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The State of Student Loan Debt in America Today

October 24, 2018

Education is an investment in one’s future. It opens doors to greater possibilities. It empowers people to reach their full potential. But for many, college has become an anchor instead of a sail. Crushing student loan debt can hinder a graduate’s ability to focus on the future. Some must choose careers based on salary instead of passion, just so they can handle loan payments. The constant need to earn more money stunts employee loyalty and justifies job-hopping. Even after refinancing student loans, debt still delays graduates from buying homes and starting families.

 

It’s not just an unfortunate few saddled with student debt. Consider the following statistics:

 

  • More than 44 million Americans currently carry student loan debt.
  • The total combined debt is nearly $1.5 trillion. That’s more than the total amount of credit card debt owed.
  • Student loan debt is equivalent to 7.6 percent of the U.S. GDP in 2017. To put it another way, retiring the full amount of student loan debt would take 7.6 percent of the value all the goods and services generated in the U.S. economy for a full year.
  • The average debtor owes $39,400 in student loans. That’s equal to 70 percent of the median household income in the United States, which is $56,516, according to the 2015 U.S. Census.
  • On average, student debt is far greater than the annual salary of a new college graduate. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American ages 20 to 24 earns just over $28,000 annually. It’s slightly better — $38,400 — for Americans between the ages of 25 and 34. However, that’s still less than the average overall student loan debt.
  • According to a 2017 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 40 percent of millennial employees have a student loan. Over 80 percent of them say student loans have a moderate or significant impact on their ability to meet financial goals.

 

New doctors carry an extreme amount of medical school student loan debt. About 75 percent of new doctors in the U.S. graduated with debt in 2017. The average amount is now close to $190,000.

 

This explains why New York University will now grant all medical students free tuition. That is approximately $55,000 a year per student.

 

“We thought it was a moral imperative because it’s very difficult for medical students to incur the debt burden of medical school, as well as the additional time burden of training,” Dr. Robert Grossman, dean of NYU School of Medicine, told ABC News.

 

According to the report, student loan debt can “scare away” students from a career in medicine. It may also prevent graduates from pursuing a lower-paying specialty like pediatrics.

 

Clearly, there is no quick fix for student loan debt. However, several public and private programs can ease the burden. These initiatives continue to grow as more employers recognize the value of offering financial benefits, such as student loan repayment assistance.

 

Common student loan assistance programs include:

 

  • The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is a federal program designed to forgive student loan debt for employees of certain public and nonprofit jobs.
  • The Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge forgives a certain percentage of student loan debt after every year of service. There are a number of ways to qualify for this program.
  • Both the Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) and the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) programs set repayment cap amounts based on income and family size. They also forgive remaining debt after a set number of years of qualifying payments.
  • Student loan forgiveness programs designed specific careers such as teachers, nurses, and lawyers.

 

Public programs may be a great fit for some. But for others, they may actually end up costing more over time. When considering a deferment or forbearance program, make sure you are not accruing additional interest. If so, this will then be capitalized and added to your original principal balance. Programs like IBR can be misleading. They can set graduates up to make payments only towards the interest rate accruing that month. This means they never actually apply to the principal balance of the loan. And it keeps the loan balance the same over time even though payments have been made towards the loan.

 

Before choosing a program, graduates should crunch the short-term and long-term numbers. It’s easy to get caught up in a program’s immediate impact. After all, you may only need a little breathing room in your budget. However, it’s this lack of knowledge surrounding these programs that is fueling the student loan debt crisis.

 

In response, more private employers are adding student loan and tuition assistance programs to their benefits packages.

 

“Employer-sponsored third-party student loan repayment assistance programs are projected to grow quickly in the future,” according to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) report on student loan repayment assistance programs.

 

According to a January 2017 WorldatWork survey:

  • 4 percent of employers surveyed offer student loan debt repayment assistance.
  • 11 percent offer employee scholarships and student aid.
  • 23 percent have scholarships available for employees’ children.
  • 14 percent offer college savings plans as part of their benefits package.
  • 87 percent offer tuition reimbursement to current employees for career development opportunities.

 

A similar employee benefits survey by the Society of Human Resource Management showed that the number of employers offering student loan repayment programs increased from 3 percent in 2015 to 4 percent in 2017.

 

In general, the larger the company, the more likely it is to offer employees student aid benefits. Companies can use these programs as a recruiting tool to attract recent graduates.

 

Still, experts agree there’s much more that needs to be done.

 

Summarized the CFPB: “Recognizing that significant student debt can have a domino effect on consumers’ financial lives and overall financial wellness, reports suggest an increased interest by both large and small employers in exploring benefits to help their employees pay down student debt or help manage their employees’ student debt stress.” Most of these initiatives are steps in the right direction. However, there is still a long road to recovery ahead for those affected by the student loan debt crisis.

 

This guest post was authored by Colin Nabity. Colin Nabity is the Chief Executive Officer of LeverageRx, a digital lending and insurance company for healthcare professionals. Through software technology, LeverageRx helps healthcare professionals find better rates on disability insurance, medical malpractice insurance, student loan refinancing and mortgage loans.

 

9 Signs It’s Time to Refinance Student Loan Debt

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2020-01-17
This Week in Student Loans: January 17

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:
House of representatives

House Democrats Overturn DeVos on Student Loan Forgiveness

This Thursday, the Democrat-controlled House voted to overturn regulations introduced by Education Secretary Betsy Devos that eliminate the "borrower defense" rules introduced by the Obama administration. Critics have said the new regulations make it more difficult to get student loan forgiveness if a college suddenly closes. Sources say that the move to overturn Devos' new regulations won't pass the GOP-controlled Senate, however – and Trump is likely to veto the bill even if it does.  

Source: USA Today

 

signing legislation

Could Elizabeth Warren Really Wipe Out $1 Trillion in Student Loans in a Single Stroke?

Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren recently vowed to eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans on her first day in office if elected president. Her plan was released just before Tuesday night's Democratic primary debate. While the ability to erase debt is typically a decision left to Congress, student loans may be a different story due to a loophole involving the "Higher Education Act" passed in 1965.  

Source: CBS News

 

can't pay student loans

Study: Barely Anyone is Paying Off Their Student Loans

A recent study revealed that very few people are making progress on paying off their student loans, along with shifting factors in the nation's rising student loan debt. The study found that 51 percent of students who took out loans from 2010-12 haven’t made any progress in paying them off. Additionally, it showed that while in the past higher enrollment and rising tuition costs were the main drivers in the rising debt, slow repayments and amassing interest have now become the primary drivers.  

Source: NY Daily News

 
IRS building

IRS Issues Tax Guidance On Discharged Student Loans

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued guidance for some taxpayers who took out federal or private student loans and qualified to have their loans discharged. Typically, having loans discharged is treated as a taxable event, in which the forgiven amount is treated as income – but the tax break from the IRS allows the discharged amount to not be recognized as taxable income.

 

Source: Forbes

  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.

Graphic of question mark
2020-01-16
7 Common Student Loan Refinancing Questions Answered

By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been featured in publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. She is focused on helping people pay down their debt and boost their income.

  If you have student loan debt, you know how painful interest charges can be. High interest rates can cause your loan balance to grow over time, forcing you to repay thousands more than you originally borrowed.
Student loan refinancing 1 is a strategy you can use to manage your debt and save money. In fact, ELFI customers have reported that they see an average savings of $20,936 after refinancing their student loans2. However, there are questions about student loan refinancing out there that may be preventing you from submitting a loan application. Here are some of the most common questions — and answers — you should know about.  

1. Does refinancing student loans cost money?

One of the biggest myths is that refinancing student loans is expensive. And that’s because student loan refinancing is often confused with other forms of refinancing, such as refinancing mortgages. While refinancing a mortgage does involve closing costs, student loan refinancing should not. Plus, most lenders don’t charge any application or origination fees. And with Education Loan Finance, there are no prepayment penalties, so you’re free to pay off your new loan as soon as you’d like.  

2. How long does it take to qualify for student loan refinancing?

Some forms of loans can take months to process, but student loan refinancing is different. You can complete the application in minutes, and you can do everything online. Once you submit your application, the lender will review your information and make a decision. In most cases, you’ll find out whether or not you’re approved in as little as one business day. If approved, the lender will work to disburse your loan. It can take a few days to a few weeks for that process to be completed, so keep making payments on your current debt until you receive a notification that the loan was disbursed. If you refinance your student loan with ELFI, you’ll have a personal loan advisor who will be your guide throughout the entire process.  

3. Is savings from refinancing student loan debt significant?

You may think that student loan refinancing isn’t worth the work because it won’t save enough money for you. But taking just a few minutes to submit a refinancing application can help you save thousands over your loan repayment term. For example, let’s say you had $30,000 in loans at 7.08% interest — the current rate for federal PLUS Loans.  If you repaid your loans over the course of 10 years, your monthly payment would be $350. In total, you’d pay $41,948 by the end of your repayment term; interest charges would add nearly $12,000 to your loan balance. Use ELFI’s student loan refinance calculator1 to find out how much money you can save by refinancing your debt.  

4. Will refinancing student loans affect my credit?

Some people hold off on student loan refinancing because they’re afraid it will damage their credit. However, lenders like ELFI allow you to get a rate quote (prequalify) with just a soft credit inquiry, which doesn’t affect your credit score. If you find a quote that works for you and submit a refinancing application, the lender will then complete a hard credit inquiry, which can impact your credit. However, the effect is usually minimal. According to myFICO — the organization behind the FICO credit score — one hard credit inquiry will typically take less than five points off your FICO credit score.  

5. Is refinancing federal student loans a good idea?

If you have federal student loans, you may have heard that refinancing your debt isn’t a good idea. However, that’s not the case for everyone. When you refinance your loans, you will lose out on federal benefits like income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness. But those perks are only valuable if you’d actually use them. If you make too much money or don’t work in a qualifying field, you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of those programs. If you can afford your monthly payments and feel secure in your job, refinancing your federal student loans can help you save money and become debt-free sooner.  

6. Do only federal student loans have forbearance or deferment programs?

A big perk of the federal loans is the ability to enter into forbearance or deferment. With these options, you can postpone making payments on your debt without entering into default. Few refinancing lenders offer forbearance benefits. However, there are some exceptions. With ELFI, you may be able to postpone your payments for up to 12 months if you’re facing a financial hardship, such as a job loss or medical emergency. That period can give you time to get back on your feet before you have to worry about making payments.  

7. Can I refinance student loans more than once?

If you already refinanced your loans once, you may think you’re out of luck, and you’re stuck with your current interest rate. However, there’s no limit to how many times you can refinance your loans. If your credit score improves or you get a raise at work, you can refinance your loans again to see if you qualify for a lower interest rate. As you progress in your career and your finances stabilize, refinancing multiple times can help you pay off your debt even faster.  

Refinancing your student loans

While student loan refinancing can be an effective way to manage your debt, there are a lot of myths and misinformation out there. Now that these common questions have been answered, you can move forward with the refinancing process with confidence. Use ELFI’s Find My Rate tool to get a rate quote without affecting your credit score1.           1 Education Loan Finance is a nationwide student loan debt consolidation and refinance program offered by Tennessee based SouthEast Bank. ELFI is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating and refinancing loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your cost of education debt and/or makes repayment very simple. Subject to credit approval. See Terms & Conditions. The interest rate and monthly payment for a variable rate loan may increase after closing, but will never exceed 9.95% APR. For example, a 10-year loan with a fixed rate of 6% would have 120 payments of $11.00 per $1,000 borrowed. Rates are subject to change.   2 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 several factors.   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 with newborn child
2020-01-15
Starting a Family? Why Now’s the Time to Refinance Student Loans

By Caroline Farhat

  Are you planning to start (or add to your) family? Congratulations! Children are such a special joy, and starting a family is an incredible journey. Whether you’re already expecting or are just in the planning stages, there is a good chance you’ve started crunching some numbers to see how adding a family member will affect your monthly budget. It’s no secret that kids are expensive — the
U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that, on average, it would cost a middle-income family $233,610 to raise a child born in 2015 through the age of 17. If you’re currently paying off debt, the eye-popping numbers a child costs may look even more daunting. But money should absolutely not stop you from starting a family. Of course, you want to be financially responsible, but you shouldn’t feel pressured to be debt-free before starting a family. Instead, focus on the things you can do to lighten your budget and leave more room for your new bundle of joy. Here’s how refinancing student loans can help.   

Why Refinancing Student Loans When Starting a Family is a Smart Move

One of the biggest worries many new parents have about starting a family is the financial unpredictability children can bring to the household budget. Medical costs, childcare, and all of the latest baby products can certainly add up. One of the best ways to combat this unpredictability is by lowering your fixed monthly costs.    If you are currently paying off student loan debt, refinancing student loans is one of the smartest steps you can take to lower your monthly payment. In fact, student loan borrowers who refinance with ELFI* have reported an average savings of $309 per month1. To put that in perspective, that would get you 38 packs of 32-count diapers. Plus, the emotional benefits you can receive by throwing less money at your student loan debt and more on what is really meaningful to you can be priceless.   

How To Refinance Student Loans

If you’re looking at your interest rate and are ready to refinance, you’ll be happy to know that it’s a simple process that can be done entirely online. If you refinance student loans with ELFI, the application process is 100% free, and refinancing has no origination fees or prepayment penalties. The ROI of refinancing student loans can also be quite large. Just an hour or two of work can yield you thousands of dollars in savings. Not bad, right? Here’s what to do:  
  • Check the requirements - While student loan refinancing is a smart move for many student loan borrowers, there are a few cases where refinancing may not be the best option. For example, if you qualify for student loan forgiveness through a federal program, refinancing student loans would make you ineligible for this benefit. Review the basic criteria for student loan refinancing to make sure it’s the best fit for your particular situation. It’s important to fully understand how the Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program works and the eligibility requirements. 
  >> Related: Student Loan Refinancing vs. Public Service Loan Forgiveness  
  • Crunch the Numbers - Put your data into our student loan refinance calculator to see your potential savings. Our calculator has options for fixed and variable interests and loan terms of 5, 7, 10, 15, or even 20-year terms so you can see how your choices affect your monthly and lifetime payment*.
  • Get prequalified - You can get prequalified and receive personalized rates in just a few minutes without it affecting your credit score.
  • Gather your documents and apply - As mentioned, the application is 100% online, easy, and free. When refinancing with ELFI, you are paired with a personal loan advisor who will guide you through every step of the process. The Personal Loan Advisor who speak with at the beginning of the student loan refinancing process is the same person you’ll speak with at the end, which is nice because you won’t find yourself repeating information or prior discussions.
 

What to Do About Other Debt and Expenses

If you’re like many Americans, student loan debt may not be the only debt you are currently paying off. A whopping 80% of Americans are currently in debt, according to a report from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Here are a few ways you can pay off your debt more quickly or more efficiently.  
  • Refinance Your Debt - Similar to refinancing student loans, you should look for opportunities to refinance any of your other debt. For example, if you have a mortgage, refinancing could save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. Auto loans can also be good candidates for refinancing. 
  • Call Your Credit Card Companies - A reduction in the interest rates on your credit cards can make a big difference in how quickly you can pay down debt. A simple, polite phone call to your credit card companies requesting an interest rate reduction can sometimes be all that it takes. You have nothing to lose (except a few minutes), and the payoff can make a major difference in your monthly budget. 
  • Explore Medical Debt Options - Approximately 66.5% of Americans who file for bankruptcy due so because of medical bills. There are options to get this debt under control, but it will take some leg work. NerdWallet has a number of good tips for how to negotiate down your medical debt or develop a payment plan that works for your budget. 
  Typically, when paying off debt, it’s wise to start with the loan with the highest interest, as that will save you the most money in the long run. Once you have reduced your interest rates as much as possible, take stock of all of your existing debt payments and their monthly costs, and develop a plan. With any of the money you saved, you can start a separate savings account for your growing family.   

Children Are Priceless, So Don’t Let Debt Stop You

It may sound cliché, but there are things in life that are just priceless. For many people, the love and joy a child can bring to life are worth more than any spreadsheet will tell you. If you are currently working towards paying off debt, don’t let the goal of being debt-free trump your desire to start a family. There simply may never be a perfect time. Plus, with a little planning, it’s entirely possible to start a family and still work on your financial goals.    Good luck to all of our current and future parents out there – you got this!  
  *Education Loan Finance is a nationwide student loan debt consolidation and refinance program offered by Tennessee based SouthEast Bank. ELFI is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating and refinancing loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your cost of education debt and/or makes repayment very simple. Subject to credit approval. See Terms & Conditions, The interest rate and monthly payment for a variable rate loan may increase after closing, but will never exceed 9.95% APR. For example, a 10-year loan with a fixed rate of 6% would have 120 payments of $11.00 per $1,000 borrowed. Rates are subject to change.   1Average 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 several factors.   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.