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Student Loan Forgiveness 101

April 9, 2016
Updated November 1, 2019

Student loan forgiveness (also known as cancellation and discharge of student loans) is the act of releasing a borrower from their obligation to repay all (or a portion) of their federal student loan(s), including the principal and interest. It is only provided under certain circumstances, to those with federal loans, and to borrowers who meet certain eligibility requirements. While it may seem hard to qualify for student loan forgiveness (see how less than 1% of applicants were approved for Public Service Loan Forgiveness), it’s helpful to understand the circumstances that would qualify for student loan forgiveness so you can be sure you aren’t missing out. There are a variety of options available, all of which intend to reduce or eliminate student loan debt.

 

This introductory guide to student loan forgiveness aims to help readers familiarize themselves with the options and eligibility requirements surrounding federal student loan forgiveness. It includes student loan forgiveness categories, income-driven repayment plans, state, and city-sponsored forgiveness options, as well as explains what happens once a student loan forgiveness application is approved or denied.

 

Keep in mind that the bottomline is that unless your circumstances line up with these mentioned, you’ll have to pay your loans according to the promissory note you signed – even if you were a minor when you signed it, can’t find employment, or aren’t happy with your education.

 

Student Loan Forgiveness Categories

There are a variety of circumstances that may lead to federal student loan forgiveness. However, none are guaranteed and each circumstance may or may not apply to the borrower’s particular type of federal loan. Furthermore, certain categories of loan forgiveness mandate that applicants meet certain eligibility requirements, including items such as qualified monthly payments and qualifying employment. The following list highlights the different federal loan forgiveness categories, but borrowers should also review this chart, from the Federal Student Aid Office, to ensure their circumstance applies to their particular federal loan type (Direct Loans, FFEL Program Loans, and Perkins Loans):

  • Closed School Discharge

 

Borrowers who believe they may qualify for student loan forgiveness are encouraged to read more about the possibilities related to federal student loan forgiveness and cancellation. These borrowers should also contact their loan servicer (the company handling billing and services related to the student loan) to further discuss their options.

Finally, if a student loan forgiveness application is placed under review, borrowers should continue to make payments on their loan to prevent it from going into default or accumulating additional interest until all final decisions are made.

 

Income-Driven Repayment Plans & Student Loan Forgiveness

The Federal Government’s four income-driven student loan repayment plans forgive a student’s remaining loan balance after either 20 or 25 years. These payment plans work by creating a set, monthly payment amounts that are based on what is affordable for the borrower’s income and family size. After making qualified payments for the entirety of the repayment period, the loan’s remaining balance is forgiven. Applying for an income-driven repayment plan is free with the Federal Government, and per Federal Student Aid (an office of the Department of Education), “most federal student loans are eligible for at least one income-driven repayment plan.” The repayment plans — and a few of their details —include:

  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR Plan):

The IBR Plan requires that a borrower meets certain eligibility requirements. Depending on when the loan was issued, monthly payments are generally 10 percent or 15 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income, and the repayment period is either 20 or 25 years.

 

  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR Plan):

The ICR Plan is open to all borrowers with eligible federal loans. Payment amounts are the lesser of the two options: either 20 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income or what the borrower would pay on a repayment plan with a fixed payment over the course of 12 years (adjusted according to income). The repayment period is 25 years.

 

  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE Plan):

The PAYE Plan requires that a borrower meets certain eligibility requirements. Payments are generally 10 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income, but it is never more than the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan amount. The repayment period is 20 years.

 

  • Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE Plan):

The REPAYE Plan is open to all borrowers with eligible federal loans, and payments are generally 10 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income. The repayment period is 20 years for loans solely dedicated to undergraduate study and 25 years when the loans have been used for graduate or professional study.

 

Borrowers using an income-based repayment plan may also be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Qualifying for this plan means borrowers with a remaining Direct Loan balance will have loans forgiven after 10 years of qualifying payments, rather than 20 years. Learn more about the program and its qualifications here.

 

State and City-Sponsored Loan Forgiveness Programs

Student loan forgiveness programs may also be offered by particular states and cities. These local-level loan forgiveness programs are often directed at particular professions (for example physicians, health care providers, and teachers) when the city or state faces an employment shortage in a critical profession. Loan forgiveness for those with careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and law are also frequently offered. To find state and city-based loan forgiveness programs, try searching one of the following databases:

  • Physicians looking to find states offering loan repayment and forgiveness, as well as scholarship opportunities, will find the Association of American Medical College’s (AAMC) searchable database most useful.

 

Approval or Denial of Student Loan Forgiveness

Approved: Borrowers who are approved for student loan forgiveness are no longer obligated to make student loan payments unless only a certain amount is forgiven. Additional benefits may also include a refund of past payments, the removal of any negative credit records related to default payments, and a renewed eligibility to apply for federal student aid (as long as there are no other defaulted loans). However, there are cases in which the borrower may be responsible for refunding a portion of the loan to the U.S. Department of Education, so it is important to understand and verify every detail throughout the process.

 

Denied: Borrowers who are denied student loan forgiveness remain responsible for repaying the remaining balance of the loan. Your repayment plan will follow the terms of the promissory note that you have signed. It is unlikely that a final decision can be appealed (with the exception of false certification and forged signature discharges).

 

More Options

Borrowers who are ineligible for student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans — as well as borrowers with private loans — will find that additional money-saving options still exist in the form of student loan refinancing and consolidation. No matter the situation, we recommend that borrowers talk to a student loan expert to find the plan and benefits that best suit their short and long-term financial goals. For questions about refinancing and consolidating student loans — both private and federal — contact the specialists at Education Loan Finance.*

 


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

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2020-09-25
3 Financial Goals to Achieve Before Marriage – And Some That Can Wait

Marriage is both a personal and financial turning point that opens up a new world of financial opportunities and struggles. However, with proper planning, you can minimize the challenges and make the most of financial opportunities. Check out these financial goals to achieve before marriage, as well as a couple of others that you’ve still got time to work toward:  

Financial Goals to Achieve Before Marriage

The Emergency Fund

For many couples, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the importance of emergency funds exceptionally clear. Especially as you enter into your first few years of marriage, it’s important to build a strong financial foundation so you’re prepared for unexpected expenses, from home repairs to medical bills.
Financial hardship is a leading cause of divorce, and in these uncertain times, an emergency fund can help to weather the storm.   In addition, an emergency fund provides a way to ease financial anxiety and distress even when times aren’t tough. When you know you’re prepared with emergency savings, there’s no need to panic if the unexpected happens.  

Setting a Monthly Budget

Even if you aren’t getting married, creating a budget is a great financial step, and is something you should do right away. Work with your partner to outline your regular expenses, as well as any expenses that may arise in your first year of marriage. Make sure you provide yourself with some flexibility in your savings and begin building an emergency fund if you haven’t already.   There are several useful tools that can help you keep track of your budget, including apps like Mint. You can also employ a budgeting strategy to keep your saving and spending on track. Several popular budgeting methods include the 50/20/30 rule, the Zero based budget and the cash envelope system. Not only will a budget be good for your finances, but it will be good for your marriage, as well.  

Setting Goals for the Future

Yes, setting goals is a goal. You and your future spouse should lay out financial goals before getting married. It’s important to be on the same page when it comes to debt repayment, housing plans, savings goals and other major financial milestones. Plus, it’s good to know what your spouse is looking for, and a good plan helps to avoid financial stress that can really harm a marriage.  

More Flexible Financial Goals

Making a Down Payment

While it’s great to start saving for a down payment before marriage, it’s not necessary to be entirely ready to buy a home before tying the knot. Especially if you’ve already established good money management habits, you can always continue working toward this financial goal as a married couple.   Even if you don’t have the money for a down payment right away, you can easily establish a strategy to save toward a down payment. Experts recommend planning on putting a minimum of 10% down for your down payment and the more you can save, the better. Stay focused and keep saving. You’ll have that down payment in no time.  

Becoming Debt-Free

Some couples choose to pay their student debt off before getting married, however, student debt is another financial goal you can afford to wait on, especially if you consider refinancing. After your wedding, you may choose to prioritize other expenses that come with building a life together, like a new car or home, before tackling the remainder of your student debt.   That said, you certainly don’t want to forget about your student loans. By refinancing your student loans, you could earn greater financial flexibility by lowering your interest rate or changing your student loan repayment term. Refinancing can provide you with the options you need to achieve financial goals with your new spouse.  

Tips for Tackling Student Debt

As a general rule, it’s best to first tackle whichever debt is incurring the most interest. Debts with high interest rates can easily spiral out of control, and while it may not be essential to totally eliminate your student debt before your marriage, it is advisable to develop a plan to do so.   The good news is, you can employ several strategies to make paying off debt a less intimidating ordeal. Two of the most popular repayment strategies are the debt snowball and the debt avalanche. These two plans take opposite approaches. While the debt avalanche calls for dealing with the highest interest debt first, the debt snowball calls for dealing with the lowest amount of debt first and using the momentum to pay off debts one by one. The right method for you depends on your situation, but both can be incredibly effective if used correctly. Again, it’s worth noting that it isn’t necessary to have your debt entirely paid off before getting married, but you should develop a plan for paying it off before you say “I do.”   A marriage is a big change, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. By taking the time to have fun and create a few financial goals, you’ll set yourself up for success even before tying the knot.  If you’re getting married soon, you also might be interested in budgeting for your wedding. Check out our guide 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.
person making pros and cons list for refinancing private student loans
2020-09-25
10 Pros and Cons of Refinancing Private Student Loans

This year we have seen record low refinancing rates for student loans. If you have private student loans and have been thinking about whether you should refinance them, we hope this post will help you make a decision. We will run through the essentials and the pros and cons of refinancing your private student loans.  

6 Benefits of Refinancing Private Student Loans

Private student loans are loans borrowed through banks, credit unions or other private lenders and can consist of original private loans or a loan that you already refinanced. When you refinance, there are many benefits you can experience. Here are the pros of refinancing your private student loans:  

1. Obtain a Lower Interest Rate

When you refinance a private loan, you are paying the loan off with the new loan you borrow.  The new loan can have a lower interest rate than the rate you previously had on your old loan. A lower interest rate can lead to thousands of dollars in savings depending on the amount of the loan, your old interest rate and your new rate. A lower rate can help reduce your monthly payment and save you money in interest cost over the loan term.  

2. Make Your Repayment More Manageable

If your monthly payment is becoming difficult to pay, refinancing is a good way to help make your payment more manageable. This can be done by obtaining a lower interest rate, as previously mentioned, that can help lower your payment. You can also lengthen the loan term when you refinance. When you extend the loan term it makes the monthly payment lower, but will increase the amount of interest charges you will pay.  

3. Pay Debt Off Faster

Ready to pay your loan off faster? This can be achieved through refinancing in multiple ways. If you have 10 years remaining on your loan term and
refinance to a 7 year loan term or shorter , you will have a higher payment but will have the loan paid off 3 years earlier. Another way to pay off your loan faster is if you refinance and obtain a lower interest rate, your payment will be lower monthly. But if you continue to pay your old monthly payment or more towards the new loan you will be able to knock out your debt quicker.  

4. Release a Cosigner

When you refinance your private student loan you can use the opportunity to release a cosigner from your previous loan. As long as you have a strong credit history and credit score, along with stable income, you can qualify for the new loan on your own. To qualify for the best interest rates available most lenders look for a credit score at least in the high 700s. At ELFI a minimum credit score of 680 is needed for refinancing.*  

5. Combine Multiple Loans

If you have multiple student loans, refinancing is a great way to simplify your finances. You are able to pay off all the previous loans and focus on paying off just one loan. It’s also easier to keep track of your due date so you never miss a payment. Having only one loan may also help keep you motivated on your debt paying journey instead of seeing multiple student loan debts you have to pay.  

6. Choose a Different Lender

If you are not happy with your current student loan lender, refinancing allows you to change to a different refinancing lender by refinancing with whichever lender is the best fit for you. So if you have questions about your loan but can never seem to get answers from your lender, refinancing can help you fix that. At ELFI we pride ourselves on providing a simple and easy process for refinancing along with award-winning customer service loan advisors.

However, just like there are benefits to refinancing private student loans, there are also some cons to consider.  

1. Lose Benefits with Your Current Lender

If you refinance your student loan with a different lender, you may lose benefits you have with your current lender. Some benefits that lenders may provide are an interest rate deduction for setting up auto-pay for your payment, forbearance options, or career coaching. Before you look to refinance with a different lender, weigh whether a new interest rate from a different lender outweighs any benefits you may be giving up.

2. Get a Higher Interest Rate

If you are refinancing to extend your loan term to make the payment more manageable, you may end up with a higher interest rate then the previous rate you had. This would make refinancing your loan more costly in the long term because of the additional interest you will end up paying. In order to avoid this, make sure to get personalized rate quotes from multiple lenders so you know your options and how it will affect your monthly payment and the total amount of interest you will pay.

3. Raise Monthly Payments

When you refinance you have the ability to choose a new loan term. Selecting a shorter loan term then the amount of time you had left on your loan can increase your monthly payments. Typically refinancing lenders provide loan terms of 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years. If you had 8 years remaining on the loan you want to refinance and select a loan term of 7 years you may see an increase in your monthly payment unless you are qualifying for a significantly lower interest rate.

4. May Extend Time to Repay

When selecting your loan term when you refinance, if you choose a longer loan term then the amount of time you had remaining on your loan, you will be stuck paying the debt off longer. However, this can be beneficial if you need to lower your payment to fit within your current budget. You can also combat this issue by paying more than the required monthly payment when you can afford it, to help pay the loan off quicker.

The Bottom Line

Every financial situation is unique so it’s best to determine what is right for your circumstances. When you weigh the pros and cons of refinancing private student loans, you will most likely find it is advantageous for you because of all the different potential benefits.  
  *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.
Current LIBOR Rate
2020-09-24
Current LIBOR Rate Update: September 2020

This blog provides the most current LIBOR rate data as of September 3, 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 – September 2020

As of September 3, 2020, the 1 month LIBOR rate is 0.16%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.16% (0.16% + 3.00%=3.16%). The chart below displays fluctuations in the 1 month LIBOR rate over time.

  Chart Showing Current 1 Month LIBOR Rate for September 2020

(Source: macrotrends.net)

 

Current 3 Month LIBOR Rate – September 2020

As of September 3, 2020, the 3 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%). The chart below displays fluctuations in the 3 month LIBOR rate over time.

  Chart Showing Current 3 Month LIBOR Rate for September 2020

(Source: macrotrends.net)

 

Current 6 Month LIBOR Rate – September 2020

As of September 3, 2020, the 6 month LIBOR rate is 0.29%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.29% (0.29% + 3.00%=3.29%). The chart below displays fluctuations in the 6 month LIBOR rate over time.

  Chart Showing Current 6 Month LIBOR Rate for September 2020

(Source: macrotrends.net)

 

Current 1 Year LIBOR Rate – September 2020

As of September 3, 2020, 2020, the 1 year 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 1 year LIBOR rate over time.

  Chart Showing Current 1 Year LIBOR Rate for September 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.