by Rashida Thomas
For the graduating Class of 2014, the average student loan debt owed was $33,000 according to The Wallstreet Journal. I was able to finish my undergraduate degree with only owing $46,193. However, once I went on to get two Master’s Degrees I am now sitting at $23,432.32 in private student loan debt and $111,233.19 in federal student loan debt. It’s been a running joke for a while that I would gladly sell back one of my Master’s degrees to deduct $50,000 off my student loan debt.
So, I am sure you are wondering how I am managing life with all of this student loan debt. I listed below some action steps that I took below:
1) Gain an understanding of all your student loan lenders and total debt. I already knew who my lenders were for my private lender, but I was not sure how much I owed and who were my loan service providers for my federal student loan debt. I was able to go to https://www.nslds.ed.gov to gain an understanding of my total federal debt and who were my loan service providers. The National Student Loan Data System is a central repository that provides allows you to view and inquire about federally funded aid (Title IV financial aid).
2) Consolidate your loans. Unfortunately, I had three different private lenders so I was not able to consolidate all my private loans together. However, I was able to consolidate all my federal loans together prior to my grace period ending. Once you finish school, you are allowed a six month grace period before you have to start paying on your federal student loans. For private lenders, it is good to check with them directly regarding their grace period policy because it varies.
The way you now consolidate federal student loans has changed since I consolidated as The U.S. Department of Education has implemented a new Direct Consolidation Loan Application process. Borrowers now have to go to https://studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/index.action, sign in, and then on the left-hand side under Repayment click on Complete Direct Consolidation Loan Application and Promissory Note then follow the instructions.
3) Pay on time. Do what you can to avoid default. There are multiple options available so that you can avoid it. Contact the private lender(s) to see what deferment or forbearance options are available if you have trouble making payments. Federal student loan service providers offer a lot more options so that you can avoid default such as deferment, forbearance, and multiple repayment options based on your income. StudentLoans.gov offers a wealth of knowledge under the Managing Repayment area on the site or just simply reach out to the service provider to understand options available.
4) Monitor your credit report. From monitoring my credit report on a monthly basis I was able to receive the notification that my federal student loan lender changed to Sallie Mae. This also maybe me dig deeper and discover that when my federal lenders changed years ago I received a past due notification. I am now in the process of getting that handled.
To be very honest I have just gotten to a place where I am able to accept the amount of student loan debt that I have and not get down on myself for my past decisions to acquire all of this debt. I was desperate and underemployed. So, I kept going back to school to avoid paying thinking that I would eventually obtain employment that would allow me to pay the debt acquired.
For my federal student loans, I just submitted paperwork for a mandatory forbearance request for a year because the total monthly payment on all my federal education loans is equal to or greater than 20% of my monthly income. The maximum time for this forbearance is three years, but interest will be capitalized. My focus right now is to continue to chip at my private student loans and then start making payments on my federal loans. I am about to start making lump-sum payments with money that I earn from my Adjunct Professor role in order to knock out the individual private loans. This will start in the fall once I have my unsecured debt paid off which is currently at about $2,400. I plan to keep the snowball method going so that I can eventually accomplish my goal of paying off my student loan debt.
Rashida Thomas is the founder of thecubelifechronicles.com
“If you’re drowning in student loan debt and want support, strategy, and guidance on how to accelerate your student loan repayments, then join our 5-Day Slay Sallie Mae Challenge.