Many college students and graduates are looking for a options for repaying their student loans. While borrowers may be having difficulty paying back loans, there is help available.
What causes difficulty in paying back student loans?
New college graduates may find that it takes them longer to find a job than they expected. While there's a six month grace period from the time students graduate until repayment begins, sometimes it takes six months or longer to find a job.
Many recent graduates who are employed are underemployed -- working part-time or temporary jobs until they find a permanent position. During this time they may need help in making loan payments.
New college graduates can use several strategies to help with student loan repayment. Taking on additional part-time jobs or freelancing may be an option.
It is also wise to keep living expenses low the first few years out of college. Graduates can live with a roommate, or downsize into a smaller apartment. If new graduates are still looking for a job, it may be a good idea not to move until permanent employment is found. Then it will be easier to move to an area closer to the job.
Applying for a forbearance may help during times of difficulty making loan payments. A forbearance is temporary period of suspension of payments on a federal or direct loan after repayment has begun, and if the student does not qualify for deferment.
This means that if a student has already started paying back loans, they can apply for a suspension of payments on the grounds of financial hardship. A forbearance must be applied for through the lender. Being able to hold off payments for a few months can be a big help during a time of financial hardship.
Another student loan debt strategy is to consolidate payments. Unless consolidated, each student loan is accounted for and paid separately. When a student graduates they will receive paperwork and payment slips for each loan. 2, 5, 12... no matter how many loans were taken out, they will be billed separately. Adding up all of these individual loan payments could total $300-$1000 per month or more! Not many students can afford such payments.
That's where consolidation comes in. Consolidation is a process that combines all of the student loans into one loan. Borrowers can dramatically reduce monthly payments of student loans by consolidating. Average monthly payments could be less than $100 to around $250 per month. This is just an estimate. The monthly payment depends on the total amount borrowed, the interest rate and the way that loans are consolidated.
Consolidating through The Income Contingent Repayment plan is designed to help make repaying student loans easier for students who intend to pursue jobs with lower salaries, such as careers in public service. The monthly payment amount is adjusted annually, based on changes in family size and annual income. This program is only available through the US Department of Education, not a lender or bank.
Finally, the Graduated Repayment Plan starts the payments at a low level (usually interest only) and gradually increases the payments until the balance is paid. This is helpful for graduates because payments are low when the first graduate, and increase as earning power increases over the years. This plan is available by consolidating through a bank or other lender.
It is important to note that according to current regulations student loans may only be consolidated once. So borrowers who have already graduated and consolidated with a standard plan cannot take advantage of the income contingent or graduated plans. For borrowers who have already consolidated, a forbearance may be the best option for temporary relief of student loan debt.
Use the student loan repayment calculator from finaid.org to find out what loan payments could be using different types of consolidation.
College graduates can find student debt relief using one of the strategies mentioned above. Discuss loan repayment options with your lender and see what can be done to help repay education loans.