Dartmouth University is one of the most prestigious schools in the world. But when your student loan payments begin — and you’re still living on ramen so you can pay off your debt — that prestige might seem more like a curse.
The total cost of attendance, including Dartmouth tuition, is $71,409 for the upcoming school year. By the time you complete your degree, you could rack up thousands in loans.
Although you might feel overwhelmed and strangled by your debt, it’s important to understand your loans and repayment options. Here’s everything you need to know to take control of your student loans.
Identify what loans you have
To pay for school, you probably took out several different types of loans. Each loan could have its own terms, so the first step in managing your debt is identifying each one. You need to know your loan servicer, grace period, repayment term, and interest rate.
If you don’t know where to start, there are three ways to get the necessary information:
- Contact Dartmouth’s financial aid office. A financial aid officer will be able to tell you what kind of loans you have and how to locate your loan servicer.
- Search for your loans using the National Student Loan Data System. The NSLDS database is a comprehensive listing of all federal student loans. You’ll find out what federal loans you have, if any, and who services your debt.
- Check your credit report. You can check your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Your report will show all of the accounts that exist in your name, including the companies that own your debt.
Types of Dartmouth student loans
As a graduate of Dartmouth, you might have one or more of the following loans.
Federal Perkins loans
The government issued Perkins loans to only the neediest students. Regulations limited these loans to $5,500 a year or $27,500 for your entire undergraduate career.
The grace period for Perkins loans was nine months. Once that time is over, repayment begins. Your interest rate for recent Perkins loans is 5.00%, and you’ll repay your loans for 10 years.
The Perkins Loan program expired on September 30, 2017. No new Perkins loan will be issued after that date. However, if you already took out a Perkins loan, the loan remains as it is. There are no changes to the loan’s terms or interest rate.
Federal Direct loans
The U.S. Department of Education is the lender for federal Direct loans. There are two forms of Direct loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. With subsidized loans, the government covers your interest charges while you’re in school, which can help you save thousands.
Unsubsidized loans don’t have this perk, so you’re responsible for covering the interest charges yourself. Direct loans have an interest rate of 4.45% and a 10-year repayment term.
Dartmouth Educational Association loan
Funded by alumni donations, the Dartmouth Educational Association loan is a need-based loan. According to Dartmouth’s financial aid handbook, these loans have similar interest rates and repayment terms to Perkins loans. The specifics will be outlined in your promissory note.
Dartmouth Educational Loan Corporation loan
The Dartmouth Educational Loan Corporation (DELC) provides need-based loans to students who need financial aid assistance beyond what the federal government offers. Interest accrues as soon as you take out the loan, but you don’t have to start making payments until three months after graduation.
As of the 2016-2017 school year, DELC loans had an interest rate of 6.80%. The loans have a 10-year repayment term.
Dartmouth student loan for foreign students
International students are often ineligible for federal or private student loans. To help them pay for school, Dartmouth offers need-based loans to foreign students. The interest rate for these loans is 7.00%, and they have a 10-year repayment term.
If you exhausted your federal and school-issued loan options, you might have turned to private student loans to cover the rest of your costs.
Private student loans often have higher interest rates than federal loans, but the actual interest rates and repayment terms may vary. Check with your lender to find out when your repayment begins and how much goes towards interest fees.
Know your repayment options
Dartmouth alumni have a lower than average default rate. More than 7 percent of students nationwide default on their student loans within three years, according to College Factual. But just 1.7 percent of Dartmouth graduates default on theirs.
Although that’s encouraging for your future prospects, those numbers aren’t comforting if you are already struggling to afford your payments. These four options could help make your payments more manageable.
1. Income-driven repayment plans
If you can’t pay the minimum amount due each month, an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan could give you more breathing room.
Under an IDR plan, the government caps your student loan payments at a percentage of your income and extends your repayment term. If you have federal student loans, signing up for an IDR plan can significantly reduce your payments.
However, IDR plans do have some drawbacks. For example, the extended repayment term means you’ll pay much more in interest over the length of your loan. You could end up paying thousands more than you originally borrowed.
You can check out our guide to learn more about IDR plans.
2. Forgiveness programs
Depending on your career path, some or all of your loans might be eligible for forgiveness. For example, if you work for a qualifying non-profit organization or government agency, you could be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
Our repayment assistance program tool is a searchable database of over 120 forgiveness programs. You can search by location, occupation, or award amount to find programs that match your situation.
3. Loan consolidation
If you have several different federal loans with varying payments and due dates, it’s easy to lose track of them all. One option that might help is a Direct Consolidation loan. When you apply for a Direct Consolidation loan, you combine all of your federal student loans into one debt with one monthly payment.
Although consolidating your loans can make remembering your payments easier, this process won’t save you money. A Direct Consolidation loan’s interest rate is the weighted average of all of your previous loans, so the consolidated loan’s cost will be similar to your old loans.
However, you can choose to extend your repayment term when you consolidate your loans. With a longer repayment term, you can have a much lower monthly payment. You’ll pay back more in interest over the length of your loan, but if your payments are unaffordable, it can be a smart strategy to stay current on your debt.
4. Student loan refinancing
Dartmouth graduates have a median starting salary of $55,500, which is higher than the national average for college graduates. With a good income, you might be an excellent candidate for refinancing your federal or private student loans.
If the other repayment options don’t help or you’re looking to save money over the length of your repayment, refinancing your student loans can be a wise move. When you refinance, you work with a private bank or organization to take out a new loan for the amount of some or all of your current loans.
The new loan will have a completely different repayment term. Depending on your credit, income, and loan term, you could qualify for a lower interest rate. That means more of your payments would go towards the principal, helping you save money over time.
Our refinancing calculator can help you find out how much you could save by refinancing your loans.
Student Loan Refinancing Calculator
Before proceeding with refinancing, make sure you understand all of the consequences. If you have federal student loans and refinance them with a private lender, you’ll lose out on federal benefits. Some of those benefits are: IDR plans, the ability to enter into deferment or forbearance, and eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Tackling your Dartmouth student loans
Graduating from Dartmouth is a huge achievement that will help propel your career. But if you’re struggling with repaying your student loans, you might find that your payments hold you back. These repayment options can help you overcome your debt.
For ideas on how to get out of debt as quickly as possible, here’s how you can pay off your student loans even faster.
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