Friday, July 22, 2016

Did you Know?

A great potential way to pay off student loans is by working on the Hill, as in Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Many offices in a committee or with a member of the House or Senate, provide monthly payments to student loan companies on your behalf as a benefit to working there. This would be in your contract from the time of hire. This amount varies by office and can change each year depending on the budget. This can start right away as a benefit or begin after a specified time period. The amount per month can range from $200-$500. Keep in mind this counts as income and is taxed! These student loans payments are a great negotiating tool when beginning your position. Even if this is more than you are required to pay each month, it’s a great way to pay down the principal balance. Another point to note is many entry-level positions often pay very little considering the cost of living in DC so be careful of racking up other kinds of debt.

It can be difficult to get one of these coveted positions, but there are a few ways to make it easier. An internship can really help you get a foot in the door. This is your chance to shine and prove yourself in the workplace. Networking is also crucial in the Washington, DC job world. If you land an internship, stay in touch with everyone…and I mean everyone! You never know where your fellow interns or colleagues may end up, so make sure to keep a professional and continuous rapport with all office staff.

Student Loans and You

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Meet Sam! Sam, are you intimidated by the loans you are about to take out to continue your education?

I would be lying if I said there was no level of intimidation or anxiety associated with taking out student loans to attend grad school. It is a substantial level of cumbersome debt that will be hanging over my head and it will take time to repay. However, it is important to assess the value of this debt by weighing the short and long term benefits/consequences. I view my education as an investment in both self and career so my decision to take on debt is strategized and thought out. My degree must make sense with my interests, aspirations, and career path. Do you have a tentative repayment plan upon graduation? Will the average salaries in your field allow you to cover fixed living expenses, tuition payment installations, and maintenance of a personal life? Is there potential for employer repayment of loans? These long term questions are just a few items I thought about before taking on educational debt.

Undergrad, I received my BA from the University of Delaware studying political science/global affairs and French. With a liberal arts degree like that, there are far fewer direct tracks to follow to ensure employment after graduation like with financial or medical degrees. I believe the educational experience is what you make of it i.e. the level of effort put in to your studies, developing a network, and finding work experience before graduation. I made a point to get involved in my school and to do internships/fellowships in the summer and winter breaks. I was then able to leverage these experiences to find employment immediately after I graduated.

After being in the workforce for a number of years, I feel as though I have a better sense of my interests, aspirations, and career path and I am more comfortable taking on graduate school debt as my next investment in self/career. Next month I will start my graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies earning an MA in Global Risk. I plan to take full advantage of all of the opportunities this program has to offer and am confident I will land on my feet upon graduation. 

Thanks Sam for your honest answer! We wish you the best on your next journey. Is anyone else taking out loans soon to continue their education?

Student Loans and You

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Meet Mairin! Who was most influential in her life in helping her get a good education?

I spend my days doing everything I can to express gratitude to my parents for their support of my education. I was fortunate enough to receive free tuition for both undergraduate and graduate degrees at Duquesne University. I received my Bachelors in Science in Business Administration for free because my mother was an employee at the University and I received my Masters in Business Administration because of a graduate assistantship in the University’s Office of Greek Life. However, I didn’t get out debt free. I took out loans to help support my room and board, meal plan, books, etc.

My parents have offered to help me pay off all of the loans I have and I make sure their birthdays and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are that much more special for them because of it!

Thanks Mom and Dad! Does anyone else have someone they are thankful for who helped them get through school?

Student Loans and You

Friday, June 24, 2016

Meet Nasser! Did the high cost of tuition in the US have an impact on Nasser's decision to study abroad? 

Cost certainly played a role in my decision to go abroad for grad school. Unlike most Master's programs in the US that take 2-3 years to complete (and hence 2-3 years worth of tuition and student loans), equivalent programs in the UK are just a year - and much cheaper than universities in the US. Not only is the annual tuition cheaper, you're also just paying for one year. The investment feels a lot less daunting, especially if you were like me and considering a career change. The process is exactly the same as in the US - you fill out a FAFSA with the US Department of Education and get loans from a lender in the US. Once you're done, you get the same interest rates and the same rules for deferment, forbearance, etc. 

Of course, there are trade-offs. Most of my friends that did their Master's in the US usually took night classes and were able to work during the day time. This made it easier to have money to pay toward their loans. In the UK, the programs are really dense (imagine a 2-year course condensed into one and a dissertation over the summer), which makes it really difficult to hold a full-time job. Classes are mostly in the day time, and students are expected to put school before employment - don't expect sympathy from a professor if you can't find a shift replacement! And finally, visa regulations are making it increasingly difficult for US students to work in the UK. While some are allowed to work 20 hours a week, others are restricted from working at all. Cheaper tuition is certainly tempting, but studying abroad might also mean missing the opportunity to work. 

Nasser did his undergrad at University of Maryland with a degree in economics and took out student loans. He decided to work as a software engineer to help pay off loans quicker. He went to grad school at University of Glasgow for international relations, took out student loans and is still paying them off.

Has anyone else considered studying abroad like Nasser for the lower cost of tuition? Startnoo wants to know!

Student Loans and You

Friday, June 17, 2016

Meet Maria! How did Maria pay off both undergraduate and graduate school loans in just 5 years?

Maria used her career as a teacher to help pay off her loans. She has been fortunate enough to become loan free at the age of 28!  Maria attended Duquesne University for her Bachelors in Science in Education and Boston College for her Masters in Education in 2010.  Fortunately enough, Maria did attend both colleges with scholarships which helped lessen the amount of loans she attained once she graduated.  Once graduated, Maria taught in a charter school in Philadelphia for five consecutive years.  Maria was a special education teacher at a low-income school which qualified for Student Loan forgiveness.  

Did you know if you teach special education at a Title I school and/or low-income school you can receive $17,500 credit on your Stafford Loans?  If you teach general education at a Title I, low-income or private school, you could receive up to $5,000 credit on your Stafford Loans.  Stafford loans are not the only loans forgiven, but if you have Perkins loans, you can also be awarded forgiveness. Check out the following website for more information:

Thanks for this great tip Maria! How about you? Has anyone else studied in a field offering loan forgiveness? Startnoo wants to know!

Student Loans and You

Friday, February 19, 2016

(a variation of this article was published on by Meka West on June 29, 2015)

You may have read in my previous article – or in countless other news sources – that student loan debt is a major problem.  It haunts people by forcing us to wait to purchase a home, start a business, get married or pursue other major life events.  At the time, pursing that degree seemed to be a good idea, but for some reason our careers post-degree may not necessarily be measuring up. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, education costs should be between 8-10% of our income.  So how can we stop drowning in payments?

Here are some tips for tackling student loan debt:

Step One: Lay Out a Plan

Find your actual cost of living by reviewing how much you spend per period, perhaps monthly or quarterly.  Go through your itemized periodic expenses and identify areas where you can realistically save.  Add the excess savings to your student loan monthly payment amount.

Next, find out how much you owe in student loans and what the terms are for your payments.  Create an ideal plan for paying off each loan, categorized either by interest rate, loan amount, origination date, or some combination thereof.

Step Two: Find Ways to Make Extra Payments

Look at your weekly schedule. Determine what time is dedicated to work, school, volunteering or other responsibilities, and see where you have extra time. When you know how much time you can allocate to other activities, take the extra time and decide what you are willing to do.  Do you have enough time to create a side business, invest, side job or freelance?  

Next, identify creative solutions that can help you maximize your time and consolidate some of your goals.  For example, if community involvement is important to you, but you need to pay your student loans, STARTNOO might be a good option for you.  With STARTNOO, students and alumni can exchange services for payments towards their student loans.  It’s free – just help non-profit organizations and payments go directly to your student loan accounts.  The best part is that some of the listings may relate to your profession.

So, for example, I could do accounting for a non-profit, and doing this in my spare time pays off my student loans.  The platform goes live in May 2016, but they are currently wrapping up their test group, where test group users receive $500 paid towards their student loans or tuition!

Step Three: Act on It

Organization and planning are wonderful – but implementation with action will bring the results you want.  Take your goals and make yourself accountable by 1) making your goals public, 2) tracking your activities, or 3) working with an expert who can make your dreams a reality. 

As a Money Coach, I have seen first hand that accountability is one of the biggest indicators of action.  Reward yourself as you reach various milestones in the journey – and finally, enjoy the ride.  The day that all of your student loans are paid off will be a glorious accomplishment and I cannot wait to congratulate you when that day comes!   

What do you think about taking these first steps towards eliminating your student loan debt? Please let me know by commenting in the section below!

Tips for Tackling Student Loan Debt

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