Our Answers to the 20 Most-Googled Student Loan Questions May Save You Money

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If you have questions about student loans, you’re not the only one. And like most people, you probably went to Google to search for the answers.

There are plenty of people that have student loan questions, as proven by our survey of Google tools. Through Google autocomplete and Google Trends, we identified 20 student loan questions that people search for the most.

Here are the student loan questions and answers everyone’s searching for.

1. How much does college cost?

Ultimately, your cost of college depends on what school you choose. If you want to get a better sense of the average cost of college, consider these stats from the 2015-2016 school year:

  • 4-year public institutions for students enrolled in-state: $9,410
  • 4-year public institutions for students enrolled out-of-state: $23,893
  • 2-year public institutions for students enrolled in-state: $3,435
  • 4-year private institutions: $32,405
  • For-profit institutions: $15,610

2. Is college free?

Unfortunately, college isn’t free. However, college students might be able to get a portion of their college costs paid for through financial aid, scholarships, and other programs. Student Loan Hero even offers a $1,000 scholarship every semester.

3. Is college worth it?

Since going to college is such a big expense, it’s no wonder many people question the benefits of it. Yet, the data does seem to show that a college degree is a worthy investment.

Holding a bachelor’s degree can boost an individual’s average earnings to $64,500 a year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

That’s $23,500 more than the average salary for a high school education ($41,000) and $14,500 more than the average for those with an associate’s degree ($50,000).

Ultimately, the formula for whether college is worth it is similar to any investment. What are your initial costs and what’s the payoff later?

You can make sure college is a smart investment by keeping college costs under control. And make sure you’re maximizing your opportunities and earnings after graduating.

4. Is college for everyone?

After facing years of public schooling, it can seem daunting to sign on for more classes in college. Especially now that you’ll bear the responsibility for paying for them.

That’s why it’s a smart idea to check in with yourself and ask, “Is college right for me?”

While a college degree might come with higher earnings, there are still many Americans with only a high school diploma making decent livings at enjoyable jobs.

There are opportunities outside of college for you to gain marketable skills and experience, from vocational school to online tutorials.

5. How can I pay for college?

There are several resources students should look at when trying to figure out how to pay for college. Here are the most common ones:

6. How do student loans work?

Student loans are an important tool many students use to cover college costs. But it’s important to understand how student loans work.

The majority of student loans in the U.S. are federal loans. However, private student loans can also be an option.

You can take out student loans for each semester in school, and funds are typically disbursed through your college’s financial aid office.

Some student loans charge interest. In some cases, your loans will accrue interest as soon as you borrow them. Even if you’re still in school.

You usually won’t have to make any payments on your loans until six months after your last semester. Then student loans payments will begin. A standard repayment schedule is 10 years or more.

7. How do I get federal student loans?

Direct loans are federal student loans that the U.S. Department of Education funds directly to those enrolled in school. Students can get access to these student loans by completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Once your FAFSA is processed, you’ll get a summary of what types of federal student loans you qualify for and how much you can borrow.

You can then claim the student loans you need. Funds are disbursed to your student account with your educational institution.

8. How do I fill out FAFSA?

It can take some time and persistence to figure out how to fill out FAFSA and submit it.

The first step is to visit FAFSA.ed.gov. Then, sign up for an account and get a federal student aid (FSA) ID number. Next, log in with your FSA ID number to start your FAFSA and complete it.

To complete the FAFSA, you’ll need your recent tax returns on hand, as well as your parents’ if you’re a dependent. The electronic system will walk you through each question and ask for information required to complete it.

Make sure you file all of your info by the FAFSA deadline.

9. What is a Stafford Loan?

A Stafford loan is a Direct Loan funded by the Department of Education. Students can qualify to borrow through a Stafford Loan by submitting their FAFSA.

These loans typically carry low-interest rates, which are currently set at 3.76% for undergraduate borrowers.

Stafford Loans might be subsidized, meaning the Department of Education pays interest while you’re in school. Borrowers with unsubsidized Stafford Loans, however, will be responsible for paying all of their student loan interest.

10. What is a Perkins Loan?

As of September, 2017, the Perkins Loan program ended and the government will no long disburse new Perkins Loans.

However, thousands of borrowers used Perkins Loans to pay for school in the past. A Perkins Loan was different than other loans offered through FAFSA. That’s because the school you attended was the lender, rather than the Department of Education.

Perkins Loans were only offered to students with “exceptional financial need.” They carried an interest rate of 5%.

Students also had a longer grace period after their last semester. They got nine months before their Perkins Loan repayment begins, instead of the usual six months.

11. What is a PLUS loan?

A PLUS loan is another type of Direct Loan offered by the Department of Education.

Typically this loan is used by graduate students to fund a postsecondary degree. Or, by parents to help cover their child’s educational costs.

Unlike other federal student loans, a PLUS loan requires a credit check for approval. It also carries a higher interest rate (6.31%) than other federal student loans and has an additional fee of 4.27 percent.

12. How can I pay student loans?

When student loans become due, repayment is automatically set to a standard 10-year schedule.

Hopefully, the minimum monthly payments are affordable and you can keep up with them. Or, perhaps you can afford to pay larger amounts to get out of student debt faster.

If you’re struggling, however, there are some student loan repayment options and strategies that can help you manage your debt.

  • Student loan deferment or forbearance, which will “pause” student loan repayment
  • Income-based repayment plans, which can lower your monthly payments
  • Student loan forgiveness, which can be an option for some borrowers
  • Spending less and earning more, which will generate extra money for student loans
  • Refinancing or consolidating student loans, which can help lower interest rates and make them more affordable

13. How do I defer student loans?

Student loans can be deferred, which means repayment will be officially suspended for a period of up to three years in some cases.

If you want to defer your student loans, you’ll need to submit a request with your loan servicer.

Keep in mind that it’s likely you will need to prove financial hardship or other eligibility requirements to get a deferment.

14. What does forbearance mean?

Forbearance of student loans is offered for borrowers who are unable to make student loan payments but don’t meet requirements for deferment.

Under forbearance, payments might be temporarily suspended or reduced for up to 12 months. Keep in mind, interest may continue to accrue on your student loans.

15. Should I consolidate student loans?

Through student loan consolidation, you take out a new loan and use it to pay off other student loans. If you’re wondering if you should consolidate student loans, there are some pros and cons to weigh.

Consolidating student loans can be a way to simplify student debt, get a lower interest rate, reduce monthly payments, or release a cosigner of responsibility for an existing loan.

However, depending on the terms of your new loan, consolidating student debt can cost more over time. Be sure to do the math before making your decision on consolidation.

16. How do I consolidate student loans?

If you decide to consolidate, your next step will be to figure out how to consolidate student loans.

There are two main options for refinancing student debt: getting a new federal loan through a Direct Consolidation loan or refinancing through a private lender.

The Direct Consolidation Loan can only be used to consolidate federal student loans. It uses an average interest rate, so you’re unlikely to save money on that.

However, you can set a longer repayment period to lower monthly payments. To use this method, apply through StudentLoans.gov.

With private student loan consolidation, you will need to apply directly with the private lender. Approval will be based on your credit, income, and other factors.

Make sure you pick a reputable private lender to refinance student loans. Many offer lower student loan interest rates that can save you money in the long run.

17. Can student loans be forgiven?

In some cases, borrowers might be able to get student loan forgiveness. The federal government grants forgiveness for some student debt, depending on the type of loan and situation of the borrower.

Some circumstances that might make you eligible for student loan forgiveness include:

18. How can I get student loans out of default?

Student loan default happens when more than 270 days pass without you making your student loan payments. Those wondering how to get student loans out of default can pursue a few options.

One option is full repayment of the loan. You can also rehabilitate your student loans or consolidate them, which will begin the process of getting the loan out of default.

19. Can student loans be garnished?

Student loans can’t be garnished since they aren’t considered wages. However, people asking this question might actually be wondering if their wages can be garnished because of student loan issues.

Unfortunately, student loan servicers do have the authority to garnish your wages if you miss payments or go into default. Private lenders will need to take you to court and get a judgment before doing so.

For federal loans, however, the government doesn’t need to get a judgment to garnish wages and only needs to give you 30 days of notice.

20. Can I deduct student loan interest?

Student loan interest is a tax-deductible expense. Under current tax laws, you can write off student loan interest to reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500. This can lower your tax liability by up to $625.

There are other requirements for claiming a student loan tax deduction. You will have to have a qualified student loan used only for educational expenses and meet income and other criteria.

As you try to figure out all of your student loan questions, make sure you get the answers you need to make the best financial decisions possible. Your bank account will thank you in the future.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.

Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.

Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.

Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance:Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.470% APR to 6.990% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.470% APR assumes the current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 0.64% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.

5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of October 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.22%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.32% (2.72%-8.32% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a cosigner will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Estimated average savings amount is based on 14,659 Education Refinance Loan customers who saved on loans between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. The calculation is derived by averaging monthly savings across Education Refinance Loan customers whose payment amounts decreased after refinancing, calculated by taking the monthly payment prior to refinancing minus the monthly payment after refinancing. We excluded monthly savings from customers that exceeded $4,375 and were lower than $20 to minimize risk of data error skewing the savings amounts. Savings will vary based on interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of loans to be refinanced. Borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if monthly payments are lower.

2.47% – 6.99%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.47% – 5.87%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.47% – 8.03%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.95% – 6.37%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.48% – 6.25%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.72% – 8.32%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

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