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Strategies for Lowering Your Student Loan Interest Rate

When you’re in college, you don’t have a lot of control over the interest rates on your student loans. With federal loans, the U.S. Department of Education sets the rate each year for all borrowers. And if you get private student loans, a limited credit history can make it hard for young people to score favorable terms.

But once you graduate, there are a few things you can try to save money on interest. Here are a few tips that may lower your interest rate on student loans.

Choose the Right Repayment Plan

If you don’t choose a specific repayment path, you’re typically opted into the Standard Repayment Plan. In this plan, your payments are generally based on a 10-year timeline. But this one-size-fits-all plan is not the best option for everyone.

The federal government also offers four income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, where the monthly payments are based on your income and family size. While choosing one of these plans may lower your monthly payments, it will likely not alleviate how much interest you pay over time. In fact, you might even pay significantly more.

After 20 or 25 years, depending on the IDR plan, any remaining balance is forgiven. However, the amount forgiven may be considered taxable income by the IRS. So even though your student loan debt goes away, prepare yourself for a big tax bill that year.

Another money-saving repayment option for federal student loans is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. If you work in a qualifying public service job — for the government or a nonprofit organization — you might be eligible to have your student loans forgiven after 10 years of service.

You can confirm whether your work qualifies here. You’ll want to submit an Employment Certification as soon as possible to be sure that you’re on track to qualify.

Recommended: 4 Student Loan Repayment Options, and How to Choose

Consolidate Your Student Loans

Have multiple student loans floating around that you’d love to combine into one? Consider loan consolidation, where you’ll merge all your student loans into one easy monthly payment with a single interest rate. Here’s the rub, though: Consolidation alone does not necessarily get you a lower student loan interest rate. It just offers you one payment instead of multiple.

When consolidating federal student loans, you can use a Direct Consolidation Loan. Your new interest rate is simply the weighted average of all your current student loan interest rates. The weighted average might be a smidge higher than the interest rates you were paying previously. Often folks utilize consolidation to stretch out the life of their student loan, which lowers your payments but may increase the amount you owe over time.

Even though consolidation itself is not a direct way to get a better rate on your student loans, it can be helpful if you’re having trouble keeping track of your monthly payments. Consolidation may also be useful if you want to merge non-direct federal loans (like Perkins loans) with direct loans, in order to qualify for income-driven repayment and/or loan forgiveness programs.

By the way, the term “consolidating” is often used interchangeably with “refinancing,” but they technically mean different things. When refinancing student loans, you also happen to be consolidating, but it is done with the goal of achieving a more favorable interest rate on your student loans.

Recommended: The Basics of the Student Loans

Set Up Automatic Payments

Many student loan servicers — both federal and private — offer an interest rate discount if you set up autopay on your account. Depending on the servicer, you can lower your student loan interest rate. SoFi, for example, offers a 0.25% autopay discount.

The reason servicers offer this discount is that by setting up automatic payments, you’re less likely to miss payments and default on the loan.

In addition to getting a lower student loan interest rate, you’ll also (hopefully!) have peace of mind knowing that you won’t accidentally miss a payment. If you feel you’re putting a little too much money toward student loans, check with your loan servicer to see whether they offer an autopay discount.

Get a Loyalty Discount

In addition to an autopay discount, some private student loan companies also offer a loyalty discount when you have another eligible account with them.

If you’re already a member with SoFi, for instance, you receive an interest rate discount of 0.125% on all new loans.

Other lenders may require that you have an eligible checking or savings account with them to qualify for the bonus, and you may even get a bigger discount if you make your monthly payments from that account.

To get an idea of how a change in interest rate would impact your loan, take advantage of a student loan refinance calculator to see what your new payments could be.

Refinancing Your Student Loans

Scoring discounts with your current servicer can help you get a lower student loan interest rate, but there is another option to consider. Depending on your financial profile, you may qualify for a lower student loan interest rate than what you’re currently paying with student loan refinancing.

There are multiple advantages to refinancing student loans. You can potentially lower your interest rate by bundling several loans (federal and private) into one new loan. And if you shorten your loan term, you may be able to pay off your student loans much faster and pay less in interest over the life of your loan.

Student Loan RefinancingStudent Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is ideal for borrowers with high-interest student loans who have good credit scores and know they won’t use any of the federal loan benefits, like student loan forgiveness. (All federal loan benefits, including income-based repayment, will be lost if you refinance.)

Here are a few things that can help you improve your chances of getting a lower student loan interest rate with refinancing:

•   A high credit score: Lenders typically have a minimum credit score requirement, so the higher your score, the better your chances of getting a low rate usually are.

•   A low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: Your income is also an important factor that lenders consider, especially as it relates to your overall debt burden. If a smaller portion of your monthly income goes toward debt payments, it shows you may have more income to dedicate to your new loan’s payments.

•   A co-signer: Even if your credit and income situation is in good shape, having a co-signer with great credit and a solid income might help your case.

•   A variable rate: Some student loan refinance lenders offer both variable and fixed interest rates. Variable interest rates may start out lower but increase over time with market fluctuations. Fixed rates, stay the same over the life of the loan. If you’re planning on paying off your student loans quickly, a variable rate might save you money.

•   The right lender: Each lender has its own criteria for setting interest rates, so it’s important to shop around to find the best lender for your needs. Some lenders, including SoFi, even allow you to view rate offers before you officially apply.

Lower Your Student Loan Interest Rate

There are several ways to get a lower student loan interest rate. It can be as easy as calling your servicer to find out what discounts are available. You can also choose a new repayment plan, consolidate your federal loans, or refinance federal and private loans. With refinancing, you may secure a lower interest rate if you have a high credit score, low debt-to-income ratio, a cosigner, or a variable interest rate. Just know that when refinancing federal student loans, borrowers lose federal protections and forgiveness.

If you’re considering refinancing your student loans with SoFi, you can check your interest rate in just a few minutes. And it won’t take much time beyond that to officially apply. Depending on which refinancing options you choose, you can potentially save money on interest over the life of the loan.

Take control of your student loan debt by refinancing with SoFi. See if you qualify to secure a lower student loan interest rate in just two minutes.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended beyond December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since the amount or portion of your federal student debt that you refinance will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave unrefinanced the amount you expect to be forgiven to receive your federal benefit.

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.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
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.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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.
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5 Myths About Student Loans That Can Cost You Money

Don’t believe everything you hear about student loans. With tuition costs outpacing income, the fact is that 70% of college graduates need student loans to help pay for college. But bad information can make borrowers feel like they might have made the wrong decision.

Relax. Here are 5 myths about student loans that are pure fiction.

5 Myths About Student Loans

Have you been taken in by any of these student loan fictions and fallacies? A lot of students and parents are, which is why they’re still floating around.

Myth #1: Interest Rates Are Super High

It’s true that federal student loan interest rates can be higher than auto loan rates. But that doesn’t make student loans a bad deal. Here’s why.

Auto loans and mortgages are “secured” loans. The borrower’s car or home serves as collateral and can be repossessed by the bank if they default on the loan. Secured loans have lower interest rates because they’re less risky for the lender.

Student loans, meanwhile, are “unsecured.” If a borrower defaults on student loans, the bank doesn’t have anything to repossess. And so the interest rate is set a bit higher. But the interest rates on federal student loans are still much lower than what you’d qualify for at a bank.

Myth #2: Saving Money Is Impossible With Student Loans

For most people, student loan payments aren’t sky high. The key is choosing the right repayment plan. Take income-based repayment plans, which set monthly payments at just 10% of “disposable income” — or what’s left after your other bills are paid.

Let’s run some numbers. The average new graduate from a 4-year public college has $32K in student loan debt. And the average salary for 20- to 24-year-olds is $37K.

With income-based repayment, a single grad might pay about $138 per month. If they start a family, they pay much less: just $20 a month until their income grows. Which still leaves room for saving.

See how different terms and rates affect your monthly payment with our student loan refinance calculator.

Myth #3: Student Loans Kill Your Credit

Like any loan, student loans could help or hurt your credit depending on how you manage them. As long as you make your payments on time, student loans may build your credit history and boost your score over the long run.

If you’re struggling financially, consider switching your payment plan, or applying for student loan deferment or forbearance. Neither of these options will hurt your credit.

Myth #4: Student Loans Are All the Same

Nope. In fact, federal student loans are typically a better deal for borrowers than private loans. With subsidized loans, the government pays your interest while you’re in school and for 6 months after. And all federal loans offer special protections to borrowers in case of financial hardship.

In short, subsidized federal loans are pretty much the gold standard.

Myth #5: You Can Get Student Loans Forgiven, for a Fee

It sure seems plausible that a law firm or financial advisor might be able to cut through the red tape and reduce your payments or get them forgiven entirely. For a fee, of course.

Alas, this is a scam. If anyone reaches out to you by phone, text, email, or social media promising to help you with your student loans, it’s utter bull. You may catch on when the caller asks for your financial info, but your parent or grandparent may not, so you might want to warn them.

To make sure you hear about the latest student loan forgiveness news straight from the source, sign up for alerts from the DOE .

ReFi With SoFi

SoFi refinances student loans — both federal and private. (Just be aware that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections.) You can choose to lower your monthly payment by extending your term or pay off your debt faster and save money on interest. SoFi offers flexible terms and low fixed or variable interest rates. And there are no fees: no origination fees or late fees.

Refi with SoFi today to get flexible terms and a competitive low rate before interest rates rise even higher!


Photo credit: iStock/Khosrork

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended beyond December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since the amount or portion of your federal student debt that you refinance will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave unrefinanced the amount you expect to be forgiven to receive your federal benefit.

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.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

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.
Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.
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.

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6 Benefits of Refinancing Student Loans

6 Benefits of Refinancing Student Loans

Refinancing allows you to consolidate your existing student loans — you trade multiple loans for one student loan payment. When you refinance, you may be able to lower your monthly payments, reduce your interest rate, shorten your repayment terms, save money, and even add or remove a cosigner.

It’s a good idea to ask yourself, “Why refinance student loans?” before you start searching for the right private lender for you. Read on for a list of the benefits that may come your way when you refinance your student loans.

What Is Student Loan Refinancing?

Student loan refinancing involves consolidating your student loans with a private lender. In the process, you receive a new loan with a new rate and term. Moving forward, you’d make payments to that private lender on that one loan only.

It’s worth noting that refinancing is not the same as consolidating through a Direct Consolidation Loan. A Direct Consolidation Loan means that you combine multiple federal loans into one federal loan through the U.S. Department of Education. You usually don’t save money with a Direct Consolidation Loan, because the resulting interest rate is a weighted average, rounded up to the nearest ⅛ of a percent.

You may be able to refinance your federal student loans and private student loans all at once. However, it’s important to remember that refinancing your federal student loans means that you lose access to federal benefits and protections like income-driven repayment plans, some deferment and forbearance options, and loan forgiveness programs for certain borrowers, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Federal student loans come with benefits and repayment options unique to them.

Is Refinancing Your Student Loans Worth It?

Is refinancing student loans a good idea for you? There are some benefits of refinancing student loans, like securing a lower monthly payment or a more competitive interest rate.

Continue reading for more information on when refinancing your student loans may make sense for your specific situation. Remember that not everyone will benefit from each of these advantages — it depends on your own needs.

1. Lower Monthly Payments

Refinancing may lower your monthly payments because you may lower your interest rate.

Lowering your monthly payments might also mean that you extend your loan term, however, which means you might not save money over time. In this case, ask your lender how much longer it might take you to pay off your loans. Some private lenders may offer lengthier repayment terms. Private lenders may offer repayment terms varying from five to 25 years.

2. Reduced Interest Rates

If you’re asking this question in the context of reduced interest rates: “Is refinancing student loans worth it?” — the answer is probably yes! Reducing your interest rate may mean that you’ll save money over the life of your loan. However, it’s important not just to assume that that’s the case. It’s a good idea to take all calculations and factors into consideration before you pull the trigger on a refinance.

Private student loan lenders may offer both variable and fixed interest rates. Variable interest rates fluctuate depending on the situation in the broader market. They may begin at a lower rate but increase over time. In contrast, fixed interest rates stay the same throughout your loan term. If you are planning to pay off your loan quickly, you may consider a variable interest rate refinance.

3. Shorter Repayment Terms

Your repayment term refers to the number of years that you spend repaying your loan. A shorter repayment term may save you money because you’ll pay interest over a fewer number of years. In general, loans with a shorter repayment term come with lower interest costs over time but higher monthly payments. On the other hand, loans with a longer repayment term usually come with lower monthly payments.

It’s important to calculate your monthly payment and decide whether a higher monthly payment can fit into your budget.

4. Opportunity to Save Extra Money

Qualifying for a lower interest rate and either shortening your repayment term or keeping your current loan term may allow you to save money. Not only that, but when you don’t have several student loan payments to juggle, it may be easier to budget by lessening the confusion of having to make multiple loan repayments.

5. Consolidating Loan Payments

The perks of refinancing aren’t all money-related. As mentioned earlier, you can simplify your loans and eliminate the confusion of having to make several loan payments every single month. Organizing your loan payments can go even further than this. Simplifying all of your bills (not just your student loans) may even give you some of the same psychological benefits of a Marie Kondo tidy-up, such as improving mental health, time management, productivity, and more.

Simplifying could also help you avoid missing payments, which can affect your credit score.

6. Adding or Removing a Cosigner

Applying for a cosigner release removes a cosigner from loans.

Why might you want to remove a cosigner from your loans through refinancing? You may no longer want a cosigner to remain responsible for repaying your debt if you were to default. Cosigning can also have implications for a cosigner’s debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, the ratio between the amount of debt they have related to their income. Their credit will show the extra debt they took on when they cosigned for you.

Tips for Finding a Lender

Ready to find a lender? Start by getting quotes from a few lenders, which usually just takes a few minutes online. Once you have several estimates, compare rates among lenders. Make sure you look at annual percentage rates (APRs), which represents the true cost of borrowing — they include fees as well.

Beyond getting a low-interest rate, you also want to look carefully at repayment terms. Are you looking at a shorter or longer-term length? Choosing your current term length or a shorter term can help you save money.

Using a calculator tool for refinancing student loans can also help you estimate how much money you may save and give you a sense of what your monthly payments might be.

Life Changes That Can Make Student Loan Refinancing Worth It

So, is it worth it to refinance student loans?

Certain life changes and situations can also make refinancing worth it. For example, if you want to get a higher credit score, save more money, buy a house, etc. you may want to consider refinancing.

•   Higher credit score: Making payments on time helps boost your credit score. One refinanced student loan payment is much easier to keep track of than multiple student loan payments. Simplifying can help prove that you’re a reliable borrower.

•   Save money for other things: If you want to save for a new living room set or for your child’s college fund, for example, refinancing can change your interest rate and help you save money over the long term.

•   Lower your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: When you’re on the hunt for another type of loan, such as a mortgage loan to buy a home, you may discover that you need to lower your DTI. Refinancing your student loan debt can help you pay off your loans faster and therefore lower your DTI more quickly.

Learn more in our guide to refinancing student loans.

Explore SoFi’s Student Loan Refinancing Options

Refinancing can be a good idea if you are interested in securing a lower interest rate, a lower monthly payment, or simplifying your loan repayment by having only one monthly payment. It’s important to weigh all the pros and cons and look at lenders’ apples to apples. Comparing interest rates, fees, repayment terms, APRs, and more will give you the clearest understanding of your best possible outcome.

A SoFi student loan refinance can help you reduce your total educational costs and offers competitive terms at low fixed or variable rates. Let SoFi help you investigate your options and help you learn what refinancing student loans is all about.


Photo credit: iStock/stockfour

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended beyond December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since the amount or portion of your federal student debt that you refinance will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave unrefinanced the amount you expect to be forgiven to receive your federal benefit.

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.


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.
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Refinancing Associate Degree Student Loans

Guide to Refinancing and Associate’s Degree Student Loans

An associate degree is a two-year course of study often offered by a community college or junior college. You can get one of four types of associate degrees: AA (associate of arts), AS (associate of science, AAA (associate of applied arts), and AAS (associate of applied science).

When refinancing associate’s degree loans, a lender pays off your current loan or loans and gives you a new loan with new terms, ideally at a lower interest rate. Refinancing can help you save money over the life of your loan.

Refinancing or paying for an associate’s degree doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s what to know about the options to decide if one is right for you.

What Is an Associate’s Degree?

Associate’s degree programs can include a wide variety of course degrees, including general education coursework and job training. Many associate’s degrees require students to complete about 60 credits.

Your degree can often be tied to your earning potential. The higher the degree you obtain, the more your job salary may increase. If you continue your education beyond an associate’s degree, you may be able to increase your earning power.

Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Current Population Survey, workers with an associate’s degree had median weekly earnings of $938 in 2020 compared with $781 for workers with a high school diploma. As mentioned, job salary generally increases the higher the degree you obtain.

So what is an associate’s degree in terms of your job prospects? Getting an associate degree can mean you’re putting yourself on a track toward higher earning potential and job security as well as wider opportunities for your future career — opportunities that you might not necessarily gain without a degree.

Here are examples of jobs you can get with an associate’s degree:

•  Dental hygienist

•  Registered nurse

•  Respiratory therapist

•  Paralegal

•  Legal assistant

•  Veterinary technician

•  Court reporter

•  Ultrasound technician

•  Medical assistant

•  Graphic designer

•  Air traffic controller

•  Police officer

•  Drafter

Recommended: Can You Refinance Student Loans Without a Degree?

Paying for Associate’s Degrees

There are several ways to pay for an associate’s degree. You can use the income you’re earning from a job to pay for school or use money that you’ve saved for education. You may also want to consider applying for scholarships, federal grants, federal work-study, and/or federal student loans to pay for an associate’s degree.

Scholarships and grants are award money that you don’t have to repay. Grants are usually need-based, while scholarships are awarded based on academics, extracurricular activities, major, and other merit factors.

Federal work-study refers to a part-time job that you can get on campus (sometimes off campus). You must file the FAFSA in order to qualify for work-study.

You can apply for both federal and private student loans for associate degrees. Federal student loans are loans that come from the federal government. You do have to repay student loans after you leave school, even if you don’t finish your degree.

You may also want to apply for private student loans if the aid you receive won’t be enough to cover your bill for the semester or for the year. It’s generally recommended that you exhaust all of your federal loan options before looking into private student loans. Private student loans are student loans that aren’t backed by the federal government. They may come from credit unions, banks, or other types of financial institutions. Here’s an overview of applying for both federal aid and private student loans for associate’s degrees.

Step 1: File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

In order to qualify for federal student aid (aid from the federal government), you must file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and fill in the school code for the school or schools on your list. You’ll have to fill out the FAFSA every year prior to the start of a new school year.

Recommended: FAFSA Guide

Step 2: Review your Student Aid Report (SAR).

The financial aid office at the school you’re considering will receive your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for federal and state aid. You and the college will both receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a paper or electronic document that offers basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid. It also lists your answers on the FAFSA.

Step 3: Look over your financial aid award.

You’ll receive a financial aid package after you provide the college with all the necessary documentation. You will likely receive a financial aid award package via email, which will detail the scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans that your school will give you. You’ll then have to accept or decline the aid you receive from the college. If you’re awarded federal student loans, you can decline all or part of those loans.

You’ll also need to complete entrance counseling and the Master Promissory Note at the Federal Student Aid website.

Step 4: Evaluate your need for private student loans.

Do you need more coverage? You may need to apply for private student loans to cover the costs of your degree. This means shopping around for a private student loan lender that fits your needs. Find out if your school offers a lender list, and be sure to compare:

•  Interest rates

•  Student loan fees (like origination fees)

•  Repayment options

•  Whether you’ll need a co-signer or not, which you may need if you don’t have a credit history. A parent, relative, or any other creditworthy individual can co-sign with you to boost your chances of getting a student loan.

Finally, apply for a private student loan by filling out basic personal information and any required financial information.

Paying Off Student Loans for an Associate’s Degree

What are your options for paying off student loans? There are many ways to pay for an associate’s degree. Here are some of the repayment paths to consider.

Job Income

Ideally, you’ll find a job directly related to the results of finishing your associate’s degree. The money that you earn can go toward paying off your student loans.

You can even set up automatic deductions from your bank account so you won’t need to worry about missing a payment. You can contact your student loan servicer if you’d like to set up automatic deductions.

One way to pay off your loans faster is to pay more than the minimum monthly amount. This will also help you save on the interest that will accrue on your loans because you’re paying them down faster. You can also save up and pay off a lump sum as well.

Starting Early

You don’t need to wait to graduate to start paying off your student loans. You can start paying off your student loans early, while you’re still in school. This is another great way to save on the interest that could accrue on your loans in the future and help you pay your loans off faster. It’s a good idea to have a plan in place if you want to start paying them off early (an online budgeting tool may help). Even little amounts can make a difference over the long run.

Using Tax Deductions

Some tax deductions can often be a big help and student loan tax deductions are no exception. You can get a student loan interest deduction when filing your taxes when you pay at least $600 in qualified student loan interest. Your lender will send you IRS Form 1098-E, the Student Loan Interest Statement. You’ll be able to save money on your taxes as long as you have student loan interest to deduct.

Applying for Loan Forgiveness

It’s important to note that you can only qualify for student loan forgiveness through federal student loans.

For example, you may want to qualify for loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. If you work for a government or not-for-profit organization, PSLF forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 monthly payments under a repayment plan as a full-time employee.

If you have Direct Loans or FFEL Program loans, you may be able to take advantage of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. In this case, you must teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency. You can qualify for up to $17,500 on your Direct Loan or FFEL Program loans.

Contact your loan servicer if you think you qualify for one of these programs and take a look at other cancellation or discharge programs you might qualify for.

Refinancing Student Loans

If you’re thinking about refinancing associate’s degree loans, it’s important to understand that you can’t refinance a federal student loan into a new federal student loan — all refinances become private student loans. This also means that you give up the possibility of qualifying for forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge through the federal government, as well as deferment or forbearance options.

Note that having a good credit score is key to refinancing your student loans. Your credit score is a three-digit number that summarizes how well you pay back your debts. A private lender will also take your credit utilization into account, which reveals how much of your available credit you actually use. Having a high credit score and low utilization ratio can help you get the best rates possible.

Refinancing Student Loans With SoFi

Refinancing student loans can be a great way to save money over the life of the loan if you’re able to refinance at a lower interest rate and you don’t plan to use federal programs. As a reminder, if you refinance a federal loan, you’ll lose access to federal benefits and protections.

If you’re considering refinancing, SoFi offers competitive rates, no origination fee, and unemployment protection. You can also talk to a representative who can walk you through the process.

Find out if SoFi student loan refinancing is right for you.

FAQ

How much are student loans for an associate’s degree?

Federal and private student loan lenders may charge a variety of fees for associate degree student loans, including origination fees, late payment fees, and returned check fees. However, some lenders don’t charge any of these fees at all. It’s a good idea to do a side-by-side comparison of all costs before you choose one lender over another.

Does FAFSA cover associate’s degrees?

Yes, you can tap into federal student aid options to pay for associate’s degrees. You must file the FAFSA and send the information to the schools on your list that you’re considering to complete your associate’s degree. You may qualify for a combination of federal student loans, grants, and work-study for student loans for associate’s degree. One of the best things you can do is to talk through the details with a financial aid professional at the college you plan to attend.

Can you refinance after your associate’s degree?

Yes, you can refinance associate degree student loans after you obtain your associate’s degree. You’ll want to determine whether you can get a better interest rate and/or pay your loans off faster with a refinance. However, note that you’ll lose access to federal loan benefits and protections when you refinance. Federal programs such as forgiveness and income-driven repayment do not apply to private student loans.


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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended beyond December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since the amount or portion of your federal student debt that you refinance will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave unrefinanced the amount you expect to be forgiven to receive your federal benefit.

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.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

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.
Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we 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.

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How to Pay for Grad School

Graduate school can be expensive and students who graduate with a master’s degree carry an average debt of $71,287, according to the Education Data Initiative. There are numerous ways to finance your advanced degree (even ways without taking out loans), and investing in graduate education is frequently worth it; the right degree has the potential for a massive return on investment.

The complicated part is determining what options are available to you and figuring out how to hack your way through grad school with the smallest bill. If you’re considering going to grad school, we’ve laid out some key financing options. Read on to learn how to formulate a plan to pay for your graduate education.

Ways to Pay for Grad School Without Taking on Debt

Things like filling out the FAFSA, applying for scholarships and grants, or working for an employer who offers tuition reimbursement while you are going to school can all help you lower your tuition bill during grad school. Continue reading for even more strategies to pay for grad school without taking on debt.

Fill Out The FAFSA

If you received financial aid or federal student loans during undergrad, you’re probably familiar with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, usually called by its friendlier name: the FAFSA®. The FAFSA is an application to determine what types of federal financial assistance you might qualify for.

Many students who are applying for grad school are considered “independent,” for FAFSA purposes. This means that even if your mom is supplementing your monthly groceries with weekly homemade lasagnas and you’re still using your parents’ password to binge watch Netflix, you may not need to include their financial information on your FAFSA application.

Your FAFSA will determine your eligibility for federal student loans, federal work-study, and federal grants. In addition, your college may use your FAFSA to determine your eligibility for aid from the school itself. Here’s a closer look at the federal options, excluding federal student loans which will be discussed in detail in a later section.

Federal Grants

Unlike student loans, federal grants do not need to be repaid. It may be possible to receive some grant funding to help you pay for graduate school. Filling out the FAFSA is the first step to determine whether you’re eligible. Federal grant programs include the Pell Grant, which is generally only available to undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need.

Recommended: What Are Pell Grants?

Another federal grant that may be available to graduate students is the TEACH grant, or Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education grant. This grant has relatively stringent requirements and is available for students pursuing a teaching career who are willing to fulfill a service obligation after graduating.

Federal Work-Study Program

Just like undergrad, you might be eligible for work-study jobs during grad school. Eligibility for work-study jobs is also based on your FAFSA. These jobs often pay you to work at your university for a set number of hours.
They can oftentimes be doubly beneficial because in addition to earning money, you can sometimes secure a work-study position that is relevant to your field of study. You usually have to go through an application process in order to secure a work-study job.

Work-study is a type of financial aid available to students who qualify based on their financial need. You can apply for the program when you fill out your FAFSA. If you qualify for work-study it will be part of your federal financial aid award.

Even if you receive your work-study award you may still have to find a job that qualifies. Many schools have online databases where you can look for and apply to jobs.

Typically, financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first served basis, so the earlier you file your FAFSA the better chance you’ll likely have of securing work-study as a part of your financial aid award.

Figuring out What Your University Can Offer You

After narrowing down your federal options, make sure to consider what university-specific funding might be available. Many schools offer their own grants, scholarships, and fellowships. Your school’s financial aid office likely has a specific program or contact person for graduate students who are applying for institutional assistance.

Many schools will use the FAFSA to determine what, if anything, the school can offer you, but some schools use their own applications.

Although another deadline is the last thing you need, seeking out and applying for school-specific aid can be one of the most successful ways to pay for grad school: Awards can range from a small grant to full tuition remission.

Employer Tuition Reimbursement

It might sound too good to be true, but some employers are happy to reimburse employees for a portion of their grad school costs. Employers that have tuition reimbursement plans set their own requirements and application process.

Make sure to consider any constraints your employer puts on their tuition reimbursement program, including things like staying at the company for a certain number of years after graduation or only funding certain types of degree programs.

If your employer doesn’t already have a program in place, don’t despair. It is almost always worth asking your company if they offer any benefits to employees pursuing a higher degree.

Some employers might offer professional development funding that can be used to help you pay for school or let you keep a more flexible work schedule to accommodate your classes.

Becoming an In-State Resident

If you’re applying for graduate school after taking a few years off to work, you might be surprised to find how costs have changed since your undergraduate days. Graduate students interested in a public university can save tens of thousands of dollars by considering a university in the state they already live in.

Each state has different requirements for determining residency, so if you are planning on relocating to attend grad school be sure to look into the requirements for the state the school you are planning to attend.

Certain states require only one year of full-time residency before you can qualify for in-state tuition, while others require three years. During that time, you could work as much as possible to save money for graduate school. More savings could mean fewer loans.

Becoming an Resident Advisor (RA)

You probably remember your undergrad Resident Advisor (RA). They were the ones who helped you get settled into your dorm room, showed you how to get to the nearest dining hall and yelled at you for breaking quiet hours.

RAs may be under-appreciated, but they’re often compensated handsomely for their duties. Students are typically compensated for a portion or all of their room and board. Some schools even include a meal plan and sometimes even reduced tuition or a stipend. The compensation you receive will depend on the school you are attending, so check with your residential life office to see what the current RA salary is at your school.

While there are plenty of perks to being an RA, don’t underestimate the responsibility that comes with the position. It can be a time-intensive position, requiring round-the-clock supervision.

Still, the perks of being an RA may be measured in saving money each year. By having a free place to live and a free meal plan, you could save more and eat a diet that doesn’t just consist of ramen and stale pizza. RAs rarely have to share a room, so you’ll also have more privacy than you would in an apartment with roommates.

Because RAs receive so many benefits, competition for the job can be fierce and selective. Polish your resume and hone your interview skills before applying. The difference between working as an RA and having to take out loans for rent could affect your life for years to come.

Serious savings. Save thousands of dollars
thanks to flexible terms and low fixed or variable rates.


Finding a Teaching Assistant Position

If you’re a graduate student, you can often find a position as a Teaching Assistant (TA) or Research Assistant (RA) for a professor. The position will be related to your undergrad or graduate studies and often requires grading papers, conducting research, organizing labs, or prepping for class. You probably had several TAs during your undergraduate classes and didn’t even realize they were students too.

TAs can be paid with a stipend or through reduced tuition depending on which school you attend. Not only can the job help you to potentially avoid student loans, but it also gives you networking experience with people in your field.

The professor you work with can recommend you for a job, bring you to conferences, and serve as a reference.
Being a TA may help boost your resume, especially if you apply for a Ph.D. program or want to be a professor someday. According to PayScale.com, the average TA earns around $13 an hour, as of September 2022.

Similarly to a job as an RA, securing a TA position can be competitive. Apply early and get to know the professors who will make the decisions.

Applying for Grants and Scholarships

Do you remember all those random essay contests and company scholarship applications your classmates fired off senior year of high school? Well, grad school is no different. There are private scholarships out there, you just need to find them.

Scholarship for the unusually tall? Check. Essay contest on automatic sprinkler systems? You betcha. In addition to the weird and wonderful one-off scholarships, there are industry-specific scholarships that are intended to help graduate students pursuing your specific field of study.

An easy way to search for scholarships is through one of the many websites that gather and tag scholarships by criteria. Keeping all your grad school and FAFSA materials handy means that you’ll have easy access to the information you’ll need for scholarship applications.

Recommended: Guide to Unclaimed Scholarships

As we mentioned at the top of this post, grad students have to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) in order to potentially qualify for federal grants — just as undergrads do. Grants and scholarships are a great source of financing for graduate school because they don’t need to be repaid.

Grants are available from both the federal and state governments, as well as from the university itself (again, many universities use the FAFSA to determine their own institutional aid, so filling it out is essential). Some companies provide their own grants or scholarships, and many private organizations sponsor grants.

It never hurts to apply for a grant or scholarship, no matter how small it might seem. Think of it this way — every dollar received is one less dollar you need to borrow or earn.

Recommended: Scholarship Search Tool

How to Pay for Grad School With Student Loans

Grad students may rely on a combination of financing to pay for their education. Student loans are often a part of this plan. Like undergraduate loans, graduate students have both federal and private student loan options available to them.

Federal Loans for Graduate School

Depending on the loan type, payments on these student loans can be deferred until after graduation and sometimes qualify you for certain tax deductions (like taking a tax deduction for interest paid on your student loans).
There are different types of federal student loans, and each type has varying eligibility requirements and maximum borrowing amounts. Graduate students may be eligible for the following types of federal student loans:

•   Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Eligibility for this loan type is not based on financial need.

•   Direct PLUS Loans. Eligibility for this loan type is not based on financial need. A credit check is required to qualify for this type of loan.

•   Direct Consolidation Loans. This is a type of loan that allows you to combine your existing federal loans into a single federal loan.

Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Federal student loan forgiveness programs either assist with monthly loan payments or can discharge a remaining federal student loan balance after a certain number of qualifying payments.

One such program is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (or PSLF) program. The PSLF program allows qualifying federal student loan borrowers who work in certain public interest fields to discharge their loans after 120 monthly, on-time, qualifying payments.

Additionally, some employers offer loan repayment assistance to help with high monthly payments. While loan forgiveness programs don’t help you with the upfront cost of paying for grad school, they may offer a meaningful solution for federal student loan repayment. (Unfortunately, private student loans don’t qualify for these federal programs.)

Private Loans for Graduate School

If you’re not eligible for scholarships or grants, or you’ve maxed out how much you can borrow using federal student loans, you can apply for a private student loan to help cover the cost of grad school.

Private graduate school loan rates and terms will vary by lender, and some private loans have variable interest rates, which means they can fluctuate over time. Doing your research with any private lender you’re considering is worth it to ensure you know exactly what a loan with them would look like.

Make sure to consider several different types of private student loan lenders before you make your decision. Private student loans are one area where it pays to be a savvy shopper. You’ll want to consider origination fees, payment schedules, and interest rates.

Steps to Take Before Applying to Graduate School

Before applying to graduate school it’s important to consider things like the earning potential offered by the degree in comparison to the cost. At the end of the day, only you can decide if pursuing a specific graduate degree is worth it. Here are a few steps to take before applying to grad school.

1. Research Potential Earnings by Degree

Perhaps you are already committed to one degree path, like getting your JD to become a lawyer. In that case you should have a good idea of what the earning potential could be post-graduation.

If you’re considering a few different graduate degrees, weigh the cost of the degree in contrast to the earning potential for that career path. This could help you weigh which program offers the best return.

2. Complete the FAFSA

Regardless of the educational path you choose, filling out the FAFSA is a smart move. It’s completely free to fill out and you may qualify for aid including grants, work-study, or federal student loans. Federal loans have benefits and protections not offered to private loans, so they are generally prioritized over private loans.

3. Explore Financing Options

As mentioned, you may need to rely on a combination of financing options. When scholarships, grants, and federal student loans aren’t enough — private loans can help you fill in the gaps.

When comparing private lenders be sure to review the loan terms closely — including factors like the interest rate, whether the loan is fixed or variable, and any other fees. Review a lender’s customer service reputation and any other benefits they may offer too.

The Takeaway

Grad school is a big investment in your education, but the good news is there are grants and scholarships that you won’t have to pay back. Some employers may also offer tuition reimbursement benefits, or you could find work as a resident advisor or teaching assistant to supplement your tuition costs. If you need more funding to cover the cost, there are federal and private student loans.

Taking the time to find the best combination of loans and funding is crucial. Taking it one step at a time can help you to assess all the options available and make the best financial decision for you. If you’re interested in private student loans, consider SoFi. Interested applicants can easily apply online and SoFi private student loans have zero fees.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies 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.
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