Attention 2015 college graduates: You just started a six-month grace period. Most of you, anyway.

There are approximately 2.8 million college graduates this year and 75 percent of them – 2.1 million people – borrowed an average of $35,000 to pay for that diploma.

That is the highest debt load ever and takes some of shine off the celebration, which is why the federal government and most private lenders give graduates a grace period to piece together a plan for their future, preferably one that includes paying off the debt.

Plenty Of Repayment Options

That period lasts six months and the clock began ticking graduation day. Despite what you heard, there is no Obama Forgiveness Plan that removes all responsibility. If you don’t have a plan ready to deal with it, here is a to-do list that should be completed before Christmas.

  • Get a job. Put all, or nearly all of your energy into finding a job, which will give you some income to start paying off your student loan debt when the grace period ends. No job means no income, which means the only way to start paying off your student loan debt is to borrow even more money. Bad move. Focus on getting a job.
  • Update your address. Graduation almost always means moving, whether it’s back home or in with friends or to a new city. You are responsible for telling your loan provider where you are. Your lender is responsible for mailing you a repayment schedule that includes how much each payment should be, how many payments you will have to make and when the first payment is due. If you miss payments because you didn’t update your address, you are to blame.
  • Know who and how much you owe. Plenty of graduates had loans every year in school. Many think they received the same amount every year and that all the money came from the same source. Not likely. Your loan amount and provider could have changed every year and probably did. Contact your school or go to the National Student Loan Data System to get a list of all your loans, who is servicing them and how much is owed.
  • Pick a repayment plan. If you don’t specify otherwise, all federal loans are put on a 10- year repayment schedule. If that doesn’t suit you, there are a whole alphabet soup bowl of repayment plans that could make it easier, but probably more expensive, to pay back your loan. Income-Based Repayment (IBR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), and Income-Contingent Plans (ICP) are a few of the options available on federal loans. Private loans require you to negotiate directly with your lender to get any breaks.
  • Consolidate your debt. Because there can be so many lenders, terms and conditions involved with student loans, some people find the easiest thing to do bundle them all in a Direct Consolidation Loan. The plus to this is you receive a fixed-interest rate and make a single payment to a single lender each month. This also allows for multiple repayment plans like IBR and ICR. Private loans are not available for consolidation.
  • Get a job. See above.

This is a great time to be a college graduate. Hiring is expected to be up 16 percent with huge increases in information services (up 51 percent) and finance and insurance (up 31 percent). More than 50 percent of employers are offering signing bonuses, the most in five years.

So congratulations! Just don’t forget about those student loans

Author

Bill Fay
Staff Writer

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.

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