Aug 06

FedLoan Servicing is Terrible

If your student loans happen to get bought by FedLoan Servicing I have one word of advice for you: run! Run far, far away! But you probably have the same stories about your loan servicing company, so is there anywhere you can actually run to? It has been nothing but headaches since I first found my loans were being bought by them from Direct Loans.
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Jul 25

New Student Loan Agreement on the Horizon

It seems like Congress is finally closing in on an agreement to and while it doesn’t solve the underlying problem (the easy source of money giving colleges an incentive to keep increasing tuition), they claim it will solve the problem of certain interest rates jumping from 3.4% to 6.8%.

This agreement will tie the interest rates to the market rate, or the 10-Year Treasury note plus 2.05% in interest rates which should set the rates at 3.85% [1]. At face value this seems fair, but I personally think it should really be a 1% increase over the 10-Year Treasury. The less graduates are paying on interest, the more money they can potentially spend in the economy sooner – things like cars and houses. Someone making large monthly payments towards student loans are highly unlikely to be getting a mortgage anytime soon.

The interest rates would be capped as well at 8.5%, 9.5%, and 10.% for undergraduates, graduates, and parents respectively. It would be nice if these caps were lower, but at least students will be paying the “market” rate instead of 6.8% while mortgages are at an all time low. If the Fed continues to keep interest rates at all time lows, student borrowers in the near future should be able to hang onto these low rates.

The part about this plan that I don’t like is the fact that students are being used for profit by the government. It already sucks that private loan companies exist to do this, but hey that’s what business is designed to do right? The federal government should not be doing that! The aim for this program, in it’s current existance, should absolutely to be to break even or make minimal profit as a buffer.

This will generate about $184B in revenue for the federal government, coming directly from students. There will also be an estimated additional $715M in revenue that is specifically going to be used for reducing the deficit [2]! Due to Congress’ own stupidity, they are going to be using us to pay for their budget mistakes from the same people they should be investing in – not taking from. Maybe Congress should stop wasting our money first before taking more money?

I guess we will have to wait and see what Congress ends up doing and if this plan actually does get approved. Unfortunately for future students I think it may take the Student Loan bubble bursting for the actual source of the problem to be solved.
Photo credit: Nastassia Davis [www.nastassiadavis.com] / Foter / CC BY-NC

Jul 24

Student Loan Progress – July 2013

As I was preparing to write this post, I was starting to feel a little burnt out about my debt again. But I have to realize that I’m making progress and keep pushing towards my goal to be debt free. I’m treating it like like as much of an emergency as possible with every last dollar going towards my goal! Since I’ve started this blog I’m doing much better and trying to put a minimum of $2,000 towards the loans each month.

This is where I stood at the end of June:

Loan
 Loan Amount 
Interest Rate
Private 1  $ 26,053.92 7.92%
Private 2  $ 19,971.82 7.92%
Private 3  $ –   7.92%
Private 4  $ 3,532.69 7.35%
Gov 1  $ 22,118.82 5.22%
Gov 2  $ 7,566.56 6.80%
Total  $ 79,243.81

You may remember that I was a little disapointed that my government loans had switched providers, so I was not able to make any payments on them last month. This led to me only putting $1,500 towards my private loans when in reality I could have put a full $2,000. I also thought my expenses would be higher last month with my camping trip, but I think they will actually up being high this month. Go figure!

Here are the payments I made for July:

Loan
 Loan Amount 
 Change 
Interest Rate
Private 1  $ 24,485.37  $ (1,568.55) 7.92%
Private 2  $ 19,919.49  $ (52.33) 7.92%
Private 3  $ –    $ –   7.92%
Private 4  $ 3,506.12  $ (26.57) 7.35%
Gov 1  $ 3,773.04 3.40%
Gov 2  $ 3,309.66 6.80%
Gov 3  $ 5,200.81 4.50%
Gov 4  $ 2,010.27 6.80%
Gov 5  $ 5,270.84 5.60%
Gov 6  $ 2,129.04 6.80%
Gov 7  $ 4,312.47 6.00%
Gov 8  $ 3,322.53  $ (356.72) 6.80%
Total  $ 77,239.64  $ (2,004.17)

As you may have noticed, my new provider has now split all my government loans up individually. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but may be more helpful in the long run. I’ll be able to target each loan individually in order of highest interest rate and it will be more of a psychological victory as I eliminate each one.

I paid about $2,500 in total towards my loans this month. I’m still working on completely paying off Private Loan #1 and I’m slowly making progress on that. The $356 you see for the government loans is in total, next month I will be able to show each individual loan. The $2,000 towards the principal was good progress compared to last month. Hopefully next month will bring more of the same!

Jul 13

A new way to approach student debt?

It looks like Oregon is on it’s way to attempting to solve the student loan crisis in their state. But just how feasible is their solution? The basic concept of the plan is that you would not receive any traditional loans and you would not pay any tuition. You heard that right: no student loans. What you would do upon graduation is pay the University 3% of your income for 25 years. Essentially it would put everyone on an income based repayment plan that you currently get through federal loans.

I definitely agree with this program in principle, but I think it needs a few modifications for it to actually succeed. Let’s look at a few examples of how much each person would be paying over the course of those 25 years:

30,000 Salary: $22,500
50,000 Salary: $37,500
75,000 Salary: $56,250
100,000 Salary: $75,000

As you can see, obviously the higher salaries would be “subsidizing” the the cost of lower paying degrees and you know what? I’m actually OK with that with a slight modification. If you are able to pay more than the 3% of your income, you should be be able to pre-pay your “loan” amount up to a certain max amount. Maybe something like the cost of tuition + $1,000 to cover any extra expenses? That would seem pretty fair to me.

You may also argue that students would not be motivated to pursue higher salary jobs because they would pay more back, but I think that is what the payback cap would be if you start to pre-pay your loan back instead. We also don’t see the increase in taxes really stopping anyone from taking that $100,000 salary job compared to the $50,000 salary job.

If we use the example of Oregon State University, the cost to attend in 2013-14 in Tuition and fees is $8,538. So that means over the course of 4 years your total would be $34,512+$1,000. That means that everyone making over $50,000 a year would most likely want to pay more than the minimum. You would obviously have the choice of what to do, and for people making less they would still be able to use the IBR method to pay a lower total amount.

The only thing that it seems may be a problem is with the program itself, and how the funding will work. Australia already does a similar thing, so there must be some way to make this work! If we assume that there are about 4000 freshman entering Oregon State University each year the costs for the state would rise very quickly.

Year 1: 4000 Students * $8,538 = $34,152,000 Cost
Year 2: 8000 Students * $8,538 = $68,304,000
Year 3: 12,000 Students * $8,538 = $102,456,000
Year 4: 16,000 Students * $8,538 = $136,608,000

Total cost: $341,520,000

So the total cost at this one university before they even begin receiving a cent of income from the program would be around $341 million! I didn’t even factor in people not completing their degree or dropping out – and what do you do to them? Still charge them 3% over 25 years or until they pay back how much they were “loaned”? Those are more rules and situations that Oregon would also have to account for.

The other side of the program, or the income assuming that the average student graduating with a bachelor’s degree will make $40,000 a year.

$40,000 Salary * 4000 Students * 3% = $4,800,000 Income/Year

fast forward 4 years to when they are making the “full amount” each year…

$40,000 Salary * 16,000 Students * 3% = $19,200,000 Income/Year

and then 24 years later when they have the “maximum” amount of students paying…

$40,000 Salary * 96,000 Students * 3% = $115,200,000 Income/Year

So while the school would technically be able to break even on a per-student basis, it would probably take many years to actually generate a positive cash flow (if they even do?) and that is a huge, huge cost upfront. You also have to take into account students that become unemployed, or students that eventually leave the workforce to start a family. Obviously there would be a lot more complex calculations going into this, but I like the sound of this program at it’s face value with a few tweaks. I’ll leave the technicalities and funding to someone much more knowledgeable on the program than me!

Jun 25

Student Loan Progress – June 2013

Another month, another round of student loan payments. Unfortunately this month ended up being a little strange in my student loan payments, due to circumstances beyond my control. I was not able to put as much money towards my loans as I was expecting. But first I’m going to start off with where I left off last month so you can get a frame of reference.

May 2013:

Loan  Loan Amount  Interest Rate
Private 1  $ 27,131.22 7.92%
Private 2  $ 20,037.32 7.92%
Private 3  $ –   7.92%
Private 4  $ 3,561.09 7.35%
Gov 1  $ 22,118.82 5.22%
Gov 2  $ 7,566.56 6.80%
Total  $ 80,415.01

Here’s what my loans look like this month after my payments were made in June:

Loan  Loan Amount   Change  Interest Rate
Private 1  $ 26,053.92  $ (1,077.30) 7.92%
Private 2  $ 19,971.82  $ (65.50) 7.92%
Private 3  $ –    $ –   7.92%
Private 4  $ 3,532.69  $ (28.40) 7.35%
Gov 1  $ 22,118.82  $ 0   5.22%
Gov 2  $ 7,566.56  $ 0   6.80%
Total  $ 79,243.81  $ (1,171.20)

As you can see from the above, I have started to tackle Private Loan #1 as my next big target, but not quite as much as I would have liked to this month. I set up an auto-payment ahead of $1500 towards my three private loans ahead of time. This was because it was due when I was on vacation. I didn’t want to put too much because I was unsure of what my expenses would look like this month. In hindsight, I definitely could have bumped it up this month but I guess I can do that next month instead.

You may have also noticed that I did not make any payments towards my government loans this month, which is one of the reasons things were beyond my control. That would have been another ~$400 or so, bringing me close to $2000 total for the month. Unfortunately it did not work out this way because for the 2nd time in a little under a year – my government loans have been sold to a different provider! Apparently nobody wants to take my money from me? They can really pay it off in full if that’s what they want…

But I did receive an e-mail that my loans had been transferred to http://myfedloan.org/. Previously I had been using www.myedaccount.com, and I forgot the name of the one that my loans started out with. I received that e-mail on June 11th and they told me it can take up to 15 business (!!) days for my loan to transfer and show up. I’m going to hate to see how bad the interest on my loans look like once this is finished processing. After screwing up the payment last month, and now over a month of interest accruing it will not be pretty. Needless to say, I’m still waiting for the loans to show up. They were shown as fully paid on my previous account right away on the 11th, so not sure what the hold up is here. I also have no idea when this new payment will be due, but I’m hoping that it is later in the month like it was on the previous website.

The only advantage that I’m going to be enjoying is that this new loan service does provide a 0.25% interest rate discount if you set up an automatic debit. I plan on setting up automatic debit that is slightly higher than the minimum payment, as long as it does bring the principal down. If not I will configure my own “minimum” payment to do exactly that. This will be helpful as I continue to put the majority of my money towards my higher interest private loans.

Here’s to hoping that next month brings more significant progress and less confusion!