The saying usually goes “With April showers comes May flowers” but typically with May flowers, comes students graduating from college. While some students may already have jobs lined up after graduation, others are just beginning their search. On the minds of many graduating seniors is how they will repay their student loans acquired over the last few years.
The first thing a graduating student needs to do is figure out how much money they owe. Federal student loans can be tracked through the National Student Loan Data System. It will list each loan as well as a total for all loans acquired. Private student loans are not part of the database, so grads should check their own records. Another option is to check your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. This site will provide detailed information about your credit history, including any private loans you have taken.
When it comes to repaying your federal student loans, I suggest you visit studentaid.gov. The site provides information about repayment, including options for repayment as well as a checklist of items for people who took out loans.
Typically, you have a six-month window before you need to make your first payment which you are then automatically placed on the Standard Repayment Plan. It is set up as a typical 10 year fixed payment. There are other repayment options, but always keep in mind – the longer you take to pay off the loan the more interest you will pay. Choosing a Federal Student Loan Repayment Plan provides an overview of various repayment options.
The spread of COVID-19 and the passage of the CARES Act affect student loan repayment drastically. All federal student loan borrowers are placed in forbearance (means you do not need to pay) from March 13, 2020 till September 20, 2020. Although you are not required to make payments, you still have the option. Most federal student loans will accrue 0% interest during this time. For more information about the impact of the CARES Act on student loans, visit studentaid.gov.
My colleagues in Extension created a series Factsheets on student loans which is very useful and can help you get more information on what to do when it comes to paying back your loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also has good information that you should check out. During this pandemic you should take time to learn more about your student loans and the best way to pay them back. Your decisions now can affect how much you pay back in the future and other aspects of your financial life.