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    How to Go Back to College as a Working Adult

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    how to go back to college as an adult

    Are you wondering how to go back to college as an adult? Learn how to offset costs and seek tuition assistance as a working adult.

    Many of us think of college as our glory days. We remember the feeling of being young and alive, meeting new friends, experiencing new places, staying up late to study, and sensing the sweet taste of accomplishment when we receive that passing grade.

    The collegiate chapter of our lives contains many memories for those who were fortunate enough to attend, however, a large portion of Americans don’t have the same privilege. Many of the people who have not graduated from college lack a degree not because they just didn’t want one, but because life somehow got in the way.

    It might be that an applicant was not accepted into a university because the educational upbringing failed to set them up for success. They might have enrolled in school, eager to advance their academic career, but were forced to drop out and care for dependent family members instead. Or, maybe financial constraints prevented them from even considering the tuition requirement for higher education.

    going back to college as an adult

    Whatever the case may be, many adults do not have a college degree—which can be a major detriment to achieving financial success and enjoying a comfortable quality of life. By 2020, PublicAgenda.org predicts that 65% of all jobs will require a degree or certification.

    Workers without either are severely limited in their employment options, often earning significantly less than their degree-holding counterparts. They also have less access to retirement plans and health care coverage, which has long-lasting consequences for their personal and financial well-being.

    Thankfully, college enrollment is not restricted by age or family size; it’s entirely possible for adults to go back to school and take control over their future, no matter how old they are or how many children they have.

    More and more Americans are empowering themselves and bettering their circumstances by returning to school and pursuing higher education later in life. According to a recent report published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), enrollment rates among older adults are on the rise.

    percentage increase of students ages 25-34 attending college

    There’s one major setback that makes prospective students pause, though: how to fit their aspiring academic program into their current budget. Going back to school requires more than just will power; it requires resources to learn, transportation to commute, and time to study.

    If you’ve recently thought about pursuing a training program, certification, or collegiate degree, but are concerned about how you can make it work financially, keep reading. Today’s post is all about advice on how to go back to school and budget accordingly so you can advance your education without breaking the bank.

    Estimate Your Expenses

    Budgeting your money is all about cashflow and weighing the money coming in versus money going out. Before you enroll in a program, take a look at your bank statements over the past few months to see how much income you earn. Be sure to include any non-taxable sources of income you may receive, such as alimony or child support.

    Hopefully, you already know your estimated cost of living, as well as how much money you can allocate to savings and discretionary spending per month. If not, now’s the time to calculate non-negotiable expenses (such as rent, insurance, groceries, and so forth) to determine the amount of room within your budget that can go toward school.

    Next, tally up the expenses required by the program you hope to pursue. Even if you don’t have concrete costs dialed down quite yet, creating a list is a great starting place to begin running through the type of financial coverage you’ll need.

    Here are a few common examples you may want to consider depending on your situation:

    • Tuition
    • Enrollment fees
    • Online registration
    • Course materials (books, reference guides, learning modules)
    • School supplies (backpack, notebooks, pens, paper, scantrons, etc.)
    • Tools and technology (laptop, calculator, printer, etc.)
    • Transportation
    • Parking pass

    Parents who are debating school may also need to include the cost of a babysitter if their program will impact their parental duties. There are so many variables that can affect the costs you may face, so it’s important to thoroughly think these through when creating a budget.

    Offset Costs

    Now that you have an idea of the expenses involved with higher education, you can start searching for opportunities to save. Going back to school is much more challenging for low-income adults who express greater concern for how attending college will impact their ability to afford food and transportation.

    will attending school impact your budget

    It may take some creativity, but here are some tips on how you may be able to cut costs to make school more affordable within your budget:

    • Research payment programs available to low-income students.
    • Minimize enrollment fees by taking more classes per semester so that you can finish faster.
    • Rent used textbooks to avoid the purchase price; if that’s not an option, sell your materials back to the school in order to recover some of the cost.
    • Shop school supplies through retailers who offer discounts to students.
    • Commute to school by bicycle or public transit.
    • If public transportation is not available, cut down on the cost of gas by carpooling with neighbors in your area.
    • Avoid eating expensive meals on campus by packing snacks and lunch every day.
    • Apply for food stamps for financial assistance at the grocery store
    • Save on childcare by forming a study group with similar parents and rotate the responsibility to supervise.

    Seek Tuition Assistance

    Almost always, the largest education expense faced by students is the cost of tuition. While your program’s price tag may seem insurmountable, there are strategies that may relieve your financial burden:

    • State- and federally sponsored programs may reduce or cover a portion of tuition.
    • Grants may be given to students who demonstrate hardship.
    • Many private companies and nonprofit organizations award scholarships to hopeful applicants.
    • Some employers offer tuition assistance to adult employees returning to school.
    • Students may be able to offset tuition costs through Work Placement programs.
    • Financial aid is available in the form of student loans that you can repay over time.

    It is always wise to minimize debt, but sometimes private student loans are the only option for students who can’t afford tuition. Don’t let this be a deal-breaker; the new career opportunities available to you upon completion of school will likely come with a higher pay grade that’ll make timely loan payments much more possible. 2020 could be the decade to define yourself—use this advice to consider your options and create the future you’ve always envisioned.

    Should I Refinance My Student Loans?

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    Should I Refinance My Student Loans

    How’s it going since graduation? Got a new job? Have kids yet? Odds are that you still have student loans that you are repaying up to now. You are left thinking: should I refinance my student loans?

    Logically, loans and debts get costlier the longer they remain. For you to finally move on and forward, you need to eliminate any outstanding student loan that may be hindering some life goals you have in life. It is good news that refinancing is now possible and is a great way to save money on your student loans. It makes sense —  Why not take a new loan to repay or consolidate all your student loans to make your interest rate and fees lower?

    The intensifying competition among various student loan providers makes the current lending market all the more attractive. If you are now wondering if refinancing is for you, we will share helpful student loan tips that you can use to decide. At the end of this article, you will know if you should avoid refinancing or when you should refinance student loans.

    Let’s start with when you shouldn’t refinance

    While student loan refinancing can help you save money over the long term, it may not make you eligible for certain consumer protections.

    You should avoid refinancing if:

    You want to qualify for federal forgiveness programs.

    Federal loans offer federal forgiveness programs that’ll help you pay off your student loan debt. The list below is a quick view of the types of forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge available for the different types of federal student loans.

    Type of Forgiveness, Cancellation, or Discharge Direct Loans Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program Loans Perkins Loans
    Public Service Loan Forgiveness

    X

    X*

    X*

    Teacher Loan Forgiveness

    X

    X

    Perkins Loan Cancellation (includes Teacher Cancellation)

    X

    Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

    X

    X

    X

    Death Discharge

    X

    X

    X

    Bankruptcy Discharge (in rare cases)

    X

    X

    X

    Closed School Discharge

    X

    X

    X

    False Certification Discharge

    X

    X

    Unpaid Refund Discharge

    X

    X

    *FFEL Program loans and Perkins Loans may become eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness if they are consolidated into the Direct Loan Program.

    Refinancing your student loans will repay your old federal student loans with a new loan from a private company. This means you won’t be eligible for forgiveness, cancellation or discharge from the Federal Government.

    In addition to the types of forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge shown above, you may also be eligible for discharge of your federal student loans based on borrower defense to repayment if you took out the loans to attend a school that misled you, or engaged in other misconduct in violation of certain state laws, and if the school’s act or omission directly related to your federal student loans or to the educational services that you paid for with the loans.

    If you think you are eligible for federal forgiveness programs, contact your loan servicer. If you have a Perkins Loan, you should contact the school that made the loan or the loan servicer the school has designated.

    You want a repayment plan based on your income

    An income-driven repayment plan sets your monthly student loan payment at an amount that is intended to be affordable based on your income and family size. You can qualify for four income-driven repayment plans:

    • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE Plan)
    • Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE Plan)
    • Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR Plan)
    • Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR Plan)

    If you’d like to repay your federal student loans under an income-driven plan, you need to fill out an application here.

    If you refinance your loans through a private company you will no longer be eligible for income repayment plans.

    You have bad credit

    Getting approved for refinancing usually means that you have good or decent credit. Many people can find a co-signer to avoid a bad credit situation. Even if you do have bad credit, if you have been making an effort to pay off your student loans regularly, you still may qualify.

    When should you refinance?

    You should refinance your student loans if you meet the following:

    As soon as you have a stable income (and good credit)

    As soon as you have a stable income and the ability to repay student loans you are likely eligible to refinance your student loans and save money.

    It would be best if your credit score is high. That is because products for refinancing student loans are just like other types of loans: loan providers approve and provide amounts based on credit history. Thus, when you have plans to refinance a student loan, you should bolster your credit months before your effort. If there are inaccuracies in the report, you should immediately seek corrections. Your good credit standing would qualify you for more competitive rates and lower fees.

    If you have loans with high interest rates

    Two types of loans could be tapped: federal and private. Logically, federal loans come with lower rates but the requirements could be stricter. You may also consider refinancing loans with longer terms, which come with lower rates. Many competitive private loan providers also offer more attractive rates and costs.

    You have multiple, expensive loans

    If you have multiple loans over $10,000 then it makes sense to look into refinancing options. Many lenders can help you consolidate multiple loans into one manageable monthly payment.

    After grace periods

    Many federal student loans offer a grace period for the first six months after you leave school. You don’t have to make monthly payments on your loans during this period.

    This is very helpful in allowing you time to find employment in order to be able to repay the student loans. After the grace period is over, it is wise to look into refinancing options.

    Am I ready to refinance?

    Refinance Student Loans with Credible

    • Compare prequalified refinancing rates from up to 10 lenders
    • Credible users save an average of $18,000
    • Fill out a simple 2-minute form to compare rates
    • Checking your rates won’t affect your credit score

    Refinance with Credible

    Once you have determined that refinancing is right for you, keep the following tips in mind.

    Check and prepare all documentary requirements before applying for a refinance loan

    It usually takes time for any borrower to verify eligibility requirements. Take note that different lenders have varying standards and requirements that should be met to make any loan applicant qualify for refinance loans. It would be best if you would not encounter any hassle when asked to submit documents as part of the refinance loan process.

    Understand your rights as well as responsibilities before applying for and obtaining a refinance loan

    You must fully understand all the rights and responsibilities that are usually imposed when taking a new loan before signing any loan contract. Again, take note that student loan repayment could be reduced by getting lower interest rates, prolonging the repayment term, or both. Review available options before making a decision.

    Compare discounts and incentive offers from different loan providers

    You would be surprised at how numerous lenders offer considerable markdowns for early payment, automatic or direct draft payment plans, and of course on-time payment. Imagine how much discount you could secure if such incentives and conditions are combined. Reducing rates by up to 1% or more would mean a lot to you.

    Where to refinance

    The lenders in the table below are our picks for the best banks to refinance student loans and consolidate student loans and start saving more money in 2019! These lenders don’t charge origination fees or closing fees and provide the best rates.

    LenderVariable APRGet startedDetails
    laurel road logo2.25% to 6.65%Check rates
    at Laurel Road

    Laurel Road Details

    • Loan Types: Variable and Fixed
    • Terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, 20
    • Eligible Degrees: Undergrad and Graduate
    • Eligible Loans: Private and Federal
      lendkey2.01% to 8.88%Check rates
      at LendKey

      LendKey Details

      • Loan Types: Variable and Fixed
      • Terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, 20
      • Eligible Degrees: Undergrad and Graduate
      • Eligible Loans: Private and Federal
      earnest
      1.81% to 6.49%Check rates
      at Earnest

      Earnest Details

      • Loan Types: Variable and Fixed
      • Terms: 5 – 10
      • Eligible Degrees: Undergrad and Graduate
      • Eligible Loans: Private and Federal
      studentloansadvice1.81% to 5.74%Check rates
      at SoFi

      SoFi Details

      • Loan Types: Variable and Fixed
      • Terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, 20
      • Eligible Degrees: Undergrad and Graduate
      • Eligible Loans: Private and Federal
      student loans advice2.02% to 7.09%Check rates
      at Commonbond

      Commonbond Details

      • Loan Types: Variable and Fixed
      • Terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, 20
      • Eligible Degrees: Undergrad and Graduate
      • Eligible Loans: Private and Federal

      Final word

      Through these student loan refinancing tips, you could surely find and obtain an ideal refinance loan so you could finally pay off and clear all your outstanding student loans. The best part? You can check your new lower rates instantly at LendKey, click here to learn more.

      If you need more help with refinancing loans, you can check out our refinancing guide as we make the process of refinancing student loans could quite easy.

      If you are still wondering “Should I Refinance My Student Loans?” then leave your question below and we’ll get back to you.

      Navient Lawsuit: What You Should Know (2019)

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      navient lawsuit

      Navient, formerly part of Sallie Mae, is facing six lawsuits alleging illegally cheating borrowers out of repayment rights through shortcuts and deception. The formal Navient Lawsuit against Navient can be seen here.

      What is Navient?

      Navient is a U.S. corporation based in Wilmington, Delaware, whose operations include servicing and collecting on student loans. Managing nearly $300 billion in student loans for more than 12 million debtors, the company was formed in 2014 by the split of Sallie Mae into two distinct entities, Sallie Mae Bank and Navient. Navient employs 6,000 individuals at offices across the U.S. As of 2018, Navient services 25% of student loans in the United States (Wikipedia).

      Student loans make up the nation’s second-largest consumer debt market. Today there are more than 44 million federal and private student loan borrowers and collectively these consumers owe roughly $1.4 trillion.

      What is the Navient lawsuit?

      The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Illinois and Washington attorneys general sued Navient in January 2017.  Pennsylvania’s attorney general filed a suit in October 2017. The California and Mississippi attorneys general filed suits in June and July 2018, respectively. They are suing, Navient, formerly part of Sallie Mae, for creating obstacles to repayment by providing bad information, processing payments incorrectly, and failing to act when borrowers complained.

      Through shortcuts and deception, the company also illegally cheated many struggling borrowers out of their rights to lower repayments, which caused them to pay much more than they had to for their loans. The Bureau seeks to recover significant relief for the borrowers harmed by these illegal servicing failures (CFPB).

      In this Navient lawsuit, they are alleged of the following mispractice:

      • Failing to correctly apply or allocate borrower payments to their accounts.
      • Steered struggling borrowers toward paying more than they have to on loans.
      • Obscured information consumers needed to maintain their lower payments.
      • Deceived private student loan borrowers about requirements to release their co-signer from the loan.
      • Harmed the credit of disabled borrowers, including severely injured veterans.

      The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also alleges that Navient, through its subsidiary Pioneer, made illegal misrepresentations relating to the federal loan rehabilitation program available to defaulted borrowers. Pioneer misrepresented the effect of completing the federal loan rehabilitation program by falsely stating or implying that doing so would remove all adverse information about the defaulted loan from the borrower’s credit report. Pioneer also misrepresented the collection fees that would be forgiven upon completion of the program.

      What is Navients’ response to these allegations?

      Navient has stated that these allegations are unfounded according to a statement made on their website.

      Is Navient student loan forgiveness real?

      According to the Navient website, if Navient services one or more of your student loans. The terms of your loans remain the same. You should continue making payments on your loans as usual.

      FAFSA Requirements: Am I Eligible for Financial Aid?

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      fafsa requirements

      Hoping to get financial aid? Here are the FAFSA requirements to access need-based programs in order to qualify for college financial aid.

      With the cost of attendance at many private four-year schools bordering on $75,000 a year, financial aid is a necessity for most college students. While almost everyone is eligible for some kind of financial aid, you may not qualify for all options out there. Here’s how to tell what you are — and aren’t — eligible for.

      Basic requirements for financial aid

      Qualifying for federal student aid not only opens you up to Pell Grants, federal work-study and federal student loans. It’s also often the basis for other financial aid programs through your school or private organizations.

      Sometimes you even need to fill out the FAFSA as part of your financial aid application for other scholarships and grants offered by your school.

      Here are the requirements you likely need to meet to qualify for most types of aid:

      1. Have a high school degree or equivalent

      You need to have a high school diploma, GED certificate or meet your state’s standards for homeschooling to be eligible for most types of aid.

      This doesn’t mean you should wait to apply for financial aid until you graduate. In fact, the Federal Student Aid (FSA) branch of the Department of Education (DoE) recommends that you submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1st of the year before you plan on attending college. This is the case even if you haven’t finished applying to schools yet — you can always update your application later on.

      You just need to have the equivalent of a high school degree once you’re in college to receive financial aid.

      2. Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student

      In other words, you can’t get most types of financial aid if you’re just taking a few classes here and there — like filling prerequisites for another degree.

      You need to be enrolled in a degree- or certificate-granting program. If you’re a visiting student at another school for a semester, you still might be able to receive financial aid through your home school, as long as you can transfer the credits.

      3. Make satisfactory academic progress

      Satisfactory academic progress is defined by your school. Usually, it’s maintaining either a C average or a 2.0 GPA. You also typically must complete at least 75% of the credits you attempt.

      If you’re still in high school, this doesn’t apply to you — yet. Satisfactory academic progress only applies to your college grades.

      4. Be a US citizen, national, permanent resident or have the right visa

      You often must either be a US citizen, national, green card holder or another eligible noncitizen to qualify for financial aid. Eligible noncitizens include people holding the following visas or status:

      • I-94 Refugee
      • I-94 Asylum Granted
      • I-94 Cuban-Haitian Entrant
      • I-94 Conditional Entrant — this is valid only if issued before April 1, 1980
      • I-94 Parolee — you must have parolee status for at least one year and also might have to provide evidence that you’re in the US for a temporary purpose but intend to become a citizen or permanent resident
      • T-visa — children who came with a parent on a T-visa are also eligible
      • Battered Immigrant-Qualified Alien

      A note about US nationals

      Some US nationals might not be eligible for all types of federal student aid — it depends on where you’re from.

      • American Samoa or Swains Island citizens are eligible for the same options as US citizens.
      • Palau citizens can qualify for federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs) and federal work-study.
      • Micronesia and Marshall Islands citizens are only eligible for federal Pell Grants.

      These restrictions don’t necessarily apply to all other types of federal aid. But many grants and scholarship programs that schools offer are only available to citizens or nonresidents unless they’re specifically for international students.

      More requirements for federal student aid

      On top of the requirements listed above, you also need to meet the following criteria to qualify for federal student aid:

      • Attend a Title IV school. Title IV schools are schools that are eligible to receive financial aid. They include most nonprofits including community colleges, trade schools, and other certificate programs.
      • Register with Selective Service. Men over 18 must register to be called up for service if there’s a draft. This requirement doesn’t apply to women.
      • Not be in default on federal loans. You need to take steps to get out of default before you can receive any type of federal aid again.
      • Not owe a refund for a federal grant. If the federal government requests that you return a grant, you won’t be able to qualify for more aid until you do so.
      • No drug convictions. You might not be eligible for federal student aid if you get convicted of the possession or sale of illegal drugs while you’re receiving loans, grants or other aid from the FSA.
      • Valid Social Security number. You’ll need this to complete the FAFSA, which requires you to submit tax records.

      If you don’t meet these requirements, you might be able to find financial aid from other sources (like private student loans)— just not the federal government.

      How do I stay eligible?

      Just because you’re eligible now doesn’t mean you always will be. Here are a few tips to make sure you don’t lose your federal loans, grants, and work-study.

      • Keep up those grades. Drop below a 2.0 GPA or C average at most schools and you’ll no longer be allowed to receive federal funding.
      • Avoid withdrawing from courses. A “W” on your transcript not only looks bad — it also means you didn’t complete all of the credits you attempted. That can also make you ineligible.
      • Stay enrolled at least half time. Thinking of taking a light semester? You won’t be able to pay for that with most types of student aid — and the grace period on your loan repayments will kick in.
      • Make federal debt repayments on time. If you miss a federal student loan repayment by more than 270 days, you lose your eligibility. Owe any other money to the federal government? You could also become ineligible.
      • Stay out of jail. Drug convictions while you’re receiving federal aid may make you ineligible to borrow again. Being incarcerated for anything can also cause you to lose eligibility for some types of aid.

      How you could lose eligibility on non-federal aid

      Many scholarship and grant programs outside of the FSA have requirements you must meet to remain eligible. If you lose your eligibility after the fact, you might even be required to repay your funding.

      You might lose funding if you don’t:

      • Register for a required course
      • Pass a required course
      • Maintain the required GPA — some scholarships require a 3.5 GPA or higher
      • Complete required community service
      • Complete a required internship

      Financial aid offices and scholarship funds are often more flexible than the FSA, however. If you don’t meet a requirement due to circumstances out of your control, you might be able to remain eligible as long as you explain the situation.

      Can I get my eligibility back?

      Often you can — at least with federal aid. The steps you need to take depend on the reason why you lost your eligibility.

      Get out of default

      You have two options if you lost your eligibility due to a defaulted federal student loan:

      Appeal to the financial aid office

      Lost eligibility over your academic progress? You can often appeal to the financial aid office. They might allow you to keep your eligibility as long as you meet certain conditions or boost your GPA the following semester.

      Go to rehab

      You can regain eligibility after a drug conviction by entering an approved rehab program. You either need to complete the program or pass two unannounced drug tests before you can receive federal aid again.

      Pay off government debts

      If the government has a lien on your property due to an unpaid debt, your only option is to pay that off first before getting federal aid again.

      Bottom line

      As long as you stay on top of your grades and out of trouble, you’re likely eligible for financial aid at your school. And even if you don’t qualify for federal aid, there might be other opportunities available to you through your school or outside organizations.

      Be sure to check with your school’s financial aid office before applying for any scholarships and grants. And don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself if you lost eligibility through no fault of your own.

      What’s the Difference Between Federal Student Loans and Private Student Loans?

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      federal vs private student loans

      Federal vs Private Student loans… which is better? Most schools, the federal government and even private lenders recommend taking out federal over private student loans. Every student gets the same competitive rate, they come with more flexible repayment plans and they offer more options for deferment, forbearance, and forgiveness.

      But there are a few cases where private student loans actually make more sense. If you’re not sure which is right for you, consider these five factors.

      1. Are you eligible?

      Not everyone can qualify for a federal or private student loan.

      To qualify for federal loans, you must be enrolled at least half time at a Title IV school, which doesn’t include many for-profit universities and some community colleges. You also need to be a US citizen or permanent resident and over 18. This rules out international students and 17-year-old freshmen.

      Private student loans also have requirements that some students might not be able to meet without a cosigner. Most have minimum income and credit requirements — two things most undergraduates generally can’t meet on their own.

      But it’s possible to find a lender that’s willing to work with students who are under 18, attending a school that isn’t eligible for federal aid or don’t have the right residency status to qualify for federal aid — as long as you have a cosigner, that is. Without a cosigner, your options are considerably limited.

      2. Which actually has a better rate?

      taking out student loans

      Federal student loan rates have been going up over the past few years. For the 2018-2019 academic year, you could end up with an interest rate as high as 7.6% — and that doesn’t include the origination fee.

      If you’re only eligible for a Graduate or Parent PLUS Loan, a private loan might actually cost less. Especially if you have a cosigner with strong personal finances — like a credit score over 750 and a low debt-to-income ratio. PLUS Loans aren’t eligible for as many perks as other types of federal loans, so you might not actually be missing out on much by borrowing from a private lender.

      Private student loan rates start at 3% with no origination fee. Even if you don’t get the lowest offered rate, it could be lower or close to the cost of a federal loan with a more competitive rate.

      3. How much do you need to borrow?

      Student Loan Repayment Plans

      One of the main drawbacks to federal student loans is that there are limits to how much you can borrow for its most competitive programs: Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans. Limits depend on how long you’re in school and whether the Department of Education considers you a dependent or independent student.

      The most you can borrow through the Federal Direct Loan Program as a freshman is between $5,500 and $9,500. And you’re limited to borrowing $57,500 as an undergraduate and $138,500 as a graduate or professional student.

      While $138,500 might sound like a lot, it isn’t if you’re getting a medical degree or going to law school. In these cases, you might not have any other option but to borrow from a private lender — or use a combination of both.

      Private lenders typically have much higher limits or allow you to borrow up to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance.

      A note about the cost of attendance

      The cost of going to college doesn’t stop at tuition and fees. Schools consider what it calls the cost of attendance (COA) when coming up with your financial aid package.

      Each school has different criteria for what it considers to be your COA. It usually includes housing, meal plans, textbooks and supplies, transportation and other miscellaneous living expenses.

      Student loan providers are legally not allowed to let you borrow more than your school’s COA. That’s why private lenders reach out to your school to confirm your loan amount when you apply.

      4. Can you afford to start paying off your loans while in school?

      college budget

      Federal student loans generally don’t require you to start making repayments until six months after you’ve graduated or otherwise dropped below half time — this includes taking a semester off.

      Private student loans don’t always offer that luxury. Or when they do, they offer multiple in-school repayment options. These often include interest-only repayments, fixed repayments of around $25 or starting with full repayments right away.

      While you might not be able to afford full repayments right away, making small repayments on your loan while you’re in school could actually help you save. You can do this by getting an internship while in college or check this list of side hustles for college students.

      With the exception of Federal Direct Subsidized Loans, interest starts adding up on your federal loans as soon as your school receives the funds. When you finally start making repayments, all of that accumulated interest gets added to your loan balance — and you effectively end up paying interest on interest.

      By taking out a private student loan and making small repayments early on, you could both save on your total loan cost and get out of debt faster.

      5. What are your plans after graduation?

      student loan crisis

      What you plan on doing after graduation is an extremely important, albeit unpredictable factor to consider when choosing between federal and private student loans.

      Undergraduates planning on going to graduate school in the future might want to consider federal loans, which you can defer while you’re in school again. Not all private lenders allow in-school deferment.

      Thinking about going into public service or working for a nonprofit? You could be eligible for full forgiveness after making 10 years of repayments on your federal loans through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program.

      In fact, anyone considering traveling around or who thinks they might have a low-income job might want to choose federal loans over private, since they’re eligible for income-driven repayments. Private lenders typically only offer one standard repayment plan, and fewer deferment and forbearance options.

      Federal vs Private Student Loans Summary

      In the end, federal student loans are usually a more favorable choice. Private student loan providers even tend to recommend that you apply for federal aid first before you apply for their products.

      But if you can’t qualify for federal aid, can get a better deal with a private lender or want to get out of debt as soon as possible, private loans could be the way to go.

      Top 6 Things to Know Before Taking Out a Student Loan

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      what to know about students

      Landing that college acceptance letter is only half the battle when it comes to attending higher education — you still need to find a way to pay for it.

      “Higher education has so many challenges, and private higher education has a special challenge of ever-rising tuition costs” – Ken Starr

      There is no denying the fact that the only ticket to success for anyone is with a strong base of education. At some point of time or the other, we must have heard our parents and elders say “study well and prepare so that you can live a comfortable life later”. Having said this, it is also true that the entire system of education has changed drastically in the last few years. Earlier the education sector was the most pious and noble sectors, but today it has become a business.

      It is true that with the prices of almost everything shooting sky high, the prices and cost of a good and decent education were also meant to rise. As simple roofed constructions turned to fancy architectural buildings, and the walks to school were changed to air-conditioned buses, somewhere the price invariably increased. But, one thing the education sector probably did not think about was whether all the people will be equipped and financially stable to manage and pay these incessantly increasing academic costs?

      It is true that an educational loan to fuel your dream of getting into that Ivy League college will definitely help any student kick start his career. However, there is no denying that the cost of higher education has gone from high to the highest within a short time span. In some cases, parents start saving every penny just so that they can provide the basic necessity to their child which is that of a good college education.

      There are some who are able to achieve this feat and for those who are unable to, there is the option of applying for a Stafford loan or private student loan. The biggest mistake that they make is that they don’t calculate that taking an educational loan results in people paying up for it for the next 5 to 6 years. In fact, some students who graduate from college still pay for the installments to pay back the loan amount that they borrowed from the bank.  

      What to know about student loans

      With something like 40 million Americans juggling student loan debt, it’s no surprise that paying for school with a loan is a popular way to handle those costs. Before getting too far down the rabbit hole, here are six things to keep in mind:

      1. Are student loans the only way?

      Before a parent or a student signs below that dotted line on the terms and conditions of a loan application, first, ask yourself whether applying for a student loan is the only way. People assume that the only way through which any student can be put through formal high school education is by taking the excessive burden of a student loan. But, if you look better and analyze your options, there are many other alternatives. If a student is sharp and has performed well you can apply for a scholarship or some sort of grant. These days a number of universities come up with grants and scholarships to attract more eligible students to them. All you need to do is search extensively and keep your eyes and ears open for the correct opportunity.

      2. Will you be able to pay the student loan debt back?

      If you are a student of 18 years and above and you plan to take a student loan in your name, you will be the signee and the amount that will have to be paid back will also be your responsibility. There is a lot at stake here and paying back a huge amount is not as simple as signing that student loan agreement. So, be very careful and see if your finances allow you to pay the bank back.

      3. Is taking out a student loan even worth it?

      Some may ask why this is important while taking a student loan. As discussed in the point above if you as a student are taking a loan on your name you are the one who is liable to pay it. If part of your repayment plan includes your prediction of getting a job and then paying back the amount, then you very well be prepared and on the lookout for it. The better the job you get, the better will be your package and this will mean a better ability of you to pay back the amount loaned to you.

      4. Are you sure you understand the student loan repayment terms?

      If you see any banking document at the time of taking a loan right at the bottom many things are written in rather smaller texts. Such small texts that they often go unnoticed. These small texted sentences are actually the most important because they cite all the conditions applied and levied on you. Before you take a loan make sure you understand all the pros and cons and also understand what the penalty charges will on account of non-payment. It is your right to find out the rate of interest and the repayment schedule so that you don’t encounter any surprises later. Be cautious rather than be sorry.       

      5. Do you have any other debt?

      If you or anyone in your family already has another loan taken, then you might want to reconsider the option of taking yet another loan and an added financial burden. Considering if the loan amount is small then probably there is no need to worry, however, if the amount is noticeably big, then the advice would be to think of other options but stay away from another student loan. People often don’t realize that in the event of non-payment their credit score will get ruined and this will affect their future loan aspects.

      6. Will you keep tabs on the repayment terms?

      Even once you take a student loan it is very important to keep a tab on the repayment cycle and keep a regular check on how much you have already paid, and how much of the amount is still left. If you plan things right from day one there will be no reasons why you may encounter a problem like non – payment.

      It is understandable that in order to reach your dreams people often seek help. And, as a student, if you have to settle for applying for a student’s loan, take all the necessary precautions and play it safe. Speak to some advisors (could be your parents or someone known from the banking sector) and only then go ahead once you figured out what to know about student loans in full.

      How to Apply for a Stafford Loan?

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      how to apply for stafford loan

      Bernie Sanders says, “our student loan programs need some productive reforms. It doesn’t make any sense that we are paying higher interest rates than our housing mortgages or car loans. Education must be affordable. In that crux, we need to think about it and offer something remarkable that smooths out the education process.”

      Your college fee is about to due this month, and we can understand how spine-chilling this becomes when it is hard to manage your study with financial constraints.

      You don’t need any sledgehammer to crack this nut because Stafford loans can get all of your college fees and expenses covered with an easy yet simple process.

      Stafford loan features:

      • you don’t need a good credit score to get the approval of such loans
      • these federal loans have low-interest rates
      • the application process is simple and short

      So, you better keep your chin up and get well acquainted with the Stafford loan application tips.

      Submitting an Application for Stafford Loans

      Check your eligibility

      If you’ll be joining an accredited program at least half time, and you’re a US permanent resident, US national or US citizen, you’re probably qualified to apply for Stafford loans.

      If you don’t meet the citizenship requirements, spend some time to consult with any consultant at your school’s educational funding office anyway. Particular exceptions may sometimes apply. If, for instance, you’re a human trafficking victim or a documented refugee, you will be able to get Stafford loans regardless of what your citizenship status is.

      Submit your FAFSA

      The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is easily available online at www.fafsa.gov. This particular form can serve as your application for all forms of federal educational funding, such as Stafford loans.

      1. Fill this form out as accurately as you possibly can.
      2. Add your own tax details if you meet the criteria as an independent student or your family’s tax information if you fall into the dependent category.

      It is recommended to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible if you want to do so before you have all your tax information completed, it is fine to estimate.

      You will have to provide:

      • Information regarding dependents, including how many family members are in school
      • Information regarding financial savings and other possessions
      • Social security numbers
      • Annual income

      Estimate Your Financial Aid Using Your Student Aid Report

      If you submitted your Federal loan application online, you’d receive your Student Aid Report within a couple of days (it may take up to a couple of weeks if you presented your Federal loan application on paper).

      This financial aid report may include your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is determined using your information on your Federal loan application. Generally, it’s the amount of money that the federal government hypothetically expects your family to help with your education.

      On the whole, you’ll be offered educational funding programs that cover the main difference between the actual annual cost of your education and your EFC. Here is a useful source to compare student loans offers from more than 5 banks and lenders.

      Accepting and Understanding the Stafford Loans

      Know the Difference Between Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loans

      The majority of college students receive a combination of Stafford loans:

      • Unsubsidized Stafford Loans: Unsubsidized Stafford loans are granted through your school regardless of the financial need. On the other hand, these financing options aren’t as appealing as subsidized ones because the interest rate starts to pile up immediately. In case you don’t make monthly payments during school, then by graduation, you’ll have to pay much more than you borrowed.
      • Subsidized Stafford Loans: Subsidized Stafford loans are usually granted based on financial need. They’re “subsidized”, meaning that the federal government will pay the interest for you while you’re in school, and then for 6 months after the graduation. Quite simply, the interest will start to pile up only after you finish school.

      Know About the Constraints on Stafford Loans

      Stafford loans aren’t unlimited. You’ll find both cumulative and annual caps on how much you can easily borrow through these plans, so it is vital that you know the plan and limitations accordingly.

      Annual caps start at:

      • $9,500 for independent freshmen
      • $5,500 for dependent freshmen
      • $12,500 for independent seniors
      • $7,500 for dependent seniors
      • $40,500 for medical school students
      • $20,500 for professional and graduate students

      However, there are some limitations:

      • Independent undergrads can’t be lent more than $57,000 during the period of their programs.
      • Dependent undergrads can’t be lent more than $31,000 during the period of their programs.
      • Med school students can’t be lent more than $224,000.
      • Professional and graduate school students can’t borrow more than $ 138,500.

      Submit A Master Promissory Note (MPN)

      If you have read the terms and conditions and want to accept your financial loans, you will have to sign and submit your Master Promissory Note through the financial aid office. This particular document signifies a promise to repay the loans right after you graduate.

      You only need to sign one Master Promissory Note, unless you transfer schools. If you wish to attend a different program, you will need to resubmit the documents.

      Total Student Loan Crisis: Top Three Causes Revealed in 2019

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      student loan crisis

      The student loan debt crisis is a hot topic in 2019… but few people know what’s really pushing the loan bubble higher. So let’s take a closer look at the big run-up and what’s behind this dangerous trend.

      Total student loans have more than doubled in the last 10 years. The chart below shows that total student loans have climbed from $700 billion in 2008 to about $1.6 trillion today (that’s trillion with a T)…

      student loan crisis
      Source: Federal Reserve Economic Data

      With the average student loan debt at $37,172, there are about 42 million people in debt. And both numbers continue to climb. It’s no wonder why so many people are concerned. It’s almost guaranteed that someone you know who is swimming in student debt.

      Many politicians and pundits are offering solutions but they’re overlooking the real sources of the student debt crisis. To come up with a reliable fix, it’s important to know the roots of the problem. So here are three powerful trends inflating the loan bubble…

      Three Causes of the Student Loan Crisis

      1. Automation is Replacing Millions of Jobs

      Automation is replacing jobs at a faster rate than in the past. The technology creates new jobs but the new jobs can’t keep up. For example, the American Trucking Association estimates that there are about 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S… but driverless trucks could start replacing them over the next few years.

      Automation will replace millions of blue collar jobs (think retail as well)… but it doesn’t stop there. Many white collar jobs are at risk such as accountants, airline pilots, and pharmacists. Improving robots and software are starting to take over more of our tasks with better accuracy.

      With the wave of automation replacing jobs, more people are pushed into advancing their education. Most of the new jobs created require more education.

      Automation is ultimately making our lives easier but it’s one of the biggest causes of the student loan bubble. In fact, we’re entering a new economic paradigm and other potential solutions such as Universal Basic Income are gaining traction.

      2. Stagnant Wages

      Another outcome of automation is stagnant wages. When factoring inflation into the equation, our purchasing power is about at the same level as it was 40 years ago. But even worse, most of those gains have gone to the highest paid workers.

      True wages haven’t budged much for most Americans. But university costs, on the other hand, are climbing at a rate well above inflation. This makes it harder for average Americans and families to pay for student tuition. As a result, more students are taking out loans than ever before.

      3. Government Meddling

      The federal loan program was created with great intentions. But in practice, it’s helped spur the student loan debt crisis.

      Most loans offered don’t take into account the field of study and job prospects after graduation. Some of the lowest paying degrees include: Studio Arts ($40,000), Social Work ($39,000), and Counseling/Psychology ($29,000).

      How can we expect these workers to pay back student loans when some of the loans are higher than their annual income? It doesn’t make financial sense. But the government has indirectly encouraged bad student loan behavior and even encouraged it.

      The artificial demand for higher education has pushed college costs up faster than inflation. As a result, universities have increased spending on administrative salaries and campus amenities. Inflation-adjusted tuition and fees have increased by 230% at state colleges and universities, and by 164% at community colleges since 1980.

      Universities are feeding off of vulnerable students. Many students don’t understand how the loans work and the debt compounds. The interest payments alone are near impossible for some graduates to pay off… Maybe make a mandatory finance class for all freshmen?

      Student Loan Bubble Won’t Burst Like the Housing Collapse

      Student loans are the second largest amount of debt behind mortgages. But unlike the housing bubble in 2008, the student loan bubble won’t burst the same way.

      The housing debt crisis was backed by current, tangible assets (houses). When borrowers defaulted on their mortgages, banks could reclaim the houses. But with the student loan debt crisis, the degrees can’t be taken away. The loans were given out in hopes that the students’ future income could pay them off.

      The mechanics aren’t the same for the student loan bubble. This is an important consideration and due to the three trends listed above, I don’t foresee a slowdown in the growth of total student loan debt. There might be a slight drop during the coming recession… but higher education is necessary to survive in our changing economy. That’s unless the government comes up with other “well-intentioned” policies.

      Invest mindfully,

      Brian Kehm

      How Do I File My Taxes For Free in 2018?

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      file taxes free

      The IRS’s Free File program allows those with adjusted gross incomes under $62k to use the Free File software for their federal taxes for no charge in a partnership with the Free File Alliance. Many states also partner with the FFA to offer free state tax returns to those that qualify, and some states offer free e-filing for all taxpayers. Tax return processing will begin January 19, 2016. So if you’re wondering “How Do I File My Taxes For Free?” keep on reading!

      (Note: Every taxpayer regardless of income can file for free if you want to fill out the tax forms by hand. The free service being provided here is the software backend that does the calculations for you. Tax returns prepared electronically are generally more accurate than those filled out by hand, reducing processing time and the potential for penalties that result from errors in your filing.)

      What can you do in January to prepare for tax season?

      • Finish up any IRA contributions for 2018 (you have until April 15, 2019, to make 2018 IRA contributions).
      • Look up the schedules your various financial institutions are planning on issuing your documentation (1099s, etc) so you can watch for them. Ask your employer when you will receive your W-2.
      • If you are considering professional tax preparation and haven’t done so before (or are switching preparers), now is the time to be asking around to find a tax preparer. If you have an established relationship, it’s always nice to reach out to say you will/will not be going with the same person again.
      • I’m sure you’ll have ideas as well, leave them in the comments.

      Links to state tax portals are below:

      Alabama – Free e-filing: http://revenue.alabama.gov/eservices/mat-signup-help.cfm

      Alaska – No state income tax.

      Arizona – Partners with several major tax software providers: http://www.azdor.gov/EServices/Individuals.aspx

      Arkansas – Partners with several major tax software providers: http://www.dfa.arkansas.gov/offices/incomeTax/eFile/Pages/freeFileProgram.aspx

      California – Free filing through CalFile: https://www.ftb.ca.gov/online/calfile/index.asp?WT.mc_id=EfileOptions_Feature_CalFile_Start

      Colorado – Free filing through Revenue Online: https://www.colorado.gov/revenueonline/_/

      Connecticut – Free e-filing through the Taxpayer Services Center: https://drsindtax.ct.gov/AUT/welcomeindividual.aspx

      Delaware – Online filing: http://www.revenue.delaware.gov/pit_onlinefiling.shtml

      District of Columbia – Free e-filing through the Taxpayer Services Center: https://www.taxpayerservicecenter.com/individual/Ind_Logon.jsp?type=100

      Florida – No state income tax.

      Georgia – Partners with several major tax software providers: http://dor.georgia.gov/free-file-alliance

      Hawaii – Free e-filing (fee to make a payment): http://tax.hawaii.gov/eservices/efile/

      Idaho – Free e-filing for qualifying taxpayers: http://tax.idaho.gov/i-1020.cfm

      Illinois – Free e-filing: http://www.revenue.state.il.us/MyTax/IL-1040.htm

      Indiana – Free e-filing for qualifying taxpayers: http://www.in.gov/dor/4740.htm

      Iowa – Free e-filing for qualifying taxpayers: https://tax.iowa.gov/individual-income-tax-electronic-filing-options

      Kansas – Free e-filing:  http://www.ksrevenue.org/iiwebfile.html

      Kentucky – E-filing: http://revenue.ky.gov/etax.htm

      Louisiana – Free e-filing: http://revenue.louisiana.gov/EServices/LouisianaFileOnline

      Maine – Free iFile: http://www.maine.gov/revenue/netfile/IFileDesc.htm

      Maryland – Free iFile: https://interactive.marylandtaxes.com/Individuals/iFile_ChooseForm/default.asp

      Massachusetts – WebFile: https://wfb.dor.state.ma.us/webfile/wsi/

      Michigan – Free e-filing for qualifying taxpayers: http://www.michigan.gov/taxes/0,4676,7-238-44070_46640-288774–,00.html

      Minnesota – Free e-filing for qualifying taxpayers: http://www.revenue.state.mn.us/individuals/individ_income/Pages/Online_Filing_Software.aspx

      Mississippi – Partners with several major tax software providers: http://www.dor.ms.gov/taxareas/individ/efiling/developers.html

      Missouri – Partners with several major tax software providers: http://dor.mo.gov/personal/electronic.php

      Montana – e-filing through the Taxpayer Access Point: https://tap.dor.mt.gov/_/#2

      Nebraska – Free NebFile: http://www.revenue.nebraska.gov/electron/ind_e-file.html

      Nevada – No state income tax.

      New Hampshire – No state income tax.

      New Jersey – Free NJWebFile: http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/pcfile/njwebfile.shtml

      New Mexico – e-filing through the Taxpayer Access Point: https://tap.state.nm.us/tap/_/

      New York – Free e-filing for qualifying taxpayers: http://www.tax.ny.gov/pit/efile/default.htm

      North Carolina – Free e-filing for qualifying taxpayers: http://www.dornc.com/electronic/e-file.html

      North Dakota – Free e-filing for qualifying taxpayers: http://www.nd.gov/tax/indincome/elecfiling/

      Ohio – Free e-filing: http://www.tax.ohio.gov/ohio_individual/individual/filefaster.aspx

      Oklahoma – Free e-filing for qualifying taxpayers: https://www.ok.gov/tax/Individuals/Income_Tax/E-File_Options/Free_File/

      Oregon – Free e-filing for qualifying taxpayers: http://www.oregon.gov/DOR/programs/individuals/Pages/individuals-e-filing.aspx

      Pennsylvania – Free e-filing for qualifying taxpayers: http://www.revenue.pa.gov/OnlineServices/PersonalIncomeTaxe-Services/Pages/File-My-Taxes-(PA-e-File).aspx#.VHSUtVXF_Iw

      Rhode Island – Partners with several major tax software providers: http://www.tax.ri.gov/misc/efile.php

      South Carolina – Partners with several major tax software providers: http://www.sctax.org/Electronic+Services/FastFile/default.htm

      South Dakota – No state income tax.

      Tennessee – No state income tax.

      Texas – No state income tax.

      Utah – e-filing through the Taxpayer Access Point: https://tap.tax.utah.gov/TaxExpress/_/

      Vermont – Partners with several major tax software providers: http://www.state.vt.us/tax/eservices.shtml

      Virginia – Partners with several major tax software providers: http://www.tax.virginia.gov/site.cfm?alias=freefile

      Washington – No state income tax.

      West Virginia – Partners with several major tax software providers: http://tax.wv.gov/Individuals/ElectronicFiling/Pages/FreeFileOptions.aspx

      Wisconsin – e-filing through WI efile:  https://www.revenue.wi.gov/wi_efile/

      Wyoming – No state income tax.

      10 Student Loan Memes That Really Crack You Up

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      student loan memes

      Here are 10 funny student loan memes that made me laugh. They should be able to put a smile to your face even if you have crippling debt.

      I’ve been fascinated with college debt memes lately because, well, I run a student loan blog.

      So if you’re looking for some funny student loan memes then hopefully I can provide you with some funny memes.

      Student loans suck, right? But let us put that aside for a while and just enjoy these student loan memes that will hopefully make you laugh!

      10 Funny Student Loan Memes

      1) Accurate depiction, those student loan refunds… where you get those at? student loan meme

      2) You in 50 years still trying to pay off your student loans.

      3) Nobody knows how to pay off those dang student loans, not even this guy.

      student loan meme

      4) That would be nice.

      student loan meme

      5) Dr. Evil doesn’t even trust it!

      6) Sallie Mae Be Throwin’ Shade!

      7) So true on so many levels.

      8) Cheers to you glorious bastards!

      9) Student loan meme winner here.

      10) Sad, but true.

      Student Loan Memes Are No Joke!

      Or are they? Hopefully, the student loan memes above made you smile.

      If you’re ready to get back into learning about your student loans after that humor break, here are some good student loan resources to consider: