Anyone seeking higher education has a few options to pay for college. Either they can pay out of pocket, rely on family for help, or take out student loans. The latter is the most common, providing a financial loan amount based on student’s need.
While a great step forward to anyone seeking higher education, loans come with a few downsides. The first is the amount, as it’s not uncommon for college graduates to have at least $30K-40K in student loan debt. Secondly, interest rates can extend the life of a debt for years, depending on how the student pays back. These are difficult hurdles to overcome, and can create problems for career success.
If a student cannot payback their loan, options exist to put it on forbearance or deferment. This creates breathing room, but during these grace periods interest still accrues. A year of deferment for example can create an extra $1,000 depending on the amount owed.
Fortunately, options for dealing with high loan costs might be around the corner. While the cost of education still increases, there might be relief found with loans with lower interest rates. Currently, interest rates for student loans are decreasing. Last year they were at 4.29 percent, but are now 3.76. This can potentially reduce the life of debt amount, even for those who cannot may payments each month.
Other methods for lowering the amount of student loan debt also exist. Typically, these are through grants, acquired because of academic performance or financial need. The Pell Grant is one of them, and according to the Federal Loan program, has increased in amount. For students with greater financial need, the Pell Grant has been offered to help their education goals. In 2015, the total amount of the Pell Grant amounted to $5,775. As of today, it has increased to $5,815, adjusting for inflation.
This is an important step forward, regarding both interest rates and grant amounts. Currently student loan debt totals $1.3 trillion and is the highest type of financial debt in the United States. While there are programs that help students repay their loans from the government, they often increase the life of the debt. Interest rates, as mentioned, add thousands in total to be repaid. In some cases, students cannot repay the debt, and a high percentage have even defaulted on their loans.
In total, it is estimated that graduates of 2016 on average will have close to $36,000 in student debt.
Aggressive actions still need to be taken in order to lower total amounts repaid, however. The decrease in interest will help lower monthly payments for graduates, but only by a small margin. At a 3.76 percent rate, students will save about $2.50 for every $10,000 borrowed. This equates to around $300 in savings for the course of a decade. The amount could be entirely negligible, especially for students with high amounts of debt.
Regardless of the amount, experts still suggest taking advantage of these rates as soon as they can. Some expect interest rates to actually rise in the next few years. Because interest rates on student loans are fixed, having the lowest possible rate is ideal. Graduates can even lower their interest rates further by signing up for auto-debit, which decreases the rate by 0.25 percent. The payment is drawn automatically, so graduates will have to be financially sound, but those who are gain a great benefit.
Despite the difficulties presented when paying back loans, it’s still best to get them through the Federal government. Students looking at interest rates and need-based amounts might be tempted to use a private lender, but those do not offer the same options. Federal loans, interest rates included, always have flexible options for repayment and can even postpone bills when faced with financial difficulty. Additionally, interest rates are fixed, whereas with a private lender interest rates can actually increase.
There are still many hurdles to overcome regarding loans, but lower interest rates can cut down on expenses. Every year Federal Loan options become more forgiving, with some programs even offering forgiveness after on time payments are made for at least 20 years.
For now, future students should pay attention to their total amount in loans and the interest rate accompanying it. This can determine how long it will take to pay the actual amount off.