Meet our 2023 Student Loan Payoff Contest winners
Student loan debt is an issue that affects more than 40 million Americans. We decided to do our part and help our members who have already graduated by giving three deserving people $10,000 each—a total of $30,000—to help pay off their student loan debt. Meet our first two winners!
Round 1 Winner
Travis Reid, from Loganville, has been a member of Georgia’s Own since he was a teenager and currently works as a nurse. He’s also newly married, and his wife is a veterinary student at the University of Georgia.
After his father passed away last year, he bore the responsibility of taking over a mortgage with his mother, leaving him financially responsible for two households—on top of tackling his student loan debt.
Get to know Travis below:
Round 2 Winner
As a first-generation college student growing up in a single-parent household, Simon Chang has had to work throughout college and graduate school to fund his own education—racking up nearly $100,000 in student loan debt. When his mother, a cancer survivor, couldn’t work during COVID, Simon picked up an extra role to help with the bills while continuing to work towards his doctorate of physical therapy at Augusta University.
Simon’s dream is to partner with the Georgia Department of Health to open a mobile clinic and serve people who live in rural areas across the state.
Check out Simon’s story below:
Stay tuned for our final winner who will be announced in December!
Student loan forgiveness: what you need to know
Student loan forgiveness is a hot-button topic right now. With the Biden administration’s latest announcement on their forgiveness plan, nearly 8 million borrowers are eligible for automatic loan forgiveness. Even more borrowers are likely eligible but will have to complete the forgiveness application to submit their income. We have the latest info on student loan forgiveness, how it affects you, and what you need to do next:
Know your loan
Before we begin with the current events of student loans, let’s take a minute to address those considering their first or newest student loans. It’s critical that you know what your loan means for you. You need to know the terms, the interest, how often payments need to be made, and other details that will make a financial difference to you later in life. Be familiar with your loans to avoid any surprises down the line. If you’re unsure what type of loans you’ve received, or if you’re unsure you’ve received any grants, including Pell Grants, you can log in to your account at studentaid.gov.
Research the differences
There are two types of student loans—federal and private. It may seem like an elementary concept, but too many students don’t realize which loan they have until they are already locked in. If you’re unsure, it’s okay—find someone at your school or a trusted colleague who can help you walk through the process. “Better late than never” definitely applies when it comes to learning about your loan—even though we think knowing the information ahead of time is even better than being late.
What is loan forgiveness?
The current administration has extended the student loan payment pause for a final time through December 31, 2022 and announced one-time student loan debt forgiveness. While not everyone qualifies, many of those in student loan debt may find their budget loosening as a result. The current loan forgiveness plan allows federal borrowers to receive up to $10,000 in forgiveness and Pell Grant recipients to receive up to $20,000 in forgiveness. This relief is limited to borrowers who make less than $125,000 per year or married couples (or heads of households) who make less than $250,000 per year.
Is my loan canceled?
Not necessarily—if you owe more than $10,000 (or more than $20,000 as a Pell Grant recipient), you are responsible for any additional amount you owe after the initial amount forgiven. The forgiveness plan provides some relief for the mounting student loan debt plus negates some effects of the pandemic, as many people found themselves unexpectedly without a job at some point over the last two years.
Does everyone get loan forgiveness?
Most federal loans are eligible for forgiveness. However, this does not mean that all hope is lost. If you struggle to make your private student loan payments, reach out to the company that provided your loan. Many offer programs or options that can give you some financial slack for a little while. Don’t get yourself into even more debt, though—be sure to verify the terms of your private loan options just like you would for the loan itself. If your monthly payments are too high, you can refinance or consolidate your private loans to lower your payment or have one manageable loan.
What about student loan relief?
Student loan relief is extended to December 31, 2022. After that, payments will resume. You have a few months to work things out, so take a look at your budget and determine how you can make those payments again as soon as the relief period ends.
How do I get loan forgiveness?
The application to receive student loan forgiveness will be ready by early October—you can sign up to receive updates on the form’s status. Be sure to have your information prepared before the application opens. Check that your income and loans qualify, and gather any records that might support your request. Federal student loan borrowers should aim to apply no later than November 15th. It will take around six weeks to get cancellation after applying for forgiveness, and you’ll want your balance to be eliminated or reduced before December 31st (when the payment pause expires).
If you’re not eligible for student loan forgiveness, or if you still owe a significant amount of money after part of your loans are forgiven, Georgia’s Own is here to help you gain control of your financial freedom. We offer the option to refinance or consolidate your federal and private loans into one monthly loan, giving you one manageable payment and excellent rates—and a quicker route to becoming debt free. Click here to get started today.
Student loan forgiveness: separating fact from fiction
There is a lot of information out there on student loan forgiveness—but determining which material is the real deal takes a little bit of work. Luckily, there is plenty of accurate information available, and there are even steps you can take to determine what is legit. And once you are armed with that knowledge, you can move forward on the path of settling your student loans.
Consider the source
You don’t need us to tell you that celebrity magazines, while excellent for comparing who wore which clothing best, are not a good source of information for things like student loan forgiveness. The same goes for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any app that allows you to turn yourself into a cartoon animal in a selfie.
Instead, look for reputable news sites and sites focused on helping people understand financial situations—consider resources like Forbes and Clark Howard, which can help you determine what kinds of resources are the best options.
Look it up
Now that you know which websites and resources are the best for gathering information, it’s time to get to work. Get on your favorite search engine and start reading. Don’t just take the word of the first article you read—look for different sources and the consistencies they each report. You can also consult with your student loan officer to see what they can tell you. But we know you have a lot going on, so we did some research for you:
Watch for scams
Even resources that pass your initial test for legitimacy may still need a second glance to ensure they are a reputable business. It’s not uncommon for scammers to create websites or other marketing materials that look like an agency that can help you, but the truth is that they may wind up costing you a lot of money.
If a company asks for sensitive information, promises that your student loans will be immediately forgiven, or wants payments made upfront before they provide you with services, run, do not walk, to the nearest state attorney general’s office and report the company for the scam.
Find the right people
There is a bright spot in the student loan forgiveness world, and that is those resources that can guide you to actual, real aid when it comes to your loans, whether that means reducing your loan amount or working with you to repay your loan on a schedule that works with your income.
Head to the Federal Student Aid website to submit a request for an income-driven payment plan for your student loans. And while you’re on the website, check out the sections on how federal aid works and the aid estimation calculator to get a better sense of how the process works.
What about possible political changes?
You have probably heard that one of Bernie Sanders’ campaign platforms centers around total student loan forgiveness. His plan is to cancel all current student loans, regardless of how large or old the debt is. Everyone would be eligible, and he has not mentioned any type of limit to the loan amount.
While Bernie may out of contention for 2020, the idea continues to gain momentum in certain political circles. There are still questions remaining in regards to how exactly the $1.6 trillion of student debt could be canceled, such as the timeline and whether it’s feasible for universities to give up those funds.
It’s important to note that cancelling student loans would not mean they would be canceled forever—what people are talking about is current student loan cancellation, which means only those loans that have been currently taken out by students, parents, etc.
If a student needed a loan to continue their education, or decided to go back to school at a future date, they would still be responsible for procuring and paying the funds. There is also no repayment for those who have already paid off their loans.
Yes—just like your budget, you have to have a plan for your student loans. They will not go away because you ignore them. In fact, you are more like to end up in collections and will then have to deal with potential legal repercussions.
None of these steps will help you with your loans if you are not an active participant in making it happen. Start by opening up all that mail your student loan company sends you – they can probably answer a lot of your questions right off the bat.
Student loans aren’t anyone favorite topic to think about, but there are ways you can take control. Look for reputable resources that can guide you through paying off your student loan dent on a schedule that makes financial sense for you.
Seven strategies for paying off student loans
Graduation is a time of celebration. You’ve finished four—ok, maybe five years of school, and you’re ready to conquer the world. Do you know what else you should be ready to conquer? Your student loan debt.
In 2018, the total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. was at an all-time high at nearly $1.5 trillion. Spread over 44 million borrowers, you can take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. While the idea of repaying your debt may be overwhelming and a seemingly impossible feat, take heed. We’ve got a few words of wisdom that can help you get started. With some self-discipline and a little sacrifice, you’ll be able to wipe out that I.O.U. sooner than you think.
Here are some practical strategies you can use to get your finances in order, knock down that debt, and be well on your way to financial freedom:
1. Live like a college student
You’re eager to venture out into the real world and live on your own. You want to rent a cool apartment that doesn’t include a hand-me-down couch and four other roommates. We get it. But if you can stand it, try not to inflate your current lifestyle too quickly. By keeping the same penny-pinching habits you used in college, you’ll be able to send a bigger chunk of your paycheck to your lender. The quicker you pay it down, the faster you’ll graduate to a more comfortable lifestyle that doesn’t include a repayment plan.
2. Send more than the minimum payment
If you continue to send the required minimum loan repayment each month, it’ll take the full term of your loan to pay it off. You’ll also wind up paying the maximum amount of interest. Consistently sending more than your $50 minimum payment, for example, will not only help you pay the balance down more quickly, it will significantly reduce the total amount of interest you pay over the term of the loan. Increasing your payment by any amount will save you both time and money, and who wouldn’t want that?
3. Pick up a side hustle
If you need more money, find a way to bring in additional income. Maybe you DJ on the weekends, wait tables at night, or work as a freelance photographer. Whatever your talent, parlay it into a side hustle. The key here is to have enough discipline to take the extra income and pay down your student loans. It’s not a way to save for a vacation, to buy a new car, or a Louis Vuitton bag—right now, anyway. If your objective is to tackle your student loans, keep your eye on the prize!
4. Send extra payments
Did you get a tax refund, a bonus at work, a little extra cash in your birthday card? It might not be the most exciting thing to do, but paying down your loan with a windfall, no matter how big or small, is the financially smart thing to do. Making extra payments, whether it’s each month, every quarter, or whenever you happen upon some extra cash, will speed up your loan repayment and reduce your total interest expense. The faster you pay it down, the more money you save, and the quicker you get out from underneath that student loan debt.
5. Add loan repayments to your gift wish list
C’mon, how many Starbuck’s gift cards do you really need? When friends and family ask you for birthday or holiday gift suggestions, you might tactfully ask them for a cash gift to pay down your student loan balance. Check out sites like LoanGifting or Generosity, now a part of GoFundMe, to make it official. Services like these are exclusively dedicated to helping reduce student loan debt by accepting and processing loan repayment donations. Set up a profile, connect it to your loan account information, and gift-givers can help you on your road to financial freedom.
Be sure to read the fine print, though. Setting up an account is free, but there are some fees deducted from each financial gift.
6. Refinance your student loans
Consolidating and refinancing your student loans at a lower rate can help you reduce the amount of interest you’ll pay. It may also allow for a shorter repayment term and a quicker route to becoming debt free. With one loan, one monthly payment, and a more competitive interest rate, it’s worth a look. There’s no harm in evaluating your options, especially when there may be an opportunity to save some cash and reduce your debt more quickly.
7. Look for employers who can help
Student loan repayment assistance is an employee benefit that’s growing in popularity. In fact, according to Forbes, it was the hottest employee benefit of 2018. Check out their list of ten companies that are already on board.
There are other similar programs, too. Government employees may be eligible for the federal government’s Student Loan Repayment Program. Nurses and teachers may be eligible for the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program and Teach for America, and public sector employees may be able to receive assistance through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
Weighted down with student loan debt isn’t the ideal way you’d like to begin this next chapter of your life, but it’s a reality for most college students. You can make the minimum payments, repay your loans as scheduled, and live happily in the process. But, if you’re anxious to finish those monthly payments and begin investing in your future, use these strategies and get started sooner than later.
Parents: Should you borrow for your child’s college education?
Congratulations! Your son or daughter was accepted into his or her top-choice university. You have an extra $175,000 lying around, right?
Your offspring’s education may cost that much or even more, now that the average cost of attending a private school has topped $42,000 a year, according to the College Board. If you can’t cover the whole bill with scholarships and savings, you may be tempted to borrow.
But should you? Ask yourself these questions:
How secure is your retirement?
Parents struggle with whether to put their child’s needs before their own. If you’ve followed the financial industry’s advice and prioritized your own retirement savings, you may not have been able to save much for college. Talk to a financial advisor about your retirement planning. This will help you decide whether you can handle education loans.
What’s your current debt level?
Are you still paying off your own education? If so, you wouldn’t be the only one. Many people are still chipping away at their college loans well into their careers, even as their own children near adulthood. Taking on more education debt may not be advisable if you haven’t eliminated your own.
Mortgage loans are also a consideration. Paying off your mortgage before retirement can help reduce the amount of monthly income you need once you stop working, so crushing this debt may be a big priority later in your career. If your home is worth significantly more than you owe, that equity may be a good source of college money. The interest rate on a home equity line of credit is likely to be lower than the rate on a federal loan for parents of college students. And, like other types of mortgages, the interest on home equity lines of credit may be tax deductible.
What are your other obligations?
If you buy your eldest a car as a 16th birthday present, your younger children will expect their own wheels, too. Over-extending yourself for one child’s education may be hard to replicate when the next kid enters college. Make a realistic plan that includes all your children’s likely college costs.
So should you borrow?
If your retirement savings are healthy, the rest of your finances are strong and you don’t have much debt, borrowing to pay for your child’s college might make sense. But it’s a last-resort option. Before you take out a loan, exhaust all possible financial aid options. Consider choosing a less expensive school, or having your child start at a community college and transfer to a four-year university later.
Many families find that it’s best for the student to be the borrower, rather than the parents. The interest rates on federally subsidized loans are better if they’re in the student’s name, and you can always help pay it off later if your own budget will allow it.
Your role as a parent is not coming to an end just because your son or daughter has earned a high school diploma. You still have to model good decision-making practices and healthy financial habits. That may include saying no to borrowing money for your child’s education.
Five facts about student loans that you need to know
The majority of students attending college will need to finance at least a portion of the cost required to further their education, most likely through student loans. While taking out a student loan may be a viable solution, there are both benefits and drawbacks of signing on the dotted line.
Here are five things you should know about the who, what, and how much of student loans.
1. Complete the FAFSA—NOW
FAFSA is the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid, and it’s the gateway to all federal financial aid, which also includes student loans. The Education Department offers scholarships, work-study, grants, and loans for eligible students in the amount of $150 billion each year. The only way to see if you qualify is to complete the application. The federal deadline is June 30, 2018, but the sooner you hit the submit button, the better, so don’t procrastinate.
2. Federal loan vs. private loans
Federal student loans often offer lower interest rates, a friendlier repayment schedule, and typically don’t require Mom or Dad to cosign to be your safety net. The income-driven repayment schedule is highly attractive, but if you have trouble making your monthly payments on that entry-level salary, you’ll also have deferment or forbearance options to consider. A private student loan is often used to fund the shortfall left by federal loans. They typically come with a higher interest rate compared to federal loans and your parents will need to cosign on the loan.
3. Parent PLUS loans
Every parent would love to save enough money to fund their child’s education, but if that’s not your reality, you might consider a Parent PLUS loan. This type of loan is available to the biological or adoptive parents of dependent students, and it does require a credit check. They’re not especially cheap, though. In 2017 the interest rate was 6.31%, the highest rate among all federal student loans.
4. Student loan default
Even with the generous repayment options, sometimes borrowers default on their student loan. You should be aware that if you default on your loan, you’ll lose all of the benefits that were so attractive when you applied. That includes deferment, forbearance, and any other repayment options that were offered in the past. You’ll also forfeit any future access to federal education aid while your loan is in default.
Sadly, it doesn’t end there. The lender may also report the loan default to the major credit bureaus so your credit score will take a serious hit and the government has the authority to garnish your wages and claim your annual tax refund. And don’t forget about your cosigner, if you have one. They’ll be subjected to the same actions.
5. Student loan forgiveness
Who doesn’t wish that their debt could just disappear? Sometimes it’s called loan forgiveness and other times it’s referred to as loan discharge or cancellation. They’re all a little bit different, but the result is essentially the same.
Loan forgiveness plans may be available for people in education, public service, healthcare, military and other professions. There are specific requirements that need to be met, and not all loans are eligible for forgiveness.
Student loans may also be discharged for personal reasons, although this is very rare. They include school closings, bankruptcy, disability, identity theft or false certification, unpaid refunds, and fraud.
School loans are an excellent means to help fund your education, but all options are not created equal. If you know the rules and can budget your repayment, it can be a wise investment in your future.