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Paying Student Loans

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You have the education. Now it's time to start paying for it. Easier said than done. But the following information may make paying back your student loans just a little bit easier.

Exit Interview
If you have taken student loans, your school is required by law to give you an exit interview. This is simply a time to meet with a financial aid advisor to discuss your repayment obligations and options. Make sure not to miss the opportunity.

Grace Periods
Because some college students don't get jobs immediately after graduation, lenders usually offer a grace period of about six months before you need to start repaying your student loans. Take time during your grace period to organize your finances and evaluate your options.

Create a Plan
Knowing what you owe and when you need to start making payments is the first step to handling your debt well and keeping that credit score high. Storing your loan paperwork in one safe place is another key to staying on top of your loans.

Ways to Repay
There are many different ways you can arrange your payment schedule, depending on what you can afford:

  • The standard payment plan, if you can afford it, will offer you the lowest total loan cost.
  • A graduated payment plan will start you out with lower payments that increase as time goes on. Itís convenient for now, but youíll be paying more interest over the long haul.
  • With income-related payment plans, your monthly payment amounts are tied directly to your income instead of rising gradually no matter what your income.
  • Extended repayment allows you to make smaller payments for a much longer period of time. Of course, the longer you owe money, the more interest you pay, and the total amount in the end goes up dramatically.
  • Consolidation can happen when a lender offers you a lower interest rate and allows you to combine all of your loan payments into one convenient payment. You can save a lot of money over the life of your loan.

Donít Default
Blowing off your loans is one of the worst financial missteps you can take. After six months of missed payments, you will likely be faced with collectors and a destroyed credit rating. So if youíre having trouble making payments, call your lender and find out your options (including deferment) right away.

Reducing Your Debt
Depending on your career path, there are few prime ways to knock out big portions of your loans:

  • Peace Corps: By joining the Peace Corps, you can get a 15% cancellation of your loans during your first two years and 20% during your third and fourth years.
  • AmeriCorps: If you like the idea of the Peace Corps but donít want to leave the country, AmeriCorps could be for you. Get up to $4,725 toward your education.
  • Military Service: All five branches of the military offer education assistance programs. Check with your local recruiter to find out how they can help you.
  • Teaching: Depending on where and how long you teach, you can get complete loan cancellation or at least a deferment of some loans by filing specific understaffed teaching positions.
  • Legal and medical service: If you decide to study medicine or law, research programs that offer partial cancellation of loans for public service.

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