Category: Student Loans

Student Loans vs. Financial Aid

A young woman stands outside in front of a green tree, holding her books and wearing a backpack, smiling off into the distance.

As of early 2020, student loan debt in the nation had reached more than $1.5 trillion. More than 44 million individuals have student loan debt, and the average person with student loans owes a bit over $32,000—which is more than half of the average household income in the United States. As a new school year approaches, more individuals are searching for ways to fund their education without going into debt for years. Luckily, student loans aren’t the only way to get help paying for college.

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Learn more about student loans vs. financial aid below,
and get some information about various ways to help fund your education.

Student Loans vs. Financial Aid: What’s the Difference?

Both student loans and financial aid can come from the federal government or the private sector. The main difference between student loans and financial aid is whether or not you need to pay back the money you are given. Student loans generally require that you pay back the loan with interest, while financial aid packages like scholarships and grants typically do not need to be paid back.

That distinction can make a big difference. “Every dollar you receive in scholarship or grant form is a dollar you don’t have to pay interest on,” says Zina Kumok, an editor at Dollar Sprout. And saving that money opens up possibilities after graduation, too. “Students who don’t have to take out as many loans will have more career options and afford to start their own businesses, work in lower-paying fields, or even take time off to travel abroad.”

But as with any financial agreement, make sure you
understand the terms upfront before signing anything. Not all financial aid
comes without strings.

How to Apply for Financial Aid

To qualify for federal loans and other types of federal financial aid, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You might need to complete the FAFSA with some of your parents’ income information if you are still a dependent.

To apply for private loans and financial aid, you must
research the program in question and complete the appropriate application
process. For example, academic or extracurricular scholarships are often
offered by various colleges and universities. You’ll have to look on those
university websites or contact financial aid departments at various schools to
find out about how to apply to these programs. Scholarships offered by private
organizations will have their own processes as well.

Student Loans

Student loans provide credit extended to you or your parents for the purpose of paying for college. Student loans do have to be repaid, but typically not until you’re out of school. In some cases, such as if you’re going to work in certain public sectors, you might be able to apply for a student loan forgiveness program.

Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal
Loans

When you apply with the FAFSA, you may find out you qualify for federal loans. Subsidized federal loans tend to have slightly better terms than unsubsidized loans. Another benefit of a subsidized loan is that the interest on it is covered by the Department of Education as long as you meet enrollment requirements. The amount you can borrow is limited, and interest rates range from 2.75 to 4.3%.

Learn more about federal student loans and economic protections from COVID-19: What You Need to Know about CARES, HEROES, and HEALS.

Private Student Loans

If you don’t qualify for federal student loans or want another option, you can apply for private student loans from commercial lenders. Whether you can get approved for these loans or get favorable terms and rates might depend on your credit score.

Don’t know your credit score? Sign up for ExtraCredit to find out.

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Financial Aid

Financial aid
takes many forms, and most often does not need to be paid back after you
graduate. These types of aid can be offered by your school, other private
institutions, or the government. They are most often divided into needs-based
aid and merit-based aid.

When applying for
any type of financial aid, you will need to research the deadlines,
requirements, and payment specifics carefully.

Be wary of scholarship and other aid programs that charge fees. “Fees are a dead giveaway of scholarship scams,” says Doug Whiteman, editor-in-chief at MoneyWise.com. “Be very careful about handing over a credit card number or other personal information.”

Scholarships

Scholarships are awarded for need or merit, and they’re offered by a wide range of organizations. Schools, private businesses, local and national associations, religious organizations, and charities are all potential sources for scholarships. Most scholarships do not require you to pay them back.

“Students should be more aggressive about applying for scholarships,” says Kumok. Whiteman agrees, citing a recent New York Times article that estimates there are 44,000 private scholarship programs. “The typical student probably has no idea that there’s so much money available,” he says. “Too often students and their families have seen student loans as an easy fallback, before they’ve fully explored scholarship and other financial aid possibilities.”

Grants

Grants are a type of financial aid that you typically don’t have to pay back. Federal and state governments offer grants, as do private and nonprofit organizations. Make sure to do ample research to ensure you get your application right, and pay attention to the grant terms. While many grants don’t have to be repaid, some do.

Be careful not to depend fully on grants, though. “Grants might not be available for the length of your degree program,” advises Anna Serio, a staff writer at Finder.com. “Some only cover the first year, while others are only available during the second, third, or fourth year of school. Even if a grant program covers all four years, you might have to reapply every year to be considered.”

Work-Study Jobs

Work-study jobs help you pay your way through school or
cover expenses. Some work-study jobs are paid internships, where you practice
skills and knowledge you’re learning in school or for your future career.
Others might simply be on-campus jobs in dining halls, fitness centers,
tutoring or writing centers, or other areas.

“Work-study
programs are best for students who want to build up their resume,” says Serio. “Work-study
makes it easier to land a job without experience or in a new field if you’re in
graduate school. Sometimes, work-study jobs can turn into a regular part-time
or even full-time position.”

Tax Credits

If you pay qualifying expenses for school, you may be able to claim a certain amount as a tax credit to reduce your tax burden or even get a refund. The American Opportunity Credit, for example, allows up to $2,500 credit per eligible student, while the Lifetime Learning Credit allows qualified individuals to claim up to $2,000 for qualified education expenses per tax year.

State Aid Programs

Almost every state offers grants or other financial aid opportunities for college students. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators provides a detailed list of state financial aid opportunities.

Institutional Assistance

Schools may offer many of their own programs, but they
aren’t always well published. When you’re in the process of considering and
visiting schools, during the application process or even after you’ve been
accepted, make it a point to visit the financial aid office. School financial
aid officers can help ensure you’ve applied for all applicable financial aid.

Employer Education Assistance

If you’re already working, your employ might offer
funding for education. Some employers have programs that cover all or part of
the cost of degree programs if you agree to work for them for a certain amount
of time. Others pay for training seminars, workshops, and one-off classes that
are likely to make you a more valuable employee. Talk to your supervisor or human
resources department to find out if your employer offers such benefits.

Other Programs

Leave no stone unturned when seeking financial aid for
college. Numerous programs exist to help fund education for people in specific
situations.

For example, the Educational and Training Vouchers Program provides assistance to those who are or were in foster care. The National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program helps pay for student loans for those who work at Indian Health Services facilities. Be creative! The Tall Clubs International Foundation has a scholarship program for college women who are 5’10” tall and men who are at least 6’2”. Consider what makes you unique and look for scholarship opportunities that may reward you for it.

Tuition-Free Schools

Did you know that there are also some tuition-free schools around the United States? Residents of certain states may qualify for free tuition programs. Be sure to do your research into these schools, as you would with any other. “The programs in the US often require you to work in exchange for your degree,” says Serio. “This can help you develop valuable skills and gives you a leg up entering the job market after you graduate.”

Get the Financial Aid You Need

If you need help paying for schooling, there are plenty of financial aid options available to you. Reach out to your school’s financial aid office for assistance and direction. If you’re interested in learning more about student loan options, you can look through our resource center for more information.

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The post Student Loans vs. Financial Aid appeared first on Credit.com.

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Should You Make Payments During Coronavirus Student Loan Deferment?

As Americans grappled with the financial consequences of the pandemic in March of this year, the federal government took several actions to help cash-strapped consumers. For starters, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in late March of 2020, which included a temporary suspension of payments and interest for government-owned student loans through the end of September 2020.

Beyond just suspending payments and interest, the act also halted all collections activities on federal student loans. Americans pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) would see these non-payment months counted toward the 120 months of payments needed to have their loans forgiven. 

You can continue making payments on your federal student loans during the deferment period if you want to. Whether you should, depends on your goals and your situation.

This announcement was a huge relief for Americans with student debt since it meant they could pause federal student loan payments without accruing interest or facing penalties for several months. And recently, this assistance was extended for the remainder of 2020.

About the Student Loan Deferment Order

According to a memorandum from the White House, this extension intends to “provide such deferments to borrowers as necessary to continue the temporary cessation of payments and the waiver of all interest on student loans held by the Department of Education until December 31, 2020.”

What does this mean for borrowers? The extension of this order means that those with federally owned student loans (not private student loans) can continue skipping payments for the duration of 2020. Interest won’t accrue on federal student loans during this time, and penalties won’t come into effect for those who choose to defer loan payments.

How Does This Help Student Loan Borrowers?

Although unemployment numbers have improved since the summer, the initial pause on federal student loan payments was of massive help for borrowers struggling with job loss or a loss in pay. After all, getting a break from student loan payments made room for funds to go toward other household needs and bills. Keep in mind that the average student loan payment is approximately $393 for all borrowers, but that many with advanced degrees pay significantly more than that every month.

When the Presidential action was released, it was unclear whether borrowers pursuing PSLF will still receive credit for non-payment months. However, a U.S. Department of Education press release clarified that PSLF borrowers would, in fact, receive credit toward loan forgiveness as if they’d made on-time payments.

Just keep in mind that this order does not apply to consumers with private student loans. Only federal student loans qualify for this protection, although some private student loan companies are offering their own separate deferment options to consumers who can show financial hardship.

Pros and Cons of Making Payments During Automatic Deferment

One interesting detail from this order is buried in the fine print:

“All persons who wish to continue making student loan payments shall be allowed to do so, notwithstanding the deferments provided pursuant to subsection (a) of this section.”

In summary, you can continue making payments on your federal student loans during the deferment period if you want to. Whether you should, depends on your goals and your situation.

Benefits of Making Loan Payments 

If you haven’t faced a loss in income, then you might be tempted to continue making payments on your student loans. The benefits of doing so include:

  • Paying down your student loan debt faster. The Department of Education says that, through the end of 2020, “the full amount of your payments will be applied to principal once all the interest that accrued prior to March 13 is paid.” This means that every cent thrown toward your loans right now applies to your loan balance, quickly reducing your student debt on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
  • Saving money on interest. Because of the way interest accrues on student loans and other debts, reducing your balance will automatically save you money on interest over the long haul. The more you pay toward your student loans now, the more money you save.

Disadvantages of Making Loan Payments

There are a few potential downsides to making student loan payments when they’re not required. Plus, borrowers with certain types of student loans should not be making payments right now. 

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind.

  • You may need the money later on. Even if your income is fine right now, the financial fallout from the pandemic is far from over. If you choose to make student loan payments through the end of the year and lose your job in a few months, you might wish you had saved that extra cash instead. 
  • Those pursuing PSLF shouldn’t make payments. If you’re pursuing PSLF, then this deferment period is counted toward the 120 on-time payments you need for loan forgiveness. If you continued making payments through the end of the year, you would be throwing money down the drain.
  • Most borrowers on income-driven repayment plans have little incentive to make payments. If you’re on an income-driven repayment plan like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Income Based Repayment (IBR), then your loan payment is only a percentage of your discretionary income, and your loans will be forgiven after 20-25 years of on-time payments. Borrowers who aim to have their loans forgiven after 20-25 years anyway should skip payments through the end of the year and set aside their cash for a rainy day instead.

The Bottom Line

Individuals who want to pay off their loans quickly would be smart to pay as much as they can, but only if they can afford it. It also makes sense to be cautious about any extra income you have for the time being. After all, more economic pain may be on the way, and it’s possible you could face a loss in income later in the year.

Without any interest accruing on federally owned student loans during this historic forbearance, however, you could always put your student loan payments into a high-yield savings account until the end of the year. At that point, you can assess your financial situation and make a large, lump sum payment toward your loans if you want.

This strategy creates a greater safety net for the remainder of 2020 while also paying down debt faster with a large payment before the end of December. Run the numbers and make sure you have a plan (and a back-up plan) in place.

The post Should You Make Payments During Coronavirus Student Loan Deferment? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

How Blogging Paid Off My Student Loans

How Blogging Helped With Paying Off Student LoansIn July of 2013, I finished paying off my student loans.

It was a fantastic feeling and something I still think about to this day. Even though I have a success story when it comes to paying off student loans, I know that many others struggle with their student loan debt every single day.

The average graduate of 2015 walked away with more than $35,000 in student loan debt, and not only is that number growing, the percentage of students expected to use students loans is on the rise. Plus, if you have a law or medical degree, your student loan debt may be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This is a ton of money and can be quite stressful.

After earning three college degrees, I had approximately $40,000 in student loan debt.

To some, that may sound like a crazy amount of money, and to others it may seem low. For me, it was too much.

At first, paying off student loans seemed like an impossible task, but it was an amount I didn’t want to live with for years or even decades. Due to that, I made a plan to pay them off as quickly as I could.

And, I succeeded.

I was able to pay off my student loans after just 7 months, and it was all due to my blog.

Yes, it was all because of my blog!

Without my blog, there is a chance I could still have student loans. My blog gave me a huge amount of motivation, allowed me to earn a side income in a fun way, and it allowed me to pay off my student loans very quickly.

I’m not saying you need to start a blog to help pay off your student loans, but you might want to look into starting a side hustle of some sort. Blogging is what worked for me, and it may work for you too.

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I believe that earning extra income can completely change your life for the better. You can stop living paycheck to paycheck, you can pay off your debt, reach your dreams, and more, all by earning extra money.

This blog changed my life in many other ways, besides just allowing me to pay off my student loans. It allowed me to quit a job I absolutely dreaded, start my own business, and now I earn over $50,000 a month through it.

If you are interested in starting a blog, I created a tutorial that will help you start a blog of your own for cheap, starting at only $2.95 per month (this low price is only through my link) for blog hosting. In addition to the low pricing, you will receive a free blog domain (a $15 value) through my Bluehost link when you purchase at least 12 months of blog hosting. FYI, you will want to be self-hosted if you want to learn how to make money with a blog.

Below is how blogging helped me pay off my student loans.

 

Quick background on my student loans.

In 2010 I graduated with two undergraduate degrees, took a short break from college, found a job as an analyst, and in 2012 I received my Finance MBA. Even though I worked full-time through all three of my degrees, I still took out student loans and put hardly anything towards my growing student loan debt.

Instead, I spent my money on food, clothing, a house that cost more than I probably should have been spending, and more. I wasn’t the best with money when I was younger, which led to me racking up student loan debt.

After receiving my undergraduate and graduate degrees, the total amount of student loans I accumulated was around $40,000.

Shortly after graduating with my MBA I created an action plan for eliminating my student loans, and in 7 months was able to pay them all off. It wasn’t easy, but it was well worth it.

The biggest reason for why I was able to pay off my student loans is because I earned as much money as I could outside of my day job. I mystery shopped and got paid to take surveys, but the biggest thing I did was I made an income through my blog.

 

I worked my butt off on my blog.

Any extra time I had would go towards growing my blog. I woke up early in the mornings, stayed up late at night, used lunch breaks at my day job, and I even used my vacation days to focus on my blog.

It was a huge commitment, but blogging is a lot of fun and the income was definitely worth it.

While I was working on paying off student loans, I earned anywhere from $5,000 to $11,000 monthly from my blog, and that was in addition to the income I was earning from my day job.

This helped me tremendously in being able to pay off my student loans, especially in such a short amount of time.

 

My blog allowed me to have a lot of fun.

One reason why I was able to work so much between my day job and my side hustling is that I made sure my side hustles were fun. Because I didn’t like my day job, I knew I just didn’t have it in me to work extra on something everyday if I didn’t enjoy it.

That’s where blogging came in.

Blogging is a ton of fun, and I have made many great friends. At times it can be challenging (the good type of challenging!) but also a lot of fun. I love when I receive an email from a reader about how I helped them pay off debt, gave them motivation, taught them about a certain side hustle, and more. Helping others along the way is another part of what really makes it worthwhile.

The fun I had blogging made it feel like a hobby, and that’s why I was able to put a crazy number of hours into it.

 

I focused on growing and improving my blog.

I knew I had to keep earning a good income online in order to pay off my student loan debt, so I made sure that I spent time growing and improving my blog as well. Since I love blogging so much, this was a fun task for me.

Improving my blog included learning about social media, growing my website, knowing what my readers want, producing high-quality content, keeping up with changes in the blogging world (things change a lot!), and more.

 

I put nearly every cent from side hustling towards paying off student loans.

One thing I did with the extra income I earned each month was putting as much of it as I could towards paying off student loans, and this way I wasn’t tempted to spend the income on something else.

So, as I earned money from my blog, I put it towards paying off student loans as quickly as I could.

This is probably easier said than done, though.

When you start earning a side income it can be very tempting to buy yourself some things. After all, you are tired, you have been working a lot, and therefore you may justify purchases to yourself.

But before you know it, you may have just a fraction of what you’ve earned left and able to put towards paying off your student loans.

It’s better to think about WHY you are side hustling and put a majority of the income you earn towards that instead.

 

I stayed positive when paying off student loans.

It was hard to manage everything. I was working around 100 hours each week between my day job and my side jobs, which left little time for sleep or seeing loved ones.

Luckily, I love blogging and that made it much easier to spend so much time on my blog. Watching my student loans get paid off and the debt going down was a huge motivator.

At first I thought it was impossible, and now I know it wasn’t!

Paying off my student loan debt has been one of the best choices I have ever made.

Do you have student loan debt? How are you paying off student loans?

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