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*Last updated December 2014
Tuition in the USA has risen so far, so fast, that it can be almost impossible to finance your education without help from a lender. That can lead to other challenges, though, and student loan debt is one of the biggest obstacles to financial success for many of today’s graduates. There is help, however, and much of it does not cost a penny. Here are some reliable and helpful resources for anyone shopping for student loans or already carrying student loan debt.
Trusted Government Resources
Students should take full advantage of free student loan information available online from trusted U.S. government agencies and resources. The below are some great resources:
- U.S. Department of Education
- Federal Trade Commission
- U.S. Government Web Portal
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
StudentLoanHero.com was started by a student, Andy Josuweit, who had more than $100,000 in debt thanks to his student loans. Post-graduation he found himself juggling 16 different loans serviced by four separate companies, which quickly became a real nightmare for him to keep track of it all and steer clear of financial trouble.
While trying to manage his loans and understand all of his options, Josuweit did copious research and painstaking analysis of the various programs and alternatives he discovered. During this process he also enlisted help from various experts, such as attorneys who are well-versed in student loan rules and regulations, and eventually formed an entrepreneurial team to launch a company that puts all that information and more at the fingertips of the consumer.
Studentloanhero.com is an online service that can help anyone figure out the best strategies for managing their loans, refinancing their loans if necessary, and repaying them in the fastest and most cost effective way. An account with Studentloanhero.com is $5 per month, as pointed out in an article about private lenders published by Forbes.
Once you register at the site, free of charge, and provide some information about your loan you can then use the site for the following purposes:
- Sync, organize, and track private and federal student loans in one centralized location.
- Gain an in-depth student loan summary and financial analysis.
- Learn financial strategies to lower the total interest accrued.
- Find advice on Federal and Private loan repayment programs and options.
Josuweit offered plenty of other insightful advice and tips during a special podcast interview that can be heard free of charge at DoughRoller.net, a financial education website. Whether or not you decide to register with StudentLoanHero.com, the conversation may worth listening to.
Tuition.IO is another site that offers services that are quite similar to the ones found at StudentLoanHero.com, except their services are free, with the exception of transaction fees on gifts. You must be 18 years of age or older and have student loans in order to use the free website.
After registering with Tuition.IO, users will be able to link their student loan accounts and see important information such as who they owe in what amount and when, receive notices of their eligibility to refinance their loans, and are also able to give tuition gift cards. A student loan gift is a digital gift card that can be credited towards paying the recipient’s student loans and it goes directly towards the balance.
Ready for Zero
Readyforzero.com is another great website that offers their services for free or you may opt for one of their paid account options. ReadyForZero is designed for all consumers with debt, regardless of whether or not you have student loans. All users will have access to the following when they sign up for ReadyForZero:
- Link all accounts to visualize and track your progress
- Create a personalized payment plan
- Set up reminders and notifications and set your due dates
- Access on your mobile device through their app
Paid members of the Plus Account, which costs $10 per month, will also be able to schedule biweekly and monthly payments, track interest and time savings, and receive dedicated support. The highest account is their Plus Credit Account which is $15 per month and users will have access to their Experian credit score.
Other Helpful Information
- Communication is key. If it’s hard for your lenders to contact you, they certainly aren’t going to bend over backwards to make sure their information is updated. Always stay in touch with your student loan providers anytime you move, change your phone number, or change your email address.
Personally track your payments. Many students have complained that they’ve made payments on the due date or mailed in a check to apply to their account, but the payment was never received, charged a late fee, never applied, or lost in the mail. It may be a pain to take these extra steps to document payments, but it’s better than getting hit with fees and charges. Here are some helpful examples:
- When making a payment online, save your payment confirmation by printing it out and filing it away, saving a screenshot of the confirmation on your computer, or document the confirmation number on a dedicated payment document.
- If making a payment via snail mail, make sure you only write checks with a carbon copy backing, and take a photo of it with your cell phone until it’s processed with your bank account. After it’s been applied, feel free to delete that photo and save some space on your cell
- Document everything. Every single time you call in to speak with a representative about your account, write it down. I would suggest maintaining a document dedicated to this type of compliance. Be sure to note the date, time, duration of phone call, who you spoke with, the reason for your call, and the outcome. This will also come in handy when tracking your payments.
It’s never too early to educate yourself about the terms of your student loans and your options. If you are still finishing your degree, get a head start and understand your financial state to set up a payment plan now. Also be sure to take advantage of any resources provided by your college or university. They may have classes, workshops or seminars about financial literacy while and how to save money on student loans.
Finally, if I had to offer my own personal tip, do NOT blow your refund checks on partying, shopping, vacations, or any other nonsensical reason. Some students aren’t employed while in school and need their refund check to pay for rent, utilities and other needs, and then there are the students who have a job, still receive a refund check and then blow it. While in college I received about $10,000 in refund checks. I blew it all instead of putting it back towards my student loans. If I hadn’t done that, I would owe about $13,000 less (including interest) on my student loans. That’s quite a large amount!
*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.