Student Money Management — The $10 Latte

The average amount borrowed by America’s 2015 graduating class was $31,100 — $12,600, or 68% more than for the Class of 2005. Depending on how he or she chooses to img_4155repay, a member of the Class of 2015 could spend up to $57,865 to pay off a $31,100 debt.

But there’s a surefire way to graduate with less debt. Believe it or not, it’s best illustrated in an old Saturday Night Live skit, “Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford!

Funny skit, though it’s message sounds like another old cliche from those who “nag” students about controlling their spending. Still, like many cliches, there’s much truth in this message.

You have to borrow, from student loans or credit card companies, to buy something you can’t afford. And in the future you’ll repay what you borrowed — essentially dedicating future earnings to pay today’s expense, plus interest that builds up on that expense.

Fortunately, there are simple, sensible things you can do to hold the line on how much college debt you’ll have to repay.

Take Annie, a freshman. Annie finds it difficult to get going in the morning so, on theimg_4154 way to class, she spends $4.95 of her federal loan funds on a latte grande from a well-known coffee shop. Annie’ll pay another 42 cents in the sales tax on that purchase. And although the current interest rate on her federal loan is the lowest in 10 years, Annie will pay back as much as $10.00 for the $5.37 she borrowed to buy today’s latte.

If student loans can almost double what Annie ultimately pays for one latte, imagine how they’ll multiply the extra costs you’ll incur to live for 9 months in an expensive, high-amenity apartment; or to pay a campus parking fee for a car you could leave at home; or to eat out four-five nights a week instead of cooking in your apartment or chowing down in your dorm’s dining hall! As for Annie, she could get her pick-me-up and save money by drinking homemade coffee or asking for a home latte machine for Christmas.

There’s an old saying — “Borrow to live like a professional while you’re a student and your loan payments will force you to live like a student when you’re a professional!” Don’t victimize yourself! Find ways to borrow only for absolutely necessary expenses!

College Affordability Solutions can help devise strategies to limit college debt. Call (512) 366-5354 or email collegeafford@gmail.com to request such help.

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Things to Do When Applying for Scholarships

img_4082Once a scholarship search turns up an opportunity, how does your student win it. A great scholarship expert once said that many providers are looking to help students that remind them of their younger selves. How do they know who these students are? It all comes down to the scholarship applications they receive.

(1) Apply for Scholarships that “Fit”: Make sure your student fully understands scholarship eligibility requirements. No need to waste time going after money for which he or she won’t qualify.

(2) Don’t Omit Anything: Coach your student to submit applications that are thorough and complete — especially about community, extracurricular, and leadership activities. You can never tell when a particular detail might be just the thing that helps an application reader identify your student as a worthy candidate.

(3) Write Strong Essays: Readers use scholarship application essays to really get to know your student — where he’s coming from, where she wants to go, and why. So img_4084these essays need to be both personal and passionate. And now isn’t the time for your student to be shy in describing his or her strengths and triumphs, to write timidly about what he or she wants to accomplish in college and life, or to downplay what drives and inspires him or her.

(4) Do It Right, Do It On-Time: Make sure every application is proofread for grammar and spelling, and for irrelevant information to distracts or slows readers. Also pay close attention to deadlines. Applications that arrive late go straight into the “no” stack.

(5) Beware of Cons and Frauds: Some businesses and individuals promise scholarship recommendations if you pay them. They may also request confidential personal information. Most of these are scam artists! Stay away from them!

Nobody really knows how many scholarship dollars are available, or how many of them might be available to your student. But with effective, timely searches and well done applications your student — with your help — can improve his or her chances of claiming such them!

College Affordability Solutions offers 40 years experience in helping students secure financial aid, including scholarships. Call (512) 366-5354 or email collegeafford@gmail.com for a no-charge consultation.

Scholarship Searching — When and Where

img_4081Scholarships are sometimes called “gift aid” because they’re free money — nothing’s borrowed, interest doesn’t accumulate, nothing’s repaid, and they’re not an like an hourly wage.

How can your student get such an award? There are many different scholarships out there, and there’s no one place to find them all, so you need to go searching for them!

When to Start Searching

Do you have a high school senior planning to begin college next fall? If so, your scholarship search should be well underway. The same goes for your student if he or she is already in college.

When to Stop Searching

Different scholarship providers offer their awards at different times, so a single search won’t do. Students who land the most scholarships periodically conduct searches right up until they graduate.

Where to Searchimg_4083

It’s likely there are scholarship providers right in your home town — churches, civic clubs, employers, high schools, local foundations, labor unions, etc. Your student should ask the high school counseling staff for information it has on scholarship opportunities. Inquire, too, with anyone who might be able to steer you toward scholarships — clergy, members of civic groups, supervisors, union reps, etc.

Colleges use scholarships to recruit potential freshmen and recognize outstanding current students. Check with financial aid offices to see if your student need to do anything other than your FAFSA to be considered for scholarships. Review the website for your student’s academic departmental scholarships, too.

There are also national and statewide scholarship providers. Do Google searches and use internet-based scholarship search engines to find them. There’s no certainty that any search engine will yield scholarship opportunities for your student, but two that are fairly effective and reputable are Big Future by College Board and Fastweb.

How to Apply

What comes after locating a scholarship for which your student seems well-matched? Check out Things to Do When Applying for Scholarships for more information.

The most important thing is for you and your student to persistently go after scholarships that could help make college more affordable. What are you waiting for?

College Affordability Solutions offers 40 years experience in helping students secure financial aid, including scholarships. Call (512) 366-5354 or email collegeafford@gmail.com for a no-charge consultation.

Federal Student Loan Consolidation Advantages

If you graduated from college this past spring, chances are you’ll soon enter the time when you’ll be required to pay off your federal student loan debt — i.e. your repayment period. At this point you ought to be asking, “Should I consolidate my federal student loans?”

To consolidate, you need to have at least one Federal Direct Loan or Federal Family Education Loan. You may designate all or some of them, along with your Federal Perkins Loans, for consolidation. The government’s consolidation loan repays the debts you designated. Depending upon how much you owe on your total federal student loan debt, screenshot-from-2016-06-08-135849 you’ll get more time to pay off your consolidation loan than you had to pay off the loans it replaces.

Here are good things that’ll happen if you consolidate:

(1) You’ll Lower Your Monthly Payments: The longer you repay, the lower your monthly payment amount. Use the Federal Student Loan Repayment Estimator to figure out the repayment plans for which you qualify, estimate the monthly payment amount for each plan, and see how long that plan gives you to pay off your debt.

If none of your monthly payments looks affordable, you should consider borrowing a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan. Chances are it’ll give you more years to repay and lower your monthly payments.

(2) You May Expand Your Repayment Options: A consolidation loan may qualify for repayment plans for not open to your individual federal loans, but which may be helpful to you.

(3) You’ll Maximize Loan Forgiveness Benefits: If you’re starting a career as a public school teacher or in another form of public service, you should pursue the Federal Direct Teacher Loan Forgiveness or Public Service Loan Forgiveness Programs. The lower your monthly payments, the more you’ll get forgiven by these programs. Conversely, consolidating a Federal Perkins Loan can have disadvantages.11-3-is-student-loan-consolidation-right-for-you

(4) You’ll Simplify Repayment: As its name implies, all your consolidated debts get combined with one loan servicer (a company the government pays to collect your debt(s) and give you loan-related assistance). The result? A single monthly payment and just one party to contact if you need help.

(5) You Pick Your Servicer: The government picks the servicer for all your other federal education loans. But under consolidation you make this selection. As you do, think about whether your current servicer(s) have met your needs and ask friends about experiences with their servicers.

(6) You Get One Fixed Interest Rate: All debts you consolidate will get the same interest rate. It’ll average out to the rate for each consolidated loan, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of 1%. It’ll be fixed for the life of your consolidation loan. If you have old federal loans whose interest rates change annually, consolidation will bring that to an end.no_fees

(7) You Incur No Costs: You pay nothing for anything related to consolidating your loans.

Consolidation’s a good thing for most borrowers. But it’s also got some disadvantages. Definitely consider these before deciding whether to consolidate your federal student loan debts.

College Affordability Solutions can help you better understand the pros and cons of federal student loan consolidation. Call (512) 366-5354 or email collegeafford@gmail.com.

 

Federal Student Loan Consolidation Disadvantages

Consolidating your federal student loans has many advantages. There are also some disadvantages to be considered before making the choice to consolidate:

(1) You May Pay More in the Long Run: Consolidating generally lowers your monthly thrm34yz8xpayments by giving you extra years to repay. But the longer you take to repay, the more of your lifetime income that goes to repayment.

The “Total Amount Paid” column on your Federal Student Loan Repayment Estimator can show how much you’ll on your loans and consolidated versions of your loans.

On the other hand, federal loans may always be prepaid without penalty, and paying your debt down faster than required will reduce your total amount paid.

(2) No More Perkins Cancellation/Discharge: If you consolidate Federal Perkins Loan debt, your access to the Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge programs goes away. These programs write off all or part of your Perkins debt in return for working in certain occupations, with a portion of the debt written off annually. These programs are the surest way to have student debt cancelled or discharged so, if you borrowed Perkins Loans, think carefully before consolidating them.

(3) Monthly Payments Could Start Earlier: Normally, federal student loan payments aren’t required during a 6-month grace period that begins when you graduate, withdraw, or drop below half-time enrollment. But consolidation repayment starts 60 days after the loan is made. If you’re applying for consolidation before your grace period ends, you may keep the full period by asking for repayment to be delayed until that period ends.

(4) Federal Loans Only, Please: State and private education loans aren’t eligible for federal consolidation. And, oh yeah, you’ll need to resolve any federal loan defaults you might have before you may consolidate them.

(5) Beware of Private Consolidations: Banks and other financial services companies can page_federal_versus_privateconsolidate your federal student loans, but you probably don’t want them to. Why? You’ll likely lose all or most of the benefits of borrowing from the government. Check this out carefully before you even consider private consolidation.

(6) For Your Loans Only: A borrower may only have his or her own federal loans consolidated. This means students and parents cannot consolidate their federal educational debts, nor can spouses.

(7) All Consolidations Are Final: You can’t reverse the process. Once a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan pays off your other federal student loans, those debts no longer exist.

Despite these drawbacks and limitations, there are lots of advantages to consolidating federal student loans. Don’t take a pass on consolidation before reviewing them.

 College Affordability Solutions can help you better understand the pros and cons of federal student loan consolidation. Call (512) 366-5354 or email collegeafford@gmail.com.