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The median student loan debt for nurse practitioners and other graduate nursing students was between $40,000 and $54,999 in 2016, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. But for nurse practitioner Schauren Hinson, that number was even higher.
After graduating, Hinson held a whopping $140,000 in nursing student loans. With such a large debt burden, her $80,000 per year salary wasn’t enough to make much of a dent in her debt.
Unwilling to let her undergraduate and nursing school student loans take over her life, Hinson found ways to lower the interest rate on her student loans and pay off $70,000 in one year. Here are five core strategies she used:
When it came time to get an advanced degree, the choice was easy for Hinson. Duke University was her first choice — and while it was an attractive option, the university’s high cost of attendance wiped out her savings. But despite her misgivings about student debt, Hinson had to take out loans to pay for her education.
“It’s a great school,” she said. “It’s worth the cost. But I just didn’t have the money to pay for it.”
With her savings gone, she had a tough decision to face.
“I was working as a nurse at the hospital at the time,” Hinson recalled. “Even with my income, a grant from the nursing school and two scholarships, I still couldn’t pay for my degree. I was talking to a coworker about it, and she told me to just take the loan so I could complete my degree faster.”
Even though Hinson qualified for federal loans, the interest rates were still high. “I had eight different loans in total,” she said. “The interest on three of them was 8.50%. The others were 6.80%.”
While the median student loan debt for nurse practitioners goes up to about $55,000, Hinson’s loan balance was ultimately $140,000 when she graduated.
After her loan grace period ended, the minimum monthly payment on Hinson’s loans was nearly $1,800. Even with her high starting salary of $80,000, the minimum payment was difficult for Hinson to afford.
Although she tried to keep on the 10-year standard repayment plan, the monthly bill was too high. Hinson applied for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, which made her payments more affordable. But, there was a drawback: While the payments were easier for her, interest kept building.
“Every time I made a payment [under the IDR plan], I saw that my balance grew,” she said.
Her payment wasn’t enough to cover the interest charges, so the balance increased with time. Hinson realized that it would take 20 to 25 years to eliminate her loans under the IDR plan.
With a sense of urgency to pay off her loans, Hinson researched alternative options for student loan repayment. She learned about student loan refinancing and how it could reduce her rates so that more of her monthly payments went to her principal. With a lower rate, she could pay off her loans faster.
When you refinance a student loan, you take out a new loan to pay for some or all of your current student loans. The new loan can have a different interest rate, repayment term and minimum payment.
Although it can help some people pay off their debt faster, refinancing does have its drawbacks, particularly if you have federal loans.
“It was a little scary,” Hinson said. “By [refinancing student loans], you lose all these federal benefits and protections. But I decided that the risk was worth it to get rid of them faster.”
Hinson shopped around with several different lenders before deciding on Earnest. Not only did they offer her a great interest rate — about 3.00% — but she felt more comfortable with them as a company.
Other lenders had offered Hinson a loan with very little information, which made her nervous about scams. Earnest, however, required more information and documentation, which made her feel the company was legitimate — “Their process was a little more rigorous, which was reassuring.”
With a lower rate, Hinson was motivated to pay off her debt as fast as possible. She also started working several side hustles so she could pay more toward her loan.
“I had three jobs at the time and I just put every extra dollar toward my loans,” she said. On top of her job as a nurse practitioner, she also worked on weekends at a local clinic and did home visits. Between her jobs, she was able to put an extra $4,000 per month toward her loans.
“It was a bit lonely,” Hinson said. “I’d work my job, then head straight to my home visit job for a few hours. And my weekends were spent at the clinic. There wasn’t time for much else.”
But although her schedule was grueling, her hard work paid off — in one year, she paid off nearly $70,000 in student loans.
Hinson managed to pay off her loans in just six years, including the time she spent on an IDR plan. Even though she no longer has student loans, she hasn’t been able to convince herself to give up all of her side hustles yet.
“Not having $140,000 on my shoulders is amazing,” she said. “I feel much more freedom. But I’m still working weekends at the clinic so I can pay off my car sooner and save up an emergency fund.”
For others facing the burden of student loans, Hinson recommends facing it head on.
“I believe your debt is like a ‘your house is on fire’ emergency,” she said. “Don’t spend a dime on anything other than basics and put everything else toward your debt so it’s out of your life.”
If you’re ready to take charge of nursing student loans or any other kind of student debt like Hinson did, check out our ultimate guide to paying off your student loans faster.
Rebecca Safier contributed to this article.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 5.99%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 6.84%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.91% – 5.25%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.53%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.17% – 4.47%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
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1 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. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of Feburary 1, 2021.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
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 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% 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 October 26, 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 10/26/2020. 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 [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 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.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. 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 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
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 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.99%-5.15% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.17%-4.47% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.