The average college graduate in 2016 had $37,172 in student loan debt, according to the website Student Loan Hero. That’s a lot of money to pay off after graduation.
Paying it off should be as simple as writing a monthly check to the lender. Unfortunately, there are some potential student loan problems that borrowers should be aware of when repaying their student loans. Here are some of them:
Track your loans
Know how much you owe and to whom. This sounds straightforward, but it can be confusing. Why? Because the servicer of the loan that collects payments often isn’t the original lender.
If you have federal loans, the National Student Loan Data System will help you track your loans after you set up an online account.
Banks that have given you private loans should contact you. If you’re unsure, check your credit report to see if a lender has reported your loan.
Tie loan payments to your income
Federal loans have payment plans that allow monthly student loan payments to be reduced for borrowers with a family or lower income level. You’ll have to re-qualify for the plan each year.
The Education Department has a repayment estimator tool to help determine if you’re eligible. Your loan servicer should also be able to help, and its cooperation is needed for enrollment in an income-driven repayment plan.
If you can’t repay your loan for a while, your loan servicer may offer you help through forbearance. This allows you to reduce or eliminate payments for an amount of time, though interest continues accruing.
Private lenders may not offer income-driven payment plans, but have something between them and forbearance. They may extend the term of a loan, leading to lower payments over a longer time, for example.
Dropping a co-signer
If a relative or someone else with good credit helped you by co-signing on your student loans — leading to a lower interest rate for taking on the legal obligation of repaying the loan if you can’t — you can release them from this obligation after you graduate.
It requires making on-time payments for a certain number of consecutive months. However, if you skipped payments the clock will be reset to zero on your consecutive monthly payment count.
Make sure the bank or servicer is properly crediting your payments by using its online site to track your account.