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The price of higher education has risen dramatically over the past few decades. This increase in price has resulted in many students turning to loans to fund their college education. In fact, tens of millions of Americans have accumulated well over one trillion dollars in student loan debt. Unfortunately, many borrowers with high debt levels default on their loans, because they can't afford to pay back their loans.
Most borrowers who default on their debt find little relief because bankruptcy court won't forgive student loans. Luckily, there are some options available to help distressed borrowers manage their student loan debt.
1. Debt Consolidation
Many college graduates end up with more than one student loan to repay because they had to borrow multiple times during school. Repaying multiple loans can get confusing, especially if each loan has different terms. If you are making multiple payments, you might consider consolidating your student loans into one loan. Consolidating your loans will mean that you only have to make one payment a month. Also, all of your debt will have the same terms (like the same interest rate). You can ask your lender if your loans are eligible for consolidation.
2. Refinance Loans
A lot of students don't always have good credit in college, and graduates end up paying high interest on their loans because they are risky borrowers. However, many borrowers are eligible to refinance their loans with lower interest rates. Finance companies like Discover and SoFi can sometimes offer lower rates than student loan lenders. If you are struggling to repay loans with higher interest rates, look into refinancing them with a company that offers better terms.
3. Extended Repayment Plans
Federal student loans have a standard 10-year repayment plan. Sometimes it can be hard for borrowers to pay back larger loans in 10 years. The government does offer extended repayment plans. Those plans are usually for 25 or 30 years. However, extending your repayment plan will often mean paying more in interest, because your loans will take longer to repay. If you have private loans, contact your lender to see if you can get an extended repayment plan.
4. Income-Based Repayment
Federal student loan borrowers are sometimes eligible for a program known as income-based repayment. However, your loans cannot already be in default. Borrowers in good standing must show that their payments cause a partial hardship. A partial hardship means that a borrower's income is too low to afford repayment under the standard plan. The payment is a percentage of the borrower's discretionary income each year. Also, the length of repayment is usually 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan. Therefore, borrowers can end up paying more in interest. You can find out more about eligibility on the government's student loan website.
If you are struggling with student debt, consider options that can keep your loans out of default. Consolidating multiple loan payments into one can simplify repayment. Sometimes refinancing with better terms can make loan payments more affordable too. Also, you can talk to your lender about available options to change your repayment plan. In fact, if you are struggling with student debt, talking to your lender is the most important thing you can do.