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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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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.

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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.

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.
Photo of 2020 calendar with pen
2020-01-13
Mark Your Calendar for These Important Financial Dates

It’s no secret that as you get older, life gets more complicated. Long gone are the days of simply saving spare change from your grandpa’s pockets in a ceramic piggy bank. Even that savings account you opened in high school is outdated now that your expenses have exploded beyond just food, entertainment, and a cell phone bill. As an adult, you have to consider your student loan debt, saving for retirement, and affording childcare, among an ever-growing list of other financial obligations.   One way to effectively manage your money in adulthood is to be aware of important financial dates. This helps you predict and prepare for big expenses to be sure there are no surprises. It even helps you capitalize on saving opportunities. And since it’s a new year, there’s no better time to pull out your calendar and mark these noteworthy financial deadlines.  

Important Financial Dates

 

January

  Review Last Year’s Finances – Reassess your retirement funds and allocations based on how they performed last year. If you didn’t get the gains you hoped for, now may be the time to reallocate your portfolio (i.e., adjust where your money is distributed among savings accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.) Also, take this time to consider adjusting contributions toward accounts like your 401(k) if your employee matching program changed.   Standardize Financial Dates – It’s hard enough remembering bills without them being due at different times throughout the month. Change payment dates to be on the same day at the end of the month, which gives you 30 days to get money in the right place.   Fund Your IRA – If you have a Traditional or Roth IRA (Individual Retirement Account), you can contribute up to $6,000 a year to these accounts. January 1 is the first day of the year that you can make such contributions, and investing as much as you can, as early as you can, maximizes the number of days your money can grow.   Revise Your Student Loan Debt Repayment Strategy – If you got a raise at the end of last year (or beginning of this year), be smart with that money and direct it toward your student loan debt. Even a raise of 2-3% can help you pay off loans quicker, reducing the amount of interest paid over the life of the loan.    

February

  Max Out 401(k) Contributions – Many people aren’t aware that as long as you haven’t hit your yearly limit, you can contribute toward your 401(k) beyond December 31. You have until Tax Day to make these tax-deductible contributions. So if you have the means, now is the time.
In 2019, the limit for employee 401(k) contributions was $19,000.    

March

  Prepare for Tax Day – Be ready for April 15 by getting your documents and information organized in advance. Make sure you have all forms needed from your employer, investment accounts, mortgage accounts, and student loans. TurboTax has a handy guide for commonly-used IRS tax forms, including a Form 1098 that you’ll receive if you paid interest on a student loan last year.    

April

  File Your Taxes – April 15 is Tax Day in the U.S. For those of us with student loan debt, the interest portion of these payments is tax-deductible, up to $2,500.   Maximize Health Savings Accounts – Tax Day is the last day to contribute pre-tax dollars to last year’s HSA. In 2019, individuals could contribute up to $3,500 as an individual or $7,100 as a family.   Spend Down Flexible Spending Accounts – April 30 is the deadline for spending last year’s FSA funds. Remember, these are “use it or lose it” accounts and money can be applied to copays or other out-of-pocket expenses. You can even spend it on health-related items at FSAstore.com.    

May

  Check Your Credit – This important financial date isn’t tied to May, but it should be somewhere on your calendar every year. Your score determines your ability to improve your interest rate with student loan refinancing. A check can also let you know if any fraudulent activity—tied to your name—has occurred that might negatively impact your student loan refinancing.    

June

  FAFSA Application Due – June 30 is the last day to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the upcoming school year. If you already have a student loan, consider student loan refinancing. By consolidating and refinancing your loans, you can make payments simpler and possibly reduce your monthly payments.    

July

  Refinance Student Loans – Summer is a great time to refinance student loans because you won’t be distracted by the holidays or year-end deadlines at work. When you’re ready, check your eligibility for student loan refinancing at ELFI.com.*    

August

  Contribute to Emergency Funds and Savings – Unless someone in your family heads back to school this fall, August is typically a sleepy month for finances. Time to double-check that you’re contributing to emergency funds and holiday savings accounts so you don’t get into financial trouble during end-of-the-year festivities.    

September

  Car Shop – This month is a great time to look for a new vehicle. Dealerships are in a generous mood since new models will soon start rolling into the lot, and they need to clear inventory.    

October

  Complete FAFSA for Next Year – October 1 is the first day to file your FAFSA for next school year. Filling out this application as soon as possible ensures you don’t miss out on available aid.    

November

  Open Enrollment – Employers typically hold open enrollment during this time of year. Reassess if your current plan still works for you. Also consider if it’s worth changing plans or opting out of certain coverage (like dental) to reallocate funds to debts, like student loans.    

December

  Review Accounts – Make sure you’re making the right moves to use your FSA money, maximize contributions to savings accounts, and even if you need to file a new W-4 to withhold more or less money from your paychecks. Withholding less can be part of a new student loan repayment strategy where you have more cash to contribute toward the loan. However, it also means you won’t get as big of a refund next tax season.   Shop Around for Car Insurance – While you’ll want to update your car insurance after any major life change, such as moving or having a child, you could score additional savings depending on the time of year. In a 2014 study, December was the cheapest month to obtain car insurance, with March being the most expensive. While the jury’s still out on the exact reasoning behind the shift, market competition and the likelihood of natural disasters could be a contributing factor.   Being aware of important financial dates can help you save and manage your money so you have more options down the road for student loan repayment, business opportunities, and real estate investments.   If you’re ready to explore student loan refinancing, you don’t have to wait for an important financial date on the calendar. You can learn about eligibility, benefits, and more—today—at ELFI.com.   This blog has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. Always consult a professional for guidance around your personal financial situation.             *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.