Adulting, (verb): “To do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as a 9-to-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grownups.”
Not included in that definition? Managing and paying off your student loans.
On top of everything else you need to do to properly adult — go to work, do laundry, feed and clothe yourself, pay your taxes — managing your student loans can be both overwhelming and scary. Fortunately, there are a variety of wonderful, affordable resources student loan borrowers can turn to when they need personalized student loan help.
How to get student loan help
Your loan servicer
Your student loan servicer is the company that handles the billing of your student loan; it’s their name on the top of your bill each month. Because they’re in charge of collecting payments, they’re very invested in ensuring borrowers are making their payments. If you’re unsure about your loan or would like to talk someone about your payments, your loan servicer should be the first call you make.
Many servicers offer custom programs, such as hardship and economic forbearance in the event of job loss, that you can set up directly with them. Visit their website or call the number on your bill to get started.
Credit counseling isn’t just for those struggling with mountains of credit card debt — it can work for student loan debt as well! When you work with a credit counselor, you’ll likely take part in a free session where a counselor advises you on best financial practices and outlines strategies you can use to pay down your debt. It’s basically a therapy session about your money habits.
Your counselor may also set you up with a debt management plan. They work on your behalf to lower your interest rates or your debts, and receive a fee from your lenders for doing so. After all, your lenders would rather have some money repayed than no money.
When searching for a credit counselor, keep the following in mind:
- Be sure you’re working with a counselor accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), as this organization has not-for-profit status and has set the standards within the credit counseling industry.
- Interview multiple agencies, as what may be right for one person may not be right for you.
- If you find a credit counselor you like, check with your city and state’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Consumer Protection Agency to double check for any complaints.
- Keep in mind that “non-profit” doesn’t mean they’re automatically good for you, or that they conduct business according to fair ethics. Do proper research, regardless of how the agency markets themselves.
The NFCC has a great debt relief agency locator, or you can ask around for recommendations.
A credit counseling agency should never charge you astronomically high fees, ask you to buy products that leave you in more debt than when you started, or refuse service if you can’t afford to pay. Beware of these practices, as agencies that use them likely don’t have your best interests in mind.
Investopedia estimates it shouldn’t cost more than $100 to get set up on a debt management plan with a professional credit counselor, or more than $50 a month to work with a credit counselor or other student loan help agent on an ongoing basis. Be sure to get their fees in writing, and do a little homework of your own to make sure your chosen counselor is right for you.
Contrary to popular belief, financial planners can help with more than just investment advice. In more and more instances, these advisors are helping millennials manage their student loan debt, too.
Financial planners help people set and accomplish long-term financial goals — in this case, it may be as simple as repaying student loans, or as complex as repaying your loans while simultaneously saving for a new home and your retirement. After your planner has looked at your income, debt, and assets, she can help you come up with feasible goals and put a plan in action to help you achieve them.
Financial planners may be paid based on fees or commission. Whatever payment model your planner works on, get the terms in writing and make sure you understand what the cost to you will be.
When you’re searching for advisors, always make sure they are a certified financial planner (CFP) — this means they have met education, experience, and ethics requirements. CFP Board can help you search your area for a certified financial planner, or ask friends and relatives if they’ve worked with anyone they can recommend.
There are several non-profit organizations borrowers can turn to for student loan help. These non-profits may offer professional one-on-one help for free or at a lower cost than professional credit counselors, or simply provide a free hotline you can call for answers to your most pressing questions. We like NFCC.org and StudentDebtCrisis.org.
How to prepare for your first meeting
Once you’ve decided to work with one of the above options, what documents do you gather for them? Bring your student loan statements, pay stubs, and your monthly budget. Most importantly, come prepared to be honest. You can’t get true help without baring it all, and keeping parts of your financial situation hidden could affect the advice you’re given.
Here’s a sample of some questions to ask your credit counselor/financial planner/non-profit representative when you need help with student loans:
- What services do you offer?
- What are the qualifications of your counselors?
- What are your fees?
- Are educational materials included in the pricing?
- What if I can’t afford to pay your fees or make contributions?
- Are you licensed in my state?
With the variety of assistance options available for those seeking student loan help, there isn’t an excuse not to reach out. At the very least, starting with your loan servicer is a quick and easy first step in the process.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2020!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.99% – 5.64%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.28%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 6.77%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|1.99% – 5.61%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews! |
1 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 5.79% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.64% 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 July 31, 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 7/31/2020. 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.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. 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. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
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.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of September 9, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 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 September 10, 2020.
5 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 0.16% effective Sep 1, 2020 and may increase after consummation.