Master Your Student Loan Debt

Managing student loan debt isn’t easy, but it’s doable. Unfortunately, it seems that the average amount of student loan debt increases each year. For 2014 college graduates, their student loan debt averaged at 33K per person, according to a blog post by the Wall Street Journal, “Congratulations to Class of 2014, Most Indebted Ever.” What a headline.

Upon graduation in 2006, I had more than $46K in student loans. Add another two master’s degrees to that, and I’m responsible for more than $136K in student loan and interest payments. As I’ve mentioned before, it took me a long while to come to grips with my student loan debt, but it had to be done. The consequences of not managing my student loan would have had detrimental effects on my financial and personal health, such as garnishment of wages, negative credit scores, and garnishment of income tax returns. Who wants that? Again, it’s not worth it, and I have prepared a list of action steps you can take to begin your journey of managing your student loan debt.

Know your lenders. After graduation, I knew what companies serviced my private student loans, but I wasn’t quite sure about my federal student loans. To get this information, you can visit the National Student Loan Data System, a central repository controlled by the U.S. Department of Education that receives data from schools and numerous agencies about loans and grants, from loan approval to closure.

Consider consolidation. Loan consolidation makes it easier to manage your student loan debt because it allows you to make payments to one lender versus several different ones. Trust me; working with more than one lender can be frustrating and time consuming. Once your loans are consolidated, you’ll only have one monthly payment to make, and you may be able to get lower payments.

Pay on time. Late payments can lead to your student loan going into default, and you want to avoid this at all costs. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t make your student loan payments, call your lender as soon as possible. Don’t wait until it’s the last minute. Contact your lender and see what options are available to you, such as deferment, forbearance, or getting a repayment plan based upon your income. StudentLoans.gov offers a wealth of knowledge under the Managing Repayment tab on their website.

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Monitor your credit report. As I stated above, making late payments or no payments can lead to negative credit markings, but you should also check your credit report for mistakes and changes in lenders. From monitoring my credit report on a monthly basis, I received a notification that my federal student loan lender has been transferred to Sallie Mae for management. After further analysis, I found that I received a past-due marking on my credit report when this change occurred, which was an error. I am in the process of getting this corrected by contacting Sallie Mae and the credit report company.

As you work to manage your student loan debt, remember that you are not alone. Like countless others, I regretted my past decisions to return to school to avoid paying my student loans at the time. I was desperate and underemployed. So, I kept going back to school to avoid it, thinking that I would eventually obtain employment that would allow me to pay the debt acquired.

My focus right now is to continue to make payments on my private student loans while my federal student loans are in forbearance, while saving money from my adjunct-professor position to make lump-sum payments on my private student loans. I’ll keep the snowball method going so that I can accomplish my goal of paying off all my student loan debt.

So, what’s your plan for managing your student loan debt? Do you have any questions on the best method to do this? Feel free to send questions via my Ask Rashida page, and sign up to get our email updates.

Ashlee Nicole