Student Loan Repayment Pinch
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Recent college graduates might start feeling the pinch and start to panic about repaying their student loans with the standard grace period for May graduates ending in a few weeks.
Repaying student loans can be manageable and does not have to be overwhelming. Recent college grads can easily take control of their payments by reviewing the terms of the outstanding loans. They need to examine everything - interest rates, payment schedules and how it affects their credit.
"For many student loans, the first payment is due approximately six months after graduation" said Nikki Lavoie, spokesperson for Sallie Mae. "Students who made monthly payments while in school already developed the habit of making on-time monthly payments. Students who will make their first payment next month may be creating a monthly budget for the first time, while taking on new post-graduation responsibilities."
Ensuring that you have a plan in place is crucial so you can make payments on time since late payments are reported to credit bureau agencies.
"By including your loan payments into your budget, recent graduates can make payments on time," she said. "The goal is stay in good standing."
Many graduates opt to enroll in automatic bill payment to avoid missing payments and can sometimes receive an interest rate discount from the lender from choosing this option, Lavoie said.
"Sallie Mae customers who sign up for automatic debit may qualify for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction while enrolled to make scheduled monthly payments," she said.
Consumers who can not make their payments or unemployed have several options. After graduation, federal loans offer different payment plans to extend the loan term, make graduated payments or pay as a percentage of income. Income-based repayment caps payments at 10 to 15% of income and forgives any remaining loan balance after 20 to 25 years, depending on when loans were taken out.
For students who took out private loans, the options depend on the loan program and the lender. For Sallie Mae private education loan customers experiencing financial difficulty, the company will work with graduates on a one-on-one basis to identify a solution, Lavoie said. Their options range from modified loan terms, lower interest rates, good-faith catch up programs and temporary suspension of the requirement to make payments.
"We have instituted a 12-month rate reduction program to assist customers struggling with repaying their private education loans," she said. "We offer this program when there is a possibility to keep a customer current in their monthly payments by a temporary reduction in the interest rate and in some cases, there is a modification of the term."
Postponing payments should be used as a last resort since it can cost you more money if the unpaid interest on your loan adds to the balance.