Money Management for College Students

As a student, you may be primarily focused on studying and getting a great education.

But college is also an opportunity to develop money management skills that can help set you up for financial success after you graduate.

You may be living on your own for the first time, holding down a part-time job, and also handling bills, along with college loans and/or financial aid.

Setting up some good financial habits now can help ease the financial stress of student life, and also help ensure you leave college in solid financial shape.

Here are 10 money management tips that help you spend less and save more both during and after college.

1. Setting up a Basic Budget

Budgeting may sound complicated, but making a budget is simply a matter of figuring how much is coming into your bank account each month and how much is going out, and making sure the latter doesn’t exceed the former.

To get started, you’ll want to list all of your sources of income, such as from a job or family contributions.

If you are going to be living off a fixed amount of money for each semester, say from summer earnings or money from your family, you may want to divide this lump sum by the number of months you need to make this money last.

Once you know how much you have to live on each month, you’ll want to make a list of fixed expenses that you will be responsible for paying, such as cell phone or car payment, or maybe even rent if you live off campus.

Next, you’ll want to subtract your fixed expense from your monthly spending allotment. This will give you the amount you have left over to cover variable expenses, such as eating out, buying clothes, and entertainment. You can then come up with target spending amounts for each category.

Doing your best to stay within these spending limits can help ensure that your money lasts until the end of the semester, and help you avoid running up costly credit card debt.

2. Opening up a Savings Account

You might feel like you don’t have enough income to start saving money yet, but even just putting a small amount away each month can add up over time.

For example, if you’re able to set aside $50 a month now, you may soon have a decent nest egg that can help pay for something fun, like a road trip over the next school break.

What’s more, being diligent about saving money each month can help cultivate a habit that will serve you later when you can afford to save more in your nest egg and also for retirement.

3. Buying Used Textbooks (and Selling Yours When Done)

Textbooks can be so expensive! Fortunately, there are a number of ways to save money here.

One option is to buy used whenever you can. You’ll want to be sure, however, that you are getting the version the professor wants. If you have an earlier edition, you might struggle to find the content if the book has since been modified. Getting the digital version of a book can also yield savings.

Another option is to rent what you need from a third-party bookseller, such as Amazon or Chegg. You can often rent textbooks for an entire semester for significantly less than buying new, and may even be able to highlight them.

For books you purchase (new or used) that you won’t need to refer to in the future, consider selling them when you’re done to recoup some of the expense.

4. Using Credit Cards Sparingly

Credit card companies love college students, and many may try to lure you into applying for cards. You’ll want to proceed with caution, however.

While having a credit card as a student can be a good idea–for convenience, as a back-up for emergencies, and to start building credit history (more on that below), you’ll want to be careful that you don’t run up credit card debt.

If you charge more than you can afford to pay off at the end of the month, you can end up paying a hIgh interest rate on the balance, which can make it even hard to pay off.

As a result, it can be easy for college students to find themselves digging a debt hole that can be hard to climb out of.

If you choose to sign up for a new card, you may want to look for a rewards credit card that will let you rack up points you can use to get products or travel perks–and only charge what you can afford to pay back quickly.

5. Building Your Credit Score

A credit score is a three-digit number, typically between 300 and 850, designed to represent your credit risk, or the likelihood you will pay your bills on time.

Building credit might not seem like a priority when you’re still in school, but you’ll need it in the future if you want to finance a car, buy a house, or qualify for the best credit card offers. Your credit can even affect your job prospects and your ability to rent an apartment

One strategy you can use to build up your credit is to use your credit card judiciously. If you make small purchases and regularly pay the balance off in full, you can avoid racking up interest charges but still get that boost to your credit score.

If you have student loans, you may also want to consider making small payments (even just $25 to $50) while you’re still in school to start paying down interest and have some positive repayment history on record.

If you start building your credit score now, you will likely be able to get better deals on lending products like mortgages, car loans, and credit cards in the future.

6. Finding Free Stuff

One highly effective way to stretch your money is to find freebies.

Facebook has groups where people can post items they no longer want. You might be able to score free clothes, furniture, or room decor.

Freecycle and NextDoor also have listings for things that people are giving away. You can also find free items on Craigslist (you’ll find the “Free” section under the “For Sale” heading on the main page for your city).

7. Learning to Cook–and Eating out Less

You may find you get tired of cafeteria fare and ramen. At the same time, you may not want to don’t blow your budget on eating in restaurants every weekend.

If you have access to a kitchen, you might want to consider purchasing ingredients from your local supermarket and putting together some simple, tasty meals, instead of eating out. This can be a major cost-saver.

If you’re not much of a cook, you may want to go to some food blogs and recipe sites like Allrecipes or Serious Eats to find some easy recipes and watch a few how-to videos. You could also find tons of cooking videos on YouTube.

Having some go-to recipes in your arsenal can pay off now, and also down the line when you’re working and living on your own (and don’t have to rely on expensive take-out or unhealthy fast food for dinner every night).

8. Starting an Emergency Fund

Starting an emergency fund or back-up savings fund is an important part of anyone’s long-term financial health.

Life can be unpredictable, and your emergency fund serves as a safety net that you can fall back on for those “rainy days” where you find yourself facing an unexpected expense or other financial set-back.

Having an emergency fund can also help keep you from having to rely on credit cards to get through a financial challenge.

How much you should put aside for emergencies each month is up to you and your financial situation. The key is to start saving something each month–no matter how small the amount may initially seem.

When starting your emergency fund, it’s a good idea to fund the account regularly. Consider setting up an automatic transfer to your savings so you do not have to think about it.

Ideally, your emergency fund should also be set up in a separate savings account so you won’t be tempted to spend the money on something else.

9. Getting the Most out of Your Student ID

You may only think of your ID card as a form of identification and a way to get into college sporting events. But there are actually a number of additional benefits that come with a student ID, and many can help you save money.

You may find that businesses, especially those near universities, will offer students discounts when they show a student ID card.

Next time you go to the movies, shop for school supplies, or get a new haircut, it can be a good idea to ask if they offer any discounts for local college students.

In addition, many national and online retailers–including major clothing, sneaker, and computer brands–offer discounts to college students.

You may also be able to use your student ID to get a better deal on your cell phone plan and streaming services.

10. Getting Started with Investing

Investing when you’re young is one of the best ways to help your money grow over time.

That’s thanks to compound earnings, which means that any returns you earn are reinvested to earn additional returns. The earlier you start investing, the more benefit you gain from compounding.

Investing in the stock market also isn’t as complicated as you may think. You can open a retirement account, like a traditional or ROTH IRA, or a brokerage account (for nonretirement investing) online, often with a minimal amount of money.

You may also be able to schedule automatic withdrawals from your bank account to your investment account each month.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that all investments have some level of risk because the market moves up and down over time.

The Takeaway

College can provide a great opportunity to develop the money skills you’ll need after you graduate.
By learning some basic money management techniques now, you can feel confident about your ability to handle your finances well after graduation.
In 10 years, you will likely thank yourself for putting in the effort to learn how to set–and stick to–a monthly budget, use credit cards wisely, save money, and build your credit score.

Heading off to college soon? SoFi Money® can help you start off on the right foot. This cash management account allows you to earn competitive interest, spend and save–all in one account.

And, SoFi money doesn’t charge any account fees, monthly fees, or many other common fees.

Get your financial life off to a great start with SoFi Money.



Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.

SOMN19015

Read more

Defaulting on Student Loans: What You Should Know

“Student loan default” might be about the scariest combination of words possible. More young people than ever are starting their careers with large amounts of student loan debt, and for some, figuring out how to make the required monthly payments can be a struggle.

Student loan default is basically just a term for when you completely stop paying your student loans. You get a bill, hide it under the mattress, and go back to binging true crime TV—and that pattern repeats for several months until your student loan provider turns your debt over to a collection agency.

To get more technical, defaulting on federal student loans is a process that takes place over a period of non-payment . When you first miss a payment, the loans are delinquent but not yet in default. At 90 days past due, your lender can report your missed payments to credit bureaus. And when you reach 270 days past due, your student loans are officially in default.

For private student loans, the terms for defaulting may be different. Private student loans generally go into default after three missed payments or 120 days. Private lenders may also place student loans in default if the borrower declares bankruptcy, passes away, or defaults on another loan. Terms may vary by lender, so if you have private student loans, double check how they define default.

Defaulting on your student loans can have serious consequences, but there are ways to avoid defaulting on your student loans or recover if your loans are currently in default. If you’re worried about student loan default, the most important thing you can do is educate yourself on what it is, and how to avoid it.

What Happens When Your Student Loans Default

1. Collection Agencies Might Come Knocking

When a borrower defaults on student loans, the lender may eventually turn the debt over to a collection agency. The collection agency will then attempt to recover the payment, typically bombarding you with frequent letters and phone calls. Collection agencies also attempt to determine what other assets, including bank accounts or property, that would allow you to pay your debt. On top of dealing with regular calls from debt collectors, you will also be responsible for paying any additional fees the collection agency charges on top of your student loan balance.

2. Loan Forgiveness and Forbearance Options Are No Longer on the Table

Student loan default on federal loans means that the federal government can revoke your access to programs that might make it easier for you to pay your loans, including loan forgiveness or forbearance. This means that even if you qualify for something like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, you could be rendered ineligible if you let your loans go into default.

Additionally, borrowers in default lose eligibility for all future types of federal financial aid.

3. Your Credit Score Might Be Impacted

Once your student loans are in default, the lender or the collection agency will report your default to the three major credit bureaus. This means that your credit score could take a hit. A low credit score can make it harder for you to get a competitive interest rate when borrowing for other needs, like a car or home loan. But it’s worth noting that having loans in default can make it difficult to buy or sell assets like real estate at all.

4. You Might Have to Give up Your Tax Refund, or a Portion of Your Wages

If your lender or a collection agency can’t recover the amount owed, they can request that the federal government garnish your tax refund and even some of your income. For example, if you filed your taxes and were eligible for a refund, the government would instead take that refund money and apply it toward your defaulted student loan balance. On top of that, the government can garnish your wages, which means that they can take up to 15% of each paycheck to pay back your loans.

How to Get Student Loans Out of Default

Just like you can’t ignore the check engine light for too long before you end up with smoke billowing out from under your hood, ignoring student loans in default is going to make things worse. The good news is that there are ways to get your student loans out of default.

First, stop avoiding those collection calls. If your student loan provider or a collection agency is calling, your best bet is to meet your lender or the agency head-on and take charge of the situation. The lender or the collection agency will be able to talk through the repayment options available to you based on your personal financial situation. They want you to pay, which means that they might be able to help find a payment plan that works for you.

The lender may be able to offer a variety of options tailored to your individual circumstances. Some of these options might include satisfying the debt by paying a discounted lump sum, setting up a monthly payment plan based on your income, consolidating your debts, or even student loan rehabilitation for federal loans. Don’t let your fear stop you from reaching out to your lender or the collection agency.

How to Avoid Defaulting on Student Loans

Of course, even if you can get yourself out of student loan default, the default can still impact your credit score and loan forgiveness options. That’s why it’s generally best to take action before falling into default. If the student loan payments are difficult for you to make each month, there are things you can do to change your situation before your loans go into default.

First, consider talking to your lender directly. The lender will be able to explain any alternate payment plans available to you. For federal loans, borrowers may be able to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan. These repayment plans aim to make student loan payments more manageable by tying them to the borrower’s income. This can make the loans more costly over the life of the loan, but the ability to make payments on time each month and avoid going into default are valuable.

Is Refinancing an Option?

Refinancing student loans could potentially help you avoid defaulting on your student loans by combining all your student loans into one, simplified new loan. When you refinance, qualifying borrowers may be able to secure a lower interest rate or loan terms that work better for their situation.

If a borrower is already in default, refinancing could be difficult. When a student loan is refinanced, a new loan is taken out with a private lender. As a part of the application and approval process, lenders will review factors including the borrower’s credit score and financial history among other factors.

Borrowers who are already in default may have already felt an impact on their credit score, which can influence their ability to get approved for a new loan. In some cases, adding a cosigner to the refinancing application could help improve a borrower’s chances of getting approved for a refinancing loan. Know that if federal student loans are refinanced they are no longer eligible for federal repayment plans or protections.

The Takeaway

Student loan default can have serious negative effects on your credit score and financial stability. If you’re worried about defaulting on your student loans, or you have already defaulted, consider taking immediate steps to remedy the situation before it gets worse. Contact your lender or servicer to learn about options available, and consider refinancing your loans to secure a lower interest rate or monthly payment.

If you’re ready to take control of your loans, learn more about how SoFi student loan refinancing may be able to help.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s
website
.

SEO18112

Read more
Understanding How Income Based Repayment Works

Understanding How Income Based Repayment Works

If you graduated recently, you’re gearing up to launch your career and start a new chapter of your life. But graduating may also mean it’s time to start paying back your student loans, which is less exciting.

If you have unconsolidated federal student loans, you are likely signed up for the standard 10-year repayment plan. Upon graduation or once your grace period ends, you begin making payments in order to pay back your loans in 10 years.

Many grads will not make tons of money right out of the gate, of course, and that can make paying off student loans at the beginning of a career challenging. If your loan payments with the standard plan are high in proportion to your income, an income-based repayment plan might be an option.

The Four Income-Driven Repayment Plans

While people often use the term “income-based repayment” generically, there are actually four income-driven repayment plans for federal student loans:

•   Income-Based Repayment, or IBR
•   Pay As You Earn, or PAYE
•   Revised Pay As You Earn, or REPAYE
•   Income-Contingent Repayment, or ICR

The number of people on income-driven repayment plans has risen dramatically, a 2020 report from the Congressional Budget Office found. The volume of loans in income-driven plans has grown even faster than the number of borrowers because borrowers with larger loan balances—such as those who took out loans for graduate studies—are more likely to select such plans, the CBO said.

Not only do the plans limit payments to a percentage of borrowers’ income, but they promise loan forgiveness after 20 or 25 years.

The CBO report estimates that $40 billion worth of federal loans disbursed from 2020 to 2029 will be forgiven. The forecasted figure is much higher for graduate borrowers—$167 billion of their student loans forgiven.

As of now, though, very few of the 8 million-plus borrowers enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan—including 2 million who have been in repayment for 20 years or longer—have seen balances canceled. (In fact, the National Consumer Law Center counted 32, and blames federal student loan servicers for steering borrowers “away from IDR and into high-cost repayment options such as forbearance that are temporary in nature and offer no long-term path to debt cancellation.”)

How Does Income-Based Repayment Work?

In general, borrowers qualify for lower monthly loan payments if their total student loan debt at graduation exceeds their annual income.

An income-driven repayment plan adjusts monthly student loan payments based on your discretionary income, family size, and state. Essentially, if too much of your income is going toward student loan payments, qualifying for an income-based repayment plan might make your monthly payments more manageable.

Income-based repayment plans allow borrowers to make monthly payments equal to 10% to 20% of monthly discretionary income and have any balance forgiven after 20 or 25 years of on-time payments.

(All new borrowers in the federal student loan program as of 2014 can use the most generous version of the program, IBR, which sets payments at 10% of discretionary income and vows loan forgiveness for any unpaid balance after 20 years.)

To figure out if you qualify for a plan, you must apply and submit information to have your income certified. Your monthly payment will then be calculated.

If you qualify, you’ll simply make your monthly payments to your loan servicer under your new income-based repayment plan.

You’ll have to re-certify your income and family size yearly. Your calculated payment may change as your income changes.

What Might My Payment Be?

Qualifying for income-driven repayment depends on your income—specifically how much of your discretionary income goes toward student loan payments.

For the IBR, PAYE, and REPAYE plans, the required monthly payment is generally a percentage of your discretionary income. (Discretionary income is the difference between your adjusted gross income and 150% of the poverty guideline for your family size and state of residence.)

For the IBR plan, the monthly payment is 10% of discretionary income for someone who borrowed on or after July 1, 2014. If a student took out loans before that date, the monthly payment is 15% of discretionary income.

Under the PAYE and REPAYE plans, the monthly payment is 10% of discretionary income.

An example:

•   You are single and your family size is one. You live in one of the 48 contiguous states or the District of Columbia. Your adjusted gross income is $40,000.
•   You have $45,000 in eligible federal student loan debt.
•   The 2021 HHS Poverty Guideline amount for a family of one in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia is $12,880, and 150% of that is $19,320. The difference between $40,000 and $19,320 is $20,680. This is your discretionary income.
•   If you’re repaying under the PAYE or REPAYE plan or if you’re a newer borrower with the IBR plan, 10% of your discretionary income is $2,068. Dividing that amount by 12 results in a monthly payment of $172.33.

Under the ICR plan, the monthly payment will be the lesser of 20% of discretionary income or the amount a borrower would pay under a standard repayment plan with a 12-year repayment period, adjusted using a formula that takes income into account.

For the ICR plan, discretionary income is the difference between adjusted gross income and 100% of the federal poverty guideline amount for your family size and state.

The Federal Student Aid office recommends using its loan simulator to compare estimated monthly payment amounts for all the repayment plans.

Which Loans Pertain to Which Plan?

Most federal student loans are eligible for at least one of the plans. For the details, see this Federal Student Aid chart .

Private loans are not eligible for any federal income-driven repayment plans—though some private loan lenders will negotiate new payment schedules if needed.

Potential Drawbacks of Income-Driven Repayment

Income-based repayment usually lowers your monthly payment, but stretching payments over a longer period means probably paying more in interest over time. In some cases, your minimum payment might not even cover all the interest on your loan.

Even if income-based repayment makes sense for you, you’ll need to re-certify your income and family size every year.

If a borrower gets married and files jointly, the combined income could increase his or her monthly loan payment.

Finally, the process can be pretty darned confusing.

The Takeaway

Income-driven repayment plans have surged in popularity. Low payments tied to income and a promise of loan forgiveness after 20 or 25 years make the plans attractive to many, but they sometimes give borrowers reason to hesitate.

Borrowers with one or more student loans, especially loans with higher rates of interest, could consider refinancing instead. With refinancing, a private lender pays off loans with a new one, hopefully with a lower interest rate.

You can calculate how much you might save by refinancing your student loans with SoFi’s student loan calculator.

Maybe your income doesn’t qualify you for an income-driven repayment plan. If not, consider refinancing with SoFi.

You can refinance both private and federal student loans. Just realize that refinancing federal student loans with a private lender renders them ineligible for federal repayment plans, but if you don’t plan to use those benefits, refinancing might be a good option.

Check your rate in a snap.



IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SLR18145

Read more
A Look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program_780x440

A Look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is a government program that was created with the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 .

The goal was to help professionals working in public service who have more federal student loans than their public sector salaries allow them to easily repay.

It’s aim is to ensure that the best and the brightest don’t feel as though they have to leave these important jobs to join corporate America just so they can pay down their student debt.

Stressed out about your debt and hoping you qualify? Here’s some things you need to know about being eligible and getting your student debt forgiven.

Who is Eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?

To qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), borrowers must meet the eligibility criteria. This includes:

Working for a Qualified Employer

Part of PSLF eligibility requires working for a qualified government organization (municipal, state, or federal organizations count) or a qualified 501(c)(3) organization is required. Full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteers are also eligible for PSLF.

Some other types of non-profits also qualify, but not labor unions, political organizations, and most other non-profits that don’t qualify for 501(c)(3) status. Work for a government contractor? Unfortunately, that doesn’t cut it. You have to be working directly for the qualifying organization.

In addition to working for a qualifying organization, you have to work full-time. Generally, those who meet their employer’s definition of full-time or work a minimum of 30 hours per week. People employed at multiple qualifying organizations in a part-time capacity can also be considered full-time as long as you’re working a combined 30 hours per week.

Note that time spent working in religious instruction or worship does not count toward meeting the full-time requirement.

Having Eligible Loans

But working for the right type of employer is only half the battle. You also have to have eligible loans, which include any Direct loans such as Stafford loans, PLUS loans (but not Parent PLUS loans), and Federal Direct Consolidation loans.

If you want to have your Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) or Perkins loans forgiven, you may be able to, however, you’d have to consolidate those loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan first. However, any payments you made on the FFEL Program loans or Perkins Loans before you consolidated won’t count towards the necessary payments.

Private student loans are not eligible for Federal forgiveness programs.

Applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

There are a few hoops to jump through in order to pursue PSLF. To apply for the program,

1. Consolidating any FFEL Program loans and Perkins loans you want forgiven into a Direct Consolidation Loan. This is necessary because if you consolidate your loans afterward, you won’t get credit for any qualifying payments you made on those loans. Already consolidated your Direct loans? Consider consolidating your Perkins Loans separately and start making new qualifying payments.

2. Signing up for an income-driven repayment plan .

There are four income-driven repayment plans to choose from; There’s Pay As You Earn, income-based repayment, income-contingent repayment, or Revised Pay as You Earn. This will likely allow you to pay less per month toward your loans than you would on the standard plan.

There are separate eligibility requirements for these plans, so be sure to check if you qualify.

3. Certifying your employment. To do this, print out an Employment Certification form and get your employer to fill it out and send it in for approval. The Federal Student Aid website suggests filling this form out annually or at least every time you switch jobs.

You can also use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Help Tool to find qualifying employers and get the forms that you’ll need to fill out.

4. Making 120 qualifying monthly payments on your student loans while you’re employed by a qualified public service employer. What if you switch employers? So long as you are still working for a qualifying employer, you’ll still qualify.

5. After you make the final payment, you can apply for forgiveness. You fill out an application , send it in, and wait. Then (hopefully!) you can celebrate your loan forgiveness.

The Current State of the Program

Because the program was created in 2007, the first people to qualify to have their loans forgiven applied for forgiveness in September 2017. But while the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the program could cost just under $24 billion in the next 10 years , and the U.S. Government Accountability Office believes that more than four million student loan borrowers qualify for the program, some aren’t aware that it exists. And even more graduates have gotten bad information from loan servicers that rendered them ineligible.

In 2018, just 1% of applicants were approved for loan forgiveness through PSLF. In November 2020, the US Department of Education released updated information indicating that 2.4% of applicants have been approved for PSLF.

Pros and Cons of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

The Advantages of the Program Are Pretty Straightforward:

1. Your balance of student loans are forgiven after a set time, which can be a relief. This works as a kind of bonus to make up for the low pay people working in the public sector may earn.

2. The amount forgiven usually isn’t considered income, so you aren’t taxed on it (that means you don’t have to save additional money to account for the IRS bill). There are other loan forgiveness programs that will forgive your loans, but you might see a big tax bill when they do.

3. You get rewarded for being a do-gooder (just like your mom promised you would). It will feel great to know that you’re making a difference, and your government appreciates it enough to give you a break on your federal student loans.

4. You may pay less monthly because you’re on an income-driven plan. This means paying out less of your hard-earned cash every month.

The Disadvantages of the Program Are That:

1. The program is only open to those with certain types of employers. And it’s contingent on you staying with a qualifying public service employer for 10 years, which might not be a guarantee.

2. Some people aren’t aware of the program, which is partly because of a lack of education by employers, loan servicers, and schools.

3. There are a lot of hoops to jump through to get your loans forgiven. Sounds fun, right? Plus, if you don’t jump through a hoop properly, you could jeopardize your forgiveness.

4. The extra money that could potentially be earned from working for a corporate employer may help you pay off your loans sooner than through PSLF.

5. You might end up paying more interest by making 120 payments than if you budgeted to aggressively repay your loans in less than 10 years. Also, if you enroll in the PSLF program and then stop working for a public service employer, you might be left with a larger loan to repay because of the interest that’s accumulated under the income-based repayment plan.

Alternatives to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Another program available to some individuals is the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. This program is available to full-time teachers who have completed five consecutive years of teaching in a low-income school. This program also has strict eligibility requirements that must be met in order to receive forgiveness.

These federal forgiveness programs do not apply to private student loans. If you are looking for ways to reduce your interest rate or monthly payments on private student loans, refinancing with a private lender could be an option.

It is important to mention that refinancing your federal student loans with a private lender may make you ineligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program should you choose that route.

The Takeaway

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program can be one way for eligible borrowers to have their federal student loans forgiven. The program has stringent requirements that cna make successfully receiving forgiveness through PSLF challenging.

Refinancing is another option that can allow borrowers to secure a competitive interest rate on student loans. Refinancing federal loans eliminates them from borrower protections.

Interested in seeing if you qualify for a lower interest rate? Check out SoFi’s student loan refinancing to find out.



IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

SLR18111

Read more
Your 6-Step Plan for Managing Student Loansand the Tools to Help You Do It_780x440

Your 6-Step Plan for Managing Student Loans—and the Tools to Help You Do It

When you’re struggling to pay student loans, it helps to know you’re not alone. Forty-five million Americans have student loan debt. It may not be easy to deal with, but there is good news: You live in the digital age!

Want to redecorate your home? There’s an app for that. Manage your bucket list? There’s an app for that, too.

Yet you’re busy and there’s no quick way to filter through hundreds of online student loan resources to find the best tools and apps for your needs, so here are some in a six-pronged plan to manage your student loans and get your spending and saving on track to meet all of your financial goals.

6 Steps to Help Manage Student Loans

Step 1: Get Organized and Face Your Total Loan Debt

It can be scary to meet your loan debt head-on, but you can’t take steps to get out of debt until you know exactly how much you owe.

So take a deep breath and consider downloading Debt Payoff Planner. The app will tell you how many years you have to go until you’re debt-free. Add your loans, input your balance, minimum payment, and annual percentage rate, and then create a payoff plan.

One benefit of the app is the ability to see the result of making minimum payments vs. additional payments.

Debt Manager is another app for fans of popular debt repayment plans. Once you’ve repaid one loan, the app automatically applies payments to the next loan in the queue.

You can also use SoFi’s student loan calculator to estimate your monthly student loan payments.

And SoFi’s student loan payoff calculator will give you an idea of your loan payoff date.

Step 2: Review Your Rates and Terms

You don’t want to pay more loan interest than you have to, right?

First, you may want to bone up on the topics of consolidating vs. refinancing and federal income-driven repayment plans vs. refinancing with a private lender.

And it’s best to know how interest adds up .

If refinancing is intriguing, here’s a good student loan refinancing calculator.

Step 3: Protect Your Credit Score—It’s Gold

Protecting your credit is critical while you’re in debt and once you’re out of it.

If you’re thinking about refinancing your loans, making a major purchase (like a home or a car), getting a new credit card, or simply setting yourself up for general financial success, you need to have good credit.

You can track your credit score at no cost, with weekly updates to help you stay on top of when your score changes, with SoFi Relay’s credit score monitoring.

Step 4: Set a Budget and Know Where Your Money Is Going

You need to stay on top of your money, especially when paying off student loans. So a great budgeting app is a must-have.

You Need a Budget (YNAB) helps you put every dollar to work, finds wasted money in your budget, and holds you accountable to your goals.

Mvelopes allows you to connect your bank accounts, pay your bills, and upload receipts so you can see your budget work in real time.

SoFi Relay tracks all of your money in one place. Along with seeing credit score changes, you can set monthly spending targets and review your top spending categories.

Wally is another budget app with nice features. You get a 360-degree view of your finances, bill payment reminders, and even virtual pats on the back when you reach your money milestones.

Mint earns an honorable mention.

Step 5: Look Into Employer-Provided Options

More and more companies are recognizing that student loan debt hampers their employees’ ability to contribute to a 401(k) or savings account, so they’re offering student loan assistance.

Through 2025, employers can make a tax-exempt annual contribution of up to $5,250 per employee toward eligible education debt. By lightening the debt load, employers are helping to prepare workers to meet future financial goals.

SoFi is not only part of this movement but it’s helping to lead the charge. SoFi at Work provides employees with a snapshot of their finances, a suite of tools to help them make good decisions, and a portal to their benefits.

You may want to ask your human resources department if you’re eligible for this benefit.

Step 6: Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture

When you focus on a specific goal, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. So it’s best to keep in mind that student loans are only part of your overall financial picture.

In addition to budgeting monthly for food, entertainment and utilities, you might have a car loan and rent or a mortgage to pay. And all that spending should be tracked.

Broad personal finance management sites like Mint and YNAB can help you manage your student loans with an eye on the future. Using your log-in details for credit cards, bank accounts, and lenders, these sites update your information on a regular basis, providing you with a comprehensive financial overview.

Personal Capital is a popular app for seeing all money accounts in one place, in real time.

Recommended: 10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Student Loan Refinance Lender

Not all accounts are free by any means, but SoFi Money® has no account fees. It’s a cash management account that earns interest and offers cash-back rewards. Money can be tucked into vaults for goals or an emergency fund. Checks can be deposited from your phone, and more.

Student loans can be overwhelming—we get it! But remember that when you’re in debt, information is your friend.

The Takeaway

How to manage student loans? Step 1 is to know exactly what you owe. Then follow five more steps to help harness your overall debt and income. Apps, calculators, and knowledge lead the way.

If refinancing student loans—combining all loans into one new private loan, with a new, hopefully lower, interest rate and/or new term—seems intriguing, it’s easy to check your rate.

An advantage that SoFi loans and apps offer that others do not is access to a range of exclusive benefits when you sign up for any SoFi product and become a member.

Find my rate



IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SLR16121

Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender