Student loan debt plagues college students nationwide. Among Class of 2016 graduates, the average student loan balance was $37,172.
But students from Mississippi who graduated in the same year had an average $29,384 in student debt, according to The Institute for College Access & Success. Even though that’s nearly 21% below the national average, it’s still a lot.
Knowing your options for getting the best rates for your Mississippi student loans is important. You could minimize your debt and make repayment easier. Here’s what you need to know.
Mississippi student loans
While scoring as much free money as possible through scholarships and grants is ideal, Mississippi residents can tap into federal student loans to pay for college. The Department of Education can help fund your education through federal loan options. These loans tend to have lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options compared to private student loans.
Here’s what’s available:
|Loan type||Details||Interest rates|
|Direct Subsidized||You’ll have to prove financial need to qualify for this loan. But if you do, the government will pay the interest while you’re still in school and for the first six months after you graduate.||4.45%|
|Direct Unsubsidized||You can qualify even if you don’t have financial need. However, you’re responsible for all interest charges.||4.45% for undergraduates and 6.00% for graduate and professional students|
|Direct PLUS||This loan is available to graduate and professional students and parents of undergraduate students. Credit history is considered for qualification, and interest accrues from the date of disbursement.||7.00%|
Private student loans
Even if you’ve secured some scholarships and federal loans, you might have an education funding gap. That’s when you could consider private student loans.
Unlike with federal options, private loans aren’t issued by the government. Instead, they’re offered by private lenders, such as a bank or credit union. That means eligibility, interest rates, and repayment terms can vary from one lender to the next. Because of this variance, it’s important to shop for the best private student loan company that suits your financial situation and offers lower interest rates.
If you don’t qualify for a private student loan due to your credit history, you might need to find a cosigner. A cosigner with a strong credit history can help ensure you get a private loan with reasonable terms. However, keep in mind that a cosigner is equally responsible for a loan’s repayment. If you fail to make payments, their credit could take a hit.
Mississippi teacher loan program
Mississippi residents who want to teach in the state after graduating college could be eligible for the William Winter Alternate Route Teacher Forgivable Loan. With this program, you could be awarded an annual loan up to $4,000 (for a maximum of two years). This loan could be forgiven if you meet certain criteria.
To qualify, you must be in your junior or senior year of college, enrolled full time at an eligible school in Mississippi, and earning a bachelor’s or alternate teacher license. You must also earn passing scores on the Praxis, a standardized test for teachers.
For each year of loan forgiveness, you must be employed as a full-time classroom teacher or librarian in a Mississippi public school. If you drop out or don’t become a teacher, you’ll be required to pay back the loan with interest.
There’s also a similar program called the William Winter Teacher Forgivable Loan. Be sure to weigh your options before pursuing a program.
Mississippi Teacher Loan Repayment program
In addition to Mississippi student loans for teachers, there’s a state-based repayment program. The Mississippi Teacher Loan Repayment program is for those who have a Mississippi Alternate Route Teaching License.
To qualify, you must meet these criteria:
- Teach in a public or charter school in a critical teacher or subject shortage area.
- Have federal student loans in your name.
- Be current on your federal, state, and local education debt.
- Must not have received funds from any of the following: the Critical Needs Teacher Forgivable Loan Program, the William Winter Teacher Forgivable Loan Program, or the Teacher Education Scholars Forgivable Loan Program.
If eligible, you could get up to $3,000 each year put toward your undergraduate Mississippi student loans for up to four years. Awards are paid directly to the loan servicer.
Refinancing Mississippi student loans
One key way to keep repayment costs down postgraduation is to refinance your student loan debt.
When you refinance, you take out a new loan to pay off one or more student loans. Doing so allows you to secure a lower interest rate or better repayment term on your Mississippi student loans. You could also consolidate multiple loans so you only need to worry about one monthly payment.
But there are many pros and cons of refinancing to consider. While you could get a lower interest rate and have your loans consolidated into a single monthly payment, you could lose federal benefits, including forbearance and deferment options, IDR plans, and student loan forgiveness programs.
Make sure to research student loan refinancing companies to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
Mississippi wants to help you go to college
To afford your education, you can choose to use federal loans or private student loans, take advantage of loan programs, or pursue other options. Be sure to utilize resources available to you.
For example, the state’s Education Services Foundation was created over 20 years ago to help students manage education costs. On its website, the foundation provides college planning tools, student loan options, information on state grants and scholarships, application deadlines, and ways to help you manage your Mississippi student loans.
Be sure to use these services to ensure you’re finding the best ways to pay for school and reduce your debt.
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