For college students, November and December are filled with research projects and final exams. For recent graduates, however, these months can be exceptionally stressful, especially if a post-graduation dream job hasnt materialized on schedule. For graduates who left school with debt from student loans, November and December can be a month of reckoning.
Government-issued federal student loans and many non-federal private student loans grant students a six-month grace period after they leave school before they need to begin making loan payments. For students who graduated in May and June, then, those college loans come up for repayment in November and December.
And if youre a graduate whos caught up in the current recession and the highest unemployment rate on record for new college graduates, you may be getting your first student loan bill having no idea how youre going to make the payment.
Just ignoring those student loan bills isnt going to help. Defaulting on a federal student loan is no light matter. The government can step in and garnish your wages, once you get a job, or seize any income tax refunds you may have coming to you in order to put money toward your student loan debt.
Both federal and private student loans are nearly impossible to discharge in bankruptcy, so your student loan lenders can keep coming after you for payment, even if a judge declares you bankrupt and wipes out your other debts.
All your student loan accounts appear on your credit report, so your credit rating is also at risk. Repeated late and missed payments on your student loans will drop your credit score, will linger on your credit history for years, and can have a lasting impact on your ability later on to qualify for anything that requires a credit check. You may not be able to get a credit card, take out a car loan or home loan, rent an apartment, or even get a job — more and more employers are conducting credit checks on job candidates as a measure of your responsibility and maturity.
Clearly, keeping your student loans current needs to be a priority, for the sake of your credit and the health of your financial future. Whether youre a newly minted college graduate or a longtime borrower whos now having some financial troubles, if youre facing student loan payments that you cant afford, here are five ways to get help now.
1. Contact your student loan lenders. Whether youre approaching the end of your grace period or youre already in repayment, if you know that you dont have the ability to make the payments on your student loans, contact your lenders immediately, explain your situation, and see what they can do to help.
For your federal student loans, the U.S. Department of Education can grant you additional periods of deferment or forbearance if youre facing financial hardship. With a government-approved deferment or forbearance, your student loan payments are postponed, with no adverse effect on your credit.