Student Loan Debt – How Much Can You Afford?
Its common for college students to accumulate a lot of debt to finance their education. While there are several different federal student loan options to help pay for college, you should first have an idea of how much you will need to borrow. It’s not sufficient just to know the amount of student loan debt; you should also consider how long it will take to pay off that debt, the approximate amount of the payments, and whether or not an entry level position in your career field will provide enough income to repay your student loans.
1. How much debt will you be taking on? Many college students don’t realize how much debt they are accumulating to pay for their education. As young adults, they’re not always as organized as they should be, and don’t usually read over all the fine print in legal contracts.
Many college students find out after the fact that they’re in debt for $20,000 or more for the first year alone. After several years, the student loan debt could total $50,000 or more, and there could be several lenders involved.
2. How much will your payments be? While you are a full-time or part-time student, you can defer the payment of your student loans; however, if you drop below half-time enrollment, you will probably have to begin making payments in six to nine months. The same time period applies when you graduate. If your deferment period has expired and you cannot yet afford to begin making payments, you can still get a forbearance on your student loan and postpone payment of the loan. The difference is that while your loan is deferred, it is not accruing interest. With a forbearance you are still responsible for interest, and although you may not be required to make payments, the interest will continue to accrue during this period. The deferment and forbearance periods allow most people to begin earning enough income to make student loan payments, especially if the amount of debt is minimal. If however, you’ve been in school for a number of years and taken on a good deal of student loan debt, you could face payments in excess of $500 per month.
Large monthly student loan payments can be difficult to handle, especially for people who have either dropped out of school or decided to enroll for less than half-time. Before you apply for any student loans, you should learn the repayment amounts and what the monthly payments will be. It is much better to know the details ahead of time than to be blindsided later by huge payments that will be difficult to make.
3. Will your income be adequate? Even if you have graduated from college and earned your degree, you may still find it difficult to get the job you want right away. Often, finding a job is not difficult, but the entry level pay is not enough to cover the monthly payments on the student loan debt.
Before you succumb to the urge to accumulate massive amounts of student loan debt, research the pay scale in your chosen profession. You might have been attracted to that career field because the average pay is over $100,000 a year, only to find out later that it could take years of working in that field to attain these income levels.
Use caution when applying for student loans. It can seem like free money when you’re getting it, but it can turn into a massive debt payment later when you can least afford it.