While it’s great to avoid debt whenever possible, if you have to deal with federal student loans, including Stafford and PLUS loans, you might qualify for some better deals starting July 1.
Interest rates will be at the lowest rates in years. If you can consolidate, lock in rates after July 1. They will be at the lowest levels since the inception of the federal student loan program. The interest rate for graduates who are in a grace period is 2.00%.
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Former students now in the process of repaying their variable rate federal student loans will be able to lock in a rate of 2.50%. Parents who have taken PLUS loans will be able to consolidate at 3.38%.
There aren’t many places to find cheaper money than this, but there are a few of limitations:
- Former students who have already consolidated are not eligible for these low rates.
- These rates are only valid for loans originated before July 1, 2006.
- Borrowers who are still in school do not qualify for consolidation.
There is more good news.
Income-based repayment. If a borrower is not earning enough to make monthly payments, they can apply for income-based repayment. The lender can extend the life of the loan and lower your payments to 15% of your income.
Student loan forgiveness. Borrowers who work for non-profit companies or the government will qualify for student loan forgiveness. After 120 payments (ten years), the government will write off any balance remaining on the loan. Student loan forgiveness applies to people who do not work for the public sector as well if they are repaying on an income-based repayment plan. In this case, 25 years of payments are necessary before the remainder of the loan will be forgiven, but will be considered income for tax purposes.
Rates for new student loans. Subsidized Stafford student loans will sport a new interest rate of 5.6% if the first disbursement is taken between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010. This is the second of four annual interest rate drops for new loans.
Increased Pell Grant scholarship maximum. Low and middle-income families might qualify for a Pell Grant scholarship. The maximum a student might receive from this federal program will increase on July 1 to $5,350.
These programs can save families thousands of dollars throughout the life of the repayment.
Updated October 21, 2015 and originally published June 15, 2009.