Whether you’re looking for work as a college professor, a nonprofit director, or a healthcare worker, it’s likely that you had to earn at least one college degree to do so. But a good education costs a good chunk of change. So how do you go about managing student loan debt?
You can start managing student loan debt even before you have it. The best way to do so, of course, is to avoid it as much as you can. Conor McLaughlin, a senior lecturer at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, says to look for graduate programs that will leave you with the least debt possible.
Frugality is your friend. Louisa Diana, associate director of student loan programs at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, says to keep to a tight budget as a student and borrow the minimum amount you need to pay for your education.
“They’re students and should be living like students,” she says.
Whether you can get scholarships or parental assistance to help pay your way through school, less debt is always better. However, if you can’t avoid it, and if you can’t minimize it, Diana suggests a third way for nonprofit professionals: student loan forgiveness.
Being smart with budgets "allowed me to focus on other areas of financial stability, like paying off car loans, putting more towards mortgage, savings, and retirement."
The United States government has a program called Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness, or PSLF. To qualify for this student loan forgiveness program, you must work for a tax-exempt nonprofit, a nontax-exempt nonprofit doing certain kinds of public service work, or any government institution. Only federal direct loans qualify for loan forgiveness, you still have to make qualifying payments on those loans, and there are many other hoops to jump through to qualify.
However, if you manage to jump those hoops, you might be able to have the rest of your debt forgiven after 10 years. For more information, Diana says to visit the Department of Education, which hosts a website specifically for student aid1, or IBRinfo.org, an independent, nonprofit source of student loan information1. Be wary, though. As with any government program, it’s subject to the whims of politics.
Diana says you can avoid problems and get advice on student loan management and repayment by being in regular contact with your loan servicer. However you approach it, you’ll want to pay your student loans off as quickly as possible.
To do so, keep your expenses as low as you can after you graduate and enter the workforce. Steven Weimer, a music professor at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, says that he and his wife lived in smaller homes and apartments to reduce the amount they would need to pay in rent. He only had loans from his doctoral studies but was able to pay them off in three years.
David Erpenbach, a physician’s assistant at University Orthopedic Surgeons in Knoxville, Tennessee, suggests sticking with the same frugality you had to practice as a student.
“Getting that done sooner though allowed me to focus on other areas of financial stability, like paying off car loans, putting more towards mortgage, savings, and retirement,” he said.