It’s Payback Time: Keeping Up with Your Student Loan Payments
Gear up for your student loan payments, recent grads!
By Kathryn Knight Randolph
May 25, 2012
For the past four or five years, your student loans have been a nagging presence, but something that you’ve kept tucked away in the back of your mind – behind the essays, Blue Book exams and presentations. But now, it’s time to bring those pesky student loans to the forefront of your mind and get down to business on repaying them.
For the most part, student loans and debt in general are foreign territory for recent graduates; so naturally, there are a lot of questions.
When do I have to start repaying student loans?
Most loans give you at least a six-month grace payment after graduation. That means no payments until November or December. But putting off thinking about your student loans until the end of the year could spell trouble. For instance, you’d miss out on loan consolidation opportunities.
What is loan consolidation and should I do it?
Student loan consolidation is similar to refinancing a mortgage, and this enables you to combine all of your student loans into one monthly payment. According to finaid.org, “the interest rate on a consolidation loan is the weighted average of the interest rates on the loans being consolidated, rounded up to the nearest 1/8 of a percent and capped at 8.25%.”
Finaid also states that a 0.25% interest rate reduction is available to recent graduates who choose to have the monthly consolidation payment automatically deducted from a checking or savings account.
Loan consolidation definitely makes your life easier. Each month, you just have one bill to keep track of and pay.
What are the different types of repayment options?
Income-based repayment plans take into account how much you’re making and family size and derives monthly payments for what you could reasonably afford to pay.
Graduated repayment plans start at with lower initial payments and then gradually increase every two years throughout the life of the loan.
Extended repayment plans allow you to extend the life of the loan from 10 to up to 25 years, thereby lowering the amount of each monthly payment.
What extra measures can I take to pay off debt quicker?
Mark Kantrowitz advises loan holders who do not consolidate to pay off the student loan with the highest interest rate first. Though it’s contrary to the “debt snowball plan” made popular by Dave Ramsey, paying off loans with the highest interest rate first will actually save you money in the long run.
Consider loan forgiveness programs. To qualify for loan forgiveness, you have to work in certain sector, and it will take a little research on your part to find those. For instance, some programs require graduates to work for a specified time as a teacher or child care provider at a low-income school or teach in a subject area that has a shortage of teachers. Loan forgiveness is also available through programs like AmeriCorps, Peace Corps and Volunteers in Service to America.
Sign up for a Upromise account. Upromise enables you to put away money toward your loan payments when you shop online, eat out at restaurants and book travel through their website. With over 800 partner sites, you can certainly make a dent in the amount you owe just by shopping. Furthermore, you can ask friends and family to help you out with your loan payments by signing up for accounts as well.