Whether you already have student loans or you’re preparing to take some out, it’s important to know some things about the loans. If you’re not sure the answers to these three questions, it’s time to take a closer look.
What Is Your Interest Rate?
Your interest rate is one of the most important parts of a student loan as it will partly dictate how much you owe in the end. Generally, this is a pretty easy question to answer.
For federal student loans, the interest rates are fixed depending on when you applied for the loans. If you have a direct subsidized or a direct unsubsidized loan for undergraduate school, the 2018 interest rate is 5.05%. Direct PLUS loans have a current interest rate of 7.6%.
However, if you’re taking out a private loan, your interest rate is determined by your credit score and income. You may even be able to lower the interest rate if you have a cosigner. Some private loans also use what is called variable interest rate loans. This means your interest rate will change over the years to match the market. Check your loan documentation or contact the bank to find the exact percentage.
When Do You Have to Repay the Loan?
While you may not have to pay back your student loans just yet, it’s important to understand exactly what goes into repaying the money. Your options and decision absolutely depend on what types of loans you have.
The Department of Education generally starts requesting repayment six months after you graduated or left school. It’s important to note that subsidized loans will not accrue interest until after you graduate. When it comes to unsubsidized loans, you have the option to defer payment until after graduation if you don’t want to pay it back while you’re in school. This interest will be added to your principal loan.
For private loans, you usually have to start repaying that money right away.
What Are Your Repayment Options?
Loans usually come with set repayment plans, but that doesn’t always mean you have to stick to that schedule. It’s possible to look at other avenues, especially if you’re struggling to repay the loan.
For example, you could consolidate your loans to a set interest rate. This can come in handy if you have a specific loan that is a much higher rate than the others. However, you can’t consolidate private loans through the Department of Education’s consolidation program.
If you’re struggling to afford your loan, there are options for you. The federal government offers income-based and income-contingent repayment plans. You do have to meet qualifications to apply for these. If you don’t qualify and you can’t pay back your loans, don’t simply skip a payment. Contact your loan officer or bank to discuss further options.
Understanding your student loans is essential. You should understand your interest rates, repayment options, and repayment timeline to get the best picture of how you will be repaying your loan back after you graduate. Knowing this now will help you be financially prepared for the future.