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Glossary of Student Loan Refinancing Terms

December 20, 2018

There are so many terms that borrower’s encounter in the student loan application process, most borrowers may not be exactly sure what each means. If you’re getting ready to apply or just want to know what the documents are talking about, here’s our glossary of common student loan terms that you should know.

 

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and Gross Income

Gross income is the total income you earn in a year before deductions for federal or state taxes, credits, and so on. Adjusted gross income is the income you earn in a year which is eligible to be taxed after accounting for deductions. AGI is usually lower than your gross income and is what many institutions use to determine if you can get perks like loan tax benefits or financial aid, grants, etc. The easiest place to find these are on your official tax return.

 

Adverse Action Letter

When you apply for credit, insurance, a loan, or sometimes even employment, and are denied due to something negative on your credit report, the organization inquiring might be required to send you one of these. It explains why you were turned down and it’s important because it gives you a reason to see if something is wrong on your credit report.

 

Amortization

This term describes how the principal is paid over the course of a loan.  Most student loans are fully amortized, meaning that if all payments are made as scheduled over the life of the loan the principal balance will be fully repaid at the maturity date.  Other types of loans, including some types of mortgage loans, have a feature known as a balloon payment.  With a balloon payment, regularly scheduled payments do not fully repay the principal amount borrowed, so when the loan matures the final payment contains a larger, or balloon, payment of all remaining principal.

 

Annual Loan Limit

This is the maximum loan amount you can borrow for an academic year. Loan limits can vary by facts like grade level and loan type.

 

Award Letter

If you received financial aid, expect to see an award letter that explains the different types of aid for which you are eligible. The document will also include information about your loans, grants, or scholarships, and you’ll see a new one each year that you’re in school.

 

Borrower

The person who is responsible for paying back a student loan. You may not be the only one responsible, like if you signed with a cosigner, but the loan is for you and your academic fees and tuition. You’re the borrower.

 

Capitalized Interest

When unpaid interest gets added to the principal balance (increasing your overall balance and future interest), this is called capitalization. This is why it’s important to pay interest whenever possible. Capitalization might happen at the end of a grace period or deferment, or after forbearance, depending on whether it’s a federal or private loan. When a loan is consolidated or if it enters default, capitalization may occur.

 

Cosigner

If needed, borrowers can add a second person who shares responsibility for a student loan. This second person co-signs the loan and becomes partially responsible for repayment in the event that the primary borrower is not able to pay.

 

Consolidation Loan

Consolidation is when a new loan replaces your current student loans. People might do this to make payments easier to manage or to reduce the amount you owe each month or in total. There are lots of things to know about consolidation.

 

Default/Delinquent

A loan is considered delinquent when a scheduled payment is not made in a timely manner.  Delinquency can result in the imposition of late charges, collection calls or letters, and negative information being placed on a credit report.  Default is when the lender determines that the borrower has failed to honor the terms of the loan agreement in such a way that the lender is entitled to declare the entire loan balance due and payable, even if the loan has not yet reached its maturity date.  Serious delinquency is very often the reason for a loan being declared in default, but loan agreements typically provide that certain other events can trigger a default.  Before entering into a loan agreement, always read the loan agreement carefully and understand what can constitute a default under that loan.

 

Deferment

Students can usually postpone loan repayment if they meet certain criteria. This might be a pre-set time limit or can be when someone is in school and not able to make payments. Unsubsidized loans accrue interest while being deferred, but subsidized loans do not accrue interest while in deferment.

 

Disbursement

This is when your school receives funds like financial aid money or student loan funds. The institution then applies it to your bill for tuition and school-related fees. If you consolidate, the disbursement happens when money is sent to pay off your old loans.

 

Discharge

When some or all of your student loan debt is canceled, this is called discharge.

 

Entrance/Exit Interview or Counseling

Schools provide entrance or exit counseling to help students understand important financing topics like how to repay loans and stay in good standing with student loans. This can happen during enrollment as an entrance to the process, and after graduation as part of leaving the school system.

 

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

This amount is an estimate based on how much money you, your spouse, and/or family can contribute to your tuition for the academic year. It’s calculated with information provided on your FAFSA and helps determine your financial need. Financial need is calculated as the cost of attendance minus your EFC. This determines your eligibility for aid including Stafford loans, Perkins loans, scholarships, and grants.

 

Fixed or Variable Interest Rate

If an interest rate cannot change over time, it is fixed. A variable interest rate can change over the life of the loan.  Variable rates can move up or down based upon changes to an identified index, such a prime rate, a particular U.S. Treasury note, or LIBOR.  LIBOR stands for the London Interbank Offered Rate, and is an index commonly used with student loans.  Some variable rate loans may have a “cap” and/or a “floor.”  A cap is the maximum rate that can be applied to the loan, regardless of changes to the index.  A floor is just the opposite – the minimum rate for the loan regardless of changes to the index.

 

Forbearance

Forbearance is when you can postpone or reduce student loan payments, but interest continues to accrue and increase the total amount you owe.

 

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

FAFSA is the application a student must complete to apply for any type of federal student aid including loans, grants, or scholarships.

 

Full-Time/Part-Time Enrollment

Whether you are enrolled or not, and your status as part-time or full-time can affect different aspects of student loan financing and repayment. Part-time is usually six credit hours and full-time is twelve, but this can vary.

 

In-School Deferment

While in actively enrolled in school, you might be able to postpone your federal or private student loan payments until you graduate or drop below half time.

 

Loan Forgiveness

When you qualify for certain programs, you may be able to have the final balance of your loans forgiven after a certain period of time. There are specific criteria for eligibility and usually a detailed application process.

 

Master Promissory Note (MPN)

This document states the terms of repayment for your student loans and is the official document proving your commitment to repay the money you borrowed with interest. To receive federal loans, all borrowers must sign an MPN.

 

Principal Balance

The principal balance is the amount of money borrowed under the loan that you currently owe. It doesn’t include interest or fees that are either unpaid or yet to accrue.

 

Repayment Period

This amount of time is what you have to repay your student loans. Standard for Stafford loans is ten years, but this can be extended with reduced repayment plans. The longer you take to pay your loans, usually, the more you end up paying in interest. A repayment plan is the formal agreement you have with a servicer that details how you plan to repay your loans each month.

 

Repayment Terms

These terms represent all of your rights and responsibilities for the student loan, including what you’ll pay for monthly payments. Lenders are required to disclose repayment terms to you before you can commit to borrowing a loan.

 

Right to Cancel

Once an approved application has been accepted by the borrower, the federal Truth in Lending Act requires the lender to provide a Final Truth in Lending disclosure statement.  This final disclosure statement includes a three business day right to cancel, during which time the borrower can change their mind and cancel the loan.  To protect borrowers, the lender cannot disburse the loan proceeds until the right to cancel period has expired.

Servicer

The loan servicer handles your student loan billing like collecting payments and offering customer service between you and the lender.

 

Student Aid Report (SAR)

The SAR is a detailed list of all of the financial and personal information you submitted for your FAFSA, including financial info for your family. Your school receives a copy of this and you should receive one as well.

 

Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

While in school and during your grace period, the government pays the interest on your subsidized loans so you don’t have to. Federal loans that are not based on financial need are unsubsidized, meaning you’re responsible for paying the interest that accrues.

 

Top Tips for Finding the Right Student Loan Refinance Lender

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2019-01-17
Marriage and Student Loan Debt

Ever been on a date where the other person doesn’t stop talking about their ex? If you’ve had this experience, you can likely relate it to discussing your student loan debt in your relationship. Talking about finances is a necessary evil in a marriage. It can be difficult to discuss finances in a marriage because many people handle finances different based on their personal experiences and how their parents handled them. You might be great at adulting, but if your parents were never open about managing money, you’re probably unsure of how to bring it up. You might even be unsure as to where to start when it comes to managing finances together. Student loans are a big part of many couples’ financial reality. Figuring out how marriage will affect your student loans is an important part of managing your money together.  Here are some main points that we think you should know about marriage and student loan debt.  

Honesty

The fastest way to create a rift and cause problems in your relationship is to hide information about your finances. According to CreditCards.com, 6% of Americans in a relationship have hidden credit cards or checking/savings accounts from their partner. That total adds up to about 7 million, for perspective, that’s the size of the state of Massachusetts.  It’s not uncommon especially in younger people ages 18-29 to withhold some financial information. It’s when a partner begins to lie about large purchases that a partner should become concerned.   People might think that love solves everything, but it’s better to be on the same page and realistic about the situation. If you are mature enough to get married and really want to work together to succeed, you need to face your finances.  As a couple, you need to get over any fears about assessing the financial situation and air everything out. It doesn’t have to be painful but it needs to be an honest outlook. For some couples, this can seem really overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be.  

Get Tips on How to Talk Finances With Your Partner

 

Get a Plan

Have a conversation about how to best review everything. Discuss each of your finances and then surmise a plan to tackle them. Now in some cases, it may not be this simple depending on your income level, occupation, and level of debt. You may want to meet with a financial counselor first and go over everything together, or sit down as a couple at home and discuss the basics before moving any further. It’s totally up to you both, as a team.   Don’t be shy or embarrassed by your financial situation as a couple. There are people who make a living on making sure couples are financially confident and ready to tackle financial goals together. Don’t overlook this benefit of consulting with an outside source about finances—especially if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. If you can’t afford an outside counselor check online, you may be surprised at the educational resources available for free. When it comes to self-learning about finances just be careful how you select your resources. As the old saying goes not everything you see online is true!  

Loan Responsibility

When the person you’ve chosen to marry has student loan debt you can face some challenges. If you haven’t co-signed for a spouse and it’s just their name on the loan, this won’t be something that shows up on your credit report. Beware that even if you did not co-sign your partner’s loan there are instances when you might be responsible for paying the loan. Student loans aren’t that different from other types of loans.   For example, if someone passes away, the rest of their loan will likely be forgiven and the spouse would not have to continue making those payments. There are some cases where death will not discharge the remaining debt and the loan company may contact the estate for payment. If your spouse ever lost their income and went into default, the loan companies will look for someone to pay. If your spouse doesn’t have an income, your wages could be garnished. It’s a pretty extreme scenario, but it also happens and is something you should be aware of.   If you are choosing to marry someone with student loan debt, it’s important to talk about this. You’ll want to have a plan set up for each of these scenarios. Though they are extreme if you have savings and you pay down your debt responsibly you shouldn’t have any problems.  

Repayment Plan Adjustments

IBR and other types of repayment plans are often used when paying back student loans. We would caution against using these programs. In some cases, your monthly student loan payment may not be covering the interest accrued that month and therefore your balance will continue to increase.   Repayment plans can be based on your household income and family size. When you get married your income and family size may change. If your spouse makes a considerable amount of money, your minimum payments could go up even with your family size going up. If your spouse makes less than you or is not working, your loan payment could go down. It all depends on the details of your financial situation and your loan servicer, but it’s worth noting that this is a possibility.  

Refinancing

Fairly often we receive request to refinance couple’s student debt together. Many see this as creating a lot less hassle for themselves by creating only one bill.  That’s not always possible, and many experts suggest keeping your loans separate in case your relationship status or financial situation changes in the future. You are not always able to refinance together, either.  Whether or not you can refinance your student loan with your spouse will depend on the loan type and servicer you have. If you’re looking into refinancing, talk to each other about goals. Do you want a lower payment so you can save for a house or do you want to pay loans off sooner so you can live abroad or go to grad school? Again, it’s up to the two of you, but you can’t be on the same page if you don’t talk about it.  

Don’t stress.

Take a deep breath and know that it’s normal for people to get stressed out talking about money, but it doesn’t have to be that way. No matter how much money you make, you will have to work together as a team to set priorities. This isn’t a blame game. Just talking about finances doesn’t mean that you’re secretly harboring any resentment or grudges. No one is being attacked and no questions are stupid. You both have to agree to create an open dialogue where you both feel good about discussing money and plans. Know that sometimes there are compromises, or one of you might change your personal plans to advance the other. That’s what it means to be a team.  

Tips for Finding the Perfect Lender to Refinance Your Student Loans

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
Employer participation in student loan debt assistance
2019-01-02
Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act H.R. 795

Nothing could be better than working for a top company that helps you pay off your student loans, right? Well, a bill was introduced by legislators on 2/1/2017 that is trying to make this a reality. This bill was introduced as the Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act. In addition to the introduction of this Act, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also released a private letter ruling. What could these events mean for companies and employees who carry student loan debt?  

Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act

First, this bill would amend the tax code by giving tax breaks to employers that provide educational assistance to employees. Educational assistance can be in the form of contributions to student loans through either a payment to the employee or lender. Specifically, this act would allow employers to offer a tax-free student loan benefit in addition to a salary to its employees.  

IRS Private Letter Ruling

  Recently, there was a private letter ruling released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you want to review the contents of the private letter ruling, it can be found here. The ruling allows employers to use 401(k) plans to help employees pay down their student loan debt. It is done by taking the employer 401(k) match to pay down student loans.   Any employee who is eligible for a 401(k) plan would be eligible for this plan. The ruling states that the plan is a voluntary program that employees must elect to enroll. Employees who choose to participate in this plan would be eligible for non-elective contributions made by the employer to their student loan debt. These contributions would be equal to what would have been contributed to a 401(k) plan had the employee opted out of the program.  

What Does Student Loan Debt Assistance Mean for Employers?

When managing a business, it is imperative that you stay on top of recent news. Part of staying on top of things includes understanding what challenges your employees face. Both these aspects of operating a business and understanding the needs of your employees, however, can fall hand in hand. When it comes to student loan debt assistance, it can be a huge positive for any business. Not only does student loan debt assistance help employees achieve their financial goals, but it also brings many benefits to a firm.   Offering a student loan debt assistance program does not typically cost a company extra. The employer contributions to student loans are what a company would have typically made as a 401(k) contribution. Therefore the costs of providing 401(k) contributions and student loan debt assistance are equal. Another positive that comes from offering a program like this is that it helps with finding top talent, recruiting, and retaining all-stars. With older generations of employees retiring in record numbers and the workforce shifting to younger millennials, it’s important to take some time to examine the benefits of providing student loan debt assistance.   As many millennials have student loans and report that paying them down is a priority over saving for retirement, companies should begin thinking about reevaluating their benefits package to attract millennials. Finding ways to help this generation pay off student loans could be a big boost to a company’s recruiting strategy. Offering student loan payment assistance could put a company on the cutting edge as far as millennial professionals are concerned.  

Click to Learn More About ELFI for Business

  According to a benefits report by OneDigital, nearly 80 percent of employees surveyed by American Student Assistance felt that an employer-sponsored student loan repayment benefit would be a deciding factor in accepting a job. This could be a huge differentiator for an employer aiming to recruit the best employees.   The American Student Assistance survey also showed that 86 percent of employees would feel compelled to stay with an employer for at least five years in exchange for student loan repayment assistance. Considering how much companies spend on turnover (recruiting, training, and onboarding new employees), this could mean huge potential savings on talent management costs for employers.  

What Does Student Loan Debt Assistance Mean for Employees?

Some companies already offer student loan assistance, but these funds are usually taxed. This type of assistance isn’t as attractive as pre-tax funds because taxes reduce the impact of payments on student loans. Tax-free repayment funds from an employer could be more effective in helping graduates pay down their student loans faster. Employees would avoid incurring taxes associated with this type of assistance.   Many Millennials also face the question of, “Should I save for retirement or pay down debt first?” Student loan debt assistance could be a solution that addresses both concerns. Young employees would have the ability to make substantial payments towards their student loan debt. With these large payments, they will be able to cut down their repayment time. That means young employees would have the ability to start saving for retirement earlier in their career instead of trying to pay down their debt.  

Looking to the Future of Employment and Student Loan Debt

  With the recent Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act and IRS Private Letter Ruling, it seems student loan debt has become a problem for employees. Since employees are having difficulties with paying down student loan debt, it is time for employers to take action. Not only will employers benefit from offering student loan debt assistance programs, but it will most likely be at little or no cost to them.   If this act becomes a law, experts think that companies will immediately begin to rethink their benefits package and consider student loan debt assistance as a way to attract the best employees. Though it may not be easy for millennials to land a position with one of these companies, they will certainly have another factor to decide in student loan debt assistance when choosing their employer.   Interested in starting a conversation regarding your student loans? Give us a call: 1-844-601-ELFI.  

5 Benefits Millennials Look For in Employers

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the web sites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
Daughter with parents
2018-12-27
Cosigners and Cosigner Release – What You Need to Know

As more millennials are stepping into experienced job roles and making more money than we were a few years ago, cosigner release is becoming a popular topic. You may have seen a letter in the mail from your student loan servicer or heard from others that they were able to release a parent or relative from cosigner duties. But what does this mean?  

What are the responsibilities of a cosigner?

A common misconception about cosigning a loan is that you’ll be the sole responsible party for the loan. Being a cosigner means that you and the student taking out the student loan are jointly responsible for paying the balance of the loan. In the event that the borrower is not able to pay, the cosigner becomes the focus of repayment efforts by the loan holder or servicer. If the borrower is unable to make payments because of a disability, the loans might be forgiven. There are some special cases like this where the cosigner won’t have to pay, but in general, being a cosigner is a long-term commitment that can’t be eliminated except through payoff, release, or extenuating circumstances.  

How does cosigning affect credit?

Before asking a friend or family member to take on the responsibilities of a cosigner it’s important to understand how that will affect their credit. Since a cosigner and borrower share the responsibility of a loan, it appears on both of their credit reports. If loan payments are made on time and the borrower is in good standing, then the cosigner will also benefit from the good credit. If the loan has late payments or does into delinquency, this will negatively affect the cosigner’s credit. In addition to affecting the credit score of the cosigner, they may become limited as to the amount of credit available to them. Before asking someone to be a cosigner verify they are not looking to have any large amounts of credit like a mortgage, credit card, or car loan.  

When do I not need a cosigner?

Students do not need cosigners to qualify for Federal loans like a Stafford or Direct Loan, but it can improve the chances of being approved. It’s very common for students who apply for private loans to add a cosigner to get the amount that they need and a typically qualify for a much better rate than they could get on their own.  

What is cosigner release?

Cosigner release is when the person who cosigned on a loan for you is taken off of the agreement and no longer considered partially responsible for the loan. This makes the borrower solely responsible for the remaining amount of the loan. Some student loan refinancing lenders don’t offer cosigner release.   When student loans are granted, they are provided based on your cosigner’s credit and the borrower’s credit.  In traditional cosigner releases the terms of the loan would remain the same as when the borrower took out the loan with the cosigner on it. The only difference with the cosigner release is the cosigner is being removed. When they allow you to release your cosigner depends on the company, if it is offered at all.   Most companies that offer cosigner release allow you to do so, once you’ve made two consecutive years of payments on time. Others may have longer terms for on-time payments before they allow you to apply for release. If you haven’t been making the full payment, that might eliminate your eligibility to release your cosigner. The release also has to be initiated by the borrower and can’t be requested through the servicer by the cosigner.   Not all companies offer cosigner releases. As we mentioned earlier some since loans are originated to include that cosigner, just removing them can be tough. That’s why many companies don’t offer cosigner releases but don’t stress. If you choose to refinance a loan with a cosigner but then decide You’d like to remove that cosigner, there are other options available to you.  

Will refinancing my student loan release my cosigner?

People often ask, "What if I just refinance my loan without the cosigner on it. Is it the same as a cosigner release?" Refinancing student loans is not the same thing as getting a cosigner release.  Before we go into greater detail it’s important to understand that very few loans are refinanced with a cosigner.   If you are in a position to refinance and qualify, then you don’t need a cosigner to make the new loan possible. There are some exceptions, but during refinancing, you’d be able to check with the servicer to see what terms you could get on your own and then go from there. Most companies that refinance student loan debt will allow you to add a cosigner if you do not qualify on your own, but the cosigner will need to submit some information. If you choose to set up a new refinanced loan without the cosigner, it releases them from the obligation of the former loan.   You may be asking “Is there another way that a cosigner can be removed from a loan without utilizing a cosigner release?” well the answer is yes. Aside from utilizing a cosigner release or refinancing the loan without the cosigner, the borrower or cosigner can pay off the debt. Once the debt is paid off both parties are no longer responsible for the debt.   Before you ask someone to cosign on a loan, consider these things and be sure that they are okay with the responsibility. Make sure that you as a borrower have an understanding and a plan for paying back that debt. If you don’t think that you can pay back the debt or are uncertain of how you will pay off the debt you should not involve a cosigner.   Most students ask their parents to cosign, but frequently have another relative help them by cosigning to get a loan. Know that cosigner release might be possible later, but don’t count on it, and check with the financial institution that holds your loans about cosigner release. You might be able to let mom or dad off the hook by refinancing or paying the debt down in full.  

Click For the Difference Between Parent PLUS Loans & Cosigning Education Loans