I know about student loans and the joy of seeing that money every month going into paying that never shrinking debt, and I also know that I am not alone. They can be daunting, huge, and invasive on your budget. They will affect your life for decades after you are out of school and will be a part of every financial decision from graduation on.
Currently, I'm finalizing a purchase on a home, traveling for the holidays, and celebrating the holidays. Student loans were in my mind for all three of those budgetary challenges. A recent article from Loan Hero contributor, Kat Tretina showed me that I was definitely not alone The article features five ways to minimize college expenses and manage student loans.
As members of the LGBTQ community, we know that going to college can be an incredible experience. It can broaden our worldview and you can meet like-minded people.
However, the cost of going to school can be brutal. In a recent survey by Student Loan Hero, LGBTQ respondents reported significant financial challenges after graduation, particularly around student loan debt. The survey highlighted how difficult it can be to pay down debt and start building a life after school.
Key Study Findings
The survey focused on financial issues that LGBTQ youth commonly face. From the results, four findings are especially relevant:
The majority of LGBTQ borrowers regret taking out student loans: A staggering 60% of survey respondents said they regret taking out student loans. That's far more than the general population, demonstrating how difficult it can be for LGBTQ graduates to handle their debt.
Many LGBTQ graduates feel their debt is unmanageable: In addition to regretting taking out loans in the first place, respondents also reported feeling overwhelmed by their loans. More than a quarter of respondents said they felt their debt was unmanageable.
LGBTQ respondents said they were denied help due to their gender identity or sexual orientation: Perhaps most shocking of all, 32% of survey respondents reported discrimination when seeking financial assistance.
LGBTQ borrowers are more likely to earn less than $50,000 per year: More than half of the respondents reported incomes of $50,000 or less. With that salary, it can be more difficult for LGBTQ youth to keep up with their student loan payments.
5 Ways to Minimize College Expenses and Manage Student Loans
The survey results highlight how hard it can be to manage student loan debt and your finances. If you feel like you're struggling with college expenses or repaying your loans, there are five ways to reduce the burden.
1. Search for LGBTQ Scholarships and Grants
For current students, applying for scholarships and grants is a great way to reduce your college expenses. Unlike loans, you don't have to repay grants and scholarships, and there are many options available for LGBTQ students.
2. Apply for Federal Loans First
If you've exhausted all your scholarship and grant options and still need money, apply for federal student loans before turning to private student loans. Federal loans tend to have lower interest rates, more benefits, and more flexible repayment terms than private ones.
3. Cut college Expenses
Minimize your student loan debt by trimming your college expenses, such as housing. According to the College Board, room and board at a four-year public university for the 2017-2018 academic year cost $10,800, on average. If possible, skipping the dorms and staying at home can help you save over $40,000 over the course of four years of school.
4. Consider Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plans
If you graduated and are drowning in federal student debt, IDR plans can provide much-needed relief. Under an IDR plan, the government caps your payments at a percentage of your discretionary income and extends your repayment period. Your new payment could be dramatically lower. Depending on your income, loan amount, and family size, you could even qualify for a $0 monthly bill.
5. Research Student Loan Refinancing
Although IDR plans can be helpful, private student loans aren't eligible for them. However, you might be able to reduce your monthly payment by refinancing your student loans. By refinancing, you take out a new loan for the amount of some or all of your old ones. The refinancing loan has completely different terms, including interest rate, repayment period, and monthly payment.
Tackling your loans
As a part of the LGBTQ community, managing your student loan debt can be particularly difficult and challenging. But, instead of feeling overwhelmed, proactively research your options. By doing your homework, you could end up with more affordable monthly payments that give you more breathing room in your budget.
Are you struggling with student loans or are you preparing for repayment? You can check out the links in the article or do some research on your own. Be careful of all offers, stipulations, and programs. Everyone is out to make money and profits. Make sure the programs you choose are not making you pay more. We do not recommend any program over the other for all of this has to fit your life, your needs, and your personal variables.
Author: Kat Tretina is a contributor to Student Loan Hero who writes about student loan repayment, side hustles, and other personal finance topics. Her work has appeared in publications like the Huffington Post, Money Magazine, Business Insider, and more.