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Understanding Student Loan Payments

February 22, 2019

There are many options when it comes to paying student loans, and just as many questions! Questions like what these terms and situations can mean for a borrower. If you have questions about your student loans or want to learn more about how you can manage your repayment, check out these tips on understanding student loan payments.

 

What is a student loan servicer?

 

Your student loan servicer is the company collects your payments. According to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, they typically handle most administrative task associated with your loan. Servicers do things like, answer customer service questions and enforce regulations provided by your lender related to your loan. You pay them for your loan and they give you options for repayment and deferment. It’s likely you’ll take out a student loan with one company and end up getting a different servicer. Your servicers can change too if your loan is transferred.  If you choose to consolidate or refinance with a company that gives you lower payments, better interest, or quicker payoff you’ll probably receive a different servicer.

 

When should you start making payments?

 

Start making loan payments whenever you can. Most student loans allow a period of non-payment while you are in school, known as a grace period.  On average most student loan lenders require payments to be made when the borrower is at less than half-time status for six months. You don’t have to wait until six months after graduating to make payments, though! If you can make payments while in school, you will save on interest and cut the time it takes you to pay off your student loans.

 

What’s a student loan grace period?

 

The grace period is typically a 6 month period that occurs after graduating, dropping below half-time enrollment status, or leaving school. During the grace period, you are not required to make payments on your student loans. Grace periods will vary based on the student loan lender that you have. Know what your grace period is so you aren’t caught off guard with late payments.

 

Can I pay extra on my student loans?

 

Yes! There are no prepayment penalties for federal or private student loans. Prepayment penalties are fees charged for reducing your loan balance or paying the entire loan off early. Many other types of debt like mortgages can have a prepayment penalty. Prepayment penalties were created to limit early payment of a debt, but no need to worry about that with your student loans. Instead, pay attention to how additional payments are applied to your loan.

 

If you make payments online some loan servicers allow you either pay extra on the principal or apply the additional toward interest on the next payment. Basically, if you choose to pay over the minimum depending on who your lender is, you may need to specify the amount that is a prepayment. Prepayments on your loans go towards the principal balance.  You should aim to make prepayments sometimes referred to as overpayments because it lowers the total amount of the loan. When the principal balance decreases it reduces the amount of interest you’ll pay in the long term. The next monthly payment will usually remain the same. Since you’re not applying additional money toward your next payment if you choose this option.

 

Check Out This Prepayment Calculator

 

Not all loan servicers will direct prepayments towards the principal of your loan unless specified by the borrower. Some lenders will count the prepayment as a payment towards your next monthly payment.  That can make it seem like your extra payments are hardly affecting your balances at all.

 

Instead, try to direct additional payments toward one loan’s principal. For example, if you have several loans through the same servicer, but one is $1,000, you can pay that off within a year. If you pay an extra $100 per month on that one $1,000 loan principal- it will be gone faster! If you’re not allocating prepayments strategically, you won’t see this same kind of progress.

 

What if I can’t pay my student loans?

 

There are limited options available when you can’t pay student loans. Weigh your options carefully. When making student loan decisions make sure you’re not adding stress to your future. First, contact your servicer immediately. You’ll have more flexibility if you stay on top of repayment before you start making late payments or missing payments. Avoid missing or late payments at all costs! Not only will late or missed payments damage your credit they put you at risk for extra fees. In addition to damaging your credit, risking additional fees, you could lose benefits available to only those who pay on time.

 

Repayment Options (Not a Long Term Solution)

Look at repayment options. If you can’t pay with the plan you’re currently on there may be a better repayment option. If you are able to select another repayment option that lowers your payment you will want to consider doing so temporarily.  Doing this quickly will avoid you being late on future payments. It’s important to note that repayment plans are not a long-term solution to paying back student loan debt. We wouldn’t recommend for the long term because in more income contingent repayment plans the monthly payment isn’t covering the interest that is accruing during that period. Therefore, you can make a payment every month but the overall loan balance remains the same or could even increase!

 

Consolidating Student Loans

If you’re in good standing on your loans, but want to reduce your payments student loan consolidation might be a good idea. Consolidation can make it easier for you to manage paying all of your loans, open you up to other repayment options, and reduce fees. It’s not a sure thing, but it doesn’t hurt to investigate this option and see if it is right for you.

 

Deferment or Forbearance: Use with caution!

The last options to consider are deferment or forbearance. If you can avoid these options like changing repayment or consolidating, do it! Usually, borrowers have to be in financial hardship to qualify for deferment or forbearance. That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook because you’re in a tough financial spot. Depending on the loan you have, your interest might be added to the principal balance. This is really not ideal because it means your balances will grow. When you start paying again, your balances will be higher than where they are today. This is called capitalized interest—it equates to paying “interest on interest” and can get out of control fast if you use deferment or forbearance for longer-term hardship.

 

Most people don’t qualify for loan forgiveness because they are having a hard time paying their loans, but be aware that is possible. If you have developed a disability that precludes you from using your education or went to a school that has since shut down you might be eligible for forgiveness. Don’t count on this as an option, and don’t delay if you can’t pay your loans. Start investigating what’s available to you as soon as possible.

 

What are income-based repayment options for student loans?

 

Private loans may have options available that will lower your payments if you have a lower income, but the standard income-driven repayment plans apply to federal loans. Your monthly loan payment is calculated on your income. Your income is based on some stipulations and it may be taken into account things like your family size.

 

Income-Based Repayment

The standard income-based repayment plan adjusts your payment if your loan payments are more than 10% of your discretionary income. Based on when you took out your loans, there may be other benefits or stipulations to meet in order to qualify. Regardless, you’ll have to calculate your loan payments based on your income and family size through your servicer.

 

Income-Contingent Repayment

This type of repayment limits payments to 20% of discretionary income. The income will be based on income and family size. It is the only option available to Parent PLUS loan borrowers and requires PLUS borrowers to consolidate their loans to qualify.

 

Pay As You Earn and Revised Pay As You Earn

There are limits on which form of this repayment plan you can qualify for. These qualifications are based on when you took out your loans. On the Pay, As You Earn plan you’ll have payments that correlate to 10% of discretionary income. The payment will be based on how much money you’re making and limiting the term of the loan to 20–25 years depending on whether you were a graduate or undergraduate borrower.

 

Learn More About Parent Loan Refinancing

 

 

How does refinancing change my student loan payments and payback?

 

Refinancing opens you up to lots of different options. Some qualifications to refinance include illustrating a responsible credit history. People often look into refinancing when interest rates are high, they have a steady income and good credit. Refinancing could help borrowers qualify for lower interest rates. Sometimes people refinance in order to get new loan terms and pay off their loans sooner. Shortening the loan terms on your loan can help you to pay less interest over the life of the loan. Borrowers will refinance to a longer term that allows them to continue the loan payments for a similar or longer period of time.

 

9 Signs It’s Time to Refinance Student Loan Debt

 

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2019-12-09
This Week in Student Loans: December 9

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:

Department of Education Proposes That New Entity Handle Student Loan Debt

On Tuesday of this week, the Trump administration and Department of Education (DOE) Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed that a new, independent entity manage the federal student loan portfolio, rather than the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid. Devos proposed the move at a conference this week, calling for a “stand-alone government corporation, run by a professional, expert and apolitical board of governors.”

 

When asked why they believe the federal student loan portfolio should be managed outside of the DOE, Devos claimed that the DOE was never set up by Congress to be a bank, but claims that’s effectively what they are.

 

In order to make this happen, laws would have to be passed that would separate the Office of Federal Student Aid from the DOE in order for it to be a stand-alone entity.

 

Source: Yahoo News

 

Lawmakers Call for Investigation of Federal Loan Discharge Program for Disabled Borrowers

With plenty of heat surrounding allegations against the U.S. government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for not making the qualification requirements clear, a new federal program is under fire from lawmakers this week – this one meant to forgive student loans of borrowers with “significant, permanent disabilities.” An NPR report recently revealed that the program wasn’t helping a large portion of borrowers who were eligible.

 

This loan discharge program is specifically meant to help individuals who have the most severe type of disability: Medical Improvement Not Expected (MINE). The Education Department finds eligible borrowers by comparing federal student loan records with the Social Security Administration records, then sends a letter to these disabled individuals and requires them to apply in order to have their loans discharged. The controversy lies in that that many of these borrowers are unable to apply or may not be aware of the notice they received. The NPR report revealed that only 36% of eligible borrowers have had their student loans discharged.

 

Source: NPR

 

Trump Calls on Aides for Plan to Tackle Student Debt

With Democrats such as Elizabeth Warren making bold claims for tackling student debt in the US, President Trump has called on his administration to put together a “blueprint” for how they will manage the student debt crisis. The Washington Post claims that Trump is calling for this plan as a method to combat “anxieties that Democrats such as Warren will tap into populist impulses that propelled his 2016 victory,” and that “he will need policies beyond his signature areas of immigration and trade to counter them.”

 

Source: The Washington Post

 

Rand Paul Wants You to Use Your 401k to Pay Off Student Loans

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) recently proposed a legislative act that would allow individuals to use pre-tax money from their 401k to pay off student loans, or even pay for college. The HELPER Act (Higher Education Loan Payment and Enhanced Retirement), is an initiative by Paul to “reshape the way people save for higher education, driven through tax and savings incentives,” says Forbes writer Zack Friedman.

 

Key takeaways from the act would include the ability to withdraw $5,250 from your 401(k) or IRA annually to pay off debt or pay for college, the ability to pay tuition and expenses for a dependent or spouse, tax-free employer-sponsored student loan and tuition plans, and a removal of the cap on student loan interest reduction.

 

Source: Forbes

 
 

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.

2019-12-05
Student Loan Interest vs. Other Interest Types

By Caroline Farhat  

If you have student loans, you’ve probably been told at one point that it’s “good” debt. But what does that really mean? Is any debt actually good or is it all bad? Is the interest you pay on your student loans better than the interest you pay on your auto loan? 

 

As you accumulate more assets, you’ll encounter many different types of interest. It’s helpful to know how each type of interest differs so that you know exactly what you’re getting into when you borrow money. 

What is Student Loan Interest?

Student loan interest is essentially the cost you pay for borrowing the money. When you pay interest, you will be paying back the amount of money you borrowed plus the cost to borrow the money (the interest). The higher the interest rate, the more money you will have to pay in addition to the amount you borrowed. The amount you borrow is called the principal and the cost to borrow the money is called the interest. Interest is charged on both federal student loans and private student loans until the loan is paid in full. When you make a payment on a loan the interest is paid first, any amount of the payment over the interest is applied to the principal and lowers the balance of the loan. The types of rates and how interest is calculated are based on the type of student loan.  

 

Federal Student Loans: The Difference Between Subsidized and Unsubsidized

Federal student loans have fixed interest rates that are set by the government. They remain the same throughout the life of the loan. Also, federal student loan interest rates may be lower than auto loans or personal loans. Federal student loans have two different types of interest: subsidized interest and unsubsidized interest. A subsidized interest loan means the government pays the interest on the loan while you are in school or during deferment (a grace period from federal student loan payments granted for certain situations), which means the balance of the loan does not increase. Once you are out of school or the deferment period ends, you will be responsible for paying the interest on the loan. An unsubsidized federal student loan means the interest starts accruing from the day the loan is first disbursed. Although you may not be required to make payments on the loan while you are in school, you will end up with a loan balance higher than you initially borrowed. The interest on a federal student loan is calculated using the simple interest formula. Here is how to calculate the simple interest formula:

 

The principal (the amount of money you borrowed) X the interest rate = The amount of interest you will pay each year for the loan

 

Private Student Loans: The 411 on Fixed and Variable Interest Rates

Private student loans can have a variable interest rate or a fixed interest rate. A variable interest rate is based on the current market and economy and can change over the life of the loan. A fixed interest rate remains the same throughout the life of the loan. It’s important to note that rates can vary widely based on the student loan lender, which is why it is so important to do your research and only sign with a reputable company. The interest rate you receive on a private student loan is also based on certain financial factors, including your credit score. 

 

For example, ELFI customers who refinanced student loans report saving an average of $309 every month¹. If you currently have private student loans, you can check out our student loan refinance calculator to get an estimated rate and monthly payment for both fixed and variable options.² Whether you’ve taken out federal student loans or private student loans throughout your college journey, consolidating and refinancing could score you some significant savings.

 

Interest On Other Common Loans

If you’re in full adulting mode, odds are you have or are considering getting an auto loan or mortgage. Just like your student loans, these financial products come with interest as well. 

 

Interest rates on car loans can be variable or fixed rates and the rate you receive is based on factors such as your credit score and financial health. There are two ways interest is calculated on car loans: simple or precomputed. For simple interest, the interest is calculated based on the balance of the loan. If you pay extra on your car loan, the principal will be reduced and in the long run, you will be saving money in interest (woohoo). If you have a precomputed interest loan on a car, it will be calculated on the total amount of the loan in advance. This means that even if you make extra payments, you will not save any money on the interest over time. One big difference to note between student loan interest and auto loan interest is how it can affect your taxes. With student loans, the interest you pay may be a tax deduction you can take depending on your income and the amount of interest you have paid. With an auto loan, there is no such benefit.    

 

Interest on a house loan, otherwise known as a mortgage, is calculated similar to a simple interest car loan. An interest rate on a mortgage may be variable or fixed depending on which type of loan you choose. There are two major types of mortgage loans: 

  1. Principal and interest loans - You pay back the interest and the principal (the amount of money you borrowed) at the same time. This is the most common type of mortgage.
  2. Interest-only loans - This is when, for a certain period of time, payments towards the loan only go towards paying off the interest on the loan.
 

Mortgage loans are amortized, like some student loans, which means your payment goes towards more interest upfront. Then as the balance decreases, you pay less interest and the payment goes towards paying down the principal. Also, just as with some student loans, some of the interest you pay on your mortgage may be tax-deductible. 

 

Understanding Interest Can Pay Off

It’s important to understand the different types of interests and loans when determining which debt to focus on paying off first. Being strategic about how and when you pay off your debt can save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars. A good rule of thumb is to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate and then focus on your interest rate debt. Of course, if you have the option to refinance, explore that first and then develop your debt reduction plan.

 
 

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 a number of factors.

 

²Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. Variable rates may increase after closing.

  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.
2019-12-04
Tips for Starting Your Student Loan Repayment Journey

Once you graduate from college, leave college, or drop below half-time enrollment, it’s time to start thinking about when your student loan repayment period kicks in. Understanding the repayment process for your student loans is very important for a number of reasons – for one, if you don’t pay, your interest will accrue. Second, if you don’t pay, it will affect your credit score, which can hinder your ability to buy a home, buy a car, qualify for credit cards, take out a personal loan, or refinance your student loans.   If you graduated this past spring, your student loan repayment period will likely start around this time of year (if they haven’t kicked in already). Follow these tips to master student loan repayment and get yourself to a strong financial start after college.  

Know How to Access Your Loan Information

A good first step is to acquire your loan information. This can typically be accessed via an online login. Monitoring your loan information will be essential during the course of repayment. If you took out Federal Student Loans, you can likely access your info at https://myfedloan.org/. If you took out private student loans, check with your lender for how to access your information. Tracking your loans will give you a gage on the status of each loan, the balance you owe, as well as interest rates for each loan. By understanding the status of your loans, you can make more informed decisions about how you want to prioritize repayment, what type of repayment plan you want to choose, or even whether you want to consolidate or refinance your student loans.   

Know When Your Payments Start

Immediately following graduation, you’ll likely have a grace period, or a period of time before your first payment is due. This can vary depending on the type of loan you have, and they can be different for each loan. Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal loans have a six-month grace period. Perkins loans have a nine-month grace period. There is no grace period for PLUS loans; however, if you are a graduate or professional student PLUS borrower, you do not have to make any payments while you are enrolled at least half time and (for Direct PLUS loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008) for an additional 6 months after you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment. Private student loans will have differing grace periods so contact your loan servicer for more details. Knowing when your loan will be due is imperative to starting off on the right foot when it comes to your student loans.  

Weigh Repayment Options

When you take out federal student loans and your grace period is complete, you will automatically enter the Standard Repayment Plan. This plan allows you to pay off your debt within 10 years, with the monthly payment remaining the same over the life of the loan. If standard repayment doesn’t work for your budget, you may want to consider some other options, or perhaps even refinance your student loans. The federal student loan program offers the following Income-Based Repayment plans: 
  • Graduated Repayment Plan – Gives you a smaller payment amount in the beginning and gradually increases the payment amount every two years.
  • Extended Repayment Plan – Allows you to pay the least possible amount per month for 10 to 25 years.
  • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan or REPAYE Plan – Bases the monthly payment on you (and spouse’s) adjusted gross income, family size, and state of residence.
  • Pay As You Earn or PAYE – Monthly payments are based on your adjusted gross income and family size. You must be experiencing a financial hardship to qualify. You must also be considered a “new borrower” as of 10/1/2007 or after, or be someone who received an eligible Direct Loan disbursement on 10/1/2011 or after.
  • Income-Based Repayment or IBR – Monthly payments based on your adjusted gross income and family size. Must be experiencing a financial hardship to qualify.
  • Income-Contingent Repayment or ICR – Based on your monthly adjusted gross income and family size. Typically chosen if an individual can’t qualify for the Pay As You Earn Plan or Income-Based Repayment.Any changes to your income or your spouse’s income will affect your student loan payment. For example, if your salary increases, your student loan payment will as well. If you are married, both your income and your partner’s income are combined. Two combined incomes will increase your total income, likely increasing your monthly payment. 
  Keep in mind that each repayment option will have positives, negatives, as well as eligibility requirements. Research each option before making a decision, and consider contacting your loan servicer if you have questions or need more information.   

Automate Your Payments (If you can)

Setting up automatic payments will make student loan repayment less of a hassle, will avoid late payments, and may even score you an interest rate reduction. Just be sure you have enough money in your account month-to-month to endure the payments without overdrawing.   

Make Extra Payments

When you make your monthly payment, it will first apply to any late fees you have, then it will apply to interest. After these items are covered, the remaining payment will go toward your principal loan balance (the amount you actually borrowed). By paying down the principal, you reduce the amount of interest that you pay over the life of the loan. Applying extra income by making larger payments or double payments will reduce the total amount you’ll end up paying.   

Reach Out for Help if Necessary

If you’re having trouble making your monthly payments, particularly on your federal student loans, contact your loan servicer. They will work with you to find a repayment plan you can manage or help determine your eligibility for deferment or forbearance. If you stop making payments without getting a deferment or forbearance, you risk your loan going into default, which can have serious consequences to your credit.   

Weigh Refinancing & Consolidation Options

If you have multiple student loans that are all accruing interest at different rates, you may want to consider student loan refinancing or consolidation to make repayment more manageable. The federal student loan program offers student loan consolidation, in which they combine your loans into one loan with a weighted average interest rate, rounded up to the nearest 1/8th percent. You can also consolidate your federal and/or private student loan with a private lender through the process of refinancing. Refinancing your student loans is much like consolidation, however it offers the opportunity to start new repayment terms and possibly lower your interest rate. Keep in mind that refinancing with a private lender may cause you to lose access to certain federal student loan repayment options that are listed above.   

Look Into Loan Forgiveness

If you work in a public service position or for a non-profit, you may want to consider the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program or another loan forgiveness program offered by the federal government. Other options exist for volunteers, military recruits, medical personnel, etc. Some state, school, and private programs also offer loan forgiveness. Check with your school or loan servicer to see if you may qualify for student loan forgiveness.  

Earn Your Tax Benefits

If you are paying your student loans, you may be able to deduct the interest you pay on your student loans when filing your taxes. Deductions reduce your tax liability, saving you money and serving as a nice tradeoff for having to pay interest on your student loans.    Repayment of student loans can be a long, difficult journey – but by taking advantage of your resources and staying determined to pay off your debt, it is manageable. If you need more information on paying back your student loans or the options that are available to you, contact your loan servicer.  
  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.