Presidential candidates are talking about it, college kids are stressing about it, and the fact is, roughly 40 million Americans with student debt need to find a way to deal with it.
The student debt crisis is a headline that's not going away.
According to the White House, nearly 70% of bachelor degree recipients leave school with debt. Research further shows that the $1.2 trillion in student loan debt may have serious consequences for the economy.
If the time has come for you to start repaying your student loans, here are 6 things to help you keep more dollars in your own pocket.
- Student loan interest is tax deductible. If you paid student loan interest on a qualifying loan last year, meet certain income requirements, attended an eligible institution as at least a half-time student, and started paying on your loans within a reasonable timeframe after the loan was taken out, you may qualify for the student loan interest deduction. That means you can deduct up to $2,500 in loan interest on your taxes, if you meet these conditions.
- Direct debit lowers the interest rate. Automatically having your student loan payments deducted from your bank account may lower your interest rate and saves you from having to worry about making your payment on-time every month. Check with your lender to see if this option is available.
- Loan payments can be deferred under certain conditions. Deferment is a word you should know well. This is when you delay your student loans while in school. You can also defer payments in certain situations, including furthering your education or if you are an active military member during a global or national emergency. To request a deferment, you have to contact your lender directly. Make sure to run the numbers on any interest accrual to make sure this is worth it.
- Lenders will often lower payments if you are facing financial hardship. If deferment is not an option for you, lenders may offer you forbearance, allowing you to stop or lower your loan payments for 12 months, while still accruing interest. Again, this is a math calculation--will paying additional interest make sense in the future to help you get on your feet now?
- The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program may save you thousands. Teachers are often exempt from repaying their loans through this program. It allows teachers who work 5 years in schools in low-income areas to be forgiven for up to $17,500 of their student loans.
This only applies to Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans as well as Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford loans. PLUS loans are not eligible. To see if you qualify, check out the Federal Student Aid website.
- The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program may be an option, but comes with strict guidelines. If a government or not-for-profit organization employs you, you may be able to receive loan forgiveness.
The PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer.
Did you catch the repeating word? Qualifying. Check here to see if you qualify for this and get to a tax pro if you need help - https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service
Grads--yes, it all seems overwhelming, but there is a silver lining to this type of debt. Having student loans in your name and making your payments on-time shows that you can handle a large amount of debt responsibly.
Over time, your on-time payments will contribute to your credit score--building to your payment history, total amounts owed, and credit history.
Keep in mind that you never want to be late on a payment or default on a loan because this can hurt your score. When you eventually purchase your first post-college car or home, you will be able to show your ability to manage your payments wisely.
Your future looks bright, after all, doesn't it?