As a college student, it’s dawned on me that as much as I knew about finance before coming to school, there were so much about managing finances in school that I learned along the way. This column is devised to help college students like myself get an edge on the financial challenges of school.
As the cost of education rises, more and more students are resorting to student loans as a means of paying their way through college. Although there are many benefits of picking up a job while you’re studying, the downside is that you’ll have to be extra careful about how you balance your job and your studies (in addition to the alchemy of elements that go into having a positive college experience).
While student loans can get out of hand, if tackled wisely they can offer a stress-less higher education experience. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of student loans.
Go Government, Not Private
Even while you’re in high school, chances are you’re barraged by private student loan offers. A number of companies claim to put the student first, to have good deals, to be smart options. The smartest option you can make in choosing a student loan is in taking a government one. According to Shmoop.com, most federal student loans are capped at 3.4%-6.8% interest rates, while private loans are liable to run you up to 15% or even 18%.
Also checkout: How to Save Money on Books
Take Advantage of Your Financial Aid Office
Your college has a department of trained professionals whose job it is to help students like you to make the best financial decisions possible. Take advantage of this!
Act Gracefully During the Grace Period
Many student loans offer the option of a grace period, a window of time after you leave higher education during which you don’t have to make any loan payments! Sounds to good to be true, right? Well, actually no. There are no strings attached here…aside from what you decide to do during that time. As tempting as it might be to use your would-be loan money on a vacation or a special graduation gift for yourself. The best thing you can do is to continue to make those payments as you normally would. Hopefully you’ll even have a full-time job during this time. Which means you can make even bigger loan payments. No exactly exciting, I know, but your wallet will thank you in the long run.
Pay off Interest as Soon as You Can
Every year you’re in school, your interest gets bigger. If you’re loan accrues $31 in interest each month, that might not sound like much, but left unchecked, you can soon find yourself with a huge pile of interest that very well might require interest payments of its own. The solution? Pay off those small interest fees as soon as you can. Keep that molehill from becoming a mountain. Along those lines, autodebit is one way to make sure you’re actively repaying your interest and in many cases it may even lower your interest rate!
No one likes thinking about taxes. Especially us college students who already have a million other things going on. But one way to save you some major money is buy deducting your student loan interest. Doing this will allow you to reduce your taxable income by up 2.5K. That’s 2.5k you don’t have to pay taxes on, meaning more money for you to pay off more interest in the future.
Deferment and Forbearance
Unable to repay your student loans at all? Look into temporary deferment. This will save you from having to pay back the principal and make interest payments for a period of time. Depending on your loan your interest will or will not continue to accrue. Regardless, this is a great opportunity to get a head start on those interest payments if you’re able to.
Forbearance is another tactic at your disposal, but it’s generally not as cushy as a deferment is. Although you’ll get some respite on repaying back the principal, you’ll still have to make interest payments. Check out AllTuition.com for more info on both deferment and forbearance.
Explore Student Loan Forgiveness
What if I told you there was a way you could wipe away some of your student loans? No, I’m not talking about a black market operation, I’m talking about 100% legal Student Loan Forgiveness. There are a number of programs out there that do just this. For a full breakdown of available programs, check out TheSimpleDollar.com. Below is an overview for several job-based programs:
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness jobs
- SEMA Loan Forgiveness
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
- USDA Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program
- Legal Practice Student Loan Forgiveness
- Faculty Loan Repayment Program
- National Institute of Health Loan Forgiveness
- NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program
- IHS Loan Repayment Programs
- NHSC Loan Repayment Program
- The State Loan Repayment program
But these job-programs aren’t the only way to get loan forgiveness, certain locales will offer student loan assistance in exchange for you moving to them. Again, I can’t recommend the resources on SimpleDollar enough.