Student loan repayments are increasingly taking a big financial toll on many U.S. households.
Americans now owe $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the average college graduate from the Class of 2014 has about $33,000 in student loans.
Unfortunately, more than one in eight outstanding student loans is currently in default, recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education show. Additionally, millions more student loan borrowers are delinquent, with student loans at least 90 days past due, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
“With so much college debt outstanding, it’s no wonder that plenty of borrowers are having trouble keeping up with their student loan payments,” says Judy Sorensen, president of the Association of Credit Counseling Professionals, ACCPros.
The good news is that consumers do have good options if student loan debt becomes too much to handle.
Here are three sources where those with student loans can turn for free or low-cost help, as well as information about managing student loan debt.
1. Federal Student Aid, Office of The Department of Education
The federal government has a number of websites related to student loans, and most contain advice and updates about student loan repayment options. The main site is the one run by the Department of Education, called Federal Student Aid, (studentaid.ed.gov) where borrowers can get help for free under the “How Do I Manage My Loans” or “Repay Your Loans” tabs.
Under each section is a wealth of information, including a variety of programs – like Income-Based Repayment or the Pay-As-You-Earn Repayment Plan – that let people lower their monthly student loan payments to more affordable levels. This is especially valuable for those going through a financial hardship.
2. Federal Student Loans Center
“If you want to consolidate your federal student loans, you don’t need to pay anyone to do that,” says Sorensen. “Nor do you need to fork over any cash to discover your loan consolidation options.”
Instead, just go to the website StudentLoans.gov. This is the new site that the government is migrating to in order to help those with student loans. Previously, borrowers were directed to the Federal Direct Consolidation Loan Info Center (loanconsolidation.ed.gov) for free answers. But that site is being phased out.
At StudentLoans.gov, you’ll find out whether you’re eligible to consolidate college loans, what to do if you you’ve defaulted on student loans, or how to consolidate loans that have already been consolidated. (Yes, multiple loan consolidations can be done under certain circumstances)
3. The Association of Credit Counseling Professionals
In addition to government resources, outside help exits too. At the Association of Credit Counseling Professionals (ACCPros.org), ACCPros member agencies work with consumers struggling with college loans, as well as those seeking credit counseling due to unmanageable debts of all kind.
Specialists from ACCPros don’t offer student loan debt settlement – like some questionable “debt relief operators” that suggest they can somehow completely wipe out your student loans, or drastically reduce your payments by negotiating with student loan servicers. Instead, credit counselors from ACCPros offer low-cost educational services and guidance about how to best manage student loans and other debts consumers may be facing.
Recommended options may include anything from adjusting one’s budget to entering an overall debt management plan to more quickly reduce total debt.
Consumers can call the toll-free ACCPros Locator Line at 800-635-0553 to speak with a certified credit counselor at an agency licensed/registered in your state.
- We Won’t Pay: America’s Student Loan Crisis (sgtreport.com)
- Beware of Student Loan Debt Relief Offers and Credit Repair “Deals” (ed.gov)