Loan repayment can be an intimidating subject for borrowers. Being informed can help you take control of your finances. Avoid fees and extra interest costs, keep your payments affordable, and protect your credit rating. Important information that could help you:
Know Your Loans: It's important to keep track of the lender, balance, and repayment status for each of your student loans. These details determine your options for loan repayment and forgiveness. If you're not sure, ask your lender or visit www.nslds.ed.gov.
Know Your Grace Period: A grace period is how long you can wait after leaving school before you have to make your first payment.. Don't miss your first payment!
Stay in Touch with Your Lender: Whenever you move or change your phone number or email address, tell your lender right away.)
Pick the Right Repayment Option: If the standard payment is going to be hard for you to pay, there are other options, and you can change plans down the line if you want or need to. Extending your repayment period beyond 10 years can lower your monthly payments, but you'll end up paying more interest - often a lot more - over the life of the loan. Some important options for student loan borrowers are income-driven repayment plans such as Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn which cap your monthly payments at a reasonable percentage of your income each year, and forgive any debt remaining after no more than 25 years (depending on the plan) of affordable payments. Forgiveness may be available after just 10 years of these payments for borrowers in the public and nonprofit sectors (see tip 10 below). If you expect your income to be lower than you'd hoped for more than a few months, check out Income-Based Repayment. Your required payment in IBR can be as little as $0 when your income is very low. To find out more about Income-Based Repayment and related programs and how they might work for you, visit IBRinfo.org.
Don't Panic: If you're having trouble making payments because of unemployment, health problems, or other unexpected financial challenges, remember that you have options for managing your federal student loans. There are legitimate ways to temporarily postpone your federal loan payments, such as deferments and forbearance. For example, an unemployment deferment might be the right choice for you if you're having trouble finding work right now. But beware: interest accrues on all types of loans during forbearances, and on some types of loans during deferment, increasing your total debt, so ask your lender about making interest-only payments if you can afford it.
Don’t Ignore Your Student Loan Payments Due! Ignoring your student loans has serious consequences that can last a lifetime. Not paying can lead to delinquency and default. For federal loans, default kicks in after nine months of non-payment. When you default, your total loan balance becomes due, your credit score is ruined, the total amount you owe increases dramatically, and the government can garnish your wages and seize your tax refunds if you default on a federal loan. For private loans, default can happen much more quickly and can put anyone who co-signed for your loan at risk as well. Talk to your lender right away if you're in danger of default. You can also find helpful information at studentloanborrowerassistance.org.
Lower Your Principal If You Can: When you make a federal student loan payment, it covers any late fees first, then interest, and finally the principal. If you can afford to pay more than your required monthly payment - every time or now and then - you can lower your principal, which reduces the amount of interest you have to pay over the life of the loan.
Pay Off the Most Expensive Loans First: If you're considering paying off one or more of your loans ahead of schedule, or trying to reduce the principal, start with the one that has the highest interest rate.
Is Loan Consolidation Right For You: A consolidation loan combines multiple loans into one for a single monthly payment and one fixed interest rate. If this is appealing, here are some pros and cons to consider. You can consolidate your federal student loans through the Direct Loan Program, and this calculator can help you figure out what your interest rate would be.
Loan Forgiveness: There are various programs that will forgive all or some of your federal student loans if you work in certain fields or for certain types of employers. Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a federal program that forgives any student debt remaining after 10 years of qualifying payments for people in government, nonprofit, and other public service jobs. Find out more at IBRinfo.org. There are other federal loan forgiveness options available for teachers, nurses, AmeriCorps and PeaceCorps volunteers, and other professions.