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How to Pay Off Student Loans

One thing you never learned in school: how to pay for it. In part two of Real Simple’s get-out-of-debt series, educate yourself on the best ways to reduce, or eliminate, college debt.

By Vera Gibbons
College Flag and Economics BookMikey Burton

3. Ask your employer to pay off your student loan. A little-known way to eliminate college debt is to appeal to your boss for a compensation package. “Some midsize companies cannot pay the kinds of salaries that a large corporation can, but they may be inclined to offer lower wages in exchange for a onetime payout toward your loan,” says Manuel Fabriquer, the president of College Planning ABC, a consulting firm in San Jose, California. Why? “It costs them less in salary payments in the long run.” (Those in fields that require a special degree, like tech, finance, and nursing, are most likely to receive this benefit.)

If you’re a recent grad looking for a job, bring this up during salary negotiations. Be willing to take a lower salary and to commit to staying at the job for a specific time period in exchange for a payment toward your schooling. If you’re a veteran employee, raise the subject at your annual review by saying, “I’ve been a loyal employee for [insert time period], and I look forward to continuing to grow and learn here. As part of my compensation, can you put [insert amount] toward my loan?”

4. Consider consolidation. If you or your child graduated before July 1, 2006, it pays to roll multiple federal loans into one—you’ll lock in an interest rate that’s lower than what you’re paying on each separate loan. Earned a diploma since then? All federal student loans now carry fixed interest rates, so there’s no financial benefit to consolidating. (And it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to combine any variable private loans.) Nevertheless, if you have trouble keeping track of payment deadlines and have been hit with late fees on occasion, go ahead and consolidate. (For more information, go to SimpleTuition.com or loanconsolidation.ed.gov.) You’ll save some dough by doing so.

5. Sign up for auto-deductions. You may have already realized that automatic online loan payments make your life easier. What you may not know is that all government and some private lenders charge a slightly lower interest rate (usually 0.25 percent less) if you make your monthly remittance this way. Over 25 years of payments, you’ll reduce your repayment period by at least a year, says Reyna Gobel, the author of Graduation Debt ($15, amazon.com). Best of all, you can sign up now, even if you’ve been repaying your loans for years.

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