAFSA form information is used to calculate this. The formula takes into account your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, benefits, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college.
Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Financial Need
  • Cost of Attendance. Determined by your school for your program.
  • Attendance Schedule. Will you be a full-time or part-time student?
  • Are you attending school for the entire year or just a semester?
   

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants:

This is an additional grant program distributed by participating colleges and allocates anywhere from $100 to $4000 toward a recipient’s undergraduate education. Submitting your FAFSA early can have a direct impact on this type of grant. Each school sets its own deadline for campus-based funding. You should be able to see the deadline on the school’s website and if it’s not there be sure to speak with a member of your financial aid office. Available To: Undergraduate Students Qualifications:
  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.
   

Teacher Education Assistance for College & Higher Education (TEACH) Grants:

You must also be pursuing a career in teaching. In order to qualify you will need to teach at the elementary or secondary level school in a high-need field in a low-income area after graduation. Available To: Undergraduate Students, Post Baccalaureate Students, or Graduate Student (Attend a Participating School) Qualifications:
  1. Enrolled in a TEACH-Grant-eligible program.
  2. Meet academic achievement requirements (scoring above the 75th percentile on one or more parts of a college admissions test or maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25)
  3. Receive TEACH counseling to explain the terms and conditions of the service obligation. Must complete counseling each year you receive a TEACH Grant.
  4. Sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve.
 

Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grants:

Eligible students who lost a parent in military service and do not meet the need-based threshold for a Pell Grant can apply for additional college funds through this program. Available To Qualifications:
  1. Not eligible for the Federal Pell Grant due to Expected Family Contribution.
  2. Meet Federal Pell Grant requirements for eligibility.
  3. Parent or guardian was a member of the U.S armed forces, who died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11.
  4. Under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of the parent or guardian’s death.
   

SMART Scholarship Program:

The Dept. of Defense offers undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to encourage participation in the STEM sciences and recruit future civilian employees for the DoD. Available To Qualifications:
  1. Must be a U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or United Kingdom Citizen at the time of application
  2. As of August 1, 2019, must be 18 years of age or older.
  3. Ability to participate in summer internships at a DoD facility.
  4. Willingness to accept employment post graduate for DoD
  5. Minimum of 3.0 on a scale of 4.0 and in good standing.
  6. Pursuing one of these disciplines for undergraduate or graduate degrees.
 

Jobs to Reduce Student Loans

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites 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.