The opportunities to get an education at a higher level are the most they have ever been in recorded history. Between scholarships, more people willing to leave their home cities/states, and the increased investment in return for a great education – college is available to more people than ever.
Unfortunately, not everyone can get free college tuition. Unless you’re a student-athlete or on a full scholarship, you will be paying a lot of money to attend college. Even people with scholarships still must pay for things during college. This is where student loans come in.
The increased availability of college for everyone means the increased need to pay for that college experience. The most realistic way to be able to afford college is through using student loans. Student loans are a great option for people to be able to attend college even if they don’t have the money to pay for all of it, but they aren’t always great.
Over 40 million Americans have student loans, and the numbers of loans increase every day. Student loans can be challenging because you may simply forget to pay for them, you may not think they are a big deal, or you/your job may have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and you are suddenly in a rough spot financially.
Student loans can increase your debt quickly if they are not properly managed and paid on time, but sometimes life happens, and you can’t pay as you would like. Fortunately, there are options available for you.
We want to share five ways to manage your student loan debt.
Know What You Are Working With
Before you create a plan on managing your student loans, first you need to know what type of loans you have.
- Your loans may be federal or private which have different rules and timelines
- Your loans may have different timeframes for expected payment (you may have much longer on one than the other, which can help you prioritize your payments)
- Your loans may have different interest rates which will affect which loans will cost you the most money in the long run
Knowing every detail about your loans will direct you on how to address them.
Know Your Grace Periods (and ignore them, in a way)
Each loan will have different “grace periods” which is the time after you graduate where you will not be expected to pay anything on your loans. Some grace periods may be 30 days, and some may be 9 months.
Once you know your grace periods, you have two options, either…
- Don’t pay anything during the grace period but start saving up/creating a strategy to begin paying when the period is over
- If you can, start paying your loans now (even if you have a grace period). This creates a habit of setting money aside where, by the time the grace period ends, you will have learned how to live without the money for the payment (and lowered the total amount you owe substantially)
Consolidate Your Loans
Consolidating your loans means combining all your loans into one loan with an interest rate. This will lower your monthly payments because the amount of time you must repay the loans will increase. However, your interest rate will stay the same, and you will end up repaying more than you originally did if you didn’t consolidate.
Many students consolidate their loans because, for their situation, they can manage the smaller payments over a longer time better than managing large payments in a shorter amount of time.
Not every lender does this, but some student loan companies will give you a discount if you set up automatic payments for your loan, where the money is automatically withdrawn from your account every month. This discount amounts to about 0.25% less, but when you’re dealing with large student loans – every little bit helps.
Contact the Experts
Student Loan Servicers are one of the most under-used resources in student loans. Every student who receives a loan will be assigned a Student Loan Servicer. The Student Loan Servicer’s job is to help you understand your options for repaying your debt. They are a wealth of knowledge regarding different programs like forgiveness programs.
There is also a student loan nonprofit called The Institute of Student Loan Advisors you can contact for guidance.
Student loans feel like a necessary evil – they allow us to expand our knowledge and develop social skills, but it comes at a price. It is never too late to start working on creating a strategy to tackle and eventually eliminate your student loan debt. No matter who you are or what your situation is, you have options out there to help you control your finances to create a better future for yourself mentally and financially.