Did you borrow student loans to help pay your college expenses? Did you just graduate from college? If your answer to these is yes, this article’s for you.
Here are 5 easily avoided mistakes borrowers make when repaying student loans . . .
(1) Not Knowing Who and How Much You Owe
The Federal Direct Loan Program (FDLP) and Federal Perkins Loan Program make 90% of all student loans, so you probably owe these programs. The Federal Student Aid Information Center can tell you who and how much you owe on these loans.
If you borrowed from your state or private lender, contact the state agency or lender that made your loan(s) for this information. Not sure who to contact? Get help from your alma mater’s financial aid office.
(2) Not Using Your Grace Period Wisely
You get a 6-month post-enrollment grace period during which FDLP loan payments aren’t required, and your first FDLP payment occurs 30-60 days after that. So no need to do anything about these loans now, right? Wrong!
Your federal student loan servicer will send you a repayment schedule this fall. It’ll show when your payments begin and what your monthly payment amount would be under the standard, 10-year federal repayment plan. But payments can be lower if you choose a different repayment plan or consolidate your federal college debts. Research this using Washington’s Repayment Plan and Loan Consolidation web pages, plus its Federal Student Loan Repayment Estimator.
State and private loans may not have as many options as federal loans, but call your lender(s) about what they can do.
(3) Letting Your Contact Information With Your Loan Servicer Lapse
Student loan borrowers who fall behind on payments often complain they never heard from their loan servicers. This is usually because their phone numbers or mailing and email addresses changed, but they never told their servicers. Nevertheless, their repayment obligations took effect. Avoid the legal but heavy-handed collection tactics accompanying student loan delinquency and default by emailing or phoning your servicer whenever your contact information changes.
(4) Hiding From Your Servicer
When you owe someone money you can’t pay, its natural to avoid them. But it’s dumb, too. Student loan lenders and servicers have many options to help you lower, postpone, or even cancel your payments. If you get into a bind, call them first.
(5) Only Paying Required Amounts Although You Could Pay More
Required monthly payments are the minimum amounts needed to eliminate debts by the end of repayment plans. But interest always builds on loan principal, so paying more than required monthly amounts, or making extra payments each year, reduces what you repay and eliminates your college debt faster.
Need help mapping out how to manage your student loan debts? Contact College Affordability Solutions for assistance. All of our consultations with students and their parents are free.