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Learning Center Experience
By Crystal Gifford, Full-Time Faculty Published July 2014
Students often begin their
degrees with an idea of what life will be like once they graduate. They
consider elements like their future income and the lifestyle they will be able
to afford. One factor that is often not considered in this postgraduation
lifestyle assessment is how much they will be paying for student loans. Loan
payments are often a large part of the budgeting process that is too readily
forgotten when dreaming up the ideal career a degree allows someone to pursue.
Many factors, including the
loans’ type, amount, payback period, and interest rate, affect student loan
payments. The following paragraphs address each of these issues and how
students can prepare in advance to minimize the effects of student loans on their
postgraduation lifestyle and accumulation of wealth.
First, the total amount of
the loans by the time graduation occurs can vary depending on the type of
degree, the institution and costs associated with it, and how much the student
relies on loans for extra expenses beyond tuition. In order to minimize the
amount that needs to be repaid, the student should participate in the payment
of tuition while in school, if possible, as well as reduce their overall
expenses while obtaining a degree. Borrowing or buying used books is one great
way to reduce overall costs. Additionally, finding breaks within the
institution such as work-study opportunities or fellowships may also reduce the
costs of education, therefore reducing the amount of loans that must be taken
out. Most importantly, students can return any funds that are awarded in excess
of actual needs. Keeping these funds often results in unnecessary spending, and
doing so is essentially borrowing from your future lifestyle to improve your
lifestyle while in school. This can be a very expensive way to fund a lifestyle
and it may take years to pay it all back.
The second thing that affects
student loan payments is the time it takes to repay the loans. Taking longer to
repay the loans reduces the payments per month, but means it will take longer
to pay off the loans. Assuming you do not have other debts at higher interest
rates, it can be beneficial to pay student loans off as quickly as possible. If
other debts have been incurred at much higher rates, it may be best to extend
the student loan repayment schedule as much as possible and focus on the other
debts first. Student loan interest, like mortgage interest, is tax deductible. Consider
this when consulting your financial planner for the best use of your funds
toward debt repayment.
Next, consider the types of
loans you are taking out before you plan that postgraduation budget. Private
loans are often more expensive, but federal loans can also be expensive. If you
have subsidized loans, you will not have to go back and pay interest that would
have accumulated while you were in school. However, when a loan is unsubsidized,
it means that interest is capitalized (i.e., added to the amount of your loan
principal) and becomes a part of the amount you must pay back. According to The
Institute for College Access & Success, 40 percent of student borrowers
could be using more affordable federal loans (May 2014). The cheapest loans are
often the subsidized, federal loans and the most expensive are usually the
private loans. The more expensive your loans, the more they affect your
postgraduation lifestyle and wealth accumulation.
Finally, interest rates have
the greatest impact on the overall cost of student loans. The higher the rates,
the more you will pay back over time and the higher your payment will be while
you are paying back the loans. The 2007–2008 credit crisis also created a marketplace
of increased costs to students for loans, with high origination costs and
higher annual rates resulting in much higher costs to paying off the loans
accrued during the degree process (Overture Technologies). Higher interest
rates across the board leave students graduating with less satisfaction
concerning the lifestyle improvements expected upon graduation, and can even make
all that hard work feel less rewarding.
One way to overcome this
dreaded student loan lifestyle infringement, especially in those early years
when income is not quite what you may have hoped it would be, is to work with
companies the federal government now supports to help reduce the overall costs
of student loan debt. One such company called Student Loan Consolidation
Services (www.studentloanconsolidationservices.org) walks graduates through the process of
reducing the overall cost and drastically lowering the payments of their
student loans with a federally backed program endorsed by the Department of
Education. Students can take advantage of this by visiting their website and
signing up for a free evaluation.
In all, the combination of
reducing costs, making the best choices for you during repayment based on the
overall amount of debt you have, choosing the most efficient types of loans
while in school, and reducing interest rates is the best way to protect
yourself from having your wealth and lifestyle reduced by the burden of student
loans. When in doubt, seek professional help, such as the Student Loan
Consolidation Services team mentioned above and a skilled financial advisor to
guide you to the best plan.
The Institute for College Access & Success. (May 2014) “Private
Loans: Facts and Trends” Retrieved May
27, 2014 from http://projectonstudentdebt.org/files/pub/private_loan_facts_trends.pdf
Overture Technologies (2012) College
Money Insider. “Recent Trends in Private Student Loans” Retrieved May 27, 2014 from http://www.overturemarketplace.com/articles/recent-trends-in-private-student-loans
Student Loan Consolidation
Services (2014). Retrieved May 27, 2014 fromwww.studentloanconsolidationservices.org
Crystal Gifford is a full-time faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.
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