Up and out

How to handle student debt

Up and out

Story by Austin Mai, Op/Ed Editor

Last week I wrote about student debt, but more specifically, the proportion of students with debt around the midwest and the height of the debt itself. At UW-Eau Claire, nearly 70 percent of students graduate with debt, and soon after, they receive student loan bills.

Even if you only have federal student loans, you may receive messages from others outside of the U.S. Department of Education. Most likely, you’re receiving messages from a loan servicer.

Loan servicers aren’t meant to be the frightening knock on your door at night in a personified nightmare.

The U.S. Department of Education has federal student loan servicers, or companies that work on behalf of the Department of Education, to help you understand your student loan situation as well as help with your payments.

With that said, it’s important to understand these loans are still federal student loans, even though you may pay them through your loan servicer.

Your loan servicer can help you understand the intricacies of your student loan or how loan consolidation works. They can discuss your options for loan forgiveness, cancellation or discharge. Or they can help you choose a repayment plan.

Consolidation, discharge … I know these things probably mean nothing at first glance to many people, but I’m here to explain what they are and how they can help.

Regarding repayment plans, you can contact your loan servicer and discuss repayment plan options. Options will vary, but the loan servicer should be able to help you create a more affordable plan for paying your student debt bill.

If you’re struggling to get by financially, you could choose an income-sensitive repayment plan. The monthly payment is based on annual income, but requires more payments over time than the ten-year standard plan.

Student loan consolidation should be carefully considered. To consolidate is to have multiple federal education loans and combine them into one loan to simplify loan repayment. While this can lower monthly payments by giving you up to 30 years to repay your loans, you will make more payments and pay more in interest in the long-run.

Having federal student loans can be overwhelming, but it is up to you to decide how you handle them. Through loan servicers, you have the opportunity to control your payment plan.