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Marrying Someone With Student Loans

Getting married is a momentous occasion—you’re choosing to legally commit to your partner in sickness and in health. And that’s something to celebrate. But before you say “I do,” it is important to understand how your student loan obligations might change after your big day.

After all, you’re ready to share your life, but do you have to share your student loans? Here are five things to know about student loans and marriage.

Open and Honest Communication is Key

Let’s be real for a second: money is stressful. In fact, money is one of the most common topics of relationship stress. Whether you’re arguing about high student loan payments or how much you want to spend on eating out every month, money can cause relationship problems.

There is good news, though: couples who talk openly about money daily or weekly are more likely to have strong marriages. That means that learning how to talk about money before you get married is one great way to create a strong relationship from the get-go, especially if you’re marrying someone with student loan debt, or have student loan debt yourself.

In addition to figuring out your money and budgeting style, it can be helpful to hash out the basics before your marital bliss is interrupted by your next student loan bill. For starters, it may be helpful to discuss exactly how much each of you owe on your student loans. It is important that you both understand exactly how much is owed so you can plan for repayment together.

Once you’ve got the hard numbers down, it may also be helpful to share what type of current student loan repayment plan you are on, and what your repayment priorities are. After all, if your partner wants to pay off their law school debt right away but you’re happy on an income-driven repayment plan as a school teacher, it is important that you have a plan for navigating potential disagreements.

While every relationship is different, all relationships will require decision-making about money. Learning to talk about money now can help set you up for success down the road.

Who is Responsible For Repayment?

You’re not automatically on the hook for your spouse’s loans. If you or your spouse took our student loans prior to your marriage, you likely won’t be responsible for those loans if your spouse stops paying.

Of course, if you or your spouse takes on new loans while you’re married and you live in a community property state, you may end up responsible for a portion of that debt.

The law is complicated, so if you’re worried about dividing up your assets before you get married, it is always good to talk to a lawyer. Many young couples are even now considering pre-nups to protect themselves and set up expectations in advance.

Will My Monthly Payments Change?

So then when it comes to student loans, marriage doesn’t change anything? Not so fast. One often-overlooked aspect of marriage is that it can change your income—and this matters for many reasons, including determining your monthly income-driven loan payments.

For example, if you’re on a repayment plan that uses your household income to determine your monthly payment, and are married and filing jointly, your lender will take into account both you and your spouse’s income, which could lead to higher monthly payments.

Likewise, you may miss out on the student loan interest deduction when it comes time to file your taxes. P.S., talking to an accountant or tax attorney when when it comes to all things taxes and student loans could be a smart idea. When in doubt, definitely speak with a licensed professional.

Thinking About Refinancing Your Loans with Your Spouse

Just because your student debt doesn’t automatically become a joint obligation the moment you say “I do” doesn’t mean you can’t combine your debt and focus on paying it off together.

Many couples choose to combine their student loan debt through refinancing so they can pay off one bill together, rather than juggling multiple debt payments.

Student loan debt and marriage can be stressful, and student loan refinancing allows you to combine multiple loans into one (potentially with a lower interest rate).

Of course, refinancing isn’t for everyone. If you or your spouse is planning on taking advantage of income-driven repayment or other federal repayment programs, joint refinancing with a private company could make you ineligible.

It’s important to start your marriage off on a strong foot by making sure that you and your partner can talk honestly about money. Together, you can navigate anything—including student loan debt.

Learn more about refinancing your student loans with SoFi.



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.
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 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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Should You Start Paying Off Student Loans Before Graduation?

Like getting a case of the Mondays—but with much higher stakes—the specter of looming student loan debt can be a real buzz kill. As a result, you may be wondering whether it makes sense to start paying off that debt while you’re still in school. Here’s a look at whether it’s possible to pay off loans early and the pros and cons of doing so.

Prepaying Student Loans

You can prepay federal loans and some private student loans without facing penalties. That means that you can direct money toward paying down the principal of your loan at any time, likely without facing extra fees.

Federal student loans typically become due when you graduate after a grace period of six months. This grace period can be extended to three and a half years for active duty military members.

The Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students doesn’t have a grace period and the Perkins loan grace period might vary from school to school.

Private loans might also have a grace period, though these vary depending on the terms and conditions of your loan. You may choose to get a head start on paying off your debt and start making loans payments before you graduate.

Beyond gaining some peace of mind, prepayment may have other benefits. As you pay down your principal you’ll be reducing the amount of money you owe in future interest payments, saving you money over the life of the loan.

Some loans may accrue interest while you’re in school, and these are worth targeting first. Prioritize paying down loans with the highest interest rates. As you pay these off, focus on the next highest rate.

Direct Subsidized Loans do not accrue interest while you’re in school at least half-time. If you pay down the balance while you’re in school, you’ll only be paying off the amount borrowed, essentially securing an interest-free loan for yourself.

Contact your lender when you want to make a prepayment. When you do, include a note that you want the prepayment to go toward paying off the principal of your loan. Otherwise, your lender may treat your payments as though you’re paying your first installment.

But here’s the good news: Federal student loans and private student loans don’t come with prepayment penalties . So you can proceed with paying off your student loans early without incurring prepayment penalty fees.

Other Ways to Manage Your Debt

If your cooktop ramen budget leaves you with little room to prepay your college loans, don’t despair. There are other ways you can make your loans more manageable.

If you carry federal student loans, one option is student loan consolidation, which allows you to bundle your loans through the Direct Consolidation program. This strategy may leave you with a lower rate on your new loan.

The government sets your new rate as a weighted average of all your current loans’ interest rates. So, in some cases, your new rate may actually be higher than your previous lowest rate.

Direct Consolidation loans may qualify you for student loan forgiveness or income-based repayment plans. This can be particularly useful if you plan on going into a field that qualifies for student loan forgiveness such as jobs in the government or some nonprofit sectors.

One note, however: Federal student loan consolidation lets you consolidate federal loans, but doesn’t allow you to consolidate your private loans.

Refinancing Through a Private Lender

If you have a mix of federal and private loans, you may consider refinancing your student loans through a private lender. If this sounds like an option for you, you’ll want to look into a lender that can help you lower your interest rate.

Paying a lower interest rate can save you money in the long term. And if you choose to keep your monthly payment the same, you may even pay off your loans earlier than you would with your original loan.

You can refinance your private loans and some lenders allow you to bundle both federal and private loans. However, be aware that once you’ve refinanced federal and private loans together, you can’t undo the consolidation.

Federal loans that are consolidated in this way are no longer eligible for consolidation under the Direct Consolidation Loan program and, therefore, may lose the potential for loan forgiveness and income base repayment options down the road.

Learn how refinancing with SoFi may make your loan payments more manageable.


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 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.


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How Often Should You Check Your Investment Accounts?

In theory, the concept of “set it and forget it” feels pretty ideal with the rise of automated investing apps. But in reality, investment opportunities should come with a sidebar course in willpower and self-discipline. Especially if you have unfettered access to your accounts, your balance, and the ability to change your portfolio 24 hours a day.

The way it’s supposed to work is that you set up your account, then set a reminder to monitor investments (or check in with your financial advisor) in a few months. But we live in an on-demand society where apps send notifications to you in real time and FOMO is real.

Is there a happy medium between going too long without checking that you forget your password and obsessively checking your balance every day? Absolutely—but it’s not an exact science. Read on to find out how to monitor your investment portfolio wisely.

Embracing Your Rational Side

It’s generally not the best idea to stalk your investment accounts. The reason is simple: Investing, especially for retirement, is a long term, rational game, and we’re emotional beings.

Just think about it—401(k) and IRA plans are so committed to this philosophy that they’ll charge you up to a 10% penalty if you withdraw your money before you hit a certain age, and Social Security simply isn’t available until you’re 62.

It’s no secret that the market fluctuates by the day, and watching it roller coaster can be dangerous, since the natural human reaction to a loss is to take whatever money is left and run.

It’s a Nobel Prize-winning theory called loss aversion, and it says that as much as people love making money, they hate losing it more—so much more that the threat of a larger loss in the future overpowers the possibility of big gains. Simply put, a downward market trend can lead investors to the emotional mistake of selling low and buying high.

If this sounds like something you would do, one way to check yourself is to use an investment account, like SoFi Invest®, where you have access to a human who can guide you, help you optimize, and even talk you down if necessary. And if you do have losses that throw you out of balance, the robo-advisor half of the program monitors investments and handles optimization for you—no emotion required.

Another big reason to leave your investments alone is the effect that compounded interest can have on your portfolio over time. Here’s how it works: Your money earns interest (or dividends, in the case of stocks) for a designated time period, and then that growth becomes part of your principal balance.

The next period, you earn interest on that new balance. The gains may be on the small side at first, but after 10 to 20 years, compounding can pay off. But if you get spooked by the market and move your portfolio to cash, that momentum either slows down or stops completely.

Do Some Investments Require More Monitoring?

If you choose to invest in an index or Exchange Traded Fund, your portfolio is set up to represent a cross-section of the market. Often, these funds are rebalanced and optimized automatically by the firms who create them.

If an individual company stock is your preference, checking it less frequently is even more important. And if it’s a headline-grabbing company that’s likely to be analyzed by pundits, one way to avoid emotional mistakes is to leave it be.

If you do notice a drop in an individual stock, take a look at the other stocks in the category—is it just your company that’s down? Or is every company down?

Instead of over monitoring, one way to ensure that your money is working hard for you is to determine your short term and long term financial goals. If you need to build an emergency fund, you’ll want investments that give you access without penalty. If retirement is the end game, you’ll want funds that can benefit you most in the long run.

Does Age Matter?

As a general rule of thumb, younger investors are often advised to go for a more aggressive portfolio for the potential of higher gains. Then, as they age and get closer to retirement, they’ll begin to move their money into moderate-risk funds, and then finally to conservative funds.

Not sure where you fall on that timeline? With SoFi Invest we can help guide you through picking the right portfolio mix based not only on your age, but your targeted goals. And if you’re not sure what those goals should be, check out our generational guide to smart investment strategies.

Regardless of the age you begin to invest, though, it’s important to have a diverse portfolio.

So, How Often Should You Review Your Portfolio?

Experts don’t agree on the specifics, but the general consensus is that less is more. For investors who are saving for retirement over decades, once or twice a year may be sufficient. Some advisors even recommend only checking when you need to make a change to your account.

If you’re a solo investor, your portfolio review should be to ensure that your investments are still on track and appropriate for your age and goals. As you age, your goals are likely to change, so a rebalance will help you stay current.

Let SoFi Do the Heavy Lifting

Unless you’re an investment junkie, DIY rebalancing can be complicated and fraught with risk. A great thing about using auto-investing or a financial planner is that your portfolio is automatically reviewed and rebalanced by professionals.

Learn more about SoFi Invest today!


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.

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Applying for Economic Hardship Deferment

Managing student loan payments can feel like a part-time job. It can be even more overwhelming if you’re experiencing financial trouble, whether that’s due to a job layoff, caring for a family member, or for another reason.

The good news is there are options available to those going through a rough financial patch, including the Economic Hardship Deferment program . But even then, it can be difficult to navigate all of the information on which deferment program you may be eligible to apply for based on the reason for your hardship and the type of student loans you have. So that’s what we’re going to discuss today.

Economic Hardship Deferment, also known as student loan financial hardship, is a program offered in certain cases on federal student loans for borrowers who are eligible and having an exceedingly difficult time making their student loan payments for financial reasons.

Below, we’ll discuss the Economic Hardship Deferment program and what it means for you and your loans, who qualifies to make a hardship claim for student loans, how to apply for the program, and whether it’s the right path for you. We’ll also cover alternatives to Economic Hardship Deferment.

What Is Economic Hardship Deferment?

A student loan deferment is when a student loan payment or multiple payments are put on hold for a designated period of time—hitting the “pause button.” An Economic Hardship Deferment is awarded to those who are facing serious financial trouble, as determined by factors such as monthly income and family size.

Those approved for the program can take up to 36 consecutive months of deferment so long as they still meet the qualifications. All participants (except those in the Peace Corps) need to reapply each year.

An important distinction to understand is whether your loans will qualify for a deferment period where interest will accrue, or one where interest does not accrue. Generally, loans that are subsidized will not accrue interest during deferment, whereas an unsubsidized loan will.

In the event your loan qualifies for deferment but will continue to accrue interest, you’ll usually have two options: First, to make interest-only payments on the loan or second, to allow interest charges to rack up.

When you allow interest charges to accumulate on an unsubsidized loan, that interest will be tallied up and added to the balance of the loan at the end of the period. This is a process called “capitalization.”

Not only will you have a new, larger balance to pay off, but any future interest payments will be calculated on top of the new, higher balance, meaning you’re paying interest on top of interest. All else equal, the result is that your monthly payments will likely be even higher than they are now.

Which Loans Qualify for Economic Hardship Deferment?

This is a federal loan program, and not all federal loans qualify. Here are a few examples of loans that may qualify (and check the link below for a full, updated list of eligible loans):

•  National Direct Student Loans (NDSL Loans)

•  Federal Family Education Loans (FEEL Loans)

•  Federal Stafford Loans

•  Federal Perkins Loans

•  Federal Supplemental Loans for Students (SLS Loans)

•  Federal PLUS Loans

•  Federal Consolidation Loans

•  National Defense Student Loans

The Economic Hardship Deferment program is typically available for loans made on or after July 1, 1993.

Private loans taken out from a private bank or lender won’t qualify for the federally run Economic Hardship Deferment program, though your private lender(s) might offer their own hardship programs. If they offer such a program, they will have their own unique qualifications and application process.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask if you are in a difficult financial situation. Remember, lenders don’t want you to default on your loans, and are often willing to work with borrowers to find some sort of solution. With both federal and private loans, never hesitate to call the lender, discuss your situation, and explore options.

Who Qualifies for Economic Hardship Deferment?

To make a hardship claim for student loans, you will have to fill out paperwork and provide documentation proving that you are experiencing financial hardship. Some of the eligibility criteria for an Economic Hardship Deferment will depend on your income, family size, and the poverty income guidelines for your family size in the state where you live (150% of the state poverty level or less). It will also depend on what percentage your student loan payment is of your monthly adjusted gross income.

To qualify for Economic Hardship Deferment, you will need your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, and address—and you’ll need to know what type of loan you are requesting economic hardship deferment for.

Here are some examples of what you may need to prove to the loan servicer evaluating your eligibility for deferment:

  1. You’ve already been granted Economic Hardship Deferment on loans made under another federal student loan program.

  2. You’re receiving payments under a federal or state public assistance program during the time in which you request your loan deferment. Examples of such programs include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Food Stamps/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or other forms of state assistance.

  3. You are serving as a Peace Corp volunteer.

  4. You work full-time (30 hours per week) and your monthly income does not exceed 150% of the poverty guideline for your family size and state.

To determine whether your family is at or below 150% of the poverty guideline, reference the following table.

First, determine your family size. This includes you, your spouse, any children who receive more than half of their support from you, any unborn children who are to be born during the deferment period, and anyone else living with you for whom you provide at least half of their support.

Next, find your family size on the following table, and compare to your monthly income.

Family Size   Alaska     Hawaii     All Other States  
1 $1,897.50 $1,745.00 $1,517.50
2 $2,572.50 $2,366.25 $2,057.50
3 $3,247.50 $2,987.50 $2,957.50
4 $3,922.50 $3,608.75 $3,137.50
5 $4,597.50 $4,230.00 $3,677.50
6 $5,272.50 $4,851.25 $4,217.50
7 $5,947.50 $5,742.50 $4,757.50
8 $6,622.50 $6,093.75 $5,297.50
Each additional person, add $675.00 $621.25 $540.00

These figures are from 2018 and are subject to change annually.

You are likely to qualify for the student loan financial hardship program as long as you meet one of these prerequisites. If that is the case, and you would like to pursue the option, contact your lender or student loan servicer. Tell them you would like to apply for Economic Hardship Deferment. At this point, they typically ask you a series of questions and have you fill out an Economic Hardship Deferment Request form .

Pros and Cons of Economic Hardship Deferment

Pros

For someone who is in desperate need of reprieve from their student loan payments, the program can be a godsend. You may want to consider taking advantage of this program if the alternative is defaulting on student loans, which can have a long-lasting, detrimental effect on your credit score and history.

If your loans are subsidized, there is no cost to taking an Economic Hardship Deferment.

Periods of deferment are provided to borrowers who need time to find a job, increase their income, or recover from the many myriad of life events that could leave someone in a place of need. There is no shame in this, whatsoever, but it’s a great idea to use the deferment period to work on rebuilding.

Cons

With unsubsidized loans, taking a period of deferment will make the loans in question cost more over time. Even if you make interest payments during your deferment, you aren’t chipping away at the principal, and so all of those payments are essentially a wash. If you don’t make interest payments, the total value of those unpaid interest payments will be slapped on top of the loan balance, increasing your loan balance and the amount you’ll owe in interest, over time.

When the period of deferment ends, your monthly payment will likely be higher than it is now, which may be difficult for someone who is already experiencing financial hardship. Use the program if you need it, but know it can come with some costs in the long term.

It is also extremely difficult to qualify for Economic Hardship Deferment. The program utilizes stringent criteria to determine eligibility with income review using poverty level guidelines as noted above. (For example, a single person working full-time and earning $20,000 per year and living in California who is not already on food stamps or other forms of government assistance would probably not qualify for Economic Hardship Deferment.) This makes the program unavailable to many people who are legitimately having difficulty making their loan payments.

Alternatives to Economic Hardship Deferment

Forbearance

If you do not qualify for Economic Hardship Deferment, an option is to request forbearance. Forbearance is similar to deferment, though in no cases will interest cease to accrue, and periods of forbearance generally do not exceed 12 months (and could be shorter). You’ll need to check with your loan servicer to see if you
qualify
.

Income Driven Repayment Plans

There are multiple options for income-driven repayment plans. These options will calculate your monthly payment based off what you earn and stretch the loan term from to 20 or more years.

Though your monthly payments will be lower, which provides some immediate relief, you will pay significantly more in interest over time. It is possible to switch to an alternative repayment plan and back again if your financial situation improves.

Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program

With 10 years of on-time payments at a qualifying job (like a government worker, a teacher, a doctor, or nurse at a qualifying facility), it is possible to have student loans forgiven with the PSLF program. If you go this route, you’ll usually want to switch to an income-driven repayment plan.

Student Loan Refinancing

Another option to consider for both your federal and private student loans is student loan refinancing. Refinancing is the process of switching out your loan or multiple loans with one new loan at an (ideally) lower rate of interest.

The lower rate of interest could save you money on interest payments over the life of the loan. Use a student loan refinancing calculator to see how lower interest rates affect your monthly payments.

It’s important to know that if you refinance federal loans with a private lender, you will lose access to federal student loan programs such as Economic Hardship Deferment or PSLF. That’s because you’ll refinance with a private lender, such as SoFi. (Some private lenders, including SoFi, do offer protections in the event of job loss, so be sure to ask.) No matter your situation, help is available. A great place to start is by calling your loan servicer and discussing your options.

Learn more about refinancing your federal or private student loans with SoFi and find your rate in just two minutes.


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 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.


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Ways to Pay for Grad School Without Using Loans

When you first take out student loans after graduating high school, it’s hard to truly feel the weight of that debt. You’re young and looking forward to the best years of your life. It’s not until you’ve finished your undergraduate degree, that you begin to realize just how much money you actually owe.

If you’re pursuing a graduate degree you may feel motivated to avoid taking out additional loans to finance your education. Perhaps your goal is to finish your Master’s degree without borrowing a single penny.

It won’t happen easily, and you might need to sacrifice your comfort and free time to make it happen, but people do it every year. These tips could help you become one of them.

Become 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. Tuition has been rising for decades, and a bachelor’s degree now costs two-and-a-half times what it did in 1988 after adjusting for inflation.

Graduate students interested in a public university can save tens of thousands of dollars by becoming in-state residents. As just one example, at UCLA graduate students who qualify for in-state tuition pay $16,847 a year while out-of-state students pay almost double the cost—$31,949.

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 can work as much as possible to save money for graduate school.

Apply for Work-Study

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 form. If you qualify for work-study it will be part of your financial aid award.

After you receive your work-study award you’ll 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 have of securing work-study as a part of your award.

Become an 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 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 can save 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.

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.

Apply for Grants and Scholarships

Like undergraduates, grad students have to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to qualify for federal grants. Many universities use FAFSA information to determine their own financial aid, so applying for it is mandatory.

The average graduate student earned $9,290 in grants during the 2016-2017 academic year. 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. 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.

Find a TA Position

If you’re a graduate student, you can often find a position as a Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant 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 $12.17 an hour, or about $1,000 a month before taxes.

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.

Refinance Your Undergrad Loans

If you currently have loans from your undergraduate program, you can refinance them to get a lower monthly payment. That will free up more money to put towards grad school.

Refinancing your student loans at a lower interest rate can also help you pay less interest over the loan’s lifetime. That may not seem like such a big deal now, but you’ll be thankful when you’re saving up for a down payment on your first house.

Switching to a lower monthly payment gives you more flexibility in your budget, which is perfect for a time when money is tight. Once you finish grad school, you can start making extra payments and repay your loans ahead of schedule.

Paying for grad school without student loans is possible, but only if you plan ahead, apply for every opportunity and make decisions carefully. Many professions don’t care where you went to grad school, only that you have a master’s degree. Pick an affordable university and you’ll never regret your decision to go back to school.

Ready to make the most of your student loan debt? Refinancing could mean a lower interest rate and more money in your pocket over the life of the loan. See what your new rate could be when you refinance with SoFi in just a few minutes.


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 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.


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