Starting a Business With Student LoansNovember 5, 2020
Starting a business with student loan debt presents some unique challenges. You may have difficulty securing funding for your business, or you may struggle to make payments on your educational debt while trying to sink money into your startup.
The good news is, it’s not impossible to become an entrepreneur while you’re launching your company. You don’t even have to pay off your student loans before starting a business.
You can explore ways to reduce your student loan debt and can pursue multiple funding options. These include the possibility of actually using student loans to start a business. Here’s what you need to know:
Repayment Options When Starting a Business With Student Loan Debt
Starting a business with student loan debt presents a few challenges. You’ll need a plan to continue making loan payments in case your company doesn’t make money immediately. You’ll also need to decide how much of your own money you’d like to spend on your company.
Some of your options include the following.
If you have federal student loans, choosing an income-driven repayment plan could be one of your best options when starting a business. With an income-driven plan, payments are capped at a percentage of your income. That means, if your company isn’t making much yet, your payments could be very low or even non-existent.
Depending on the specific income-driven plan you select, your payments could be as low as $0 per month. And after you’ve made enough on-time payments, eventually the remaining balance of your loan will be forgiven. Of course, if your business does well and your income goes up, your payments will rise. By then, however, you should be able to easily afford to foot the bill.
Student loan refinancing
Income-driven repayment plans are an option only for federal student loans. If you have private loans, you can’t change your repayment term without refinancing. However, when refinancing with a private student lender such as ELFI, you may be able to reduce your interest rate and lengthen your repayment term to lower your monthly payments.
You do need to qualify for student loan refinancing based on your income and credit score. A cosigner could help if your income isn’t very high when your company is first getting off the ground. Also, be aware that if you opt for a longer repayment term, you may pay more in interest over time.
Student loan forgiveness for entrepreneurs
The federal government doesn’t offer student loan forgiveness specifically for entrepreneurs. You may, however, qualify for other programs that could help with your student loan debt.
If you work for a qualifying not-for-profit organization, for example, you could potentially earn Public Service Loan Forgiveness. If you decide to operate your business as a non-profit and you meet the requirements, PSLF could lead to the remaining balance of your federal student loans being forgiven after you make the requisite number of on-time monthly payments.
Student loan forbearance
Federal and private student loan lenders will sometimes allow you to temporarily pause payments on your loans. However, interest will keep accruing while your payments are paused, so you’ll end up with a larger balance to repay.
Borrowing to start a business
Borrowing to start a business can sometimes be a challenge if you have student debt. When you already owe money for student loans, some lenders may not be comfortable giving you a small business loan or a personal loan. The good news is, you may have multiple options for securing the funding you need.
Explore personal loan or business loan options
While it can be more difficult to get a personal or business loan if you have a lot of debt, it’s not necessarily impossible. A cosigner could up your chances of getting a personal loan, and a solid business model makes approval of a personal loan much more likely.
You may also be able to increase your chances of loan approval if you switch to an income-driven student loan repayment plan or refinance your loans. If doing either lowers your monthly payment, you become a more attractive borrower because your debt-to-income ratio is lower.
Use your savings
If you can save money before starting your business, you may be able to use the proceeds from your savings account to get your company off the ground without having to borrow. This can be challenging, but if you’re able to keep startup costs down, it may be doable.
Borrow from friends and family
Your loved ones may be interested in investing in your business if they have the money to do so. However, before you secure a loan from loved ones, make sure that everyone involved understands the loan terms. Make sure you and your family agree on when the loan will be paid back, what interest if any will be charged, and whether your loved ones will get any stake in the business in exchange for giving you money to get the doors open.
Seek funding from angel investors
Angel investors are willing to invest in startups that they believe have a solid business model and a great idea, but they’ll generally want an ownership interest in the company. You can share the risk of your startup if you can get angel investors interested, but you will have to give up some of your future potential profits.
Consider using student loans to start a business
If you are still in school, you may be able to divert some of your student loan funds to your new venture. If you live frugally and keep your cost-of-living below what the school projects, the extra money could be just what you need to get your startup off the ground.
Of course, you’re taking a risk with this approach since you’ll graduate with more student loan debt. The upside is, however, that the interest rate could be lower than on other types of loans and you can stretch repayment out over time.
On the other hand, it’s very hard to discharge student loans in bankruptcy, so if you get in way over your head in debt, you’ll have few options to wipe the slate clean.
Make smart choices when starting a business with student loans
When you’re starting a business with student loans, it’s important you’ve done the work to maximize the chances your company will be a success. If you have a solid business model and you’ve researched the logistics of what it will take to make a profit, hopefully your company will turn a profit and give you the funding you need to pay off your student debt easily over time.
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