Debt, Education, Personal Finance 

Student Loan Deferment vs. Forbearance

If you have a student loan and recently starting taking advantage of your employer’s education reimbursement program, you’ve probably heard the words deferment and forbearance thrown around quite frequently and you probably aren’t 100% sure what the difference is (unless you were a wordsmith/geek and knew what forbearance meant). Due to a mix up with Johns Hopkins, they reported me as less than part time and my deferment became a forbearance, which resulted in about $340 of interest that accrued during that period of forbearance (which led me to research the difference). While it’s not a thousands of dollars, I’m not paying $340 when I don’t have to (no one should).

Webster Dictionary Definitions:

  • Forbearance – a refraining from the enforcement of something (as a debt, right, or obligation) that is due
  • Deferment – the act of delaying or postponing

So, how does this affect you, a student loan holder? In both cases, you will no longer be required to make your regularly scheduled student payments. With a forbearance, the interest accrual process still continues, you simply aren’t required to make any additional payments. As interest accrues, you may decide to pay that off or not, that option is left up to you. Any unpaid interest that accrues and isn’t paid off within the period of forbearance is capitalized (made part of the principal). With a deferment, your loan is frozen in time – interest doesn’t accrue and you aren’t required to make any payments.

How do you get a deferment instead of a forbearance? Usually a student loan servicer will grant a deferment if you are enrolled in classes at least part-time, defined by the institution you’re currently attending. They do not have their own universal definition of part-time, they rely on the university or college to make that determination.

A forbearance is usually granted on request and with proof of some sort of reason. Your student loan servicer will have a forbearance process and you will simply have to follow that process, which will include an application.


Student Loan “Dilemma”

Like most folks out there, I don’t like owing anyone money. I don’t like owing the bank money on my first mortgage, I didn’t like owing the bank money on my second mortgage, and I don’t like owing the lender money on my student loans. Here is my dilemma… back in September I wrote a relatively straightforward article titled “Don’t Save, Pay Off Debt!” in which I said that you should list the interest rates of your cash and of your debts in descending order. If you happen to have any cash in an account listed lower than a debt, you should pay off the debt with that cash unless it’s earmarked for a specific purpose (down payment, emergency fund).

Many of us who have student loans probably locked them in at rates way under the 5% you can get any online bank. Personally, I have about $24,000 in student loans at 3.25% (currently in deferral because I’m taking classes) which would put the debt underneath the cash I have in the 5%. Logic, and math, would indicate I should just pay the minimum payment on the student loans and keep the rest of it in my HSBC Direct account (even if you factor in that I have to pay taxes on the 5% interest). In fact, since my first home mortgage is at 5.75% (fixed) I should actually be paying that debt off first before I even consider paying the student loans because it’s at a higher interest rate. And on the first mortgage, I have exactly zero chance of paying off my mortgage (over $200k) anytime soon.

I want to pay off the student loan because it’s satisfying to write a debt off the “books” but I have to keep reminding myself it’s not the smart thing to do.


Student Loan Debt Is An Investment!

I’ve heard many people lament over how much they owe in student loan debt but very few have considered it an “investment,” as they should. According to a, the difference between a B.S. and a high school graduate (or GED) is $17,000 a year (from a 2003 article, but the differences are probably the same order of magnitude). If you have $100,000 in debt, that means that you’re getting a 17% ROI on your college education, I’ll take that any day.

Also, remember that student loan interest is tax deductible (depending on how much you earn, it starts phasing out after $50k AGI) and the interest rates are probably relatively low, so you’re getting a pretty sweet deal if you think about it!

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 Credit, Free, Personal Finance 

Student Loans In Deferment until 2012!

One of the side benefits of taking employer-reimbursed graduate courses (other than a free education) is that my $24k or so in student loans are deferred until I complete school, even when the net cost of the courses will be negligible. I didn’t even need to do anything to get them put into deferment; ACS found out by themselves and actually caught me off guard. They put the loans in deferment until my scheduled graduation date in 2012 (hopefully it won’t take me seven years but that’s the limit at Johns Hopkins).

While in deferment, the government will cover the interest payments but I can continue to pay off the principal without penalty and without surrendering the deferment status. It’s a double bonus – not only do I get a “free” education but I also get to avoid interest on the loans. You don’t need another reason to go back to school!

 Government, Personal Finance 

Student Loan Rate Increase Revealed

As many had predicted, Federal Stafford and PLUS loan rates will increase in July. I wrote about how graduates should consolidate ASAP instead of waiting, since the process typically takes two months to complete; but back then the actual rate hike was a mystery. Luckily, with most lenders your rate is locked whenever they being the processing. Smart Money predicted that the rate would be around 5.14% which is not far off from the actual rate come July 1st: 5.3% (an increase of 1.93%). The Federal PLUS loans are going to jump 1.93% to settle in at 6.1%.

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 Personal Finance 

Consolidate Your Student Loans NOW!

JLP posted an article at AllThingsFinancial after reading a SmartMoney article about how student loans rates are probably going up. The SmartMoney article details how student loan rates (Stafford) are probably going to go up by 1% – 2% when they get reset on July 1. Read on for an explanation but the bottom line is if you haven’t consolidated yet, consolidate it before July 1st or you’ll regret it.

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