18 Student Loan Mistakes to Avoid

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Most students have to borrow student loans to go to college. But very few know anything about them. That’s pretty scary considering you’re likely to take on several tens of thousands of dollars in debt. And making mistakes with that much money could cost you just as much. 

Take it from me. I borrowed six figures to get a doctorate to work in a notoriously low-paying field. And thanks to taking advantage of years of deferments, forbearances, and an income-based plan designed to help borrowers with high debt and low income, I now owe twice what I originally borrowed. 

Don’t make my mistakes. Instead, learn about the most common student loan borrowing and repayment errors. That way, you can avoid an overwhelming amount of student loans and get out of debt faster.

Student Loan Mistakes to Avoid

Most student loan borrowing and repayment mistakes deal with misunderstanding what you’re borrowing, how interest works, how to pay off debt quickly, and how to avoid default. Steer clear of these top mistakes to ensure you borrow smartly and don’t end up in over your head. 

Mistake 1: Applying for Aid at the Last Minute

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the gateway to qualifying for all financial aid of any kind. That includes federal grants and student loans as well as state grants and most institutional aid — the grants, scholarships, or loans offered by your school. 

The FAFSA opens for applications every Oct. 1, and you must complete it by June 30 before the academic year you need aid for. You must complete a new FAFSA every year you plan to enroll in school.

Many colleges and universities also require additional forms, such as the CSS profile (short for the College Scholarship Service profile), which dives even deeper into your family’s financial situation. So check with the financial aid office to find out what they are, and stay on top of deadlines. 

But note that states and colleges have limited grant resources. And those resources tend to go to the students who apply early. In other words, they’re first come, first served. So the earlier you get your applications in, the better.

And while the federal government is unlikely to run out of education loan funds, if you miss the FAFSA deadline, you’ll have to resort to private loans, which are costlier and feature less favorable repayment options.

Apply as early as possible to ensure you get as much grant and scholarship aid as you can qualify for. The more grants you can get, the fewer loans you’ll need to borrow.

Mistake 2: Borrowing Too Much

It’s possible to borrow every cent you need to finance your education anywhere you want to go to school. But it’s crucial to ask whether you should. Getting in over your head with student loan debt can have catastrophic consequences. I’m living proof.

I needed a doctorate for my original career plan of teaching college. But few college professors earn enough income to manage the types of monthly payments I had along with other living expenses. That’s how I ended up in the deferment-forbearance cycle.

And it’s not easy to get out of. 

Thanks to a loophole in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program I was counting on and how colleges operate, my teaching position doesn’t qualify me for forgiveness. Additionally, discharging student loans in bankruptcy is currently so difficult it’s nearly impossible. And settling federal student loans isn’t any easier. 

The first step to reducing overwhelming student loan debt is to exhaust every other means of paying for college, including scholarships, grants, and work-study. Search online for scholarship aid using a national scholarship database like Fastweb.

And never count on options like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Historically, the government’s made it nearly impossible to get. Do your homework to increase your chances of getting it and apply for it if you qualify. But don’t base your student loan repayment strategy on it.

Additionally, consider less expensive colleges. State schools tend to give most students the best value. It only matters where you go to college for a select few graduates, such as those looking to build connections with specific financial or law firms. 

Finally, do a cost-benefit analysis. I found out the hard way all degrees don’t pay off, so as much as you want to pursue your passion, it might not be worth it financially.

Search sites like Glassdoor or PayScale to find out how much you can reasonably expect to make in your chosen field and compare that to the cost of school. As a rule, don’t borrow more than you can expect to earn as your annual salary your first year out of school. That ensures you can pay it off in 10 years or less. 

Mistake 3: Not Understanding How Loan Forgiveness Works

Historically, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program has been notoriously difficult to qualify for. The program was overhauled in the fall of 2021. But until then, only 2% of applicants who believed they qualified had their loans forgiven.

Much of that is likely due to bureaucratic mismanagement, hence the overhaul. However, the mismanagement led tens of thousands of borrowers into making payments under the wrong repayment programs. 

On Oct. 6, 2021, the government announced Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which allows previously nonqualifying payments to be counted toward loan forgiveness as long as those payments are certified before Oct. 31, 2022.

But moving forward, it’s crucial that borrowers are clear about the rules of loan forgiveness. You don’t want to find out after 10 years that your application is ineligible and you have to start all over.

To qualify for loan forgiveness, you must:

  • Have Federal Direct Loans. Private loans don’t qualify for forgiveness, nor do other types of federal loans, such as Perkins loans. If your federal loans aren’t direct loans, you can consolidate them into a direct loan to qualify. 
  • Work Full-Time for the Government or a Nonprofit. Payments only qualify while you’re employed full-time for an American federal, state, local, or tribal government or qualifying 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. That includes military service, Peace Corps, and AmeriCorps but excludes labor unions and partisan political organizations.
  • Enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment Program. No other repayment options qualify. But even if your income is so low your calculated payment under the plan is $0, being enrolled qualifies you. 
  • Make 120 Qualifying Payments. They don’t have to be consecutive, but they must qualify, meaning you have to make them under an income-based plan.
  • Submit the Forgiveness Certification Form Regularly. You must fill out and submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program certification form yearly and each time you switch employers. While not required, doing so ensures the payments you’re making qualify for forgiveness and allows you to make any changes you need to before you’ve made too many nonqualifying payments.

See all the rules at StudentAid.gov. 

Mistake 4: Taking Out the Wrong Type of Loan

There’s more than one type of student loan. But it’s generally best to exhaust your resources for federal aid before turning to alternatives. 

That said, while rare, some students may find the caps on how much you can borrow in federal direct loans don’t cover the total cost of attendance. 

Fortunately, graduate students and parents of undergrads can borrow PLUS loans up to the total cost of attendance. So there’s no need for many students to resort to other sources. If that’s not an option for you, students can sometimes borrow from their state government or the school they plan to attend. 

But the primary source of alternative loans for student borrowers is private student loans from banks or credit unions.

Federal student loans almost always win out over private student loans because of their lower fixed interest rates, flexible repayment options, borrower protections, and the potential for forgiveness.

But if you’re planning to borrow PLUS loans and definitely won’t qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, it’s worth it to find out whether you could get a better deal on a private loan if you have excellent credit. 

Mistake 5: Not Shopping Around for the Best Interest Rate & Terms

If you decide to borrow private student loans, always shop around for the best loan you can qualify for.

Private lenders compete for your business. So going with the first lender you find could mean leaving a better rate on the table.

Use a comparison site like Credible, which matches you with prequalified rates from up to eight lenders with only a soft inquiry on your credit report, which doesn’t affect your credit score. That way, you can compare all your student loan options in one place. 

But it’s not only interest rates that should matter to your bottom line. The best private student loan companies offer various borrower perks in addition to low rates.   

For example, most lenders reduce your interest rate when you enroll in autopay. And some reduce your rate even further with loyalty discounts for doing other business with them, such as opening bank accounts or taking out personal loans. 

Some lenders also offer perks for specific borrowers, such as special payment plans for medical and dental students during their residencies. And some even offer unique perks like free financial coaching or career planning services.  

Just remember to read all the fine print so you know exactly what loan terms you’re agreeing to before you sign. For example, it may lack options for deferment if you fall on hard times or a co-signer release option. Don’t be lured by a shiny interest rate on its own.  

Mistake 6: Not Understanding How Variable & Fixed Interest Rates Work

The rate is only one piece of the interest puzzle. How that rate works also affects how much accrues over time. 

For example, all federal student loans come with fixed interest rates set each year by law. That means the rate stays the same for the life of the loan, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on the interest rate during the year you borrowed. 

But some private student loans have variable interest rates. These fluctuate with market conditions. Although the variable rates are generally the lowest offered rates, it’s because the borrower is assuming the risk that the rate won’t go up, which is likely if you take 10 or more years to repay your student loans.

If you already have a variable-rate private loan, look into refinancing to a fixed-rate loan while rates are low. 

And once you start making payments, contact the student loan company to find out if there are any ways to lower the interest rate, like signing up for an autopay discount.

Mistake 7: Not Understanding Interest Accrual & Capitalization

Another factor to consider is when the interest begins to accrue (accumulate). On subsidized federal loans, that doesn’t happen until after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. Thus, whatever you borrowed is what you owe up until the day you’re no longer enrolled full time. 

But interest on unsubsidized federal and private loans starts the moment you get the money. So on graduation day, you owe a higher balance than you originally borrowed.

Worse, that interest is capitalized (added to the principal balance as though it were part of what you borrowed) once you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. Since interest accrues according to the principal, that means you’ll then be earning interest on the interest.

Fortunately, you can reduce or even eliminate the burden interest can cause. Make small monthly interest payments while you’re still in school. That ensures none accrues and capitalizes on graduation. 

If you have to, take on a part-time job. As long as you keep it to part-time hours, it shouldn’t interfere with your studies, and a well-chosen college job comes with numerous benefits, like teaching you the money management skills you need to pay off those loans after college. 

Mistake 8: Co-Signing a Loan Without Understanding the Consequences

In some cases, a co-signer can help a student qualify for a loan or get a lower interest rate. 

But co-signing their loan comes with a great deal of risk. You’re taking on equal responsibility for the loan. That means if they make a late payment or miss one entirely, it could impact your credit score. And if they default on the loan, the loan company will come after you for the balance.

And it doesn’t matter how responsible or well-intentioned the borrower is. No one can predict the future, and they could fall on hard times. 

There are several programs designed to help people who have trouble paying back federal loans — if they enroll in them. But private lenders are especially hard to work with. Either way, there are risks associated with co-signing for a student loan. 

If you do agree to co-sign, ask them to look for a company with a co-signer release option, which absolves you of responsibility for the debt after the student makes a certain number of on-time monthly payments.

If not getting help means they can’t attend college, a parent PLUS loan gives you more control than co-signing a private loan. You can borrow up to the total cost of their attendance, but the loan will be in your name. 

If you want, you can still agree that they’re responsible for paying you back (though that agreement isn’t legally enforceable). Plus, if you experience financial hardship, you have access to federal repayment plans and borrower protections.

However, don’t sacrifice retirement savings or go into debt paying for your kids’ college. It could leave you unprepared, potentially placing a financial burden on them later.

Mistake 9: Putting Off Making a Repayment Plan

Many borrowers get lulled into thinking they can wait until after they graduate and their six-month grace period ends before they have to start worrying about their student loans. But you need to prepare your budget long before then.

A student loan payment could easily be $400 per month (maybe more). That’s a hefty chunk of anyone’s take-home pay. But recent grads won’t make as much as established professionals in any field. 

And if you don’t think about it for the first six months post-graduation, it’s easy to establish a post-college life that doesn’t leave room for it, such as upgrading your apartment or buying a new car.

Before you graduate, find out what your monthly payment will be. You can check your student loan balance by creating a student account at StudentAid.gov.

Then, build the rest of your post-college budget around your monthly student loan payment. That ensures you won’t take on more financial obligations than you can afford. Unfortunately, that may mean living that ramen-eating college lifestyle for the first couple of years after you graduate. 

Mistake 10: Choosing the Wrong Repayment Plan

The automatic student loan repayment schedule is 10 years of fixed payments, but it’s not the best option for all borrowers.

You don’t want to string out payments for decades unless it’s necessary. But income-driven repayment plans, which forgive any remaining balance after you make 240 to 300 (20 to 25 years) of qualifying payments, may be a saving grace for borrowers with high debt and low income. 

And for those entering public service fields, an income-driven repayment plan is the gateway to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which forgives any remaining balance in as few as 120 qualifying payments. 

But even if you stick to the standard 10-year plan, you still have options. 

For example, you can repay your loans on a graduated plan, which lets you make smaller payments at the beginning. Your payments then gradually rise every two years. This plan is ideal for those who must start in a lower-paying job but expect their income to increase substantially as they gain work experience.

Use the loan simulator at StudentAid.gov to see how much you can expect to repay under different repayment plans. It shows your monthly payments, total amount owed, and any potential balance you could have forgiven under an income-driven repayment plan as well as the date you can expect to have your loans paid off.

Use this information to weigh your options. Ask yourself: 

  • Is it better to pay off your loans as quickly as possible by sticking to the standard 10-year plan? Is that realistic at your current income? 
  • How big will your payments be 10 years down the line if you opt for graduated repayment? Are you likely to make enough money for that to be practical? 
  • Is it better to make your current situation more manageable through an income-driven or extended repayment plan? 

Lowering your monthly payment will have consequences since it means more interest will accrue. But the loan simulator can give you an accurate picture of what those consequences will look like. 

Mistake 11: Only Making the Minimum Payment

The longer you sit on debt, the more it costs you thanks to the interest. So if you have any wiggle room in your budget, put whatever money you can toward your student loans to pay them off as quickly as possible. 

Even small amounts can make a big difference.

For example, if you borrowed $40,000 in student loans at 6% interest, your monthly payment would be $444. But if you paid $500 a month instead — a difference of only $56 — you’d save $1,957 in interest and have them repaid a year sooner.

If you can, opt for a side gig or cut your expenses. Additionally, put any windfalls — like tax refunds, gifts, or inheritances — toward your loans.  

But this is key: When you make any extra payments toward your loans, ensure you indicate the company should apply it to the principal. The more you pay down the principal, the less interest accumulates.

Mistake 12: Refinancing Without Considering the Pros & Cons

Refinancing is a common strategy for lowering the cost of debt, whether it’s a mortgage refinance or a student loan. But while refinancing can score you a lower interest rate, interest rates aren’t the only consideration.

When you refinance a student loan, you can only do so through a private refinance lender. That means you lose access to all the benefits of federal student loans, including federal repayment plans, borrower protections, generous deferment and forbearance options, and federal loan forgiveness. 

It may still be worth it to you, depending on the rate you can get. But it’s crucial to weigh that against all you’d be giving up.

Even if the private interest rate is lower, the future is unpredictable, and you never know if you could need those federal benefits. And you’ll lose all access to federal loan forgiveness with a refinance.

On the other hand, if you have private student loans, there’s no reason not to refinance. 

Mistake 13: Postponing Payments Unnecessarily

Both federal and private student loans have multiple options for deferment and forbearance. These allow you to temporarily suspend payments for various reasons, including full-time enrollment in school, economic hardship, military deployment, and serving in AmeriCorps. 

Sometimes, deferment or forbearance makes sense, such as while you’re enrolled in school. But prolonged use of these options just increases your overall balance because interest keeps piling up. 

Interest accrues on all but subsidized federal loans during deferments. And it accrues on all loans during forbearance. Additionally, that interest is capitalized (added to the principal balance) at the end of the deferment or forbearance. 

Only use these options when absolutely necessary. And if possible, make interest payments during periods of deferment or forbearance to prevent its accrual. 

If you’re deferring or forbearing for economic hardship and anticipate the hardship will last longer than a month or two, apply for an income-driven plan instead. 

Depending on the severity of your situation, your monthly payments could be calculated as low as $0. And some plans don’t capitalize interest and even have interest subsidies, which means the government covers the interest on your loans for a specified period.  

Additionally, those $0 “payments” count toward potential student loan forgiveness. But only periods of economic hardship deferment count toward the forgiveness clock. No other form of deferment or forbearance qualifies. And there’s a cap on how long you can defer for economic hardship.

Plus, if your financial situation changes, you can always change your repayment plan. 

Mistake 14: Missing Payments

Missing payments can result in late fees. The student loan company tacks these onto your next month’s minimum payment. So if you had a hard time paying this month, it won’t be easier next month. 

Plus, when you make your next payment, your money covers fees and interest before going toward the principal. So multiple fees could mean paying your principal down slower. And interest accrues according to the principal balance, so the higher you keep that balance, the more interest you pay.

Worse, if you miss enough payments, it can result in a default of your loans, which comes with severe consequences, such as damaged credit or wage garnishment or seizure of your tax refunds, Social Security benefits, or property. 

There’s never a reason to miss a payment on a federal student loan if you’re facing financial hardship. Simply call the company and let them know. Depending on what you qualify for, you can choose from multiple options, including deferment, forbearance, or an income-driven repayment plan.

Private lenders are tougher to work with, as fewer repayment options are available. But many are still willing to work with you if you explain the situation. Most of the top lenders have limited programs for deferment or forbearance in times of economic hardship. 

Mistake 15: Keeping Your Assigned Payment Due Date

Student loan companies allow you to adjust your monthly due date. That can be helpful if you’re having trouble stretching your dollars from one paycheck to the next.

Plus, if your bills are anything like mine, most of them are due at the same time of month. Thus, if you get paid biweekly, adjusting your due date to a different time of the month can make things easier.  

If you want a different due date, contact the company handling your student loans and ask if you can adjust your due date to one more beneficial for you. You may even be able to change it through your online account.

Ensure you get confirmation of the new date in writing. That protects you if you get hit with any late fees in error. Additionally, ask when the new date takes effect. It could take a billing cycle or two, depending on the lender. 

Mistake 16: Falling for Student Loan Scams

Many borrowers have reported receiving phone calls, emails, letters, and texts offering them relief from their student loans or warning them federal forgiveness programs will end soon if they don’t act now.

But the services these scam debt relief companies offer usually steal borrowers’ money or private information rather than grant any actual relief. 

Other student loan scams take fees for helping students apply for income-driven repayment plans or consolidate their loans. However, borrowers never have to pay to sign up for any federal repayment programs. They only need to contact the company in charge of their loan.

In general, if someone contacts you, avoid giving them any personal information. No matter who they claim to be, either tell them to send their request in writing or say you’ll call them back. Then verify their story by contacting your student loan company at their listed phone number or through their website.

Additionally, never pay an upfront fee for student loan services. The government doesn’t charge application fees for any of their loan programs. They also won’t claim an offer is only available for a limited time since all the terms are set by law every year and are available to all students.

For more red flags to watch for, check out the Department of Education’s tips on avoiding student loan scams. 

Mistake 17: Forgetting to Update Your Contact Information

You are responsible for making all your loan payments whether you received the bill or not. Additionally, the lender in charge of your loan can change, and you need to ensure you’re able to receive that information so you always know who to contact about paying and managing your loans.

Thus, it’s on borrowers to ensure the company in charge of their student loans has all their current contact information, including mailing address, email address, and phone number. That’s especially the case if you moved after you graduated or listed a parent’s address on your application forms.

Log into your student loan account to ensure your contact information is current. 

If you don’t know who services your student loans, check with your school’s financial aid office. For federal loans, you can always create an account on StudentAid.gov.

Then, each time you move, get a new email address or change your number, update that info with the company handling your student loans.

Mistake 18: Not Asking for Help

Paying off student loans can be overwhelming, especially if you’re dealing with low income or a large amount of debt. Depending on your circumstance, it could feel like you’re drowning and may never escape.

Trust me, I know how it feels. And I’m hardly alone. A simple online search reveals dozens of stories of borrowers who’ve consistently paid on their loans yet owe more than ever thanks to the compounding effects of interest, which often feels like quicksand. 

But paying late or not at all only makes the situation worse. Damage to your credit report can make it difficult for you to rent an apartment, buy a car, or even get a job. And default can leave you subject to wage garnishment, steep collection penalties, and even lawsuits.  

But hope isn’t lost. There is help. Resources exist for borrowers who need an extra hand.

The first step is to reach out to the student loan company. See if there’s a payment plan that’s manageable for you. Even if there isn’t, let them know what payment you can afford, and go from there. 

If the company is uncooperative, contact the federal student loan ombudsman. 

Borrowers can also reach out to nonprofit student loan counselors, such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or The Institute of Student Loan Advisors. These organizations work with borrowers to help them figure out the best strategies for dealing with their loans and overall financial health. 

Alternatively, if you’ve reached the point of needing to settle your student loans or file for bankruptcy, seek an attorney who specializes in student loans. For private student loan help, try The National Association of Consumer Advocates. For federal student loans, search the American Bar Association.

Final Word

The United States is currently experiencing a student loan crisis because of how the debt has impacted American lives.

It’s affected borrowers’ ability to save for retirement and buy a home. It’s also impacted people’s ability to start a family or even choose a job for passion over a paycheck.

And it can do so for decades. Many millennials who’ve entered middle age continue to face debt repayment. And many feel college wasn’t worth it as a result.

But you don’t have to be one of these statistics. I write about student loans precisely to help others avoid my mistakes. Learn from this list so you can borrow wisely and avoid overwhelming student loan debt.  

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Sarah Graves, Ph.D. is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, education, and creative entrepreneurship. She’s also a college instructor of English and humanities. When not busy writing or teaching her students the proper use of a semicolon, you can find her hanging out with her awesome husband and adorable son watching way too many superhero movies.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Navient Settlement: 66K Borrowers Get $1.7 Billion Student Debt Canceled

Borrowers who qualify for private loan debt cancellation will receive a notice from Navient by July 2022 and will be refunded any payments made on canceled private loans after June 30, 2021.
A major student loan servicing company has reached a settlement that will cancel .7 billion in student loan debt for around 66,000 borrowers, as well as provide million in restitution – around 0 each – to 350,000 borrowers.
According to the settlement statement, borrowers who qualify don’t need to take any further action other than to make sure the U.S. Department of Education has their current address through their studentaid.gov account.

  • Redirecting borrowers into forbearance instead of pushing them toward more sensible income-based repayment options.
  • Through its predecessor, Sallie Mae, directing borrowers to subprime loans that they knew would likely default.

Federal loan borrowers receiving the approximate 0 restitution payment will receive a postcard from the settlement administrator in the spring of 2022.
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How to Find Out if the Navient Settlement Affects You

While wholesale student loan forgiveness remains a distant possibility, it’s best to use the extended forbearance period to your advantage and make a debt payoff plan.
If you’re nearing retirement and still owe on student loans, here are six ways to cope.
If you’re unsure who your loan servicer is, you can easily find out by logging into your account at studentaid.gov.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
You should be able to identify the types of loans you have as well as your servicer through your account dashboard. Or you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-433-3243.

Tips for Anyone Struggling With Student Loan Debt

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com
Here are some strategies for paying down your student debt — fast and forever — including checking into whether you qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
“Today’s settlement corrects Navient’s past behavior . . . and puts in place safeguards to ensure this company never preys on student loan borrowers again,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a statement. 
Here’s what you need to know about the settlement. <!–


Navient’s settlement with attorneys general in 39 states is over two primary accusations:

Still Owe on a Student Loan? 5 Things You Need to Know for 2022

Young woman considering student loans for college savings
pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

The last year has been quite a season of change in the student loan industry, including the fourth extension to freeze student loan payments.

Both servicers and borrowers alike experienced its effects in 2021, ranging from FAFSA application changes to student loan servicers dropping out of the business to an overhaul of the public student loan forgiveness program.

With all the changes made regarding student loans, it can be difficult for borrowers to keep up with everything they need to know.

That’s what we’re here for. We’ve rounded up things you need to know about student loans in 2022.

1. Payments Ramp Up Again in May

Young woman upset about student loan debt
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Student loan payments are scheduled to begin again on May 1, 2022.

In late December, President Joe Biden extended the student loan payment pause through April 2022. That was helpful for many borrowers who might have struggled to find consistent work and pay off debt during the ongoing pandemic.

The automatic student loan forbearance program was part of the CARES Act, the COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress in March 2020.

With the omicron variant raging at the end of 2021, the extension will allow borrowers more time to regroup as they try to recover from the financial impact of the pandemic.

According to a survey by the Student Debt Crisis Center conducted before the latest pause extension, 89% of fully-employed student loan borrowers said they were not financially secure enough to resume payments in February. Now they have an additional 90 days.

With the extension, borrowers might want to take advantage of The Penny Hoarder’s advice on how to be prepared to tackle that student loan debt payoff.

2. Changes in the Student Loan Servicing Industry

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Flamingo Images / Shutterstock.com

The last year was eventful for the student loan servicing industry. Around 15 million borrowers were affected when student loan servicers like FedLoan, Granite State, and Navient decided to pull out of the servicing business.

The timing could certainly have been better. With the ongoing payment pause, adding servicing changes only complicates what would already be a difficult situation for both servicers and borrowers when payments resume in May.

The logistics involved in transferring millions of borrowers’ accounts to new servicers will put the industry to the test.

If you don’t know who your new servicer is, log in to studentaid.gov and look for the “my servicers” section. If you’re not sure how to log in, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.

3. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Graduate thinking about student loans and savings
Billion Photos / Shutterstock.com

In the past, the federal forgiveness program has been plagued by poor communication and conflicting information from both servicers and the U.S. Department of Education.

That said, the DOE announced late in 2021 that 550,000 borrowers will see “accelerated forgiveness” as part of a loan forgiveness overhaul.

That meant automatic student loan forgiveness for tens of thousands.

This is (crosses fingers) great news for borrowers who work in the public sector, are veterans or have qualifying disabilities. Prompted by the pandemic, the DOE promised to make “transformational changes” to the program that would bring those hundreds of thousands of borrowers closer to forgiveness.

Will the DOE actually follow through? Stay tuned in 2022 and the years to come.

4. Changes to the FAFSA Application Form

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Sponner / Shutterstock.com

The FAFSA (short for Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form is notoriously difficult, confusing and lengthy. So it was good news for potential borrowers when in 2021 the Federal Student Aid Office announced upcoming changes to the form.

For 2022, however, those changes appear to be mostly cosmetic.

The only significant changes will be that having a drug conviction or failing to register with the Selective Service System will no longer affect a potential borrower’s ability to apply for financial aid — even though those questions will still remain on the form in 2022.

The FAFSA form for the 2022-2023 school year is currently available with a deadline to apply for federal aid by June 30, 2023. State FAFSA deadlines vary by state.

If you need help getting through the lengthy form, check out The Penny Hoarder’s step-by-step guide to how to fill out FAFSA.

5. Retirees Will Continue to Deal With Student Loan Debt

Concerned senior man thinking about taxes and retirement
Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

Student loans aren’t just for traditional college-age kids anymore. At the end of 2020, borrowers age 50 or older held about 22% of the nation’s $1.6 trillion student debt burden, the AARP reports.

That’s a surprising number that only points to the ongoing, rising costs of public education over the last few decades. That money may be owed from their own schooling or helping their children with their college educations.

With that, retirement may seem out of reach for someone in their 50s or 60s still dealing with a load of student loan debt. But there are options, including:

  • Avoid refinancing federal student loans.
  • Lower federal payments with income-driven repayment.
  • Choose income-contingent repayment for Parent PLUS loans.
  • Pay off as much of your private loans as you can.
  • Look into Student Loan Forgiveness if you have a disability.
  • Have a tough conversation with your kids, asking them to contribute more.

Find out more on all of these options about coping when you’re retiring with student loans debt.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Student Loan Consolidation Rates: What to Expect

It’s possible to consolidate or refinance your student loans into one loan with a single monthly payment. The major difference between these two options is that consolidation is generally offered through the federal government for federal student loans while refinancing is generally completed with a private lender.

When you consolidate student loans with the federal government through the Direct Loan Consolidation program, the new interest rate is the weighted average of your prior rates. Another option is student loan refinancing, which can be completed with a private lender. If you refinance, the new interest rate on your loans is based on factors like your credit score, employment history, among others.

Understanding the differences between consolidation versus refinancing is critical before deciding to take the plunge — especially since private refinancing means you lose your federal student loan benefits.

What Is Federal Student Loan Consolidation?

You can combine your federal student loans into one by taking out a Direct Consolidation Loan ​from the government.

Consolidating your loans may help simplify your repayment process if you have multiple loan servicers. In some cases, consolidating your loans may also be necessary if you are interested in enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan . In order to use a Direct Consolidation Loan, you must have at least one Direct Loan or one FFEL.

The interest rate on a Direct Consolidation Loan is fixed and is the weighted average of the rates on your existing loans. What you end up with really depends on what rates were when you took out your loans (some Direct Consolidation Loan payment plans also factor in your total education debt, including private student loans).

Using current interest rates, say you took out a Direct Subsidized Loan of $25,000 for undergrad (3.73% interest rate for the 2021-2022 school year), a Direct Unsubsidized Loan of $50,000 for grad school (5.28% interest rate), and another Direct PLUS Loan of $10,000 for grad school (6.28% interest rate). If you consolidated, your weighted average rate would be 4.94%.

You can also use SoFi’s debt navigator tool to explore your student loan refinancing options and get a sense of what might be best for your unique situation.

What is Student Loan Refinancing

When you refinance student loans, it means you are borrowing a new loan which is then used to pay off the existing student loans you have. This new loan will have a new interest rate and terms, which as mentioned, are based on personal factors like an individual’s credit history and their employment history.

Refinancing is completed with a private lender and borrowers may have the choice between a fixed or variable interest rate. In some cases, borrowers who refinance to a lower interest rate may be able to spend less in interest over the life of the loan. To get an idea of what refinancing your student loans could look like, you can take a look at SoFi’s student loan refinancing calculator.

Comparing Student Loan Refinancing and Consolidation

As previously mentioned, consolidation can be completed for federal student loans through a Direct Consolidation Loan. Refinancing is completed with private lenders, and can be done with either federal or private loans. An important distinction is that Direct Loan Consolidation allows borrowers to retain the federal benefits and borrower protections that come with their federal loans while refinancing does not.

Depending on how a borrower’s financial situation and credit profile has changed since they originally borrowed their student loans, refinancing could allow borrowers to secure a more competitive rate or preferable terms. The rate and term on a refinanced loan will be determined by the lender’s policies and the borrower’s financial situation and credit profile, including factors such as credit score, income, and whether there is a cosigner. Generally, borrowers can choose between a fixed or variable interest rate.

The interest rate on a Direct Consolidation Loan is the weighted average of the previous loan’s interest rate and all interest rates are fixed for the life of the loan.

Private Student Loan Refinancing Rates

It may be possible for borrowers to qualify for a more competitive interest rate by refinancing their student loans with a private lender. Student loan refinancing rates vary widely. According to Forbes, in December 2021, the average fixed interest on a 10-year refinanced student loan was 3.40%. On a five-year variable-rate loan the average interest rate was 2.49%. As noted previously, the rate you get typically depends on your total financial picture and credit history, including your credit score, income, and employment history.

Borrowers may also consider applying for student loan refinancing with a cosigner, which could potentially help them qualify for a more competitive interest rate.

Why Interest Rates Aren’t the Only Thing to Consider

Interest rates aren’t the only thing to consider when deciding whether to consolidate or refinance. If you go with a Direct Consolidation Loan, keep in mind that you might pay more overall for your loans, since this usually lengthens your repayment term. You will also lose credit toward loan forgiveness for any payments made on an income-based repayment plan or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

If you refinance with a private lender, you won’t be eligible for student loan forgiveness, because you lose federal loan protections, including deferment or forbearance when you refinancing with a private lender. But some private lenders, like SoFi, offer their own benefits, like a temporary pause on payments if you lose your job through no fault of your own.

It’s important to think carefully before consolidating or refinancing your student loans. Consider things like whether a prospective private lender offers any options for relief if you hit a rough patch.

Even if you get a lower interest rate, make sure you can afford the new monthly payments before committing. And remember that this information is just a starting point for your decision. Don’t be afraid of doing more research and trusting you’ll make the right decision for you.

The Takeaway

Consolidating federal student loans can be done through the federal government with a Direct Consolidation Loan. The interest rate on this type of loan is the weighted average of the interest rates on the existing loans.

Refinancing allows borrowers to combine both federal and private student loans in a single new loan with one interest rate. The rate may be variable or fixed, depending on the lender and will be determined by the lender based on criteria like the borrower’s credit history, among other factors. Again, refinancing will eliminate any federal loans from borrower protections like income-driven repayment plans.

Depending on an individual’s personal circumstances, either consolidation or refinancing may make more sense than the other. If refinancing seems like an option for you, consider SoFi, where there are no hidden fees and borrowers have access to benefits like career coaching.

Check out whether you qualify for student loan refinancing with SoFi in just two minutes.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’swebsite .
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Source: sofi.com

Student Loan Administrative Forbearance Extends Until May

If you have federally held student loans, you’re getting a break on making payments — again.

The freeze on interest rates and payments for federally held student loans — aka administrative forbearance — has been extended by the Department of Education through April 30, 2022. Millions of Americans were staring at the resumption of payments on Feb. 1, until the latest extension was announced by President Joe Biden just before Christmas. Payments will now resume on May 1.

For those keeping score, this is the fourth time the deadline for student loan forbearance has been extended. Millions of those owing money have not paid on their loans in nearly two years, since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The 90-day extension is largely attributed to the surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant. During the nearly two-year pause in payments and interest, several automatic student loan forgiveness programs have been initiated. They have given relief to nearly 500,000 people, including active military personnel and veterans, people working in the public sector and those with qualifying disabilities.

According to the Education Data Initiative, about 42.9 million Americans owe $1.57 trillion in federal student loans.

Here’s what you need to know about student loan forbearance.

What Is Student Loan Administrative Forbearance?

The pause on payments and interest accrual is an extension of the administrative forbearance that originated with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — aka the CARES Act — passed in March 2020 to address economic issues due to COVID-19.

Directed by the emergency legislation, the Department of Education initially announced that all federally held student loans would be placed in administrative forbearance through Sept. 30, 2020. Interest rates were automatically set to 0% and all payments were suspended.

Then-President Donald Trump later signed an executive order to extend the administrative forbearance period until Dec. 31, 2020, and the Secretary of Education extended those measures until Jan. 31, 2021.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the Education Department to extend its freeze on interest rates and payments for federally held student loans through Sept. 30, 2021.

And on Aug. 6, the Department of Education extended the forbearance again — this time until Jan. 31, 2022. Now, another extension through the end of April 2022.

What Loans Does Payment Pause Cover?

The interest waiver covers all loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education, which includes Direct Loans, subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, Parent and Graduate Plus loans and consolidation loans.

If you happen to have Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and Perkins loans held by the federal government, they’re covered, too. But the vast majority of those loans are commercially held, which makes them ineligible for the benefit.

What Does This Mean for My Student Loans?

There are four things to know about how administrative forbearance affects student loans until May 2022:

  • It suspends loan payments.
  • It stops collections on defaulted loans.
  • It sets the interest rates to 0%.
  • Each month of the suspension will count as a payment for the purpose of a loan forgiveness program.

Note that the suspension does not mean that the federal government is making your student loan payments for you — you’ll just be free of making loan payments without accruing interest or incurring late fees while the pause is in effect.

The latest extension begs the question of how long student loans could remain in forbearance and whether this could eventually lead to the cancellation of student loans. That remains to be seen, but until then, here are five ways to know if you can benefit from the forbearance period.

Also, if you are able, it would be smart to put away money for when the moratorium on payments is finally lifted.  We have some ideas on how you can use the forgiveness extension to your advantage.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What Is Student Loan Forbearance?

If you’re facing a financial squeeze, you could catch a temporary break on repaying a student loan but end up owing more. That’s forbearance.

Interest accrues on nearly all federal student loans in forbearance and on all private student loans, if the lender has such a program. After the payment pause, the interest is typically added to the principal balance. (The pandemic-related government forbearance, which paused interest accrual on federal student loans, was an exception.)

So even though a payment reprieve could bring short-term relief, it might be worth exploring alternatives.

What Does Student Loan Forbearance Mean?

During an approved period of forbearance, a borrower is allowed to temporarily suspend loan payments.

There are two main types of forbearance for federal student loans: general and mandatory.

General Forbearance

With general forbearance, sometimes called discretionary forbearance, your loan servicer will decide whether or not to grant your request for forbearance if you are unable to make your loan payments.

General forbearance is available for Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans, and Perkins Loans for up to 12 months at a time. Borrowers still experiencing hardship when the forbearance period expires can reapply and request another general forbearance.

Unpaid interest is capitalized (added to your balance) on Direct and FFEL loans but not on Perkins Loans, according to the Federal Student Aid office.

Mandatory Forbearance

Your loan servicer is required to grant you forbearance if you meet certain criteria , including:

•   You are serving in a medical or dental internship or residency program.

•   The total amount you owe each month for all federal student loans is 20% or more of your total monthly gross income.

•   You are serving in an AmeriCorps position for which you received a national service award.

•   You are performing a teaching service that would qualify you for teacher loan forgiveness.

•   You qualify for partial repayment of your loans under the Department of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program.

•   You are a member of the National Guard and have been activated by a governor, but you are not eligible for a military deferment.

Direct and FFEL loans qualify for mandatory forbearance for any of the above reasons. Perkins Loans also qualify if a borrower has a heavy student loan debt burden.

Mandatory forbearance is to be granted for no more than 12 months but can be extended if you continue to meet eligibility requirements.

Private Student Loan Forbearance

Some private lenders offer student loan forbearance as well.

If you’re having trouble making private student loans payments, you’ll be smart to contact your loan holder immediately. Interest-only payments, interest-free payments for a limited time, or a change in interest rate could be options.

Who Should Use Student Loan Forbearance?

Forbearance on federal student loans may be a good choice if you don’t qualify for deferment and your hardship is temporary.

While both student loan deferment and forbearance offer the opportunity to press pause on your student loan payments, there’s a key difference: During deferment, you may not be responsible for paying interest that accrues on Direct Subsidized Loans, Federal Perkins Loans, and the subsidized portion of Direct Consolidation Loans or FFEL Consolidation Loans.

With private student loans, borrowers anticipating trouble making payments would be wise to contact their loan servicer to seek a solution. Whether the lender calls it deferment or forbearance, interest accrues and is the borrower’s responsibility.

Recommended: Student Loan Deferment vs Forbearance

Is Student Loan Forbearance Bad?

As a stopgap measure, no.

It certainly beats having late payments or a loan default on your credit reports. Most federal student loans enter default when payments are 270 days past due, but federal Perkins Loans and private student loans can go into default after just one missed payment.

If you default on a student loan, you don’t just shrug off the responsibility. The entire balance of a federal student loan (principal and interest) becomes immediately due. If the loan is placed with a collection agency, add 17.92% of the loan amount to your principal, interest, and fees if your loan is held by the Department of Education.

If your federal student loan is in collections and you do not enter into a repayment agreement or you renege on the agreement, the collection agency can garnish your wages — up to 15% of your disposable pay.

As if that weren’t enough of a deterrent, borrowers in default can expect to have part or all of their tax refund taken and applied automatically to federal student loan debt.

After a default on a private student loan (usually after a single missed payment), private lenders may hire a collection agency or file a lawsuit. Any collection fees should be stated in the loan agreement.

Pros and Cons of Student Loan Forbearance

Postponing payments has its advantages and disadvantages.

Upsides of Student Loan Forbearance


•   Can help you avoid the major credit effects and fees of late payments and student loan default.

•   Does not affect your credit scores because the late payments are not reported on your credit reports. (Ensure that you continue making payments until your forbearance application has been approved.)

•   Can give you a chance to catch your breath when money is tight.

Recommended: How Does Deferring a Loan Affect My Credit Score? 

Downsides of Student Loan Forbearance

•   Interest will accrue. If you do not pay that interest, it will be added to your principal balance, which will cause more interest to accrue over time and likely also increase your monthly payment.

•   If you’re pursuing federal student loan forgiveness, any period of forbearance probably will not count toward your forgiveness requirements.

•   It’s a short-term answer.

Alternatives to Forbearance

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

If you’re having trouble making student loan payments because of circumstances that may continue for an extended period, or if you’re unsure when you’ll be able to afford to resume payments, one option is an income-based repayment plan.

Monthly payments hinge on your income and family size. Income-driven repayment plans are intended to also forgive any remaining loan balance after 20 or 25 years.

Student Loan Refinancing

Refinancing your student loans with a private lender is another option to consider. You’d take out one new loan, hopefully with a lower interest rate, to pay off one or more old loans.

You may also be able to change the length of the loan.

Borrowers eligible for student loan refinancing typically have a solid financial history, including a good credit score. Just realize that if you refinance federal student loans with a private lender, you give up federal benefits like income-driven repayment, loan forgiveness, and federal forbearance.

Recommended: Student Loan Refinancing Calculator 

The Takeaway

What does forbearance mean? Student loan forbearance is an option when you’re struggling to make payments, but in almost all cases interest will accrue and be added to the loan. Deferment, income-driven repayment, or refinancing could make more sense.

SoFi offers student loan refinancing with a fixed or variable interest rate and a simple online application.

It’s easy to see your rate on a student loan refi.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Source: sofi.com

Is a Post-Grad Certificate Program Worth It?

As you’re navigating the job market and reading up on expected qualifications, you may be at a crossroads, wondering whether a master’s would be beneficial in increasing your salary potential. If you’re a job-seeker, you may wonder if a master’s could make you more competitive in the job market.

But there is another option that may make sense depending on what industry you’re in: A certificate program. Not as long (or as expensive) as a master’s program, a certificate can prove highly-specialized competency in certain areas. This could open doors to further professional opportunities.

But a certificate program, while not as expensive as a full degree, may cost thousands of dollars. It also may require significant study time, which can be hard to balance if you’re also working full time. In a job market where companies are fighting for top talent, you may find that your company might pay for a certificate program, rather than you going out and paying for it yourself. Continue reading for more information on post-grad certificate programs so you can assess whether one fits with your financial goals.

Recommended: How to Pay for Grad School

What is The Value Of A Post-Grad Certificate Program?

A post-grad certificate program is a program that provides specialization in a field. While the program may not take as long to complete as a master’s degree and may be less expensive, it can also be intense, requiring a significant amount of time set aside to study.

Post-grad certificate programs can be found in all fields, from medicine to economics to marketing. These programs may cost anywhere from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. People may complete these certificates because they may be quicker and less expensive than a degree, and may either boost income or boost your competitive value as a job candidate. Post-grad certificate courses may be done online, in-person, or a combination of both, and often, people balance managing a certificate program with working full time.

Because a post-grad certificate can be beneficial, you may find that employers may potentially be willing to subsidize the cost of training. It may be worth it to ask your manager or your HR department. It can also be beneficial to talk to people who have done the certificate program to hear about any pros and cons. It can also be helpful to understand the level of commitment required in the program, and how people have managed to set aside time to study to prepare for any testing.

Graduate Certificate Versus Master’s Degree

If you’re right out of college, you may be wondering what the next step is, professionally. While that depends on your career goals, many post-grads find it helpful to explore the professional lay of the land by getting some work experience right after their bachelor’s degree. Because managers are hungry for talent due to a tight labor market, there can be advantages to looking for a job immediately after graduation, before you get any higher degrees or pursue certification. In some cases, employers may subsidize or help pay for higher education.

A certificate program tends to be in a niche area, so it may be good to explore your field and decide whether that certification is right for you. A master’s program may be more intense, but of course, can be a requirement if you want to pursue a job in a certain field, such as law.

Bottom line: No certificate or graduate degree can “guarantee” that you’ll make a certain amount of money or get a certain kind of job. Every career path is different. That’s why it can be helpful to speak to alums of certain programs or people who have received certain certifications, to hear their experience and advice.

Is a Graduate Certificate Equal to a Master’s Degree?

Is a graduate certificate equal to a master’s degree? That depends on how you define “equality.” The two are different paths that help you achieve certain goals. In general:

•   A certificate is less expensive than a graduate degree

•   A certificate takes less time to complete than a graduate degree

•   A certificate provides targeted knowledge and a specific skill set about a certain subject area. Generally, a certificate may be about 10 to 15 hours of coursework compared to the 30+ required for graduate programs. Requirements vary based on school and program.

•   A certificate generally requires a less comprehensive application process.

•   A graduate certificate may or may not be affiliated with an accredited degree program. In some cases, certificate coursework can count toward degree hours for a higher-ed degree.

•   Graduate certificate students do not qualify for federal student loans. You may be able to use a private student loan lender for certificate program loans, or could also explore a personal loan to cover a certificate program.

Recommended: Examining the Different Types of Student Loans

Is a Graduate Certificate Worth It?

A graduate certificate can be worth it, especially if you’re passionate about the field. It can be helpful to get some “real world” knowledge under your belt and understand exactly how the certificate will benefit you and your career goals.

Because a graduate certificate is a lot of work, it’s also important to make sure you carve out time to be able to do coursework, study, and complete the certificate exam. Asking any questions prior to applying for the certificate program, or asking to speak to people who have completed the program, can be helpful.

Because graduate certificates can be expensive, and may not be covered by federal aid, you may be wondering how to pay for it. Financing may include:

•   Subsidization through your current employer.

•   Saving up to pay for the program.

•   Apply for scholarships or financial aid through the certifying organization.

•   Explore scholarships that may be available for you. For example, if you’re a military veteran, you may have scholarship options for certain certification programs.

•   Considering student loans for a certification program or taking out a private loan.

Some certification programs may be eligible for federal student aid. If this is the case, students can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) to see what types of aid they qualify for.

Private student loans may be another option for students to consider. These loans don’t always offer the same borrower protections (think of things like deferment or forbearance options) that federal loans are afforded. But, some private lenders, including SoFi, do offer student loans for graduate certificate programs.

Recommended: FAFSA 101: How to Complete the FAFSA

Estimating the Value of a Certificate Program

You may wonder how much a certificate will increase your market value as an employee. And of course, that answer depends on your field and the certificate program you are pursuing. To estimate the value of a certificate program, it can be helpful to:

•   Read review sites and salary ranges on employers you’re interested in

•   Talk to people who have done the certificate program

•   Talk about your career trajectory with your current manager or HR department

•   Speak with the career development office at your alma mater for their perspectives on potential certificate programs

But in addition to financial value, there’s also the educational value. Is this a topic you find interesting and feel you can lean into? Does the material inspire you and excite you? Because you’ll be spending a significant amount of time working on the material, it can be important to have some motivation to do so.

Costs Associated with a Certificate Program

It can also be important to carve out associated costs with the degree program. In addition to the certificate program itself, you also may need to pay:

•   Application fee

•   Exam fee

•   Certification fee, which may be several hundred dollars and may be required that you renew your certification annually

•   Fee for any materials, including books

Making sure you know exactly what is required of you financially before you enroll can be helpful in planning how you’ll cover the degree.

Recommended: A Guide to Unclaimed Scholarships and Grants

How to Decide on a Certificate or Post-Grad Studies

So how do you know which path to take? The answer depends on, you guessed it, your individual goals. But answering these questions may help you decide:

•   What do I want out of my studies?

•   What do I want my work-life balance to look like as I study?

•   What do I hope to gain out of my degree/certificate? What would be the best/worst-case scenario?

•   What are my short-term professional goals?

•   What are my long-term professional goals?

•   What do I like about my work right now? Is there anything I want to dive into more deeply?

•   What is the lack of a degree holding me back from?

•   How will I pay for it? Am I already juggling student loans from undergrad and how comfortable would I feel adding to my debt?

These can be some big questions, and it can be helpful to get perspective by speaking with a mentor, career coach, or someone from your school’s career development office.

You could also consider a certificate program that could go toward credits for a master’s degree. This can be helpful in allowing you to lean into the material and have a head start if you do decide you’d like to pursue a full master’s degree.

Recommended: What to Know About Rising Grad School Student Debt

The Takeaway

A certificate isn’t taking the easy road — the courses can be intense, and it can be challenging to balance coursework with career obligations. But a certificate can potentially set you up on the path to success and can help you further define your career goals.

Because certificates can be expensive, consider having a discussion with your employer and see if they would be amenable to paying for part or all of your certificate, or discuss the path in which to do so. A certificate can be a way to further your education without stopping your career, and it can be a good in-between step for you to decide whether or not to pursue a master’s degree in your chosen field.

Depending on the certificate program, students may potentially qualify for federal aid. If that federal aid isn’t enough, some students may look into private student loans. Private student loans are generally considered only after all other sources of funding have been evaluated. That’s because they don’t have to offer the same benefits that are afforded to federal student loans — things like deferment options or the option to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

If private student loans seem like an option you’re interested in considering — check out SoFi. Private student loans are available to students pursuing a graduate certificate. Interested applicants can find out what rates they may qualify for in just a few minutes.

Learn more about private student loans from SoFi.

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SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Source: sofi.com

Using In-School Deferment as a Student

Undergraduate and graduate students in school at least half-time can put off making federal student loan payments, and possibly private student loan payments, with in-school deferment. The catch? Interest usually accrues.

Loans are a fact of life for many students. In fact, a majority of them — about 70% — graduate with student loan debt.

While some students choose to start paying off their loans while they’re still in college, many take advantage of in-school deferment.

What Is In-School Deferment?

In-school deferment allows an undergraduate or graduate student, or parent borrower, to postpone making payments on:

•   Direct Loans, which include PLUS loans for graduate and professional students, or parents of dependent undergrads; subsidized and unsubsidized loans; and consolidation loans.

•   Perkins Loans

•   Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans.

Parents with PLUS loans may qualify for deferment if their student is enrolled at least half-time at an eligible college or career school.

What about private student loans? Many lenders allow students to defer payments while they’re in school and for six months after graduation. Sallie Mae lets you defer payments for 48 months as long as you are enrolled at least half-time.

But each private lender has its own rules.

Recommended: How Does Student Loan Deferment in Grad School Work?

How In-School Deferment Works

Federal student loan borrowers in school at least half-time are to be automatically placed into in-school deferment. You should receive a notice from your loan servicer.

If your loans don’t go into automatic in-school deferment or you don’t receive a notice, get in touch with the financial aid office at your school. You may need to fill out an In-School Deferment Request .

If you have private student loans, it’s a good idea to reach out to your loan servicer to request in-school deferment. If you’re seeking a new private student loan, you can review the lender’s deferment rules.

Most federal student loans also have a six-month grace period after a student graduates, drops below half-time enrollment, or leaves school before payments must begin. This applies to graduate students with PLUS loans as well.

Parent borrowers who took out a PLUS loan can request a six-month deferment after their student graduates, leaves school, or drops below half-time enrollment.

Requirements for In-School Deferment

Students with federal student loans must be enrolled at least half-time in an eligible school, defined by the Federal Student Aid office as one that has been approved by the Department of Education to participate in federal student aid programs, even if the school does not participate in those programs.

That includes most accredited American colleges and universities and some institutions outside the United States.

In-school deferment is primarily for students with existing loans or those who are returning to school after time away.

The definition of “half-time” can be tricky. Make sure you understand the definition your school uses, as not all schools define half-time status the same way. It’s usually based on a certain number of hours and/or credits.

Do I Need to Pay Interest During In-School Deferment?

For federal student loans and many private student loans, no.

If you have a federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, interest will accrue during the deferment and be added to the principal loan balance.

If you have a Direct Subsidized Loan or a Perkins Loan, the government pays the interest while you’re in school and during grace periods. That’s also true of the subsidized portion of a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Interest will almost always accrue on deferred private student loans.

Although postponement of payments takes the pressure off, the interest that you’re responsible for that accrues on any loan will be capitalized, or added to your balance, after deferments and grace periods. You’ll then be charged interest on the increased principal balance. Capitalization of the unpaid interest may also increase your monthly payment, depending on your repayment plan.

If you’re able to pay the interest before it capitalizes, that can help keep your total loan cost down.

Alternatives to In-School Deferment

There are different types of deferment aside from in-school deferment.

•   Economic Hardship Deferment. You may receive an economic hardship deferment for up to three years if you receive a means-tested benefit, such as welfare, you are serving in the Peace Corps, or you work full time but your earnings are below 150% of the poverty guideline for your state and family size.

•   Graduate Fellowship Deferment. If you are in an approved graduate fellowship program, you could be eligible for this deferment.

•   Military Service and Post-Active Duty Student Deferment. You could qualify for this deferment if you are on active duty military service in connection with a military operation, war, or a national emergency, or you have completed active duty service and any applicable grace period. The deferment will end once you are enrolled in school at least half-time, or 13 months after completion of active duty service and any grace period, whichever comes first.

•   Rehabilitation Training Deferment. This deferment is for students who are in an approved program that offers drug or alcohol, vocational, or mental health rehabilitation.

•   Unemployment Deferment. You can receive this deferment for up to three years if you receive unemployment benefits or you’re unable to find full-time employment.

For most deferments, you’ll need to provide your student loan servicer with documentation to show that you’re eligible.

Then there’s federal student loan forbearance, which temporarily suspends or reduces your principal monthly payments, but interest always continues to accrue.

Some private student loan lenders offer forbearance as well.

If your federal student loan type does not charge interest during deferment, that’s probably the way to go. If you’ve reached the maximum time for a deferment or your situation doesn’t fit the eligibility criteria, applying for forbearance is an option.

If your ability to afford your federal student loan payments is unlikely to change any time soon, you may want to consider an income-based repayment plan or student loan refinancing.

The goal of refinancing with a private lender is to change your rate or term. If you qualify, all loans can be refinanced into one new private loan. Playing with the numbers can be helpful.

Just know that if you refinance federal student loans, they will no longer be eligible for federal deferment or forbearance, loan forgiveness programs, or income-driven repayment.

Recommended: Student Loan Refinancing Calculator

The Takeaway

What is in-school deferment? It allows undergraduates and graduate students to buy time before student loan payments begin, but interest usually accrues and is added to the balance.

If trying to lower your student loan rates is something that’s of interest, look into refinancing with SoFi.

Students are eligible to refinance a parent’s PLUS loan along with their own student loans.

There are absolutely no fees.

It’s easy to check your rate.

We’ve Got You Covered

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Source: sofi.com

How to Talk to Your Children About Student Loans: 6 Key Points

Many parents lecture — er, talk to — their teenagers about being responsible. Don’t text and drive. Do try to spend that summer job money wisely. As children approach college, talking about student loans might be a smart idea.

For one, the topic is pretty complicated.

And second, even if you plan to help repay any student loans, most qualified education loans are taken out in the student’s name, and there’s usually no escape: Even bankruptcy rarely erases student loan debt.

Maybe your student-athlete or scholar is counting on a full ride. While confidence is a wonderful thing, full rides are exceedingly rare.

Here are six student loan concepts you can discuss with your aspiring college student.

1. Here’s What We Think We Can Contribute

It might be uncomfortable to talk frankly about your family finances, but they almost always determine the amount and types of financial aid your child may qualify for.

It can be important for parents to discuss what they’re able to contribute in order to help their young adults wrap their heads around the numbers, too.

2. Let’s Forge Ahead With the FAFSA

The first step to hunt for financial aid is to complete the FAFSA®, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It takes most people less than an hour. Students helping their parents fill it out will get a look at the expected family contribution: the family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits.

Based on financial need, a college’s cost of attendance, and FAFSA information, schools put together a financial aid package that may be composed of scholarships and grants, federal student loans, and/or work-study.

Awards based on merit (scholarships) or need (grants) are free money. When they don’t cover the full cost of college, that’s where student loans can come in.

If your income is high, should you bother with the FAFSA? Sure, because there’s no income cutoff for federal student aid. And even if your student is not eligible for federal aid, most colleges and states use FAFSA information to award nonfederal aid.

About 400 colleges and scholarship programs use the CSS Profile, a financial aid application in addition to the FAFSA. It determines eligibility for institutional scholarships and grants.

3. Interest Rates: Fixed and Not

Your soon-to-be college student may not know that there are two types of interest rates: fixed and variable.

Fixed interest rates stay the same for the life of the loan. Variable rates go up or down based on market fluctuations.

You can explain that all federal student loans borrowed after July 2006 have fixed interest rates, which are set each year, and that private student loan interest rates may be variable or fixed.

4. Federal vs Private Student Loans

Around now your young person is restless. But press on.

Anyone taking out student loans should learn that there are two main types: federal and private. All federal student loans are funded by the federal government. Private student loans are funded by some banks, credit unions, and online lenders.

If your child is going to borrow money for college, it’s generally advised to start with federal student loans. Since federal student loans are issued by the government, they have benefits, including low fixed interest rates, forbearance and deferment eligibility, and income-based repayment options.

Private student loans have terms and conditions set by private lenders, and don’t offer the generous repayment options or loan forgiveness programs of federal loans, but some private lenders do offer specific deferment options.

Private student loans can be used to fill gaps in need, up to the cost of attendance, which includes tuition, books and supplies, room and board, transportation, and personal expenses. A student applicant often will need a cosigner.

5. Another Wrinkle: Subsidized vs Unsubsidized

Financial need will determine whether your undergraduate is eligible for federal Direct Subsidized Loans. Your child’s school determines the amount you can borrow, which can’t exceed your need.

The government pays the interest on Direct Subsidized Loans while your child is in college, during the grace period (the first six months after graduation or when dropping below half-time enrollment), and in deferment (postponing repayment).

With federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans, interest begins accruing when the funds are disbursed and continues during grace periods, and the borrower is responsible for paying it. Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students, and there is no requirement of financial need.

Borrowers are not required to pay the interest while in school, during grace periods, or during deferment (although they can choose to), but any accrued interest will be added to the principal balance when repayment begins.

There are annual and aggregate limits for subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Most dependent freshmen, for example, can borrow no more than $5,500.

6. Soothing Words: Scholarships and Grants

It’s important to not overlook the nonloan elements of the financial aid package. They can (hooray) reduce the amount your student needs to borrow.

Scholarships and grants are essentially free money.

While some schools automatically consider your student for scholarships based on merit or other qualifications, many scholarships and grants require applications.

You may want to assign a research project to your college-bound young adult to look into all of the scholarship options they may qualify for.

The Takeaway

Debt isn’t the most thrilling parent-child topic, but college students who will need to borrow should know the ins and outs of student loans: interest rates, federal vs. private, subsidized vs. unsubsidized, and repayment options.

If federal aid doesn’t cover all the bases of college, your student can consider a private student loan with SoFi.

SoFi Private Student Loans come with competitive rates, flexible repayment options, and no fees. A student can apply entirely online, with or without a cosigner.

See your interest rate in three minutes. No strings attached.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Source: sofi.com