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How to Save Money on Student Loans
By consolidating multiple student loans into one lower monthly payment, you gain the freedom to better manage your monthly budget, and invest more of your earnings for the future.
Another benefit to consolidation is that now you only have to make one monthly payment...
You may have heard the news recently that the government increased the student loan interest rate 1.93 percentage points for the first time in five years. This may seem like a huge increase, but don't lose sleep over it--rates are still at a 38-year low.
So what does this information mean for you? Now is your
chance to consolidate your loans and save!
Types of Loans
First you will need to know about the different types of loans you may have. Let's start with the Federal Perkins Loan. This type of loan is generally granted by your college's financial aid office. Since it's a need-based loan, the university's financial aid office must determine who qualifies for the loan and how much they will receive. Universities only have a limited amount of funds to distribute, however, so these loans are awarded on a very selective basis.
The majority of college students have Federal Stafford Loans instead. This is the most common loan available to both undergraduate and graduate students. If a Stafford Loan is subsidized, the federal government pays your accrued interest while you're in school and during the grace period after graduation. If your Stafford is unsubsidized, however, you'll be footing the entire bill.
Lastly, you may have one or several private education loans.
There are a variety of lenders that provide private education
loans. Most banks and financial institutions offer private
student loans to help supplement the costs that other
financial aid resources won't cover.
Now that you better understand what kind of loans you have, you're probably wondering what's next. Pay off time! It may sound daunting to have to payback all of those loans, but don't even think about attempting to dodge your bills.
Not paying your loans back will cause your credit rating to plummet. And remember, declaring bankruptcy is not an option. Student loans are immune to bankruptcy. You may also face IRS penalties and possible garnishment of wages if you hold off on payment--so make those monthly payments on time.
So what's a good plan-of-action when beginning to repay your loans? A smart move is to look into consolidating your existing loans now while interest rates are still low.
Consolidation involves refinancing one or more of your
student loans. The original balance is paid in full, and a
new loan is originated for the combined amount and for a new
term--all with a low fixed interest rate. Consolidation loans
often reduce the size of your monthly payment by extending
the term of your loan beyond the 10-year repayment plan that
is standard with federal loans.
Get a Head Start
For those of you that haven't graduated yet, there's something new this year. Under a new interpretation of the rules, students don't have to wait until they graduate to consolidate. Students still in school can consolidate existing loans. If you subsequently take on more student loans, then you can consolidate those loans either separately from the initial low-rate consolidation, or as part of a blended package. If you've just graduated and are in your six month grace period, you can get an extra one-half of one percent cut off the consolidation rate if you consolidate within the first six months after graduation. And by consolidating during the grace period, you may also be able to retain the entire grace period. If the lender delays disbursing the consolidation loan until the end of the grace period, you get the benefit of the grace period and are also able to lock in current interest rates. Not too shabby!
Which loans should you consolidate? You can consolidate
Perkins, Stafford and PLUS loans (parent loans for students)
and even some previously consolidated loans. Unfortunately,
you cannot consolidate private loans that are not federally
guaranteed. Also, most lenders will only consolidate loans
for students with loan balances of at least $7,500. For most
of you, this threshold won't be a problem. According to a
recent Nellie Mae study, the average student upon graduation
owes an average of $18,900 in student loans.
What are the benefits of consolidating your loans? The main benefit of consolidation is that it allows you to lock in a low fixed interest rate for the life of the loan. Understand though, that not everyone gets the lowest rate on consolidation. While some can lock in a very low rate close to 3.5%, others may pay slightly more depending on the original loan rates. So check with your lenders (or one of the Web sites listed on page 34) for information on how much your rate will decrease. Each Web site has online calculators, and you can even apply for a consolidation loan online. Note also that there is no fee for you, the borrower, to consolidate.
Another benefit to consolidation is that now you only have to make one monthly payment and to only one lender-saving you a headache each month from sorting out to whom and what you owe. There are also added bonuses, for instance, many lenders offer interest rate and payment reductions if you pay on time over a period of months and/or have your monthly payments automatically withdrawn from your checking or savings account.
Check out the Web sites, do a little homework and in the end
you'll save yourself a nice sum of cash for consolidating
your loans. Start the process now, so you can relax, get some
sleep and focus on what's really important, your first real
Check out these helpful Web sites for online calculators to help you find out how much your interest rate will decrease. You can also apply for a consolidation loan online.
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