07.19.13 | College Costs Out of Control

Posted in Private Student Loans, Student Loans, Uncategorized by Student Loan Network Staff

Today, 20% of adults owe money on student loans, and 57% are worried about repaying these loans. Many have expressed concern about the recent legislation which increased the interest rate of subsidized loans to 6.8%, but the problem is not the cost of student loans. As stated by Mark Kantrowitz in a recent article published by MarketWatch, this will not double loan payments, but rather, will lead to about a 17% increase in monthly payments.

The real problem is the rising cost of college, and decline in government grants. A recent study by Gallup indicates that only 15% of Americans think that it would be reasonable for colleges to charge students more than $20,000 per year. Yet, many schools, such as MIT, Cornell, and Harvard, charge over $50,000 per year, after tuition and living expenses are taken into account. (more…)

07.12.13 | Pros and Cons of Private Student Loan Consolidation

Congratulations on finally finishing college.  While it’s great to be working and living on your own, you now get to pay your own bills (and yes, now you finally understand why your parents always yelled at you for taking more than 10 minutes in the shower).  Amongst these bills, the most pressing may be those student loan repayment letters that start to arrive all too soon after graduation.  With student loan debt averaging out to $23,000 per borrower, you could end up paying $200 per month for the next 15 years!

Fortunately, there is an alternative: college loan consolidation. Student loan consolidation enables you to lower your monthly payments and pay back your loan over a longer period of time. To give you a better idea, let’s explore the pros and cons of consolidating your student loans. (more…)

04.16.13 | When to Get Student Loans

Clock Tower in SpringFamilies everywhere are currently sweating over financial aid award letters, trying to decipher aid and make the huge decision about which school is the right choice for both the student, and family finances. However, once the college decision is made, there is still a lot to do, including applying for student loans!

To help families through this award letter season, here is a breakdown of how and when to accept—or apply for—all types of student loans.

Perkins and Stafford Loans

When to Accept: April-May for Fall semester
How: For these loans, students can simply accept their loan amounts through the financial aid office. To finalize the acceptance and before they can receive the loan funds, students must complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN) online at StudentLoans.gov and complete an entrance counseling session as directed by the school.

04.11.13 | Parents, 5 Financial Lessons for Your College Student

As a parent, you are faced with one of life’s greatest challenges: preparing your child for financial responsibility. When your child leaves home for college, they will explore their independence in more ways than one. Learning the financial facts of life can be confusing and can take years. You can help prepare your child for financial independence by sharing these important lessons.

1. Create a budget
The first step to financial responsibly is by making sure you do not spend more than you have. You can empower your child by helping him/her establish a budget for college. Consider how much income the student has (including loans, scholarships and financial aid), then add up the items you are budgeting for to see if the student can afford them. Here are some things to consider budgeting for:

  • Tuition
  • Food
  • School supplies
  • Laundry
  • Phone
  • Entertainment
  • Transportation (cabs/bus)

Managing and sticking to a budget will teach your child to make good financial decisions and will provide them with a sense of control.

2. Keep track

Creating a budget is half the battle – sticking to it can be the hardest part. A good tip to share with your child for sticking to their budget is to keep track of all spending. There are a variety of tools available besides bank accounts that can help with money management. Mint.com and LearnVest are two great tools that allow you to organize your finances, set a budget and alert you when you’re getting off track.

3. Be smart about plastic

If your child does not already have his/her own bank account, this will be the first step. Once they establish their own checking account, they are ready to determine how they will pay their bills. There are a variety of different payment options. The most commonly used payment method for college students are debit cards, since there is debt risk associated with credit cards. Take the time to explain the advantages and disadvantages to using both:

Debit Card Credit Card
When is money taken from account? Immediately- automatic deduction from account At a later date- Money is borrowed with a line of credit.
Can you accrue debt? No- but you can overdraft Yes
Can you establish credit history? No Yes- build a credit score as you pay bills
Are there rewards? No Yes- earn points/rewards when you make purchases. Used to get cash back, discounts, miles, etc.
Are there risks? Minimal- easier to keep track of funds since money is automatically deducted for each purchase. Higher- more difficult to keep track of spending because you pay back what you borrow at a later date. Easier to accrue debt.

3. Pay bills on time

It is important to explain to your child that not paying bills on time can have a negative impact on their financial future. Explaining the importance of establishing a good credit history early in life is an invaluable lesson.  Your child will need to have good credit history in order to qualify for a private student loan if they need more funds for college, buy a new car, apply for a job or take out a mortgage for a house later in life. It is important to explain to your child that in order to establish good credit, they must pay their bills on time and in full.  Even a late phone bill can negatively affect their credit score.

5. Borrow what you need

If your child has taken out a loan for college, it is important to stress that they will need to pay back that money, along with the interest accrued, once they graduate.  With that said, it is key to emphasize that they should only borrow what they need or they will quickly find themselves under mountains of student-loan-debt situation after graduation. If your child finds him/herself in a situation where they need more money for school, there are other ways to fund their education than borrowing such as finding a job and applying for scholarships. If they do borrow, make sure to exhaust all federal loan options first, especially subsidized Stafford loans, which do not accrue interest while a student is in school.

04.10.13 | Stafford Loan Déjà Vu: Interest Rates Set to Double Once Again

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

2012 Interest Rate Increase

Last year around this same time, a hot story in the media was the impending interest rate increase for Federal Direct Stafford Loans. Subsidized loans were at 3.4%, and with legislation running out, were set to double to 6.8% — the same as their unsubsidized counterparts. Luckily for students, Congress extended the lower interest rate for another year.

Projected Rates for 2013–2014

Once again, subsidized student loan interest rates are facing an impending increase, and are still up in the air. Without action, students may see an increase to 6.8% for the 2013–2014 academic year. This means that the only difference between subsidized loans and unsubsidized student loans would be that the former will not accrue interest while in school or in a grace period.

At this time it is unclear what actions may be taken to prevent student loan interest increases. We could see another one-year extension of the lower rate, or a system overhaul may even be possible. However, if nothing is done by July 1, 2013, students can expect to see the higher rate take effect for all new subsidized loans.

The Future of Federal Student Loan Rates

Private student loan rates are currently based on an index rate (such as the Prime or LIBOR indeces) plus a set margin. This allows for flexibility based on the current market. Federal student loan rates do not follow this structure, and are not tied to any economic factors, making it difficult to set competitive and affordable rates for borrowers.

To rectify this, organizations such as the New America Foundation have submitted proposals for better ways to handle federal loan interest rates. The proposals include tying interest rates to 10-year treasury notes and securities. Rates would be determined similarly to private student loans, with a variable base, plus a proposed margin of 3.0%.

While it is unclear which, if any, of these proposals will be enacted, it’s possible that borrowers could see more affordable rates in the near future.

For more information on interest rate proposals, read Solving the Interest Rate Quandary: Two Feasible Proposals on NASFAA.org.

03.18.13 | Can You Refinance Student Loans?

You can refinance your mortgage, but can you refinance your student loans? The short answer is: possibly. Let me elaborate.

Refinancing is a tool commonly used by borrowers in the housing industry to lower interest rates. In regards to student loans, refinancing options are not widely available and depend on the type of loan you have.

Consolidating Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans (such as Stafford Loans) are not able to be refinanced but they can be consolidated. For federal loans, you must consolidate them through a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan which determines your new interest rate as a weighted average. Unfortunately, weighted averages do nothing to lower your rate.

However, there are still some benefits to consolidating your loans, such as:

  • It lowers your monthly payment by extending the term of the loan
  • It makes managing your repayment easier by combing multiple federal loans into one

Probably not the answer you were hoping for, but consolidation can be helpful to those struggling with high monthly payments.

10.08.12 | How to Refinance your Student Loans

Posted in Consolidation, Private Student Loans, Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

When students take out private student loans for the first time, they usually have little to no credit history built up. This means, their interest rates probably weren’t ideal, or they applied with a cosigner. If you’re one of these borrowers with high interest rates, refinancing (consolidating) your student loans could save you money, especially if your credit has improved over time!

Refinancing student loans can be great for borrowers with high interest rates, or even who need to lower their monthly payments. To get started, here’s what you need to do:

Step 1: Do Some Research

There are a few different banks and lenders that are available to consolidate student loans. Compare your student loan refinancing options to see the different benefits and find which loan is right for you.

Step 2: Calculate your Potential Savings

Student Loan Consolidation CalculatorThe consolidation payment calculator at StudentLoanConsolidator.com can provide a good estimate of the amount you can save on your monthly payments by refinancing your student loans. Keep in mind that any calculator you use is an estime and to find out your actual interest rate and monthly payment, you’ll need to start the application process.

09.28.12 | 5 Reasons to Consolidate your Student Loans

Pile of Bills

1. Easier Repayment

If you have loans from many different lenders, staying on top of your payments can be tough. Consolidation can help to streamline the repayment process, so you only need to send one check, to one lender (two if you have both federal and private loans).

2. Better Discounts

Many lenders offer student loan discounts for a variety of situations. Discounts can include interest rate reductions for setting up automatic payments, or even for being a current customer of that bank. If your loan does not have any incentives like this, then consolidation may save you some money.

08.24.12 | Student Loans: Where to Turn First

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

Young Man ThinkingYou may have heard of Stafford loans, PLUS loans, and private student loans, but do you really know the differences between them? Is one type of loan really better than the other? Let’s find out.

Subsidized Stafford Loans: The Best of the Best

Subsidized Stafford loans are the best type of student loan, and should be taken out before any other type. Stafford loans carry a 3.4% fixed interest rate, and the federal government will cover your interest payments until graduation. Interest will start to accrue after graduation, but you will not be required to make your first payment until 6 months after graduation. As an undergraduate, you can take out a maximum of $23,000 in subsidized Stafford loans in your lifetime.

Unsubsidized Stafford Loans: The Next Best Thing

Unsubsidized Stafford loans are federal loans that have 6.8% fixed interest rate. Contrary to their subsidized counterpart, interest accrues for unsubsidized Stafford loans while you are enrolled in school. However, similar to subsidized Stafford loans, your first monthly payment will not be due until 6 months after graduation. In addition, unsubsidized Stafford loans are also need based, and not impacted by your credit score. As a dependent, undergraduate student, you can take out a maximum of $8,000 for undergraduate studies. Unsubsidized Stafford loan limits vary based on your education status.

08.06.12 | 5 Private Student Loan Statistics

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

Student loans have been all over the news in the past year, and borrowers are researching college financing options more than ever. In light of this, it’s important to know the facts so you can make better-informed decisions about paying for college.

  1. 90% of private loans require school certification
  2. Schools must approve a loan based on the student’s cost of attendance. This ensures that borrowers aren’t taking out more than they need, keeping them out of further debt.

  3. More than 90% of approved applicants applied with a cosigner
  4. Because many students have little to no history, most loans will require a credit-worthy cosigner to be approved. The good news is that cosigner release is now common among private loan lenders, allowing the cosigner to be released from obligation after a certain number of on-time monthly payments. (more…)