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It’s been hard to come to terms with, but I need to face the facts: I’m not in college anymore. In fact, this spring marks two years since I graduated from college and went into repayment on my student loans. I know, not the most exciting thing in the world, but important. So while I don’t claim to be a student loan expert, I have learned a lot of lessons along the way, mostly through trial and error. In hopes that you won’t make the same mistakes I did, here are some things I wish I had known when I was graduating and getting ready to start repaying my student loans:
- I should have kept track of what I was borrowing.
Let’s be real. When you take out student loans to help pay for college, it’s easy to forget that that money will eventually have to be paid back … with interest. The money just doesn’t seem real when you’re in college, and I didn’t do a good job of keeping track of what I was borrowing and how it was building up. When it was time to start repaying my loans, I was quite overwhelmed. I had different types of loans and different interest rates. When I did eventually see my loan balance, I was pretty surprised.
You can avoid this problem. Had I known there was a super easy way to keep track of how much you’ve borrowed in federal student loans, I would have been much better off. Just go to nslds.ed.gov, select “Financial Aid Review,” log in, and you can view all of your federal student loans in one place! How did I miss that?
- I should have made interest payments while I was still in school.
If you’re anything like me, you probably consumed your fair share of instant noodles while trying to survive on a college student’s budget. Trust me, I get it. But one thing I really regret when it comes to my student loans is not paying interest while I was in school or during my grace period. Like I said, I was far from rich, but when I was in college, I did have a work-study job and waited tables on the side. I probably could have spared a few dollars each month to pay down some student loan interest. Remember, student loans are borrowed money that you have to repay with interest and more importantly, that interest may capitalize, or be added to your total balance. My advice: Even though you don’t have to, do yourself a favor and consider paying at least some of your student loan interest while you’re in school. It will save you money in the long run.
3. I should have kept my loan servicer in the loop
If you’re getting ready to graduate or have graduated recently and haven’t heard from your loan servicer, make sure you check that your loan servicer has up-to-date contact info for you. When I graduated and moved into my first big-girl apartment, I forgot to change my address with my loan servicer. I found out that all of my student loan correspondence was going to my mom’s address. I hadn’t even thought to update my loan servicer with my new contact information. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Keep your servicer informed of address, email, and phone changes.
- I should have figured out what my monthly loan payments were going to be BEFORE I went into repayment.
By the time my grace period was over, I had a decent idea of how much I had borrowed in total, but I had no idea what my monthly payments would be. I thought I was fine. I had started my new job and been paying rent and other bills for about six months. Then my grace period ended, and I got my first bill from my loan servicer. It was definitely an expense I hadn’t fully taken into account.
Don’t make the same mistake. Luckily for you, Federal Student Aid just launched a new repayment estimator that allows you to pull your federal student loan information in order to compare your monthly payments under different repayment options side by side. That way, you know what to expect and can budget accordingly … unlike me.
I’ll be the first to admit that this whole process can be a little overwhelming, especially when you’re new at it. But just remember, your loan servicer is there to help you. If you have questions or need advice, don’t hesitate to contact them.
Nicole Callahan is a new media analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.
Educational attainment has increased, but there are gaps by gender and by race, according to an annual report from the Education Department.
At least two colleges plan to create a "lecturer" classification for non-tenure-track instructors who teach 75 percent of a full-time professor's course load.
Students accused Dartmouth and Swarthmore Colleges and the Universities of California at Berkeley and of Southern California of violating federal laws.
In a mostly party-line vote, the chamber approved a Republican-backed measure that would prevent some interest rates from doubling on July 1.
The inspiration for Olga Gomez to obtain her GED started with a simple statement from her youngest son: “Mom I challenge you to finish your GED.”
Attaining the GED would be no easy feat for this mother of four who dropped out of school when she was sixteen. Fortunately for Olga, her children stepped up and volunteered to tutor her in preparation for the exam.
Today, Olga Gomez is a proud GED recipient but most importantly, she’s an inspiration to her children, just as much as they are an inspiration to her.
Gomez is one of eleven adult learners who recently met with Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier at the Department of Education (ED) to share their stories and make recommendations on how ED can improve services offered to adult learners.
Dann-Messier acknowledged that these adults face many barriers to success in the labor market. Some of the barriers she cited were: a lack of a high school diploma, no postsecondary degree or training, and an inability to speak, read, and write English well.
Each of the adult learners at our recent meeting displayed a tremendous amount of courage in order to overcome the odds associated with returning to school as adults, but what is more laudable is the strength they found in their families and in support organizations.
“I was an honor roll student in high school, but I just kind of lost my way,” said Shamika Hall, the state vice-president for the Delaware Career Association.
Hall lost her sister to an act of senseless gun violence, a devastating tragedy that altered her life’s course. She credits her family and the James H. Grove Adult High School in Wilmington, Del., for helping her get back on track. Watch Hall tell her story below:
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Secretary Duncan said that he was inspired by each of the adult learners resilience and tenacity. “It’s pretty remarkable to hear not just where you’ve been but how far you’ve come, and most importantly, where each of you are going,” he said.
Before the meeting concluded, Reuben Holguin, an ex-gang member and convicted felon, showed Secretary Duncan his inmate ID. He said that even though he acquired his GED, completed college courses and changed his life around, he will always carry his inmate ID with him to remind him just how far he’s come.
The adult learners who stopped by ED were in town to attend VALUEUSA’s National Adult Learner Leadership Institute, and Dann-Messier thanked VALUEUSA, the only national literacy organization governed and operated by current and former adult learners for helping to organize the meeting with Secretary Duncan.
This fall, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will release the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). The goal of PIAAC is to assess and compare the basic skills and the broad range of competencies of adults ages 16-65 around the world. PIAAC covers 23 countries, including the United States. OECD will also release a country report specific to the U.S. to accompany the data release. The report will identify policy implications for improving the skills of adults in the U.S.
De’Rell Bonner works in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach
The Century Foundation calls for radical change to avoid "the increasing economic and racial isolation of students" at community colleges.
At a hearing, students' and veterans' groups argued for shoring up the rule. For-profit colleges argued for dropping it, or waiting for Congress to act.
President Obama, in the 2013 State the Union address, challenged the country to move forward simultaneously on two key educational fronts — providing high-quality preschool for all four-year olds and preparing a new generation of Americans in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects. Teaching artists from the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts and preschool educators in the Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools, with support from the U.S. Department of Education, are developing an innovative approach to achieving both of these national goals.
The Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts (Early STEM/Arts) is pioneering an innovative, research-based arts integration model for early childhood learning — one that supports math teaching and learning through active, arts-based experiences in pre-K and kindergarten classrooms. Preschool teachers participating in the project receive professional development that enables them to apply arts-integrated lessons in their classrooms. Some report “a-ha!” moments as they work alongside Wolf Trap Teaching Artists such as Amanda Layton Whiteman (pictured above). “When I found out it was going to be math, I was saying, oh jeez, this is going to be hard,” said one teacher. But after being involved with the artist and the arts-integrated approach, she “realized that math is everywhere.” And incorporating the arts into her everyday lessons “helps you reach every child.”
With the help of a $1.15 million Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), the Early STEM/Arts program will disseminate evaluation results in early 2014. In the meantime, Wolf Trap Regional Programs in 16 locations nationally are gearing up to implement the new model in the 2013-14 school year.
Read OII’s “Wolf Trap Institute Unites the Arts and STEM in Early Childhood Learning” to hear more stories from those at the Wolf Trap Institute.
Federal student loans can be a great way to help pay for college or career school. While you shouldn’t be afraid to take out federal student loans, you should be smart about it. Before you take out a loan, it’s important to understand that a loan is a legal obligation that you will be responsible for repaying with interest.
Here are some tips to help you become a responsible borrower.
- Keep track of how much you’re borrowing. Think about how the amount of your loans will affect your future finances, and how much you can afford to repay. Your student loan payments should be only a small percentage of your salary after you graduate, so it’s important not to borrow more than you need. To view all of your federal student loan information in one place, go to nslds.ed.gov, select Financial Aid Review, and log in.
- Research starting salaries in your field. Ask your school for starting salaries of recent graduates in your field of study to get an idea of how much you are likely to earn after you graduate. You can use the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook to estimate salaries for different careers or use a career search tool to research careers and view the average annual salary for each career.
- Understand the terms of your loan and keep copies of your loan documents. When you sign your promissory note, you are agreeing to repay the loan according to the terms of the note even if you don’t complete your education, can’t get a job after you complete the program, or you didn’t like the education you received.
- Make payments on time. You are required to pay the full amount required by your repayment plan, as partial payments do not fulfill your obligation to repay your student loan on time. Find out more about student loan repayment, including when repayment starts, how to make your payment, repayment plan options, and more!
- Keep in touch with your loan servicer. Notify your loan servicer when you graduate; withdraw from school; drop below half-time status; transfer to another school; or change your name, address, or Social Security number. You also should contact your servicer if you’re having trouble making your scheduled loan payments. Your servicer has several options available to help you keep your loan in good standing.
Remember, federal student loans are an investment in your future so invest wisely.
Tara Young is a communication analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid
The department won't disclose its plans for efforts to regulate career-oriented programs.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved extending federal student loans, work-study funds, and other support to students who are in the United States illegally.
Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge may not have discriminated against a female job candidate, the court said, but the evidence warrants a trial, not dismissal of the case.
As part of Teacher Appreciation Week, Secretary Arne Duncan recognized Mr. Noah Geisel as the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) National Language Teacher of the Year. Mr. Geisel, a Spanish teacher at East High School in Denver, said his enthusiasm for teaching Spanish “comes from my love of language and culture, and belief that language learning and understanding of cultures are essential to my students’ futures.”
Secretary Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education share Mr. Geisel’s belief in the importance of foreign languages and global competencies to the future of our nation’s students and a key part of a world-class education. As Secretary Duncan has said, “to prosper economically and to improve relations with other countries, Americans need to read, speak and understand other languages.” And this is something that I have seen personally, both while working on the President’s National Security Staff and now leading our Office of International and Foreign Language Education here at the Department of Education.
In the months ahead, we look forward to working with foreign language teachers like Mr. Geisel across the country as we continue our Fulbright-Hays and Higher Education Title VI programs and encourage new partnerships between institutions of higher education and neighboring schools and communities. For example, Language Resource Centers throughout the country provide materials and training for K-12 teachers, who then are equipped with the tools and additional knowledge to further world language learning at the K-12 level.
This is the kind of partnership that makes foreign language programs sustainable and develops the cradle-to-career pipeline that we need for foreign language competencies. Check out some of the opportunities offered by our International and Foreign Language Office, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter while there and please also send us your ideas and examples of the great partnerships you have developed to IFLE@ed.gov!
Clay Pell is deputy assistant secretary for International and Foreign Language Education
Today’s young people must graduate from high school with the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century global economy. And that certainly includes youth with disabilities. To that end, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy are working closely together to create opportunities for youth with disabilities to graduate college and career ready.
Our economy demands a talented and diverse workforce. President Obama has called on the Federal Government to hire an additional 100,000 workers with disabilities by 2015. Senator Harkin joined with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in setting a goal to increase the size of the disability workforce from under five million to six million by 2015. Delaware’s Governor Markell, as Chair of the National Governor’s Association, has called on state governments to identify business partners who will work with them to develop strategic plans for the employment and retention of workers with disabilities.
We believe that all youth, including youth with disabilities, must graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills to be successful in the workforce. While in school, students with disabilities must be held to high expectations, participate in the general curriculum, be exposed to rigorous coursework, and have meaningful and relevant transition goals and services aligned to college- and career-ready standards. Research has shown that effective transition services are directly linked to better postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities. Research also tells us that to flourish in the workplace youth with disabilities must also be provided with the opportunity to develop leadership skills, to engage in self-determination and career exploration, and to participate in paid work-based experiences while in high school. With only 20.7 percent of working age people with disabilities participating in the labor force, compared to 68.8 percent of those without disabilities, we must do better!
That is why we’re currently hosting, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Social Security Administration, the first-ever national online dialogue to help shape federal agency strategies for helping young people with disabilities successfully transition from school to work. We know that we cannot do this alone. To bring about lasting change, we need educators, service providers, disability advocates, policymakers, and youth with disabilities and their families to provide input. We want and need to hear from you!
Akin to a “virtual town hall,” this dialogue invites members of the public to help us learn what’s working, what’s not, and where change is needed, with particular focus on how various federal laws and regulations impact the ability of youth with disabilities to be successful in today’s global economy. This “Conversation for Change” started on May 13 and runs through May 27th. More than 2,000 people have participated, and we want you to join-in also! We encourage everyone who is interested in improving transition outcomes for youth with disabilities to contribute.
We hope you will lend your voice to our efforts to ensure inclusion, equity and opportunity on behalf of America’s youth with disabilities.
Michael Yudin is the acting assistant secretary of education for special education and rehabilitative services. Kathy Martinez is the assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy.
The release falsely depicts a Stanford student and two scholars at other universities as leaders of a campaign to boycott Arab nations. Its origin is unknown.
Glitches in the department's debt-management system forced it to rely on estimates of what the collection agencies should be paid.
Reports from the Council for Aid to Education provide evidence that students are in fact learning, in contrast to the findings of a blockbuster 2011 book.
The U.S. Department of Education extended until 2014 the deadline for compliance with rules requiring colleges to be properly authorized by state governments.