Our Answers to the 20 Most-Googled Student Loan Questions May Save You Money

If you have questions about student loans, you’re not the only one. And like most people, you probably went to Google to search for the answers.

There are plenty of people that have student loan questions, as proven by our survey of Google tools. Through Google autocomplete and Google Trends, we identified 20 student loan questions that people search for the most.

Here are the student loan questions and answers everyone’s searching for.

1. How much does college cost?

Ultimately, your cost of college ultimately depends on what school you choose.

If you want to get a better sense of the average cost of college in 2015-2016 for various educational institution types, check out this list we put together:

  • 4-year public institutions for students enrolled in-state: $9,410
  • 4-year public institutions for students enrolled out-of-state: $23,893
  • 2-year public institutions for students enrolled in-state: $3,435
  • 4-year private institutions: $32,405
  • For-profit institutions: $15,610

2. Is college free?

Unfortunately, college isn’t free. However, college students might be able to get a portion of their college costs paid for through financial aid, scholarships, and other programs.

3. Is college worth it?

Since going to college is such a big expense, it’s no wonder many people question the benefits of it. Yet, the data does seem to point to a college degree as a worthy investment.

Holding a bachelor’s degree can boost an individual’s average earnings to $64,500 a year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

That’s $23,500 more than the average salary for a high school education ($41,000) and $14,500 more than the average for those with an associate’s degree ($50,000).

Ultimately, the formula for whether college is worth it is similar to any investment. What are your initial costs and what’s the payoff later?

You can make sure college is a smart investment by keeping college costs under control. And, making sure you’re maximizing your opportunities and earnings after graduating.

4. Is college for everyone?

After facing years of public schooling, it can seem daunting to sign on for more classes in college. Especially now that you’ll bear the responsibility for paying for them.

That’s why it’s a smart idea to check in with yourself and ask, “Is college right for me?”

While a college degree might come with higher earnings, there are still many Americans with only a high school diploma making decent livings at enjoyable jobs.

There are opportunities outside of college for you to gain marketable skills and experience, from vocational school to online tutorials.

5. How can I pay for college?

There are several resources students should look at when trying to figure out how to pay for college. Here are the most common ones:

6. How do student loans work?

Student loans are an important tool many students use to cover college costs. But it’s important to understand how student loans work.

The large majority of student loans in the U.S. are federal loans. However, private student loans can also be an option.

You can take out student loans for each semester in school, and funds are typically disbursed through your college’s financial aid office.

Some student loans charge interest. And, your loans will accrue interest as soon as your borrow them. Even if you’re still in school.

You usually won’t have to make any payments on your loans until six months after your last semester. Then student loans payments will begin. A standard repayment schedule is 10 years or more.

7. How do I get federal student loans?

Direct loans are federal student loans that the U.S. Department of Education funds directly to those enrolled in school. Students can get access to these student loans by completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Once your FAFSA is processed, you’ll get a summary of what types of federal student loans you qualify for and how much you can borrow.

You can then claim the student loans you need. Funds are disbursed to your student account with your educational institution.

8. How do I fill out FAFSA?

It can take some time and persistence to figure out how to fill out FAFSA and submit it.

The first step is to visit FAFSA.ed.gov. Then, sign up for an account and get a federal student aid (FSA) ID number. Next, log in with your FSA ID number to start your FAFSA and complete it.

To complete the FAFSA, you’ll need your recent tax returns on hand, as well as your parents’ if you’re a dependent. The electronic system will walk you through each question and ask for information required to complete it.

Make sure you file all of your info by the FAFSA deadline.

9. What is a Stafford Loan?

A Federal Stafford Loan is a Direct Loan funded by the Department of Education. Students can qualify to borrow through a Stafford loan by submitting their FAFSA.

These loans typically carry low-interest rates, which are currently set at 3.76% for undergraduate borrowers.

Stafford loans might be subsidized, meaning the Department of Education pays interest while you’re in school. Borrowers with unsubsidized Stafford loans, however, will be responsible for paying all of their student loan interest.

10. What is a Perkins Loan?

A Perkins loan is different than other loans offered through FAFSA. That’s because the school you attend is the lender, rather than the Department of Education. 

Perkins loans are only offered to students with “exceptional financial need.” They carry an interest rate of 5.00%.

Students also have a longer grace period after their last semester. They get nine months before their Perkins loan repayment begins, instead of the usual six months.

11. What is a PLUS loan?

A PLUS loan is another type of direct loan offered by the Department of Education.

Typically this loan is used by graduate students to fund a postsecondary degree. Or, by parents to help cover their child’s educational costs.

Unlike other federal student loans, a PLUS loan requires a credit check for approval. It also carries a higher interest rate (6.31%) than other federal student loans and has an additional fee of 4.27%.

12. How can I pay student loans?

When student loans come due, repayment is automatically set to a standard 10-year schedule.

Hopefully, the minimum monthly payments are affordable and you can keep up with them. Or, perhaps you can afford to pay larger amounts to get out of student debt faster.

If you’re struggling, however, there are some student loan repayment options and strategies that can help you manage.

  • Student loan deferment or forbearance, which will “pause” student loan repayment.
  • Income-based repayment plans, which can help lower unaffordable monthly payments.
  • Student loan forgiveness, which can be an option for some borrowers.
  • Spending less and earning more, which will generate extra money to put toward student loans.
  • Refinancing or consolidating student loans, which can help lower interest rates and make them more affordable.

13. How do I defer student loans?

Student loans can be deferred, which means repayment will be officially suspended for a period of up to three years in some cases.

If you want to defer student loans, you’ll need to submit a request to your loan servicer to defer payment.

Keep in mind that it’s likely you will need to prove financial hardship or other eligibility requirements to get a deferment.

14. What does forbearance mean?

Forbearance of student loans is offered for borrowers who are unable to make student loan payments but don’t meet requirements for deferment.

Under forbearance, payments might be temporarily suspended or reduced for up to 12 months.

15. Should I consolidate student loans?

Through student loan consolidation, you take out a new loan and use it to pay off other student loans. If you’re wondering if you should consolidate student loans, there are some pros and cons to weigh.

Consolidating student loans can be a way to simplify student debt, get a lower interest rate, reduce monthly payments, or release a cosigner of responsibility for the existing loan.

However, depending on the terms of your new loan, consolidating student debt can cost more over time. Be sure to do the math before making your decision on consolidation.

16. How do I consolidate student loans?

Once you decide, the next step is figuring out how to consolidate student loans.

There are two main options for refinancing student debt: getting a new federal loan through a Direct Consolidation loan or refinancing through a private lender.

The Direct Consolidation loan can only be used to consolidate federal student loans. It uses an average interest rate, so you’re unlikely to save on that.

However, you can set a longer repayment period to lower monthly payments. To use this method, apply through StudentLoans.gov.

With private student loan consolidation, you will need to apply directly with the private lender. Approval will be based on your credit, income, and other factors.

Make sure you pick a reputable private lender to refinance student loans. Many offer lower student loan interest rates that can save you money in the long-run.

17. Can student loans be forgiven?

In some cases, borrowers might be able to get student loan forgiveness. The federal government grants forgiveness for some student debt, depending on the type of loan and situation of the borrower.

Some circumstances that might make you eligible for student loan forgiveness include:

18. How can I get student loans out of default?

Student loan default happens when more than 270 days past without you making your student loan payments. Those wondering how to get student loans out of default can pursue a few options.

One option is full repayment of the loan. You can also rehabilitate your student loans or consolidate them, which will begin the process of getting the loan out of default.

19. Can student loans be garnished?

Student loans can’t be garnished since they aren’t considered wages. However, people asking this question might actually be wondering if their wages can be garnished because of student loan issues.

Unfortunately, student loans servicers do have the authority to garnish your wages if you miss payments or go into default. Private lenders will need to take you to court and get a judgment before doing so.

For federal loans, however, the government doesn’t need to get a judgment to garnish wages and only needs to give you 30 days notice.

20. Can I deduct student loan interest?

Student loan interest is a tax-deductible expense. Under current tax laws, you can write off student loan interest to reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500. This can lower your tax liability by up to $625.

There are other requirements for claiming a student loan tax deduction. You will have to have a qualified student loan used only for educational expenses, and meet income and other criteria.

As you try to figure out all of your student loan questions, make sure you get the answers you need to make the best financial decisions possible. Your bank account will thank you in the future.

The article Our Answers to the 20 Most-Googled Student Loan Questions May Save You Money originally appeared on Student Loan Hero.