MOVED 5 Ways to Reduce Your Student Loan Debt Fast

Posted by Kailey Hagen on Dec 28, 2019 2:00:00 PM

Save yourself some money and get rid of your student loans faster by following these tips.

For many young people today, student loan debt is just part of the college experience -- one that often follows them for a decade or more after graduation. The best-case scenario is that it costs you money and forces you to put off some of your other financial goals for a little while. The worst case is it can ruin your credit and your financial security. 

Paying off your student loans quickly can reduce the amount of money they cost you and the amount of time they get in the way of the rest of your life. It's not always the easiest thing to do, but here are a few tips that might help you unshoulder that burden faster.

Young woman beaming while holding an open brochure and sitting across a desk from two older women.

1. Choose the student loan repayment plan with the highest payment you can comfortably afford

The student loan repayment plan with the lowest monthly payment might seem like your best option because it gives you more cash to spend today. That might actually be the right choice if you qualify for student loan forgiveness programs, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). But if you're paying back the loan on your own, choosing a lower monthly payment could extend your loan term and end up costing you more in interest in the long run.

When you choose a student loan repayment plan with a higher monthly payment, each payment will make a bigger dent in your balance, enabling you to pay back what you owe more quickly. But make sure you choose a student loan repayment plan that you can afford. Missing monthly payments could cost you in late fees and lower your credit score. 

2. Apply for student loan forgiveness programs

If you believe you qualify for loan forgiveness, don't take any of the other steps listed here to pay your federal student loans off more quickly. This will only cost you money that the government would have forgiven on your behalf. 

However, private student loans are never eligible for forgiveness, so you can use these steps to pay them off faster.

Teachers, members of the military, and those providing a public service, like doctors, may be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness if they work in a qualifying position for a certain number of years and make a certain number of on-time payments on a qualifying repayment plan. PSLF, for example, requires that you work for a qualifying employer for 10 years, make at least 120 on-time payments, and submit an annual employment certification form in order to be eligible. If you're interested in pursuing PSLF, reach out to your loan servicer to check if your employer qualifies for the program and submit your first employer certification form to get the ball rolling.

3. Pay more than the minimum

Whenever possible, pay more than the minimum each month, but do it with care. Some lenders may apply any extra money toward your next month's payment or spread it around among all your loans, which won't have the impact you want it to. Send your extra payment with instructions to your lender telling it that you want any extra funds applied to the principal balance on your loan with the highest interest rate first. Follow up with your loan servicer later to ensure that it applied your payment correctly.

You might have to make some budget changes to free up some extra cash. You could also use year-end bonuses, tax refunds, and other windfalls, though you can't count on these to help you out every month.

4. Refinance when you can find a better interest rate

Keep an eye on student loan interest rates even after you graduate. If they drop, consider refinancing. This will slow the pace at which your balance grows so that each payment shaves more off your principal and you can pay off your loan more easily.

Only private student loan companies offer refinancing. Federal student loans do not allow this, though you can consolidate multiple federal Direct student loans into a single Direct consolidation loan if you choose. 

Private student loan companies usually do not offer the variety of repayment options that federal student loans have, but they may offer you a lower interest rate, especially if you have good or excellent credit.

5. Seek out employers that offer student loan repayment assistance.

An increasing number of employers are offering student loan repayment assistance as a benefit to entice young graduates. Each company has its own system and some may require you to work for the company for a certain number of years before you become eligible. Make sure you understand each company's policies before you apply for the job to understand what you can expect.

Don't choose a company just because it offers student loan repayment assistance. And remember that money they give you for this is still taxable, just like your regular income. Do the math -- if another company will pay you more than the one offering student loan repayment assistance, you might be better off skipping the assistance and getting the larger paychecks instead.

The above tips may require some short-term sacrifices, but remember, you're doing this to save yourself money in the long run so that you can more quickly achieve your other financial goals.

Topics: Student Loans

MOVED How to Help Your Kids With College Without Footing the Bill

Posted by Dana George on Dec 27, 2019 4:00:00 PM

You may not be able to foot the entire bill for your child to attend college, but you can support them in other meaningful ways. 

If you're a parent, you may find yourself skimming over news regarding the cost of college. After all, who wants to read about something that is likely to make them feel bad? Just 29% of parents plan to pay the full cost of their child's college education, according to a study released by Fidelity.

If you're not in a position to pay in full, give yourself a break. There are plenty of other ways to help your child through college and minimize the amount of student loans they will need.

Young woman in graduation cap beaming as she hugs her mother.

Pay what you can

Maybe you started a college fund but were never able to contribute as much as you hoped. Perhaps you got a late start or simply hit a financial roadblock and have been unable to save. Decide how much you can afford to contribute and have an honest conversation with your soon-to-be-student regarding what they can expect from you. If you can pay for lab fees and books, that's one less expense they'll need to plan for.

Help them apply for scholarships and grants

You're likely to have a good idea of how much you can contribute a year or two before you child begins college. The good news is that gives you and your child the chance to look for alternative funding sources. Here are some of the places your child should check:

  • The U.S. Department of Labor's free scholarship search tool
  • The higher education grant agency for your state
  • A college financial aid office (preferably, the school your child plans to attend)
  • Federal agencies
  • Your employer (some offer tuition assistance for employee's kids)
  • Ethnicity-based organizations
  • Organizations related to your child's field of interest
  • Civic groups

Finally, depending on how proactive they are, the counselor's office at your child's high school may be rich with financial assistance information.  

Help them build a budget

Before they begin college, teach your child how to build a simple budget, including any income they will earn and bills that need paid while they're in school. It will also be a good time to discuss the value of saving the money they earn each summer to put toward the cost of their education The more they contribute, the less they will have to take out in student loans. 

Keep them on your plans

Healthcare costs can wipe out even the best-laid budget, so make sure your child remains on your family healthcare plan. If possible, also keep them on your cell phone and auto insurance plans. Those are three expenses they won't have to worry about as they navigate the deep and muddy financial waters of higher education. 

Offer to let them live at home

No, none of those 1980s movies about college show students still living at home, but the reality is this: During the 2019-20 school year, the average price of room and board is $12,990 at private colleges and $11,510 at public colleges. If your child is willing to attend school close to home, simply staying with you can save them between $46,040 and $51,960 over four years. 

Keep their car running

Unless you're fortunate enough to live in a city with great public transportation, your child is likely to depend on his or her car to get to school (and possibly, a job). You can help by keeping their vehicle up-to-date on maintenance and in good condition. 

A parent's job never ends. One of the most meaningful ways you can contribute to your child's education is to be there as emotional support, to cheer him or her on when things get tough. If your child longs for an education, you're the one who needs to say, "We've got this." 

Topics: Student Loans

MOVED 8 Colleges That Will Let You Work for Your Tuition

Posted by Maurie Backman on Dec 27, 2019 6:00:00 AM

Avoid student loans by working your way through your studies instead.

Many college graduates today have no choice but to take out student loans to fund their education. The problem? Those loans are often difficult to pay off after graduation. Choosing an in-state public college over a private university could help you complete your studies with less debt -- but so can attending what's known as a work college.

Work colleges, as the name implies, have students work as part of their academic program. By offering free or reduced tuition, these schools are instrumental in helping students graduate without piles of debt.

Young bespectacled woman sitting on college campus bench and working on laptop.

In some cases, students' earnings are applied to their tuition directly, but in other cases, they get to keep their wages. And while peripheral expenses like fees, room and board, and textbooks generally aren't covered by these work arrangements, students can often borrow money or receive grants to make them manageable. 

If the idea of leaving college with minimal debt sounds good to you, then here are eight work colleges you might consider looking into:

1. Alice Lloyd College

Located in Pippa Passes, Kentucky, Alice Lloyd College is a private work college offering free tuition. Students come from one of 108 approved counties and work at least 10 hours a week, often in community service jobs. Room and board, books and supplies, and fees, however, aren't covered in the work program. 

2. Berea College

Kentucky-based Berea College is a private liberal arts work college offering free tuition. Students must work between 10 and 20 hours a week on campus, and typically earn $2,000 for the academic year. Registration, housing, meals, and fees aren't free, though.

3. Bethany Global University

Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, Bethany Global undergrads get work experience through training and outreach programs, and then spend 16 months overseas doing missionary work. The annual cost of attendance for students is estimated at under $10,000 a year.

4. Blackburn College

Located in Carlinville, Illinois, Blackburn College awards $5,000 in annual tuition credit to students who participate in its work program. Students work an average of 10 hours a week.

5. College of the Ozarks

College of the Ozarks, also known as Hard Work U, is a private evangelical college in Point Lookout, Missouri. Students are granted free tuition in exchange for 15 hours of work per week, plus two 40-hour workweeks per school year. Room and board and certain fees aren't free at this school. 

6. Paul Quinn College 

Paul Quinn College is a private, faith-based, four-year liberal arts school located right outside downtown Dallas, Texas. In 2015, it adopted a new financial structure that reduced tuition and fees, thereby allowing students to gain work experience and graduate with under $10,000 of debt. 

7. Sterling College

Vermont-based Sterling College charges 20% less for tuition and room and board than other private New England universities. Students typically work 80 hours per semester and graduate with 50% less debt than the national average.

8. Warren Wilson College

Located right outside Asheville, North Carolina, Warren Wilson College mandates that all students get involved in community engagement activities. Students typically put in more than 50,000 volunteer hours per year.

If you're willing to work during your studies, it pays to consider one of the above schools. You can also apply for the Federal Work-Study program, which is available at a large number of colleges nationwide. Not only can working while in school spare you from graduating with a mountain of student debt, but it can also give you valuable experience that's incredibly useful once you enter the working world. 

Topics: Student Loans