With tuition costs higher than ever, student loans have become a thorn in the side of more than 44 million borrowers. Collectively, we owe nearly $1.5 trillion — and this debt burden doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
Nonprofit organization Student Debt Crisis and social impact startup Summer surveyed nearly 7,100 adults with student loans in 2018 to learn how their debt impacts their daily lives. The survey was released Nov. 1.
Among the key findings: More than 4 in 10 student loan borrowers are struggling to make their next payment, and many say they aren’t getting the advice they need from their servicers.
Throw in college debt’s role in draining bank accounts and even causing major psychological stress, as cited in the study, and it’s clear that student loans are having major negative consequences on many borrowers’ lives.
Borrowers struggling to make monthly payments
Student loans help you pay for your degree, and a college degree leads to higher-paying jobs, right? Well, this survey found the average borrower’s total debt load is higher than what they make in an entire year.
According to these findings, the average total debt per borrower was $87,500, while the average annual income was $60,000. It’s no wonder that 44% of borrowers said making their next student loan payment would be a struggle, and 1 in 5 said they would not be able to pay their upcoming bill.
Among this group, 18% said they were already in default on at least one of their student loans, a situation that could harm their credit and even lead to wage garnishment. This finding lines up with a recent (and startling) report from the Brookings Institution, which predicts that 40% of borrowers may default in the next five years.
Borrowers aren’t getting helpful information about their loans
Not only are borrowers struggling to pay back their loans, but their loan servicers aren’t helping the situation. Borrowers are confused about what they owe and to whom they owe it, with 35% reporting difficulty accessing information about their loan amounts and repayment status.
About 1 in 3 borrowers said their loan servicers were unhelpful, while a similar number used “untrustworthy.” What’s more, 59% of borrowers received unclear guidance about their repayment options, and 42% had trouble switching repayment plans when they ran into financial hardship.
Without effective guidance and education, borrowers will have an even harder time managing their student debt.
Borrowers have less money in their bank accounts
With student loans eating up a significant part of your paycheck each month, it can be difficult to save. According to the survey, 65% of borrowers have less than $1,000 in their bank account.
What’s more, many borrowers say their student loan bills are higher than other monthly expenses. More than half pay more for student loans than for health insurance, and 1 in 3 borrowers pay more for student loans than for rent each month.
With burdensome student loan bills, it’s unfortunate but not surprising that the majority of student loan borrowers are unable to grow their savings.
Borrowers say student debt stands in the way of their financial goals
Millennials are waiting longer to get married, have kids and buy houses, and student loans might have something to do with it. According to this survey, 56% of respondents said their debt has prevented them from buying a home, 19% said it has caused them to delay marriage and 26% said it has stood in the way of having children.
Fifty-nine percent said student loans prevented them from making a large purchase, 42% said they couldn’t buy a car and 80% said it got in the way of saving for retirement. A separate recent study has found that 1 in 3 Americans have less than $5,000 saved for retirement. This new finding suggests this retirement situation might not improve much while the student loan crisis persists.
8 pieces of advice for conquering your student loans
Given all the hardship and confusion around student loans, borrowers are seriously stressed out. Most borrowers — 86% — said their debt was a major cause of stress, and one-third of respondents said it was their biggest source of stress.
But while your student loans might be a struggle, they don’t have to ruin your life. Here are some tips for taking control of your student debt so that it doesn’t end up controlling you.
- Seek out information from reputable sources. Unfortunately, your loan servicer might not give you all the information you need. Learn about your options from Federal Student Aid, Student Loan Hero or other reputable sources. By educating yourself, you can make better choices about your loans.
- Get on the right repayment plan for your budget. Federal student loans come with a variety of repayment plans, including income-driven plans that adjust your monthly payment based on your budget. If your bills are too high, consider lowering them with a different repayment plan. And if you have private student loans, find out if your lender offers flexible repayment options or even forbearance until you get back on your feet.
- Set up automatic payments so that you never miss a bill. Auto-pay can be especially helpful if you have multiple loans and are having trouble keeping track of bills and due dates. Plus, some lenders offer a 0.25% interest rate reduction for setting up auto-pay.
- Consider loan forgiveness or repayment assistance programs. Look into forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and loan repayment assistance programs to see if you could qualify for any.
- Find ways to increase your income and decrease your spending. Managing student loans might require some careful budgeting. Consider searching for a higher-paying job, setting up a side hustle or reducing your monthly spending so that you can more easily afford your student loan bills.
- Look for an employer that offers student loan assistance. If you’re open to switching employers, look for a company that offers student loan assistance as part of its benefits package.
- Throw extra payments at your loans to pay them off faster. If you can afford them, extra payments could help you pay off your debt ahead of schedule. Make sure your loan servicer is applying your payment correctly.
- Consider refinancing student loans at a lower rate. Once you have a strong credit score and steady income (or can apply with a cosigner), you could refinance for new repayment terms and potentially qualify for a lower interest rate.
Be proactive about your student loans so that they don’t cause undue stress and hardship in your life. By informing yourself about your options, you can find a repayment plan that works for your budget. Keep chipping away at your debt so that eventually your student loan bills will be out of your life for good.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|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 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.30% 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 Month/Day/Year, 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 08/21/18. 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@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent 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 Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.
Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
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.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
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 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.47% – 6.30%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.51% – 8.09%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.02% – 6.44%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.69% – 7.21%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.79% – 8.39%6||Undergrad & Graduate|