Debt Management Guide
This resource is intended to assist you in managing your student loan debt and making decisions about your loan repayment strategy. After you complete the first item below, you can contact our office at 210-567-2635 to schedule an appointment for additional debt management counseling.
Complete Exit Counseling
As a federal student loan borrower, you have the responsibility to complete an online Exit Counseling session when you stop attending school at least half-time. This session explains your loan repayment responsibilities and when repayment begins. Navigate to studentloans.gov and login using your FSA ID.
Review Your Student Loan Borrowing History
For each loan you borrowed, you should have received a disclosure notice (often by e-mail) about the terms and conditions of your loan. You can use this information to help you prepare for repayment of your loans or, if you cannot find them then you can review your entire loan portfolio by visiting the websites below:
- Federal Student Loans: Use “My Federal Student Aid” at StudentAid.gov/login. If you borrowed from the Federal Perkins program you will be contacted by the Office of the Bursar about your Perkins Exit Counseling with Heartland ECSI, the loan servicer.
State Loans: College Access Loans and Be-on-Time Loans can be reviewed at www.hhloans.com
Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation: For repayment information email email@example.com or call (210) 525-8494.
Texas Medical Association: For repayment information login to www.tmaloanfunds.com or call (800) 880 2828
Private Loans: Retrieve your free annual credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com with each of the three major reporting bureaus. Your credit report reflects the private loans under your name. Even if you do not recall borrowing a private loan, it is recommended to review your credit report to ensure accuracy.
As you review your entire loan portfolio, you should make note of the following information for each loan type you received:
- The amount you originally borrowed, the current loan balance, accrued interest amount, and interest rate. For most loans, the accrued interest is capitalized once the loan goes into repayment. This means that the accrued unpaid interest is added to the principal of the loan and capitalized interest begins to accrue interest as well.
- When you need to begin repaying your loans. It’s important to know when you are expected to make your first loan payment. For most student loans, there is a set period of time after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment before you must begin making payments. Depending on the type of loan you have, this period is called a “grace” or a “deferment” period, and it may last six months (for loans made under the Direct Loan Program or FFEL Program) or nine months (for loans made under the Federal Perkins Loan Program). You may need to begin repayment immediately on older loans if you have previously used the grace period. Do not depend on the loan servicer to notify you of when your payment is due; federal loans are considered delinquent on the first day that the payment is late!
- When and how to make payments. Make sure you know the name and the servicer of each of your loans to send your payments.
Consider Your Income and Expenses to Create a Budget
As you prepare to make your student loan payments, you’ll want to have an idea of what your earnings and living expenses will be based on your new job. Once you do, you can create a budget to determine how much you can realistically afford to pay in student loan payments each month, and to select a repayment plan that best meets your financial needs. If you haven’t yet found a job, there are repayment options available to help you manage your student loans while you search for work. If you need help creating your budget, see StudentAid.gov/budget
Set a Repayment Goal
After you know what you can afford to pay each month, set a goal for repaying your loans. To begin setting your goal, answer this question: “Do I want to repay my loans quickly, or do I want to pay as little as possible per month?” You can’t choose both options. Any time you lower your payment, you’ll be in repayment for a longer time and you’ll pay more interest on your loans.
Select a Repayment Plan for Your Federal Student Loans
You have a choice of several repayment plans that are designed to meet your needs, including plans that base your payment amount on your income. The amount you pay and the length of time you have to repay your loans will vary depending on the repayment plan you choose. For more detailed repayment plan information and to calculate your estimated repayment amount under each of the different plans, use the Repayment Estimator at StudentAid.gov/repayment-estimator.
NOTE: Although you may select or be assigned a repayment plan when you first begin repaying your student loan, you can generally change repayment plans at any time. Contact your loan servicer to discuss repayment plan options.
Make Your Payments
Your loan servicer will provide you with a loan repayment schedule that states when your first payment is due, the number and frequency of payments, and the amount of each payment.
Your loan servicer also will give you the opportunity to pay any interest that accrued (accumulated) on your loans while you were enrolled in school and during grace or deferment periods. If you don’t pay this interest, it will be capitalized.
Stay Out of Default
Don’t miss a payment! If you don’t pay the full amount due on time or if you start missing payments—even one—your loan may be considered delinquent and late fees can be charged to you. If you are making late or partial payments, contact your loan servicer immediately for help. You may be able to change your repayment plan to one that allows for a longer repayment period or to one that is based on your income. Also, ask your loan servicer about your options for loan consolidation, deferment, or forbearance and NEVER ignore delinquency or default notices from your loan servicer.
If you have multiple federal student loans, you can combine them into a single Direct Consolidation Loan. This may simplify repayment if you are currently making separate loan payments to different loan servicers, as you’ll only have one monthly payment to make. Consolidation may also allow you to extend the period for repaying your loan, and this may result in a lower monthly payment. There may be tradeoffs, however, so learn about the advantages and possible disadvantages of consolidation before you decide to consolidate. See StudentAid.gov/consolidation for more information.
Check Your Eligibility for Loan Forgiveness, Cancellation, and Discharge
You may qualify to have some or all of your loan amount forgiven if you work in certain public service jobs (for example, certain types of public service organizations). Additional requirements apply to receive these benefits. See StudentAid.gov/forgiveness for more information.
Resolve Loan Problems Quickly
If you have a problem related to your federal student loan (for example, if you believe that your account balance is incorrect), you may be able to resolve it by simply contacting your loan servicer and discussing the issue. To learn more about what you can do to be better prepared to resolve a problem, see “Resolving Disputes” at StudentAid.gov/repay.
Returning to School
If you enroll at least half-time in an eligible program, make sure your servicer receives enrollment confirmation either via the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) as reported by the school or you may submit an In-School Deferment.
More Resources: For videos, infographics, and federal student aid publications, visit StudentAid.gov/resources.
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