If you’re currently in college or have recently graduated, you know how expensive a college education has become. Tuition at some prestigious universities has climbed to over $40,000 per year, and even low-priced schools are only cheap by comparison. No matter what school you attend, it’s likely that you’re going to end up deeply in debt before you’re through.
Get the Right Loan Repayment Plan
Most student loans are standard programs offered to college students like PLUS loans, Stafford loans, Perkins loans, or something similar. These loans allow you to pay a fixed amount as low as $50 per month for up to ten years, or a predetermined percentage of your income for up to 25 years, after which your remaining balance could be forgiven.
If you don’t want to end up getting student loan bills in the mail until the AARP flyers take their place, avoid the temptation to pay the lowest possible payment, especially at first. You’ll pay thousands of dollars in additional interest over the life of the loan if you don’t attack the principal right away. You should budget at least 10 percent of your pretax income to go directly to your student loans, and if you get any sort of windfall, apply all of it to the debt when you receive it.
Pay Off Variable Rate Loans First
The majority of recent grads have a mixture of public and private loans when they graduate, and with interest rates at record lows, your private loan interest rates are probably lower than your federally backed loans. That will tempt you to pay them off last. That’s a mistake. Most private loans have variable rates, and when interest rates climb, they could set back your schedule to get out of debt by years, or even decades. Pay private loans off at twice the minimum required rate until they’re gone, and then attack the public loans that have rates that can’t change.
Get Your Employer to Pay Student Loans Off for You
Many employers will pay your tuition if you go back to school while you’re their employee, but few people know that some employers will pay your existing student loans if you ask. When negotiating your pay package, ask if you can lower your wages in exchange for a one-time payment toward your loans. Employers in specialty fields like nursing, high-tech, and banking are most open to this arrangement, and you’ll have to sign on for a specific time period, but you’ll save thousands in interest, and they’ll save thousands in overhead.
Responsible people assume they’ll never miss a loan payment, but it happens to everyone eventually. Some late payments can trigger increases in interest rates or add hefty fees and penalties. Sign up for automatic payments to pay student loans off without any lapses and you might also be eligible for a little-known reduction in your interest rate by up to one-quarter of a percent.
You can also read how to Pay Student Loans without a Cosigner.