We’ve all heard about, read about, or experienced the woes of student loan debt, and research has shown that black graduates, in particular, face an uphill battle with this. Recent research from Brookings indicates that when African American graduates earn bachelor’s degrees, they owe $7,400 more on average than their white peers— $23,400 as compared to $16,000. Then, during the next few years following their walk across that stage, the black-white debt gap more than triples to $25,000.
All is not lost, however. Experts say that, with proper budgeting and planning, you can conquer what may seem like a debt beast. You just have to put in the work.
Overcome the Fear, Gather Your Paperwork, and Pick up the Phone
Experts recommend that, instead of ignoring the huge sum owed, call your loan provider and find out your options. If you have private loans and you’re struggling to repay, being transparent with a lender, versus totally avoiding the issue and letting it snowball. Forbearance, deferment, and even forgiveness are all options you should ask questions about and take notes on to evaluate. What will each mean, in terms of interest, the length of time to repay, and its impact on your personal budget? Hey, it beats going into default and dealing with the nasty aftermath of wage garnishments as well as dips in your credit score.
Research Your Repayment Calculations Online
There are so many tools out there, and one major tool to start with is on the Dept. of Education’s federal student loan site. You can calculate your repayment amount and look into plans that include forgiveness of your loans if there is a balance owed after 10 to 25 years of repayment.
Get a Vetted Consultant or Adviser
Some companies specialize in consulting on strategies of repayment and offer personalized guidance. Though you must be sure to read reviews, do your research on sites like LinkedIn or the Better Business Bureau and even ask around for referrals. For financial advisers, be sure they’re certified or affiliated with a reputable bank. Also, many cities offer free credit and financial counseling services, so check online at your local government’s website for details.
Evaluate Creative Ways to Boost Your Income
Though the job market can be tough, there may be ways that you can bring in a little extra cash to devote solely to paying off your loans. Is there a side hustle you could commit to, or a part-time gig you could take on? What about freelance work?
Look to Your Employer
Some companies offer student loan repayment assistance and can pay up to $10,000 per year. If you’re a new hire, try factoring in your prospective payments and negotiating an amount that includes enough to cover them. Up for a promotion and raise? The same could apply.