Our Answers to the 20 Most-Googled Student Loan Questions May Save You Money

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If you have questions about student loans, you’re not the only one. And like most people, you probably went to Google to search for the answers.

There are plenty of people that have student loan questions, as proven by our survey of Google tools. Through Google autocomplete and Google Trends, we identified 20 student loan questions that people search for the most.

Here are the student loan questions and answers everyone’s searching for.

1. How much does college cost?

Ultimately, your cost of college depends on what school you choose. If you want to get a better sense of the average cost of college, consider these stats from the 2015-2016 school year:

  • 4-year public institutions for students enrolled in-state: $9,410
  • 4-year public institutions for students enrolled out-of-state: $23,893
  • 2-year public institutions for students enrolled in-state: $3,435
  • 4-year private institutions: $32,405
  • For-profit institutions: $15,610

2. Is college free?

Unfortunately, college isn’t free. However, college students might be able to get a portion of their college costs paid for through financial aid, scholarships, and other programs. Student Loan Hero even offers a $1,000 scholarship every semester.

3. Is college worth it?

Since going to college is such a big expense, it’s no wonder many people question the benefits of it. Yet, the data does seem to show that a college degree is a worthy investment.

Holding a bachelor’s degree can boost an individual’s average earnings to $64,500 a year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

That’s $23,500 more than the average salary for a high school education ($41,000) and $14,500 more than the average for those with an associate’s degree ($50,000).

Ultimately, the formula for whether college is worth it is similar to any investment. What are your initial costs and what’s the payoff later?

You can make sure college is a smart investment by keeping college costs under control. And make sure you’re maximizing your opportunities and earnings after graduating.

4. Is college for everyone?

After facing years of public schooling, it can seem daunting to sign on for more classes in college. Especially now that you’ll bear the responsibility for paying for them.

That’s why it’s a smart idea to check in with yourself and ask, “Is college right for me?”

While a college degree might come with higher earnings, there are still many Americans with only a high school diploma making decent livings at enjoyable jobs.

There are opportunities outside of college for you to gain marketable skills and experience, from vocational school to online tutorials.

5. How can I pay for college?

There are several resources students should look at when trying to figure out how to pay for college. Here are the most common ones:

6. How do student loans work?

Student loans are an important tool many students use to cover college costs. But it’s important to understand how student loans work.

The majority of student loans in the U.S. are federal loans. However, private student loans can also be an option.

You can take out student loans for each semester in school, and funds are typically disbursed through your college’s financial aid office.

Some student loans charge interest. In some cases, your loans will accrue interest as soon as you borrow them. Even if you’re still in school.

You usually won’t have to make any payments on your loans until six months after your last semester. Then student loans payments will begin. A standard repayment schedule is 10 years or more.

7. How do I get federal student loans?

Direct loans are federal student loans that the U.S. Department of Education funds directly to those enrolled in school. Students can get access to these student loans by completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Once your FAFSA is processed, you’ll get a summary of what types of federal student loans you qualify for and how much you can borrow.

You can then claim the student loans you need. Funds are disbursed to your student account with your educational institution.

8. How do I fill out FAFSA?

It can take some time and persistence to figure out how to fill out FAFSA and submit it.

The first step is to visit FAFSA.ed.gov. Then, sign up for an account and get a federal student aid (FSA) ID number. Next, log in with your FSA ID number to start your FAFSA and complete it.

To complete the FAFSA, you’ll need your recent tax returns on hand, as well as your parents’ if you’re a dependent. The electronic system will walk you through each question and ask for information required to complete it.

Make sure you file all of your info by the FAFSA deadline.

9. What is a Stafford Loan?

A Stafford loan is a Direct Loan funded by the Department of Education. Students can qualify to borrow through a Stafford Loan by submitting their FAFSA.

These loans typically carry low-interest rates, which are currently set at 3.76% for undergraduate borrowers.

Stafford Loans might be subsidized, meaning the Department of Education pays interest while you’re in school. Borrowers with unsubsidized Stafford Loans, however, will be responsible for paying all of their student loan interest.

10. What is a Perkins Loan?

As of September, 2017, the Perkins Loan program ended and the government will no long disburse new Perkins Loans.

However, thousands of borrowers used Perkins Loans to pay for school in the past. A Perkins Loan was different than other loans offered through FAFSA. That’s because the school you attended was the lender, rather than the Department of Education.

Perkins Loans were only offered to students with “exceptional financial need.” They carried an interest rate of 5%.

Students also had a longer grace period after their last semester. They got nine months before their Perkins Loan repayment begins, instead of the usual six months.

11. What is a PLUS loan?

A PLUS loan is another type of Direct Loan offered by the Department of Education.

Typically this loan is used by graduate students to fund a postsecondary degree. Or, by parents to help cover their child’s educational costs.

Unlike other federal student loans, a PLUS loan requires a credit check for approval. It also carries a higher interest rate (6.31%) than other federal student loans and has an additional fee of 4.27 percent.

12. How can I pay student loans?

When student loans become due, repayment is automatically set to a standard 10-year schedule.

Hopefully, the minimum monthly payments are affordable and you can keep up with them. Or, perhaps you can afford to pay larger amounts to get out of student debt faster.

If you’re struggling, however, there are some student loan repayment options and strategies that can help you manage your debt.

  • Student loan deferment or forbearance, which will “pause” student loan repayment
  • Income-based repayment plans, which can lower your monthly payments
  • Student loan forgiveness, which can be an option for some borrowers
  • Spending less and earning more, which will generate extra money for student loans
  • Refinancing or consolidating student loans, which can help lower interest rates and make them more affordable

13. How do I defer student loans?

Student loans can be deferred, which means repayment will be officially suspended for a period of up to three years in some cases.

If you want to defer your student loans, you’ll need to submit a request with your loan servicer.

Keep in mind that it’s likely you will need to prove financial hardship or other eligibility requirements to get a deferment.

14. What does forbearance mean?

Forbearance of student loans is offered for borrowers who are unable to make student loan payments but don’t meet requirements for deferment.

Under forbearance, payments might be temporarily suspended or reduced for up to 12 months. Keep in mind, interest may continue to accrue on your student loans.

15. Should I consolidate student loans?

Through student loan consolidation, you take out a new loan and use it to pay off other student loans. If you’re wondering if you should consolidate student loans, there are some pros and cons to weigh.

Consolidating student loans can be a way to simplify student debt, get a lower interest rate, reduce monthly payments, or release a cosigner of responsibility for an existing loan.

However, depending on the terms of your new loan, consolidating student debt can cost more over time. Be sure to do the math before making your decision on consolidation.

16. How do I consolidate student loans?

If you decide to consolidate, your next step will be to figure out how to consolidate student loans.

There are two main options for refinancing student debt: getting a new federal loan through a Direct Consolidation loan or refinancing through a private lender.

The Direct Consolidation Loan can only be used to consolidate federal student loans. It uses an average interest rate, so you’re unlikely to save money on that.

However, you can set a longer repayment period to lower monthly payments. To use this method, apply through StudentLoans.gov.

With private student loan consolidation, you will need to apply directly with the private lender. Approval will be based on your credit, income, and other factors.

Make sure you pick a reputable private lender to refinance student loans. Many offer lower student loan interest rates that can save you money in the long run.

17. Can student loans be forgiven?

In some cases, borrowers might be able to get student loan forgiveness. The federal government grants forgiveness for some student debt, depending on the type of loan and situation of the borrower.

Some circumstances that might make you eligible for student loan forgiveness include:

18. How can I get student loans out of default?

Student loan default happens when more than 270 days pass without you making your student loan payments. Those wondering how to get student loans out of default can pursue a few options.

One option is full repayment of the loan. You can also rehabilitate your student loans or consolidate them, which will begin the process of getting the loan out of default.

19. Can student loans be garnished?

Student loans can’t be garnished since they aren’t considered wages. However, people asking this question might actually be wondering if their wages can be garnished because of student loan issues.

Unfortunately, student loan servicers do have the authority to garnish your wages if you miss payments or go into default. Private lenders will need to take you to court and get a judgment before doing so.

For federal loans, however, the government doesn’t need to get a judgment to garnish wages and only needs to give you 30 days of notice.

20. Can I deduct student loan interest?

Student loan interest is a tax-deductible expense. Under current tax laws, you can write off student loan interest to reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500. This can lower your tax liability by up to $625.

There are other requirements for claiming a student loan tax deduction. You will have to have a qualified student loan used only for educational expenses and meet income and other criteria.

As you try to figure out all of your student loan questions, make sure you get the answers you need to make the best financial decisions possible. Your bank account will thank you in the future.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 8 lenders of 2020!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.94% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.98% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.98% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of February 4, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 2/24/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.20% APR to 6.48% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.31% APR to 6.48% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.31% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 1.81% plus 0.75% margin minus 0.25% for AutoPay. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your credit history and the term of the loan and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

3 Important Disclosures for Figure.

Figure Disclosures

Figure’s Student Refinance Loan is a private loan. If you refinance federal loans, you forfeit certain flexible repayment options associated with those loans. If you expect to incur financial hardship that would impact your ability to repay, you should consider federal consolidation alternatives.

4 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.


There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.


For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
For eligible Associates degrees in the healthcare field (see Eligibility & Eligible Loans section below), Lender will refinance up to $50,000 in loans for non-ParentPlus refinance loans. Note, parents who are refinancing loans taken out on behalf of a child who has obtained an associates degrees in an eligible healthcare field are not subject to the $50,000 loan maximum, refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for more information about refinancing ParentPlus loans.


Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).

Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.

All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.

For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.


The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.


The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.


After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.

If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.


This information is current as of February 25, 2020 and is subject to change.

5 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.

6 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

College Ave Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.

2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.

4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 1/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 1.68% effective January 10, 2020.

8 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 12/019/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.59% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

1.89% – 5.98%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.31% – 6.48%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.93% – 6.68%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Figure

2.29% – 6.65%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.99% – 7.06%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

2.62% – 6.12%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit College Ave

1.77% – 6.25%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.90% – 8.59%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.