Students often don't give much thought to their college loans when they're in school, but once they leave or graduate they need to be extremely careful with their student loan repayment plans. Student loan lenders are not a forgiving bunch.
The Project on Student Debt just released a list of ways that borrowers can manage their student loan repayments. Here are five of the nonprofit group's student debt tips:
1. Monitor your loans.
It's easy to keep on top of your federal student loans by visiting the National Student Loan Data System. After logging into the database, you can see all your federal student loans, the amounts and the repayment status. Unfortunately, you won't find private student loans here.
2. Know your grace period.
Once you graduate or leave school, you must begin repaying your student loans. How long your grace period will be before payments start depends on the loan. For Stafford loans, the grace period is six months, but it's nine months for federal Perkins loans. Your grace period for private student loans will vary by lender.
3. Learn about the income based repayment program.
Grads who are unemployed or underemployed have a safety net. A federal student loan repayment program lets borrowers, who meet certain income criteria, make monthly payments based on what they can afford and not what they owe. You can learn more about this program in two of my past posts:
Great Student Loan Debt News
Student Debt: Getting Your Payments to $0
4. Kick in extra money.
If you can swing it, write a larger monthly check. The extra money will pay down the principal, which will reduce the amount of interest you will owe over the life of the loan.
5. Keep in touch with your lender.
If you move, let your lenders know. The last thing you want is to fall behind on payments because your bills were never forwarded to your new address. Nonpayment can lead to default, which will wreck your credit score and balloon what you owe.
Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes for TheCollegeSolutionBlog.
Student loan repayment image by Roger Smith. CC 2.0.