In 2001, Kara Stevens, 34, graduated from Oberlin College with an undergrad degree and a bill for $15,000 in student loans. In 2006, her master’s degree came with a parting gift tag of $40,000 in student loans. Her total tally came to $65,000. When perusing her credit card bills one day, she decided to take control of her financial life. It dawned on her that her student loan debt was a significant part of that and vowed to reign it in quickly.
“Once it clicked to me that I needed to educate myself about repaying my debt, I went to the library and came across Glinda Bridgforth’s Girl, Get Your Money Straight, says Stevens. “After Bridgforth, I found out about Lynette Khalfani and Michelle Singletary. So, basically, I immersed myself in the literature of personal finance for years and followed their advice and systematically paid of my student loan debt”.
Stevens, an educational administrator as well as founder of The Frugal Feminista, a personal finance blog, was able to retire her loan in only two years. If you are like Stevens and are ready to take control of your financial student loans, you can do so by following these tips.
• Understand the best options available. According to Denise Horn, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education, the Obama Administration is providing useful tools and resources to assist borrowers including the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, College Cost Calculator, free consolidation of federal student loans, expanded income-based repayment options and the new “Pay As You Earn” program. This information can be found on the organization’s website at www.ed.gov. The site can also help you gain knowledge about organization, various loans and paying on time to protect your credit.
• Take advantage of Student Loan Forgiveness Programs. Check to see if you meet the qualifications of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), Teacher Cancellation for Federal Perkins Loans and Teacher Loan Forgiveness for four additional types of student loans through the U.S. Department for Education. “I applied for Perkins Loan Forgiveness. For my undergraduate degree, I was able to eliminate all of my Perkins Loan debt after working as a classroom teacher in a low-income community for five years,” says Stevens. Other programs are available for volunteers with AmeriCorps, Peace Corps and VISTA, and working with the military and nonprofit.
• Cut expenses and get your side hustle going. Try to think of creative ways to earn money and cut out the extras. Stevens had an Amazon.com book business, worked security at a flea market, was a Cinderella character at birthday parties and had yard sales in her living room. She did all of this while working as an educator in a New York City school. She moved in with her mom and when she got a raise, the money went to paying down her student loans.
• Inquire about deferment and forbearance. If you are not able to pay on your student loan, request a deferment or forbearance to alleviate a negative rating on your credit report. As soon as you get on your feet, take advantage of the many repayment options.
• Check out websites, blogs and books. Studentaid.ed.gov and Fafsa.ed.gov will be quite helpful. Utilize College Navigator, a free consumer information tool. Go to Salt.org and download the free ebook called 60+ Ways to Get Rid of Your Student Loans (Without Paying Them).
A bit wiser after all of her research and commitment to getting out of debt, Stevens paid for her third degree from Columbia University’s Teachers College in 2010 with cash and scholarships.
“As the rising cost to higher education and growing levels of student debt hit home for many Americans, the Obama Administration is committed to keeping a higher education within reach for all families,” says Horn.