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The Smartest Way to Pay Off Your Student Loans

The Smartest Way to Pay Off Your Student Loans

Graduation is just around the corner for millions of college seniors around the world. Concerns like college rankings, mid-terms and essay samples will be a thing of the past. Of course, these will be replaced by new worries: finding a job, deciding on grad school and for most, the dreaded student loan repayment.

In today’s economy, students have more debt than ever before; some estimate the total amount of student loan debt is well over 1 trillion dollars in the United States alone. While these numbers are daunting, the repayment process doesn’t have to be. By following some simple suggestions, you can reduce you burden and your overall interest payments without living like a broke college student for the rest of your life!

Student loan

    1. Pay a little extra.

    Once you get started with your loan repayments, you might be feeling a little strapped for cash each month. The thought of sending them MORE money might seem a bit of a stretch. However, if you can manage to send even just $5 extra per month, even if it’s not every month, it can save you thousands in interest over the life of the loan. Experts estimate that for every extra dollar you spend, you can cut up to $2 off at the end. That can add up quick!

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      2. Biweekly payments.

      It may sound strange, but sending in half of your loan payment every two weeks will save you thousands of dollars. In addition to paying less interest, you also manage to make an extra full payment every year. Consider the approach, especially if you are paid biweekly.

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        3. Sign up for automated payments.

        Contact your lender and ask about this option. Most will allow you to have your payments automatically withdrawn from your checking or savings account on a regular interval you set up. The other good thing is that lenders will often lower your interest rate by as much as 0.25% if you make automatic payments. It may not sound like much, but it could knock a year, or more, off the life of your loan.

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        You can also have the payment automatically deducted from your paycheck; it won’t hurt nearly as much as writing out a check will. Because you never get to see the money, you won’t miss it as much!

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          4. Let the tax code work for you for a change.

          One of the good things about student loans is that the interest you pay on them is tax deductible, meaning you can subtract it right from your gross income. This means fewer taxes paid and usually a bigger refund for you.

          For example, if you pay $2,000 in interest on your loans in one year, and are taxed at a rate of 25%, that’s $500 less you owe in taxes, or $500 more in your refund check. If you turn that around and apply it as an extra payment towards your student loans, it means you will effectively be using the government’s money to lessen your debt.

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            5. Pay off variable rate loans first.

            If you have some loans that have a variable interest rate, consider paying them down faster first. While they may have a lower rate than your fixed rate loans, that can change quickly. As the economy improves (hopefully), interest rates can rise drastically, catching you off guard and raising your monthly payments significantly. You might even check into converting these to a fixed rate option. It never hurts to talk to your lender.

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              6. Consolidate.

              This option may not help newer loans that have a fixed interest rate, but for older loans, you can often consolidate them into one monthly payment. This is often at a rate lower than what you are paying on the individual loans. Even if you don’t get a better rate, it may still be easier for you to make one payment per month instead of several.

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              think about what you can do with the money

                7. Get someone else to pay it.

                While this sounds like a great idea, it’s not what you think—unless you have a rich uncle willing to write the check, that is! What you might seriously consider is that some companies that hire college grads may be willing to pay a lump sum payment towards your loans as part of your compensation package.

                You will probably have to accept a reduced salary, and agree to work for them for a specific number of years, but the reduced interest and length of time required to pay off your loans could make it worth it. Consider this option when you get to the salary negotiations stage or at your annual review if you are already working.

                No matter what you get your degree in, if you have student loans, repayment is soon going to be a reality for you. If you use some of these tips, you could easily save yourself thousands of dollars over the course of your loan. That’s no small change for simply applying some of these mostly painless suggestions.

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                Last Updated on July 4, 2019

                25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

                25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

                Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless.

                Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent free online education awaits on the following 25 sites.

                1. Coursera

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                  Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

                  Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education, and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

                  Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups.

                  2. Khan Academy

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                    Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

                    Among the more well known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly useable, which may make it easier to keep learning goals.

                    3. Open Culture Online Courses

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                      If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos and podcasts from universities around the world. The site features a lot of material found only on universities private sites, all in easy to browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses, without having to visit and search each university’s own site.

                      Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales and many state universities around the United States. A very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

                      4. Udemy 

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                        Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

                        Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top quality content. This is another site however, that mixes free and paid content.

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                        5. Academic Earth

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                          Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources, and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

                          Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

                          6. edX

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                            Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics.

                            7. Alison

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                              Unlike the previous sites on this lists, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

                              It’s a great option if users need certification for their learning as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

                              8. iTunesU Free Courses

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                                A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod, or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

                                Desktop users can access  iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

                                Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos, and paid content.

                                ITunesU does include courses on a pretty wide scope of topics, but does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

                                9. Stanford Online

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                                  Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

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                                  Stanford Online is a great site for high quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school.

                                  10. Harvard Extension

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                                    Like Stanford Online, Harvard Extension features free online education courses from Harvard only. This is another excellent source for top notch course material, though the course variety is less rich than multi-school sites.

                                    Additionally, Harvard Extension allows you to search for courses by professional certificate. This makes it much easier if your online education goal includes certification.

                                    11. Open Yale Courses

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                                      Open Yale Courses echoes Harvard Extension and Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses, but learn better by watching than by reading.

                                      12. UC Berkeley Class Central

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                                        Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

                                        13. MIT OpenCourseWare

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                                          Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, plus includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

                                          14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

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                                            Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list, however, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics. But for the topics that are covered impressive, in-depth material is available.

                                            15. Codecademy

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                                              Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

                                              The courses at Codecademy are well written and easy to follow and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, plus organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

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                                              16. Code

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                                                Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

                                                In addition to kid friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics and Javascript.

                                                Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

                                                17. University of London Podcasts

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                                                  The podcast page on the University of London website is another great source for free education. While the courses are limited to podcasts, the site features podcasts from it’s own campus, as well as eleven universities in and around London. This gives learners a wide base of topics and lectures, but still ensures in-depth material.

                                                  18. University of Oxford Podcasts

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                                                    Similar to the University of London, the University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

                                                    The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. Another good site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

                                                    19. BBC Podcasts

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                                                      For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly, and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

                                                      Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

                                                      20. TED-Ed

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                                                        Another great destination for more general learning is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all encompassing, motivational web series, comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

                                                        Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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                                                        21. LessonPaths

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                                                          LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

                                                          22. Memrise

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                                                            Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

                                                            Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

                                                            23. National Geographic Kids

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                                                              The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keeps kids interested on this site.

                                                              National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

                                                              24. Fun Brain

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                                                                Fun Brain is another good option for kids who want to learn online, but focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

                                                                Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

                                                                25. Whyville

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                                                                  Similar to the sites for kids free online education is Whyville a destination for preteen online learning. The site includes a variety of social features, with a focus on learning materials geared for young teens.

                                                                  Whyville also mixes in educational games, to make the site a well rounded option for kids too old for simple games, but too young for heavy reading based material.

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                                                                  Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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