Ahhh, student loans. The loans for higher education that about 44 million borrowers owe at an outstanding balance totaling a staggering $1.48 trillion. That is higher than our total US Credit card debt! But national statistics aside, where student loan debt looms over the average family its personal and distressing. The average student loan debt in 2017: $37,172.00! I know, I know, loans have enabled many people to go to school who couldn’t afford it, but nobody foresaw this mess! College costs exceed the cost of inflation! Lots of people don’t finish…
Many students take the loans without really counting the future price of carrying this type of debt. And for those who do not graduate? Well, your loan for the entire semester was disbursed to the school- and you owe it. Student Loan debt is a huge stressor for new college grads, with the monthly payments making it hard to get a car or save for a home .
And there are pretty scary steps that servicers can take when you owe and don’t pay, including garnishing wages and social security checks without a lawsuit. And getting rid of these obligations is not as easy as some others because these loans are typically not dischargeable in an average bankruptcy (for now). Finally, while there are currently NINE different payment plans for federal student loans, some stretch out the terms of the debt for 25-30 years. That is a mortgage!
The only way to get rid of these loans is to have a plan and pay more than the monthly payments. These guys need to be attacked with a vengeance. I mean, who wants to have an education debt for 10-25 years? Or have a high debt to income ratio on their credit report? Yeah, credit reporting includes the total amount of the loans and any balance increases accruing monthly. There are real dangers in these high balances on reports for people who have security clearances or must have a background check for employment. But where to start?
These steps are for federal student loans. For private loans, contact your lender.
First, get your loan balance, monthly payment, status (for each if you have more than one), and type of loan from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). https://www.nsldsfap.ed.gov/nslds_FAP/ Note that there are several types of loans. Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) and Direct Loans are two common types taken by students, and Parent PLUS loans by parent borrowers. The type of loan is important because not every loan type is available for all payment plans. It’s complicated.
Second, if you have multiple loans over several years, listed as “Loan 1,” Loan 2,” etc. they will be listed by amounts and dates of disbursement. You may benefit from consolidation of the outstanding loans into one or two. Often Unsubsidized and Subsidized are consolidated separately. Subsidized means Congress pays the interest while you are in deferment or forbearance, so they accrue interest differently and have a different character than unsubsidized, where interest accrues immediately upon disbursement. There is a limit to the number of consolidations you can do, and the credit agencies will report it as a “new loan.” This will likely affect your credit score, if you are worried about your FICO.
Third, check out the federal loan “repayment estimator” to look at the payments that may be available. https://studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/mobile/repayment/repaymentEstimator.action. CAUTION some plans are based on your loan balances, some are based on your current income and go up in payment every few years, and some require entrance into a program that you must requalify for each year or your loan converts to the “10 year standard plan” with the highest monthly payment. Also, for some programs, the interest will automatically “collateralize” or transform into “principal” added to the loan… and interest then grows on the new principal. READ THE FINE PRINT.
Again, the best way to get out of the student loan mess is to get serious about kicking student loan debt out of your life. Payments above and beyond the minimum are going to make a dent faster than just treading water with monthly payments. I firmly believe no one should be in debt for 25 years to earn a college degree. Seriously, read that again. In debt for 25 years to earn a college degree. But before you can start to make plan, you need to know your “enemy.
The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from The Law Office of Dawn K. Kennedy or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.