Student loan management can be a headache if you don’t plan ahead. In many cases students are not sure who to contact or what options are available to them after college. Fortunately, there are many options to consider based on your personal situation. Here are 7 things to think about when preparing to manage student loan debt.
1. Understand your loan terms. In other words get to know loans you have in your name and do so carefully. Read small print and get clarification on the type of loan you have (federal or private) and understand your options when it comes to repayment. Review details such as interest rates and what is owed.
2. Retain good contact records for loan servicers. Having good records of who you can contact about your loan helps you stay current as a borrower. You should know contact details such as phone number, email, mailing address and so on. This is to ensure your payments are received or anytime you need to report a change regarding your status.
3. Choose a good repayment plan. Are you choosing a plan based on your income or do you want to pay off the loan within a certain timeframe? If you choose to make payments to have loan paid off within a set time your payments could be higher. If you choose to make payments based on income they are likely to be more manageable and affordable. Assess both options and use payment tools available to give you a better idea of what to expect. An example of a payment tool includes the Department of Education’s payment calculator (studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans).
4. Review options regarding student loan consolidation (Should you or shouldn’t you?) When loans are consolidated they are made into a single loan. Each month you make one payment instead of multiple payments. This depends on loan terms, age of loan and whether you are able to make required payments. Learn about pros and cons of this option before making a decision. In some cases students learn it is better to keep them separate because they may lose out on borrower benefits.
5. Make every effort possible to make payments and avoid trouble. If you default on payments you may experience a drop in your credit score, collection attempts from debt collectors and even wage garnishment. There are assistance programs your loan servicer can help you with if you become unable to make payments.
6. Learn about loan forgiveness. If you qualify you may be able to have remaining loan payments forgiven through the federal program Public Service Loan Forgiveness. If you are in certain field such as the military, medicine or teaching there are additional options available.
7. Know reputable resources to help you obtain more information to manage your debt. You can review student loan information through the National Student Loan Data System (nslds.ed.gov). Obtain a free credit report to assess student loan activity (annualcreditreport.com). Use repayment calculators and obtain comprehensive details about loan repayment through the U.S. Department of Education (student aid).