Recent college graduates may be entering the job market with degrees in tow, but many also are leaving school with sizable amounts of student loan debt. According to a 2017 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loan debt rose for the eighteenth consecutive year, while Debt.org reports that student debt in the United States totaled $1.4 trillion in 2017. Canadian students are not faring much better than their American counterparts, owing an average of $28,000 after four years according to the Canadian Federation of Students.
Student loan debt is a heavy burden that has short- and long-term affects on borrowers. Sizable student loan debts may affect young professionals’ ability to support themselves, while the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that such debt has contributed to a decline in the housing market, as fewer college graduates can afford to buy homes while still in their 20s.
The notion of paying off their student loans before they reach maturity may seem implausible to some borrowers. But there are a handful of ways for adults with sizable student debts to do just that.
· Make more frequent payments. Many homeowners pay their mortgages off early by making bi-weekly payments. Doing so means they will make 26 half-payments, or 13 full payments, each year as opposed to the 12 full payments made by homeowners who pay on a monthly schedule.
The same approach can be applied to student loans. That extra annual payment each year can gradually chip away at loan balances, helping borrowers pay loans off before they reach maturity.
· Prioritize paying off high-interest loans. Many students finance their educations by taking out multiple loans. If these loans come with different interest rates, borrowers should pay off the high-interest loans first to reduce the amount they’re spending on interest. Borrowers will still need to make minimum payments on other loans, but any extra money they intend to pay each month should go toward paying down the high-interest loan.
· Refinance loans. Many recent college graduates do not have lengthy credit histories, and some might be carrying low credit scores. Once such borrowers have shown that they can consistently make payments in full and on time, they can approach their lenders to refinance their loans in the hopes of getting a lower interest rate reflective of their creditworthiness.
Refinancing may only be available to borrowers with private loans, but this strategy can save student debt holders a lot of money over the life of their loans.
· Take advantage of offers from lenders. Some lenders may reduce interest rates for borrowers who agree to certain terms, such as signing up to receive e-statements or enrolling in automatic payment programs in which money is deducted directly from a borrowers’ bank account on the same day each month. The savings created by such offers may seem insignificant each month, but can add up over time.
Paying off student loan debts early can be done, even for borrowers whose debts are tens of thousands of dollars.