4 Tips for Paying Back Student Loans
Student loans are often a necessary part of financial aid for pursuing an education—but they can stick around for years, saddling graduates with tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) in debt. With a payoff plan in place, however, student loans don’t have to stay with you for long. Here are four tips to help you pay off your private or government student loans.
1. Consolidate and Refinance
If you have multiple loans, consider student loan consolidation. If they are government student loans in the U.S., this can be done through the Department of Education and may make you eligible for repayment programs though the federal government. If you have a combination of private and federal loans, you can refinance them—this rolls them into a single private loan, and will lower the overall rate of interest, saving you money in the long term. While student loan consolidation will not save you anything, it leaves the door open for other assistance such as federal loan protections and forgiveness programs. Both consolidation and refinancing will roll your loans into one single monthly payment.
2. Commit to a Payoff Plan
Whether you’re applying for a loan or looking at how long it will take to pay off an existing one, it’s important to look at the big picture and make a plan for paying off the debt. If you have federal student loans, the U.S. government will automatically instate a 10-year repayment plan. Depending on your income level, this may be the wisest choice or it might cost you money in the long run with extra interest payments—so use a student loan repayment calculator to do the math and determine how much you are able to pay each month toward the loans. Keep the amount realistic, while bearing in mind that the more payments you defer now, the more you will be paying in interest later.
3. Set Up Automatic Payments
To streamline your payoff plan, set up automatic monthly payments through your bank. Not only is it more convenient, but it also saves you money. Government student loan providers typically give a quarter-point discount on interest rates if you sign up for automatic payments, and private lenders may also offer incentives. The discount likely won’t add up to thousands in savings, but it will still benefit you and the automatic payment will ensure that you’re never late on your payments.
4. Make Extra Payments
Making biweekly (rather than monthly) payments is another strategy for paring down your student loans. Using this method, you’ll make one extra payment each year. Of course, you can make extra payments at any time if you have the funds at hand. For example, if you receive an inheritance, a bonus at work, or some other financial gift, consider allotting some or all of it toward student loan repayment. Every additional payment will chip away at your total loan amount and save you money in interest payments.
If you haven’t yet entered an academic program, spend time researching your options for college scholarships and grants. These types of financial aid do not need to be repaid and are offered both on the basis of academic merit and other criteria such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or other life circumstances. Ask the financial aid office at the institution you are planning to attend about the various scholarships that are available, and which ones you might be eligible for.
Walden University offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate school scholarships, tuition reductions, and limited-time savings on our degree programs. We’re also certified by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in a variety of grant and loan programs available to U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens. To find out what types of savings and financial aid you may be eligible for, contact our financial aid office.
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