Monday, March 17, 2008

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Consolidating Federal Loans With Private Loans

When you are in school, borrowing money…you aren’t very concerned with where the money is coming from. You are more concerned with making sure your tuition is paid for every semester…some how, some way. What a lot of student do not realize is that loans that come from the Federal gov’t cannot be combined with private school loans when you graduate. Actually, to revise that a bit…they can be combined all together, if you pay off your Federal loans with a private loan…which is never something I would recommend. The whole point in taking out Federal loans is because they are better loans to owe than private loans…so what would that accomplish if you forfeited that Federal loan status, just so you had one monthly payment per month? You would end up paying MORE in the long run, and you would also lose many benefits that Federal loan carry…for example:

1) loan forgiveness should the borrower become deceased
2) the ability to consolidate at a FIXED interest rate
4) many deferment and forbearance options

So, if you are a college student borrowing both Federal and private school loans…keep in mind that when you are done with school…you cannot consolidate all these together. You will always have 2 monthly payments. You can consolidate all your private loans together…and all your federal loans together….but they will always remain 2 separate types of loans. For more information about both types of consolidation, you can visit: Student Loan Consolidator

Federal Student Loan Consolidation - Where Are You Hiding?

If you’ve recently tried to consolidate your federal student loans, you may have found it difficult to locate a company willing to help. Some of the biggest lenders in the market are temporarily not offering federal loan consolidation. So what does that mean for you?

Before we discuss your options, lets first look at why so many lenders have stopped offering consolidation. Two different issues are causing the consolidation pause, legislation and credit markets.

Back on October 1, 2007, legislation was passed which contained provisions aimed to shrink the profit margin lenders were getting on federal consolidation loans. The smaller margin allowed for much less profit with zero room for lenders to offer discounts and borrower benefits. It’s important to understand, prior to the October 1st legislation, lenders were taking portions of their own profits and returning it to their borrowers in the form of rebates, interest rate discounts and cash back. Granted, the borrower benefits were a great marketing tool and attracted droves of borrowers to specific programs - but they still helped the borrower save money. Although these changes had a negative impact on many FFELP lenders, the legislation did contain great provisions that would lower interest rates on federal loans over the next several years.

Next we have the credit market crunch - an indirect result of the sub-prime collapse. In order for a lender to consolidate a borrowers federal student loans, that lender has to pay-off the borrowers previous lenders. This requires that the lender have capital available. Now, there are a number of different ways that a lender can do this, (which we won’t get into during this blog) the most common is securing a line of credit with a bank or outside funding source. The outside funding source provides the line of credit with the notion that the lender will be able to package up a bunch of federal consolidation loans and sell them to other investors (securitization). At which point the lender will replenish their line of credit, and be able to write more consolidation loans. For many lenders out there right now, they are not able to secure a funding source, and therefore not able to write consolidation loans. From an investment standpoint, there is a feeling that federal consolidation loans are no longer valuable. I said feeling, because I don’t believe this to be completely true or do I think it will stay this way for too long.
So, the smaller profit margins, coupled with the shaky credit markets have caused a ‘pause’ in the federal consolidation market. And yes, it is a bit more complicated than what I just described, but you get the basic idea of what’s going on.
Now, you need to consolidate your federal loans, but you have no place to go? The Department of Education is still helping borrowers consolidate their federal loans. However, I would wait until after July 1, 2008. For those of you who still have variable rate Stafford and PLUS loans (taken out prior to July 1, 2006), it looks like your interest rate MAY be going down. Not a definite - just a maybe.
Just to point out, the above changes and the federal consolidation pause have not and will not affect private student loan consolidation.

I will be posting more on this topic in the coming weeks - please send along all your questions and comments.

Private student loan bankruptcy protection denied

Private student loan bankruptcy protection denied

In the Higher Education Act Reauthorization (HR 4137) currently moving through Congress, an amendment by Representative Davis of Illinois would have extended some bankruptcy protection to students holding private student loans. Unfortunately for students, the amendment was voted down after strong opposition from banks and financial institutions.

The argument against the bankruptcy protection amendment was that its inclusion would ultimately make private student loans more expensive as lenders would need to increase rates and fees to cover loans that were in default and discharged in bankruptcy.

The Financial Aid Podcast has also done an analysis piece on this legislation.
The short version? For now, private student loan consolidation remains the best avenue for making private student loans more affordable.

End of year student loan consolidation tax deductions

As 2007 wraps up, make sure you’re taking full advantage of your student loan payments by noting the interest you’ve paid this year on your federal student loans. As long as your income is below a certain level, interest you’ve paid on your student loans is tax deductible on your federal tax return.

If you’ve paid less than $600 in interest, your student loan lender is not legally required to send you a 1098-E form in January for interest you’ve paid. You will need to request it.

Consolidated student loans are eligible for the interest deduction as well.
Consult IRS Publication 970 for details about education tax incentives

Student loan consolidation: a balanced perspective

I was speaking in the office break room with our director of student loan consolidation, Jon Rudy, about how we’re marketing our federal and private student loan consolidation products. We’re in agreement, as we frequently are, that student loan consolidation has a vital role in the education finance process.

Where I think a lot of student loan companies get hung up is on the idea of saving money for students. Student loan consolidation does not save you money over the long term if you only make the minimum payment, because at the bare minimum payment, you’ll be paying off your loan longer.

Think of it this way. If you rent an apartment, over a period of time, you’ll pay a certain amount for rent. If you rent that apartment longer, it costs you more money. If you rent a smaller apartment for longer, it will still probably cost you more money than a larger apartment for less time.
A loan is nothing more than a money rental. You’re renting money from a lender, and the interest you pay is the rent.

What student loan consolidation does is agree to reduce your rent, trading off with renting the money for a longer period of time, if you make the minimum payment.
Our perspective as a company is that students just out of school need to take a few years to get on their feet in their careers and personal finances. During that time period, a reduced monthly payment is just the thing they need. After a few years, when presumably they’re making good use of their education and degree, we strongly recommend that students step up and make more than the minimum payment, ideally making a payment that’s a little larger than the original, unconsolidated loan payment.

Because there are no early repayment penalties, they can effectively get on their feet financially and then be done with the loan in the same amount of time as if they hadn’t consolidated.

Does student loan consolidation save you money? Not necessarily. Does it reduce your monthly payment? Yes, absolutely. But more than anything else, student loan consolidation helps to buy you some time in the first years after school.

Money Saving Tips For The Holidays

Doesn’t it seem like we were just talking about this? I swear the years go by faster and faster now…

Anyway, for all you students and recent grads out there, the holiday season can be a wallet draining time. In the spirit of saving money, Student Loan Network has pulled together a crafty list of holiday money saving tips and ideas, designed to stretch your hard earned cash a little further this year.
Have any holiday shopping tips or ideas of your own? Feel free to comment back and I will post your ideas (with your permission of course) so others can gain from your knowledge.

Student Loan Repayment Begins

That’s right - you can’t hide from it anymore. If you graduated this past spring, the chances are your grace period is over and you have to start paying back your student loans. This is not the end of the world for you, just the beginning of a long relationship with your loan servicer. (Technically, the relationship started 4 years ago…but who’s counting)

You have some options. First and foremost, examine your monthly budget, and include your new student loan payments. If you can afford to make the payments, don’t defer or put your loans into forbearance just to save money. When you put your loans into forbearance or deferment, interest will continue to collect on your none-subsidized federal loans, which gets capitalized once you go back into repayment. This basically means that your total payback amount will increase. Not to mention, deferment and forbearance are intended to be used during financial hardships. If you use them up now when you can afford to pay, you won’t have them in the future when you may actually need them.

Still, you can afford the monthly payments, but now you have much less cash lying around. Consider consolidation - you can cut your monthly payment nearly in half. And, there is no penalty for extra or early repayment. So, when you claw your way to the top of the corporate ladder, and land that high paying fluff job, you can payback your remaining loan balance without being penalized.

Finally, don’t forget to consolidate your private student loans. They’re probably going into repayment right about now as well. And if you have a lot of private student loans like me, then consolidating those will also help that monthly budget stay fit. Just like federal consolidation, private consolidation will combine all of your private student debt and lower your monthly payment, without any penalties for extra or early repayment.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

RESP Bill Misses Mark

RESP Bill Misses Mark Students and Faculty Call on MPs from all Parties to Defeat RESP Bill

Canadian Federation of Students and Canadian Association of University Teachers

Thursday, March 13, 2008OTTAWA--

Students and faculty are united in condemning proposed changes to the Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). Liberal MP Dan McTeague’s bill to increase permissible RESP contributions and make them tax deductible will do little to make postsecondary education more accessible for most students and their families.

"This bill is a bad use of scarce resources and it will cost about $1-billion a year." said Amanda Aziz, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. "Reducing tuition fees and increasing need-based grants would be a far more equitable way of providing assistance to students."Recent research from Statistics Canada suggests that families earning over $80,000 per year are the prime beneficiaries of the current program. Under the proposed changes, the yearly contribution limit will be raised to $5,000 from $2,000 and the amount will be tax deductible.

According to Aziz, wealthier families will be the primary beneficiaries of the changes.James Turk, the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, also criticised the proposed bill."We need an increase in core funding for colleges and universities and a renewed investment in basic research through the granting councils," Turk said. "It is very disappointing to see that all of the opposition parties voted for this ill-conceived bill, and we will work with students and other partners to see that it is defeated.

"CAUT and CFS will be joining forces to lobby against the bill in the Senate as well as urging support for a provision in the Ways and Means section of the Budget Implementation Act that voids the bill.The Canadian Association of University Teachers represents over 57,000 academic staff at Canadian colleges and universities.Founded in 1981, the Canadian Federation of Students is Canada’s largest student organisation, uniting more that one-half million students from ten provinces.

Graduate students welcome increase in graduate scholarships

Graduate students welcome increase in graduate scholarships

National Graduate Caucus

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

OTTAWA-- The announcement of new scholarship money for graduate students will increase access to graduate research positions in Canada and will allow more graduate students to conduct innovative research.

“Graduate student research in Canada is under-funded, and this budget takes small steps to address that,” said Graham Cox, Chairperson of the National Graduate Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students, “Graduate students play a large role in both basic research and faculty renewal—two cornerstones in maintaining healthy public universities.”

The government announced an additional 500 Canada Graduate Scholarships available for PhD students, providing $50,000 per year for up-to three years of study. In addition, 250 scholarship holders will now be able to get funding to study abroad for one semester.

Budget 2008’s investments in the granting councils were slim and unbalanced. Although the majority of graduate students (53%) carry out research in the social science and humanities, scholarships announced in the budget favour science and technology research areas over the social sciences and humanities by more than five to one.

“The Conservative government has to get past the idea that it has a role in meddling with the university research agenda. Intervening by setting the priorities for independent research goes against the principles of academic freedom and scholarly inquiry,” said Cox.

The National Graduate Caucus is Canada's voice of graduate students, uniting over 60,000 graduate students from all ten provinces.