06.26.13 | Will Student Loan Interest Rates Double on July 1?

Posted in Financial Aid, News, Stafford Loan by Mark Kantrowitz

If Congress does not act, interest rates on new subsidized Stafford loans will double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1, 2013. Previously originated subsidized Stafford loans and all other education loans will not be affected.

Doubling of the interest rates certainly sounds dramatic, but the actual impact on students will be more muted.

Each year, less than a third of undergraduate students receive federal subsidized Stafford loans. The average subsidized Stafford loan is $3,357, based on data from the 2007-08 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), with average subsidized Stafford loan debt at graduation of $9,008 ($11,329 for Bachelor’s degree recipients). Only 3% of subsidized Stafford loan borrowers graduate with debt equal to the aggregate limit of $23,000.

Assuming a 10-year repayment term, doubling of the interest rate on $3,357 in debt increases the monthly loan payment by less than $7. On $9,008 in debt, the increase is less than $18; on $11,329 the increase is less than $24; and on $23,000 the increase is less than $48.

Doubling the interest rate does not double the monthly payment. Most of the monthly payment goes to principal, not interest. For example, on a 10-year term, increasing the interest rate from 3.4% to 6.8% increases the monthly payment by about one sixth (16.9%).

So while the interest rate increase will increase borrowing costs, it is not a major disaster.

Focusing on the interest rates, on the other hand, is a distraction from the real problem (more…)

06.14.13 | 5 Solutions to the Subsidized Student Loan Debate

Posted in Financial Aid, News, Stafford Loan, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

Over the past month, you may have heard about the impending subsidized student loan interest rate increase, as politicians frantically work to come to a consensus before July 1. Right now, subsidized student loans interest rates currently stand at 3.4%, but will increase to 6.8% unless a new bill is passed by July 1.

With this decision having a major impact on your future, it is important to stay up to date with the issue and the suggested solutions.

1. Default Solution: Increase to 6.8%

As stated above, if politicians fail to come to an agreement, the interest rate for subsidized loans will increase to 6.8%.

2. Democratic Solution: Student Loan Affordability Act

Most Democrats in the House of Representatives argued for a two-year extension on the 3.4% interest rate, which would maintain the current interest rate and bring the question to Congress again in two years. However, this bill was rejected in the Senate on earlier this month.

3. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Solution: Student Loan Fairness Act

Senator Warren proposed a bill which would dramatically cut the interest rate on subsidized loans. Citing the fact that the student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion, Warren proposed cutting the interest rate to 0.75%, which is the same rate that banks are able to get from the government. For more information, please see our recent article on the details of Warren’s bill.
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06.11.13 | Impacts of the Potential Stafford Loan Rate Increase

Posted in Financial Aid, News, Stafford Loan, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

Student Loans in the MediaWith the recent legislation involving the subsidized student loan interest rate, many have begun to express concern towards the fact that if Congress is not able to reach an agreement by July 1, subsidized Stafford loan interest rates will automatically increase from 3.4% to 6.8%.  In the process, many news sources have erroneously been reporting that this increased interest rate would yield an additional $1,000 in annual debt for the average borrower. However, this figure is much lower in reality.

Using the loan repayment calculator from Finaid.org, we can begin to calculate more-accurate rates (though still estimates). Assuming a student borrows $23,000 over the course of four years—the maximum amount that can be taken out for undergraduate studies—the annual increase will be less than half of what has been reported.
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05.29.13 | Happy 529 Plan Day!

Posted in Financial Aid, financial aid tips, News by Student Loan Network Staff

Welcome back readers!  In honor of 529 Plan day (5/29/13), I’m here to help you learn about 529 plans and hopefully help you win some money for college.

What is a 529 Plan?

To start off, what is a 529 plan?  In short, a 529 plan is a savings plan with tax advantages that helps students pay for college.  529 plans can be further broken down into 2 types of college savings plans: prepaid tuition plans and college savings plans.

Prepaid Tuition Plan:

You know how your grandparents always talk about how they could buy a candy bar for 5 cents when they were kids?  Today, that same candy bar costs $1.00.  Over time, prices rise, and prepaid tuition plans enable you to pay the price of college at the time that you start your plan.  Prepaid tuition plans allow you to lock in the current tuition rate for your future educational expenses, and are not subject to federal, and sometimes state, taxes.  However, prepaid tuition plans require the student to attend one of the eligible public colleges or universities from the state of the tuition plan, and place a very tight restriction on how you can spend the money from the plan.  In addition, prepaid tuition plans are counted as a parental asset on your FAFSA application when determining your Expected Family Contribution, thus potentially lowering the amount of federal aid for which you may qualify.
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05.23.13 | Smarter Solutions for Students Act

Posted in Financial Aid, financial aid tips, News, Stafford Loan, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

As you may recall, last year, Congress voted on whether to raise the subsidized Stafford loan interest rate to 6.8%, or keep it at 3.4%.  Congress decided to prolong the decision for another year and keep the subsidized interest rate at 3.4%.  However, a year has gone by, and it is once again time for Congress to vote.  If Congress fails to come to a consensus by July 1, the interest rate on subsidized loans will automatically double to 6.8%.

In response to this impending decision, several politicians have put forth ideas of what they deem to be the best solution.  On May 1, Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act, which sought to lower the interest rate on subsidized loans to just under 1%, which she described as the equivalent rate for which banks qualify.
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05.21.13 | How to Save Money on College Textbooks

Posted in College Life, News by Mark Kantrowitz

College Textbooks

Books and supplies add about $600 to $1,200 to your college costs each year. At lower-cost colleges buying books can bust your budget, sometimes even exceeding the cost of tuition and fees. Unlike tuition and fees, however, textbook costs are something you can control by buying and selling cheap textbooks.

Two of the best methods of saving money on textbooks include buying used textbooks and selling your books back to the college bookstore at the end of the semester. Each approach can save you as much as half of the cost of buying new textbooks, so if you combine them and are lucky, you could pay next to nothing for your textbooks. Unfortunately, faculty change editions periodically, so you won’t always be able to sell all of your textbooks.

Buying used textbooks isn’t as icky as it sounds. Often the used textbooks will have notes in the margins and highlighted passages that can help you understand the material and study for exams.

An alternative is to rent your textbooks. This doesn’t save you as much as buying used textbooks and reselling them after the final exams, but it guarantees that you’ll be able to earn some cash by returning the textbooks. As with reselling your textbooks, the main drawback is you don’t get to keep the textbooks.

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05.16.13 | Elizabeth Warren Calls for Student Loan Changes

Posted in Financial Aid, News, Stafford Loan, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

Last year at this time, the big issue in the news was the impending doubling of student loan interest rates. The interest rates of Subsidized Stafford Loans were set to double from 3.4% to 6.8%. Before this could happen, Congress stepped in, temporarily lowering them for another full year.

That extra year of low rates is now coming to a close, and rates are once again set to double. This is why Senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act. This act would allow students to borrow at the same rate as banks, which is about “one-ninth the amount that students are asked to pay”.

Here is a quick list of what this bill seeks to do:

  • The bill would charge students a rate equal to the rates banks are getting from the government (for subsidized loans only)—a rate of less than 1%.
  • Loans would be funded through the federal reserve, with administration by the Department of Education

Senator Warren gives an excellent overview in her introduction of the bill to the Senate Committee. Watch it below.

04.05.13 | Happy Financial Literacy Month!

Posted in College Life, Financial Aid, News, Student Credit by Student Loan Network Staff

Piggy Bank in GrassDid you know that April is Financial Literacy Month? With the recent economic struggles, it’s clearer than ever that many students (and even parents) need some personal finance training, stat! According to the National Financial Educator’s Council:

“About thirty-four percent of parents have taught their teen how to balance a checkbook, and less than that has explained how credit card interest and fees work and ninety-three percent American parents with teenagers report worrying that their children might make financial missteps such as: overspending or living beyond their means.”

While parents can be a good starting point, “Around sixty-nine percent of parents admit to feeling less prepared to give their teenager guidance about investing than they do having the ‘sex talk’ with them.” Yikes!

In the spirit of Financial Literacy Month, we want to help you learn to manage your money! To kick things off, here’s a list of some great websites designed to teach you those much-needed money skills!

My mother always told me, “Don’t put it on a credit card if you can’t afford it in cash” and I’m free of credit card debt to this day! Share your wisdom and tell us some of your own personal finance tips by leaving a comment below!

Don’t forget to be on the lookout for more personal finance posts in the coming weeks or check out last year’s Financial Literacy Blog Series!

Source: http://www.financialeducatorscouncil.org/financial-literacy-statistics.html

03.28.13 | How Repealing DOMA Could Affect Financial Aid

Posted in College Life, FAFSA, Financial Aid, News by Student Loan Network Staff

This week has brought a flood of news on gay rights as Supreme Court justices review the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA). The repeal of DOMA would bring many benefits to same-sex families, such as death benefits, tax incentives, and health insurance coverage.

What does this have to do with financial aid? A lot, actually.

An increasingly common issue in the financial aid application process is how LGBT families file the FAFSA.

Because of DOMA, financial aid for same-sex families is determined differently and can lead to non-uniform aid awards. When filing the FAFSA, both parents (if married) are required to provide their financial information. In the case where marriage is not federally recognized, only one parent would be able to file for the student, leading to increased financial aid for the family. What’s more, any financial support from the other parent would be reported as untaxed income and subject to different treatment in the aid calculations. The same logic applies to married students.

If DOMA is repealed, the application process would be streamlined for all married couples. Financial aid would take all financial support for the student into account, and the question of “which parent should file the FAFSA” would be eliminated for these families.

This also means that same-sex families might get less financial aid, because financial awards would be based on both parents’ income and assets, not just one.

Clearly DOMA has far-reaching impacts for college students and their families, as repealing DOMA would mean uniformity in the financial aid process for all married couples.

03.06.13 | Sequester Impacts on Financial Aid

Posted in Federal Work-Study, Financial Aid, News, PLUS Loans, Stafford Loan by Student Loan Network Staff

As you may have heard by now, the recent sequestration has huge implications for education across the board, and Higher Ed. is no exception. The budget cuts that took effect on March 1, 2013 will affect most types of federal student aid, including Federal Work Study (FWS), Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Service Grants, TEACH Grants, and the Direct Student Loan Program. Fortunately for many students, Pell Grants were specifically exempt from the budget cuts.

Here’s a brief overview of what to expect from student aid programs going forward:

Federal Work Study and FSEOG Programs

Budget cuts of $86 million do not only mean a reduction in the FSEOG program, it could also mean a loss of on-campus employment for as many as 33,000 students if colleges do not step in with funding. While these campus-based programs are funded through the remainder of this year, program cuts will take affect for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Iraq – Afghanistan Service and TEACH Grants

For both of these federal grants, funding has been reduced for any award first disbursed during the sequester. It should have no impact on grants first disbursed before the cuts took effect.
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