If you’re more about saving as much money as possible, you might want to give the debt avalanche a shot. “With this method, you throw the largest payment you can at your highest-interest-rate debt every month, while paying the minimum payments on your other debts.” By focusing on interest rates rather than the balances, you save more money overall.
“People are borrowing twice as much as they were a decade ago because grants and scholarships are not keeping up with the escalating costs of college,” says Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of FinAid.org and FastWeb.com, free online financial-aid resources. To wit: Graduates of the class of 2011 have an average of $27,200 in debt, up from about $17,600 in 2001.
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First, you’ll want to take a look at what repayment options lenders offer for students while they are in school, so you can find one that fits your budget. Making payments while you are in school can help you save on interest, but you should only sign up for a payment plan you can keep up with. As long as your lender doesn’t impose prepayment penalties, you can always make additional payments when you can afford it.
Say, for example, you have a couple with a combined college debt of $50,000. Annually, they are making $100,000 combined in salaries. By establishing a budget with a goal of 3-years completion, they can make the necessary adjustments in their day-to-day spending to meet that goal. This budgeting might even reveal more money they can put toward diminishing the principal balance.
There might also be times when the school you included on your FAFSA selects you for verification. If that happens, you might simply need to prove extra documentation to confirm what you entered on your FAFSA. According to Federal Student Aid, this isn’t something to worry about — some schools might do this randomly, while others require it for everyone.
One final thought concerning the use of private student loans: get a strong understanding of the interest rates as well as the loan’s other terms and conditions. Most lenders offer you a choice between a variable or fixed APR (annual percentage rate), so be sure to read up on the differences between the two interest rate options. Keep in mind that the rates advertised may not necessarily be the rates you qualify for based on your creditworthiness — or that of a qualifying cosigner.
The stark reality is most American students and families have to borrow money as part of the overall financing process to pay for a college education. In fact, according to the 13th Annual Project on Student Debt, “Student Debt and the Class of 2017,” published by The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) in 2018, average student loan debt among college seniors is $28,650. Moreover, approximately 15% of the debt acquired among the Class of 2017 was non-federal debt.
Many students ignore their loans until after graduation, but it’s wise to start paying them off while you’re in school. Get a part-time job while you’re in college and dedicate most or all of the earnings to your student loans. If you can pay off $800 a month while you’re in school, then you’ll have paid off $30,000 or more by the time you graduated. For some people, that’s their entire amount owed!
Keep in touch with your loan servicer. Notify your loan servicer when you graduate; withdraw from school; drop below half-time status; transfer to another school; or change your name, address, or Social Security number. You also should contact your servicer if you’re having trouble making your scheduled loan payments. Your servicer has several options available to help you keep your loan in good standing.