Archive for ‘financial aid’

March 25, 2015

Tips for older student loan borrowers

by Grace

How can older Americans sidestep student debt trouble?

With the need to retool career skills or pursue new vocations, more Americans are taking on loans to finance education later in life — for new degrees, certificates or course work called continuing education units to improve knowledge in demanding professions.

According to the Government Accountability Office, student debt held by those 65 and older has risen significantly in recent years, growing to about $18.2 billion in 2013, from about $2.8 billion in 2005. While it’s not known how much of that is the result of college loans co-signed for children or grandchildren, a good portion is for continuing education. Before the last recession, the working-age population pursuing “re-entry” courses jumped 27 percent over a decade, according to the Education Department.

The New York Times’ advice for senior citizens seems to be the same that younger student loan borrowers should follow.

… “Do a cost-benefit analysis. How will it maximize my earnings? Will I be able to service the debt?”…

“Evaluate your postgraduate payment plan,” Mr. Weber suggests. “What will your salary be after graduation? Will there be an immediate payoff in terms of a higher salary?”…

You can overpay for a degree or certificate that will yield little career advancement or salary increases. Mr. Weber warns against for-profit colleges that market aggressively and says their programs and graduation rates should be carefully vetted.

The federal government offers some flexibility in paying back loans, including income-based repayment (IBR).

But what happens after you’re out of school with continuing education debt if you can’t increase your income or don’t start earning money right away?

If you have federal loans, you can qualify for a break from payments until you can start paying them down. See the Education Department’s federal student aid website to explore the options.

Another option is income-based repayment, available only for federally guaranteed loans. Private loans are the least flexible in terms of repayment.

Retired borrowers may be more likely to qualify for IBR.

“If you’re at or near retirement, your income may be lower, which may affect your ability to repay your loan,” she said. “There is income-based repayment available, which can make repayment more manageable, but can also extend the repayment period, leading to more interest accrual. It’s something to keep in mind as you plan for the future.”

Since assets are not counted in determining eligibility for IBR and similar debt relief programs, senior citizens with substantial home equity and retirement accounts may find it easy to qualify.

———

John F. Waskimarch, “Managing Student Loan Debt as an Older Adult”, New York Times, March 19, 2015.

March 19, 2015

New ‘Student Aid Bill of Rights’ makes it easier to pay back student loans

by Grace

The Obama administration’s new “Student Aid Bill of Rights” will “simplify the process to apply for income-based repayment”, a move likely to shift more of the burden for paying back student loans from borrowers to taxpayers.  That is just one of the new benefits for the 40 million borrowers holding $1.3 trillion in student debt.

President Barack Obama announced a new “Student Aid Bill of Rights” Tuesday, directing the Department of Education and other federal agencies to undertake initiatives in three areas to help improve affordability for the estimated 40 million borrowers with federal loans. “We’re going to require that the businesses that service your loans provide clear information about how much you owe, what your options are for repaying it, and if you’re falling behind, help you get back in good standing with reasonable fees on a reasonable timeline,” Obama said during his speech at the Georgia Institute of Technology Tuesday afternoon.

This is the government’s rather magnanimous promise:

A Student Aid Bill of Rights

  1. Every student deserves access to a quality, affordable education at a college that’s cutting costs and increasing learning.
  2. Every student should be able to access the resources needed to pay for college.
  3. Every borrower has the right to an affordable repayment plan.
  4. And every borrower has the right to quality customer service, reliable information, and fair treatment, even if they struggle to repay their loans.

Summary of changes:

1. Create a centralized website that makes it easy to file complaints and to see all your student loans in one place….

2. Try having federal employees collecting debts instead of private contractors…

3. Make it easier for borrowers who become disabled to get their student loans discharged….

4. Ensure that the private debt collectors hired by the Department of Education apply prepayments first to loans with the highest interest rates, unless the borrower requests a different allocation.

5. Make it easier for students to get IRS information to qualify for income-based student loan repayment.

6. Clarify the rules under which students who declare bankruptcy can get their student loans reduced or eliminated….

While I disagree with some of the federal student loan program’s fundamental policies, it’s nice to see the government take the initiative for more clarity and transparency.

———

Kelli B. Grant, “Student loan initiatives could benefit 40M borrowers”, CNBC, March 10, 2015.

Kim Clark, “6 Ways the New ‘Student Aid Bill Of Rights’ Will Help Borrowers”, Money, March 10, 2015.

March 16, 2015

Most borrowers take more than 10 years to repay student loans

by Grace

The standard maximum repayment time for federal student loans is 10 years, but in reality most borrowers take longer.

The vast majority of former students entering repayment on their federal student loans in 2012 picked 10-year plans. The numbers were higher for former students from two- and four-year programs, up to 90 percent of which picked the standard 10-year plan.

Recent history indicates that many of those borrowers will be repaying their federal student loans for far longer than 10 years. With a lackluster economy, tepid wage growth and vast numbers of Americans still looking for full-time work, some federal policymakers fear current borrowers will need more time to repay their loans than previous generations.

20150314.COCStudentLoanRepaymentTimes2

Just last month the Obama administration predicted “the increased use of student loan forgiveness programs will cost taxpayers $22 billion next year”. Student loan forgiveness programs allow reduced monthly payments that typically extend the repayment period beyond ten years.

Here’s a listing of federal student loan repayment time frames.  Click the links to find more details. 

REPAYMENT PLAN TIME FRAME
Standard Repayment Plan Up to 10 years
Graduated Repayment Plan Up to 10 years
Extended Repayment Plan Up to 25 years
Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR) Up to 25 years
Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan Up to 20 years
Income-Contingent Repayment Plan Up to 25 years 
Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan Up to 10 years

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Shahien Nasiripour, “These 9 Charts Show America’s Coming Student Loan Apocalypse”, Huffington Post, 08/20/2014.

March 10, 2015

Which are the ‘altruistic’ professions that deserve special treatment?

by Grace

High school history teacher Kate LeSueur wrote that she wishes to “enlighten” us “on the discrepancy between the price of my education and the salary of an altruistic career such that of an educator”.

She compared a master’s in education with a master’s of business administration, pointing out that individuals with MBA degrees typically enjoy substantially higher salaries and lower student debt levels.

Why is it that we both went to school for the same amount of time and both earned master’s, yet my degree costs more and I get paid significantly less? I am not arguing that I deserve $90,000 a year — only that the cost of my education should be comparable to my salary. Society expects us to accept a fate guaranteeing small paychecks and large student loan bills. I am writing to say, America, we aren’t going to accept it much longer.

I find it hard to accept the rather sweeping statement that teaching is an altruistic career.  Although teacher unions have long maintained the message that all their efforts are “for the children”, I don’t buy it.  I’m not claiming that teaching is rampant with evil, money-hungry people, but neither are most other professions.  A typical MBA working to keep his employer profitable is no less deserving of special adoration than is a typical teacher.  And many people who earn generous salaries show their altruism in other ways, such as donating their time and money to worthy causes.

Furthermore, it’s troubling when the government gets in the business of deciding which jobs deserve special treatment, like the most generous Income Based Repayment benefits that are reserved for government and nonprofit employees.  George Leef points out the consequences of this politicized meddling.

… Whenever the government gets involved in an activity that is not properly any of its business, we get the infamous trio: waste, fraud, abuse, and then the politicians feel the need to meddle still more in an effort to solve the problems they’ve created. The federal student-aid programs are a perfect illustration. Repayment of loans is being politicized, with easy terms for students provided they make the “right” choices in employment. That will only further misallocate resources and help to keep the higher-education bubble inflated.

———

Kate LeSueur, “The price of a good education, $80K and counting”, cleveland.com, March 01, 2015.

March 4, 2015

Can we afford this college?

by Grace

One of the most basic questions during the college planning process is often one of the hardest for a family to answer.

Can we afford this college?

The hard part is usually not in knowing what you can afford to pay, but in trying to find what the net cost of attendance will be for your child.  Here’s a three-step process that may help you answer this question.

  1. Run the Net Price Calculator
  2. Check the college website to find answers to the College Board “dirty dozen” questions
  3. Contact the school’s financial aid administrator


1.  Run the Net Price Calculator (NPC)

The NPC is an online tool that is a useful first step in comparing affordability.  Every college website has a calculator, which typically requires entering family financial information such as income and assets before the estimated net price of attending is generated.  Remember, this is an estimate and may not produce accurate results for business owners and other situations.  Proceed with caution, and check for online resources like the CollegeBoard tip sheet to help in the process.

2.  Check the college website to find answers to the College Board “dirty dozen” questions

A list of 12 questions to get you started on gathering information about a school’s financial aid policies is provided by the CollegeBoard.  In my experience, the answers to most of these questions can usually be found on college websites.  Going through these questions often prompts families to consider other important questions about college costs.

3.  Contact the school’s financial aid administrator

Okay, so not all your answers about costs and financial aid were easily found on the college website or other online resources?  Contact the college’s financial aid office and get the information directly from them.  They should be able to give you information rather quickly, and if they don’t it might be an indication of how transparent and helpful they are in other situations.

For organized families, it’s not a bad idea to create a spreadsheet that can capture important information and allow for efficient comparisons.

February 26, 2015

Student loan defaults are the only type that continue to rise

by Grace

Americans are having more trouble paying off their student loans than their mortgages or any other type of debt.

As student debt balances continue to grow . . .

20150224.COCTenYearStudentLoanGrowth2

. . .  student loan defaults have overtaken those for all other types of debt.

20150224.COCStudentLoanDefaultTenYearGrowth2

America’s total student loan debt is now nearly $1.2 trillion. One reason the burden is difficult to pay off, Fed researchers wrote: “Student debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy like other types of debt … Delinquent or defaulted student loans can stagnate on borrowers’ credit reports.”

The number of student borrowers almost doubled over ten years.

The surge is fueled by more people borrowing — and borrowing larger amounts. The number of borrowers rose 92 percent between 2004 and 2014, according to the Fed researchers. The average student loan balance grew 74 percent.

———

Danielle Paquette, “Americans are having more trouble paying off their student debt than their houses”, Washington Post, February 19, 2015.

February 25, 2015

Are we seeing a ‘big quasi-bailout’ for student loan borrowers?

by Grace

The Obama administration projects that the increased use of student loan forgiveness programs will cost taxpayers $22 billion next year.

… Primarily because of the recent growth in enrollment in the program, projected long-term revenues from the federal direct student loan portfolio were reduced by almost $22 billion compared with the best guess from the previous year….

This looks like ‘a big quasi-bailout’

That’s a big quasi-bailout, increasing the deficit nearly 5 percent. The White House budget office was unaware of any larger re-estimates since the current scoring rules for credit programs went into effect in 1992. As a January Politico Magazine feature on the government’s unusual credit portfolio reported, the Federal Housing Administration has stuck more than $75 billion worth of similar re-estimates onto Uncle Sam’s tab over the last two decades, most of them after the recent housing bust led to a cascade of FHA-backed mortgage defaults. But it’s never had a one-year shortfall quite as drastic as this.

Borrowers are made out to be innocent victims of “circumstances beyond their control”.

Regardless of which accounting method is used, the federal government is expecting to write off billions of dollars in future student loan balances under the program in order to reward public service employment and protect borrowers from economic circumstances beyond their control.

It’s not as if a student loan bailout should come as a surprise.  Here’s a question from 2011.

Is a student loan bailout inevitable?

20110913.COCCollegeLoanGrowth

Seeing the trend lines, Mark Gimein wrote this four years ago.

Eventually both private lenders and the government will be on the hook. The government has already moved to ease some loan terms. It will need to find more, especially for those snookered into paying for degrees worthless in the job market. The private loans, meanwhile, will simply blow up. We may as well start figuring now how graduates, taxpayers, lenders, and schools will split the bill.

Taxpayers just took on $22 billion, and there’s probably more to come.

Related:  “Politicized federal student loan program bails out ‘deadbeats’”

———

Kevin Carey, “Flip Side of Reducing Student Debt Is Increasing the Federal Deficit”, New York Times, February 10, 2015.

Michael Grunwald, “The College Loan Bombshell Hidden in the Budget”, Politico,  February 05, 2015.

February 23, 2015

Student loan defaults are most common among those with lowest balances

by Grace

It’s borrowers with the smallest balances that are most likely to default on their student loans.

20150220.COCStudentLoanDefaultByLoanBalance1

College dropouts are more likely to default.

… One likely explanation, offered by the New York Fed researchers, is that many Americans with small loan balances are dropouts. They may have attended school for a semester or two without getting a degree. They often don’t end up with the decent-paying job that a college education is supposed to bring, and thus lack the income to repay their debt.

Another possibility is that low-balance borrowers attained credentials such as certificates that don’t lead to the kind of jobs and salaries that a bachelor’s degree does.

A larger loan balance usually indicates a graduate degree, a credential that generally correlates with a higher salary.

By contrast, many borrowers with large loan balances are people who graduated from master’s programs and professional schools—doctors, lawyers—who typically end up with generous salaries. (We said typical, not always. There are plenty of struggling lawyers.)

High earners disproportionately take advantage of income-based repayment programs that shift part of their loan burden to taxpayers.

So while they have the biggest debts, they’re getting the actual returns on their investment and thus are in position to repay their loans. They also may be the most likely to enroll in income-based repayment programs, which many academics say disproportionately benefit high earners.

———

Josh Mitchell, “Who’s Most Likely to Default on Student Loans?”, Wall Street Journal, Feb 19, 2015.

February 19, 2015

Do kids only need ‘college’ because high schools are failing?

by Grace

Amy Otto believes the Obama administration’s overall push for more school before and after K-12 is a way to avoid solving the real problem”.

The “real problem” that needs urgent attention is K-12 education, but President Obama proposes “to spend money on preschool or community college instead of substantive reform of K-12″.

Do Kids Need ‘College’ Because High Schools Aren’t Doing Their Job?

Mandating “free” thirteenth and fourteenth grades via community college should make one wonder what is going wrong in tenth through twelfth grade that makes two more years of de facto public school now necessary. Only increasing opportunity can reduce poverty. More “free” preschool or thirteenth grade only serves as palliative care for those in poverty. These programs don’t spark real change, as demonstrated from studies from Obama’s own administration. It’s a tacit admission from Democrats that their goal is not to eliminate poverty but to paper over it with politically charged policy. In fact, what would animate the Democratic Party if poverty were significantly reduced? They much prefer the self-satisfaction of saying they care without ever having to produce results. If no one were poor, whom would they have to feel superior to?

That’s the problem Democrats won’t be addressing any time soon and it’s the one that deserves this nation’s attention. Institutionalizing children earlier and longer won’t lead to more creativity and innovation, which are the real stimulus of economic growth. Real-world experiences—whether it play when young or entry-level jobs when they’re teens—are being taken off the table while politicians mandate more isolation and testing within the confines of public school. Don’t fall for the bait and switch. It’s time to tackle the real challenge that we are already paying too much for universal education and getting diminishing returns.

Even though Head Start produces no long-term benefits, Obama pushes for more of the same.  His recent idea of “free” community college only emphasises the failure of our existing K-12 system to produce competent graduates.

… More “free” preschool or thirteenth grade only serves as palliative care for those in poverty. These programs don’t spark real change, as demonstrated from studies from Obama’s own administration….

Otto offers only vague ideas for alternative solutions: more real world experiences in the form of less structured child care and entry-level jobs for teens.  Those may be helpful, in theory at least.  Actually implementing them successfully is a whole other challenge.  Poor single parents are not easily trained to properly nurture their children and jobs are not instantly created by government dictum.  But if Otto’s ideas are not the best solutions, then “free” preschool and college certainly also fail the test for the best use of taxpayer money.

———

Amy Otto, “President Obama Pushes Pre-K And ‘Free’ College Because He’s Got Jack For K-12″, The Federalist, January 23, 2015.

February 11, 2015

‘master’s degree is the fastest-growing college credential’

by Grace

Master’s degrees are “as common now as bachelor’s degrees were in the 1960s”.

More than 16 million people in the US — about 8 percent of the population — now have a master’s, a 43 percent increase since 2002.

20150209.COCGrowthOfMasters

 

Forty years ago education was far and away the most popular major for a master’s degree, but today business has taken that spot.

20150209.COC1971PopularMasters  20150209.COC2012PopularMasters

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Are graduate programs exacerbating the student debt problem?

… The typical total debt for a borrower with an undergraduate and graduate degree is now more than $57,000, up from $40,200 in 2004. (This includes medical and law degrees.)

40% of all student debt comes from graduate degree programs,“even though graduate borrowers make up only 17 percent of all borrowers”.

Expanded loan forgiveness programs are “tailor-made for graduate students”.

Students who took out big loans for graduate school and those with higher incomes stand the most to gain financially under President Obama’s expansion of the federal government’s loan forgiveness program.

Lawyers, doctors and other highly trained professionals who utilized federal loans throughout their post-high school education could walk away with most or all of their graduate school debt forgiven by the federal government under the program, say experts.

Graduate students usually get their money’s worth.

… Almost regardless of undergraduate major, a graduate degree boosts earning power even further, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

But does this proliferation of master’s degrees produce wasteful credential inflation?

———

Libby Nelson, “Master’s degrees are as common now as bachelor’s degrees were in the ’60s”, Vox, February 7, 2015.

Susan Ferrecho, “The surprising winners of Obama’s student-loan program”, Washington Examiner, June 12, 2014.

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