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  • Last modified 195 days ago (March 7, 2019)

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Student loans mean more than monthly payments

Staff writer

Student loans have become as synonymous with college as late night studying and intramural sports, but borrowing money is no easy score.

One of the main struggles can be neglecting payments due to financial difficulties, like medical hardship or unemployment, said Heather Ward, director of financial aid at Butler Community College.

“They get nervous and don’t want to face it, so they start putting their heads in the sand,” she said. “They think, ‘O.K., I’ll figure that out later.’”

Putting off payment might seem like a viable option, but it can lead to wage seizure by the government if left too long, Ward said.

Putting loans into forbearance can help, but it’s not a long-term solution, she said.

While forbearance halts payment requirements for up to six months, loans still accrue interest.

Loans are structured to be paid in full after 10 years, but payment doesn’t have to be in a uniform fashion, Ward said. If standard payments are too expensive, but forbearance isn’t an option, monthly installments can be adjusted to a percentage of the borrower’s monthly income.

One of the most important factors to take into account when applying is how much money students will make in their job fields, Ward said.

“Consider what you’re borrowing with your earning potential,” she said.

Refinancing student loans isn’t a frequent practice, but it can be convenient to combine payments, said Mickey Lundy, executive vice president at Tampa State Bank.

“If they can do it without a lot of fees and do a favorable rate, it’s always nice to have one payment as opposed to three or four,” she said. “You just have to be cautious of fees that are involved.”

The biggest hurdle in refinancing college loans is that many graduates don’t have the collateral necessary to do so, Lundy said

“It’s not a negative thing,” she said. “It’s just tough for someone starting out because they have all this debt and no collateral, so their financial statement is upside down. We understand, too, that a lot of people can’t get through college without incurring that debt.”

While it’s an option, taking out personal loans to pay back those from college doesn’t solve the problem, Ward said.

“That doesn’t necessarily solve the problem,” she said. “You’re basically robbing Peter to pay Paul, in my opinion.”

Personal loans are also different because they transfer to the borrower’s family if not paid back before death, while student loans are forgiven.

Before students are approved for a loan though Sallie Mae, they complete a loan counseling session which reviews future payments, and differences between loan types. While the process is important, it can be time consuming and end up being shrugged off, Ward said.

“As a society, we are so numb to consumerism and debt that we’re not thinking about it,” she said. “Since payment isn’t due now, we think we’ll figure that out in the future.”

The topic isn’t just important on a personal scale, she said. At a conference Ward attended in November, the Department of Education said that national student loans passed $1.3 trillion.

“That’s significant,” she said. “It has an effect on all of us, and the economy.”

Last modified March 7, 2019

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