Scholarships and other strategies for managing student loan debt
College graduates in Ohio are entering the workforce with high hopes, bright futures and years’ worth of student loan debt.
The average annual cost of tuition in Ohio was $14,804 for the 2016-2017 academic year, according to CollegeCalc. That’s $1,218 higher than the U.S. average and ranks Ohio as the 20th most expensive state or district in which to attend college.
With the cost of college continually growing, student loans have become essential for attendance, said Mike Losneck, CEO of Eaton Family Credit Union. “According to a recent Ohio Credit Union League Consumer survey, 43 percent of Ohioans who went to college used student loans to help pay for their degree. Another 26 percent have children who leveraged student loans.”
Of those surveyed, 23 percent say they plan to pay off their loans in one to five years following graduation. Another 38 percent expect to have their loans paid off within 10 years, and 39 percent of respondents said they felt their loan payments were going on “forever” and wondered “if they’ll ever be paid off."
Losneck said these responses aren’t surprising considering the average 2016 college graduate has $37,172 in student loans, according to Student Loan Hero.
All that money can take a decade or more to pay off, Losneck said.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau considers a standard payment term on a student loan to be roughly 10 years, although borrowers with more than $30,000 in federal student debt could be eligible for payment plans of up to 25 years.
“Student loan debt will hamper most new grads into their 60s and 70s, contributing to a longer working life,” Losneck said a NerdWallet study has suggested. “Most won’t be able to retire until age 75.”
Losneck said one way to address student loans is to avoid them altogether, or at least as much as possible, by taking advantage of free money made available through scholarships, grants and other sources.
“The Credit Union and several partners provide scholarships each year,” Losneck said. “Currently, we have more than $10,000 in awards available to our Members and their college-age students.”
Scholarship information can be found at eatonfamilycu.com/scholarship2018.php
Losneck explained membership in his credit union is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or goes to school in Cuyahoga County or Lake County, Ohio. “Someone who works for one of our select employer groups like Eaton Corporation or Lincoln Electric also is eligible to become a Member,” Losneck said.
To help pay down student loan debt once it’s been accrued, Losneck suggests students should:
- Start paying as soon as possible. Use the six-month grace period,meant to give recent graduates time to look for a job before repayment begins, to get a jump start on payments. The sooner you can begin repaying student loans, the more money you’ll save.
- Pay above and beyond. Paying more than the monthly minimum balance will save you money in interest over the life of your loan. Even rounding up to the next whole or even number takes money directly off the principal.
- Allocate extra money. Your tax refund check is an easy place to start finding extra cash. You may also consider bonuses, an inheritance, settlement, or even birthday checks.
- Set achievable milestones. Set-up a payment plan with achievable milestones throughout and reward yourself when you reach each milestone. Begin by paying off the highest-interest loan. When that’s paid off, celebrate with a small “splurge.”
- Refinance. Consolidating and refinancing your loans can help pay off loans faster. Credit unions typically offer lower interest rates on loans.
Dave Godek, MBA
Business Development Manager
Eaton Family Credit Union