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You don’t need us to tell you that college tuition is rising at an unsustainable rate or that America’s young adults are graduating with monstrous student loan debts, it’s a topic that is well publicized. However, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about student loan debt, and following this misinformation could cost you more money.

Below, we’ve busted five of the biggest myths concerning student loan debt.

Myth #1: Consolidating your student loans will lower your interest rate.

There are two types of student loan consolidation, federal and private. The Federal Direct Loan Consolidation program is administered through the government and only federal student loans can be included in the consolidation. Private student loan consolidation is provided by private financial institutions and can include both federal and private loans.
When you consolidate student loans in the Federal Direct Loan Consolidation program, the interest rate on your new loan is fixed and the new rate is an average of the interest rates of your existing loans, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth percent. So depending on your current rates, this may or may not lower your rate. You can also extend your repayment term up to 30 years, which can significantly reduce your payment.

Our advice: Be sure to speak with a trusted financial advisor to weigh the pros and cons against your current situation and to see if a consolidation (federal or private) might be a beneficial option for you.

>Myth #2: Student loan forgiveness is available if you can’t afford your student loans.

Federal student loans are the only loan types that qualify for student loan forgiveness.To receive it, you must enroll in an income-driven repayment plan, such as Pay As You Earn (PAYE), that creates a new monthly payment based on your income, not the total loan amount you owe.

In 2015, PAYE was revised, and renamed REPAYE, in an effort to qualify about five million more borrowers for eligibility. REPAYE doesn’t just reduce monthly loan payments. It also promises to forgive student loan debt if certain requirements are met. Usually, they’re forgiven after 20 years of consecutive, on time monthly payments. Check with your federal loan provider for more details.

Myth #3: You can skip a student loan payment if you have financial hardship.

If you’re facing financial hardship, contact your student loan servicer immediately. You can’t just skip a payment without making an arrangement. They may have options, such as deferment or forbearance, where your payments may be suspended or reduced. This will help temporarily if you find yourself in tight spot financially. If you just skip a payment without one of these arrangements in place, it will negatively impact your credit.

Myth #4: Federal student loans have the lowest interest rate.

With federal student loans, everyone received the same interest rate, regardless of your credit. Therefore, they aren’t necessarily offered at the lowest interest rate. Private student loans are based on your individual credit profile and other factors, so interest rates differ among borrowers. If you have strong credit, you may get a lower rate from a private student loan lender.

Always compare interest rates between federal and private student loans before taking out loans with any lender.

Myth #5: It costs extra money to pay off your student loan early.

Student loans don’t have a prepayment penalty, which means you can pay this type of debt off anytime with no fee. Something to consider though before you pay it off; debt, in any form, isn’t necessarily good, but there is some debt that’s okay to keep around because you’re using it as leverage to build more wealth than you could without it. Your student loan debt could be considered “good” debt because it’s used by appreciating or income-producing assets like your education (a business and real estate are also considerations in this situation).

If you have questions about your student loans, call BALANCE, our financial education partner, at 888-456-2227.