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Higher Ed on the Campaign Trail

The 2014 election is just days away. How have education issues factored into the campaigns, if at all? If the past is any guide, the smart money is on “not much.” In exit polls, education traditionally falls somewhere outside of the top three most-cited voter concerns. A high profile effort to turn education into a top campaign issue—“Ed in ’08”—largely failed to elevate education’s salience in the minds of voters.

But it is also true that hot-button issues like the Common Core State Standards and student loan debt have become thoroughly politicized over the past two years. In an August poll by Reason magazine, education came in second to the economy on the list of voter concerns; 33 percent cited the economy, 18 percent education. Health care, immigration, and national security didn’t even top 13 percent.

College affordability, in particular, has become a bread and butter issue for American families. In 2013, when Gallup asked a representative sample of Americans about policies that could improve their financial security, making college affordable was the most cited answer (38 percent); reducing health care costs came in a distant second (26 percent).

Wherever there are concerned voters, pandering politicians are sure to follow. In this election cycle we’ve heard about candidates who are courting the “basement kids”—student debtors who’ve returned home to live with their parents because they can’t afford to live on their own. At least six Democratic House candidates and two Democratic Senate candidates have political ads focused on student loan relief. And the darling of the progressive Left, Elizabeth Warren, has been barnstorming for Democratic candidates, accusing Republicans of siding with millionaires over poor students. After all student debt relief is a central theme of the Democrats’ “Fair Shot” agenda.

It’s easy to overestimate how prominently higher education has been discussed across the country, especially for those like myself who study and write about it. Naturally, we think education should “matter” to the electorate. It’s also possible to miss important differences across the parties; to the extent one party “owns” an issue, they’re likely to campaign on it, while the other party may avoid it like the plague.

To get a sense of who’s talking higher education on the campaign trail, we looked at the campaign websites of all candidates for US Senate and for governor (challengers and incumbents). We examined whether they mentioned higher education at all and, if so, whether they mentioned key themes of student loan relief (for Senators) or state spending (for governors).

Let’s start with the Senate. Of the 71 candidates for 36 seats (Jeff Sessions is running unopposed in Alabama), less than half (32) mentioned higher education on their campaign websites. The ratio is heavily tilted toward Democrats: nearly two-thirds of Democratic candidates (22 of 34, and 23 of 35 if you include Kansas Independent Greg Orman) mentioned higher education, compared to just over one-quarter of the Republicans running in a contested election (9 out of 35).  Of the 23 Dems who discussed college and job training on their site, fully 17 cited their support for student loan refinancing and lower interest rates. Six of the nine GOP candidates mentioned student loans in any capacity. But the majority of R’s remained mum on an issue that is of increasing importance to middle class families.

There were exceptions, of course. Ed Gillespie, currently running between 8 and 10 percentage points behind incumbent Mark Warner in Virginia, has a well-developed higher education agenda that calls for FAFSA simplification and early notification, accreditation reform, and a rationalized income-based repayment system for student loans.

At the same time, some R’s have resorted to the kind of “me-tooism” that cedes the argument to Democrats. In New Hampshire, for instance, Scott Brown does have interesting ideas on innovation to lower costs, consumer information, and more robust vocational efforts. But his take on student loans sounds like it was lifted from the playbook of his old opponent, Elizabeth Warren:

The burden is high enough on our students and government shouldn’t profit from federal student loans. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the government raised approximately $127 billion in profits over 10 years from federal student loan repayments. Brown believes that student loans should be offered at capped market rates to ensure that students are able to take advantage of historic low interest rates. In addition, borrowers should have the ability to consolidate and refinance their student loans at market rates to take advantage of today’s low interest rates.

Brown’s opponent, Jeanne Shaheen, has touted her votes for low interest rates, public sector loan forgiveness, and Pell Grant increases, which may help explain her challenger’s stance on interest rates.

In short, while most Democrats are all over higher education as a go-to issue, most Republican Senate candidates are AWOL, missing an opportunity to speak to the middle class, a constituency they need in order to build a lasting majority.

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5 tips to help you manage student loan debt – Omaha World

Tackling a hefty new monthly expense can be daunting, particularly for recent grads who haven’t found steady work.

But grads have many options for making student loan payments more manageable, even putting them off, if they qualify.

The key is to avoid missing payments, which can scorch your credit score and even lead to having your wages garnished.

“The majority of students who miss payments on loans miss the very first payment,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors.com, a college planning and financing website that is owned by student loan servicer College Loan Corp.

Here are five ways recent grads can manage their student loan debt:

Know your loan terms

Federal and private student loans give borrowers a grace period of at least six months before they’re required to begin making payments. You’ll need to know the terms of your loan to evaluate options for repayment, or to ask for a deferment when your grace period expires.

For example, Stafford loans have a six-month grace period, and Perkins loans give borrowers nine months before their first payment is due. Grace periods for other types of federal loans and private student loans can vary.

Ask your lender or check out this U.S. Department of Education website, which shows how to find the lenders that manage federal loans: studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/servicers. If you have private student loans, you’ll have to contact the lender directly.

Consider deferments and forbearance

Can’t find a job? Can’t afford any student loan payments? Borrowers with federal student loans can temporarily postpone payments by asking for a deferment or forbearance.

Deferments allow you to temporarily put off making payments. During this period, the government will pay interest on three types of federal loans: direct subsidized loans, subsidized federal Stafford loans and Federal Perkins loans. Several factors may enable you to qualify for a deferment, including economic hardship, unemployment or serving in the military on active duty during a war.

If you don’t qualify, you may request a forbearance, which can generally buy you up to 12 months without making payments. However, you’ll continue to pile up interest on your balance, even with subsidized loans.

Estimate how much interest you’ll accrue on a deferment with this online calculator: studentloanhero.com/calculators/student-loan-deferment-calculator.

Review payment options

If you qualify, there are repayment plans on federal loans that will set your monthly payment to a level based on how much you earn or a percentage of your discretionary income.

Another option is a graduated repayment plan, which offers lower upfront payments that increase every couple of years.

You can enroll in income-based repayment plans as soon as you begin paying back your loan, but notify your lender early on, as it can take 30 to 60 days for the paperwork to be processed. Expect to provide a tax return or other income verification, said Andrew Josuweit, CEO of StudentLoanHero.com, an online student loan management site.

Federal loans are scheduled to be paid back over a 10-year period. But if you can’t afford your monthly payments under that standard plan, you may be able to extend the length of time to pay back the loan up to 25 years. That will lower the monthly payment, but you will pay more over the life of the loan.

“It’s not just reducing your monthly payment, it’s increasing the total cost of the loan,” Kantrowitz said.

Here’s a breakdown of repayment options on federal loans: studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/plans.

On private student loans, repayment options will vary from one lender to the next.

Look out for savings

Your student loan balance may seem like a fixed financial obligation, but there are often ways to carve out some savings.

For example, if you set up your monthly loan payments to be directly deducted from your checking account, many lenders will give you a slight interest rate reduction. On federal loans, it’s generally a 0.25 percentage point reduction, notes Kantrowitz.

At tax time, be aware that you can deduct up to $2,500 of interest paid on federal and private student loans on your federal income tax return.

Weigh a loan consolidation

If you have several loans to repay, consolidating your payments may be a good option.

Consolidating your loans can help you manage your debt because you need to keep track of only a single, lower monthly payment for all your loans. But your loan term will also increase, which means you’ll be paying more in the long run.

In addition, you will no longer be able to take advantage of some of the perks built into federal loans, such as deferment options and the variety of income-based payment plans.

For more tips on how to consolidate your student loan, check out: studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/consolidation.

Edvisors has a list of lenders offering private consolidation loans at http://PrivateStudentLoans.com.

Time’s up: 5 Tips to Tackle Student Loan Debt

Associated Press

Tackling a hefty new monthly expense can be daunting, particularly for recent grads who haven’t found steady work.

But grads have many options for making student loan payments more manageable, even putting them off, if they qualify.

The key is to avoid missing payments, which can scorch your credit score and even lead to having your wages garnished.

“The majority of students who miss payments on loans miss the very first payment,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors.com, a college planning and financing website that is owned by student loan servicer College Loan Corp.

Here are five ways recent grads can manage their student loan debt:

1. KNOW YOUR LOAN TERMS

Both federal and private student loans give borrowers a grace period of at least six months before they’re required to begin making payments. You’ll need to know the terms of your loan to evaluate options for repayment, or to ask for a deferment when your grace period expires.

For example, Stafford loans have a six-month grace period, while Perkins loans give borrowers nine months before their first payment is due. Grace periods for other types of federal loans and private student loans can vary.

Ask your lender or check out this U.S. Department of Education website, which shows how to find the lenders that manage federal loans: https://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/servicers .

If you have private student loans, you’ll have to contact the lender directly.

2. CONSIDER DEFERMENTS AND FORBEARANCE

Can’t find a job? Can’t afford any student loan payments? Borrowers with federal student loans can temporarily postpone payments by asking for a deferment or forbearance.

Deferments allow you to temporarily put off making payments. During this period, the government will pay interest on three types of federal loans: direct subsidized loans, subsidized federal Stafford loans and Federal Perkins loans. Several factors may enable you to qualify for a deferment, including economic hardship, unemployment or serving in the military on active duty during a war.

If you don’t qualify, you may request a forbearance, which can generally buy you up to 12 months without making payments. However, you’ll continue to pile up interest on your balance, even with subsidized loans.

Estimate how much interest you’ll accrue on a deferment with this online calculator: https://studentloanhero.com/calculators/student-loan-deferment-calculator/ .

3. REVIEW PAYMENT OPTIONS

If you qualify, there are repayment plans on federal loans that will set your monthly payment to a level based on how much you earn or a percentage of your discretionary income.

Another option is a graduated repayment plan, which offers lower upfront payments that increase every couple of years.

You can enroll in income-based repayment plans as soon as you begin paying back your loan, but notify your lender early on, as it can take 30-to-60 days for the paperwork to be processed. Expect to provide a tax return or other income verification, said Andrew Josuweit, CEO of StudentLoanHero.com, an online student loan management site.

Federal loans are scheduled to be paid back over a 10-year period. But if you can’t afford your monthly payments under that standard plan, you may be able to extend the length of time to pay back the loan up to 25 years. That will lower the monthly payment, but you will pay more over the life of the loan.

Can we erase my tyro loans by filing for bankruptcy?

A:

For a many part, student loans can't be liberated by filing for bankruptcy, either or not they are nonprofit-backed or government-backed loans; a customarily difference is if we can infer that profitable behind a tyro loan will means an undue hardship for we or your dependents for a infancy of a time it would take to repay a loan.

An undue hardship would meant we would not be means to say a smallest customary of vital while creation even a lowest probable monthly loan payments. The misery line might be used as a guideline for last undue hardship, given it means there is no discretionary income, though a assemblage of resources are examined on an particular basis. Even then, in general, we contingency have done a good-faith bid to repay a loan before filing for bankruptcy, customarily by creation payments for during slightest 5 years, by operative as most as probable and by slicing behind on losses — and it is afterwards still adult to a particular decider to confirm either or not to liberate all or partial of a tyro loan or that tyro loans to discharge, if any, if a borrower owes on some-more than one loan.

It is intensely formidable to liberate tyro loans by proof an undue hardship, to equivocate abusing failure laws in sequence to compensate for college. However, any credit label debt that was incurred to compensate for college tuition, books, supplies, or room and house are generally satisfactory diversion when filing for bankruptcy.