Student loans have been weighing heavy on higher education students over the past decade – particularly those who can’t find adequate employment to justify the costs of college.

Politician, Mark Pocan gave one of the best quotes to sum up student loan frustration, stating, “By making college unaffordable and student loans unbearable, we risk deterring our best and brightest from pursuing higher education and securing a good-paying job.”

A study by The Institute for College Access & Success reported that between 2004 and 2014, student loan debt rose by a massive 56% on average – a leap from $18,550 to $28,950. Thus it has become critical for students to understand what they owe, who they owe, and most importantly, how they can owe less.

1. Automatic Payments

One of the easiest ways to immediately save is to sign up for automatic payments to be withdrawn straight from your bank account. Many companies now offer reduced interest rates simple for signing up for a convenient and secure payment method. The reduction rate is typically only a fraction of a percent, but it still keeps some extra cash in your pocket.

2. Refinance

Refinancing loans is a popular method for reducing sky-high interest rates. High interest rates are particularly discouraging, making it seem as if you’ll never pay off your debt along with the rapidly accruing interest. Luckily, refinancing is a fairly simple process for those with a good credit score and a steady income. Those who are not in the best circumstances may apply for refinancing with a cosigner to increase their chances of acceptance.

3. Loan Forgiveness

While loan forgiveness is only applicable in certain circumstances, it is certainly worth looking into whether those circumstances apply to you or not. You may have access to loan forgiveness, for example, if you have worked in the public service field for several years. Teachers and other professionals can apply for public service loan forgiveness.

4. Consolidation

Consolidation is one of the most common forms of loan management, but surprisingly, not everyone takes advantage of it. This method is beneficial for a few basic reasons. It allows you to combine payments so that you only have one monthly deadline to remember and one combined interest rate instead of several. In many cases, this will also lead to lower monthly payments. If you’ve yet to consolidate student loans, this is one way to streamline payments and avoid unnecessary late fees in the long run.

5. Program Assistance

Spend a day researching established student loan programs that help graduates in certain professions pay off their loans. A few examples include the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program, programs for the Army, Air Force, National Guard, and Navy, and Teach for America. If you do qualify based on your profession, there is usually a few basic rules that must be followed, like committing to a position for 5 years or working in a particular location. Weigh the pros and cons of these offers to decide if any are right for you.

6. Automatic Savings

One way to trick yourself into paying student loans off faster – and thus owing less in the long run – is to set up automatic deposits from your paycheck to your savings account. Whether it’s $10 or $200, this method allows you to save effortlessly and immediately deducts the money before you have a change to spend it.

7. Remember Taxes

Each year, student loan companies will send out tax forms showing the amount of interest you paid in the prior year. Don’t ignore or forget about these forms, as they can provide some decent tax deductions (up to $2500). Grad students are often eligible for tax credits, which can save you even more than tax deductions.

8. Pay Faster

Last but not least this is an option for those who are not over-burdened financially. Just because your loan company asks for a set amount of money each month doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t pay more. Throwing in extra payments here and there or doubling your payments altogether helps to reduce the principle quickly. Use a repayment calculator to determine how much you can save in what amount of time. By tightening your budget in a few minor ways, you may find that you can abolish debt in half the estimated time.

Featured photo credit: eflon via flickr.com

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