Sunday, 20 February 2011

Study: Student Loan Worries Affect New College Students' Mental Health

Researchers at the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California in Los Angeles say that worries about student loans are having a measurable negative impact on the mental health of first-year college students.

The latest results, from the fall of 2010, of the long-standing annual study "The American Freshman: National Norms" show that the overall mental health of first-year students in college has dropped to a 25-year low, prompted in part by concerns about the economy and paying for college.

Surveyed students among the class of 2014 cited growing concern about the current state of the economy and the need to pay for higher education with student loans as a primary cause of chronic stress.

About half of the study subjects reported that they had had to take out student loans to pay for their education. Researchers say that these students also expressed uncertainty about their ability to repay their college loans after graduation.

Indirect woes related to students' families and the economy also had a pronounced effect on new students. Paternal unemployment was cited as a serious concern of nearly 5 percent of students surveyed, while 8.6 percent of students reported that maternal unemployment was a significant concern.

Researchers report that a growing number of new college students can't rely on family support to finance their education and must take on the burden of paying for college themselves by finding available student loans, grants, and scholarships. Nearly three-fourths of the study participants reported that they received some grants or scholarships to help defray their higher education expenses, the highest reported proportion since 2001.

The study also noted that participants reported feeling frequently overwhelmed as high school seniors and that female participants reported a significantly lower state of mental health than did their male counterparts.

The study, which has been conducted annually since 1966, examines, among other things, the mental health status of more than 200,000 full-time first-year college students at nearly 280 four-year higher education institutions throughout the United States. Participation in the study is voluntary, and the survey questions are focused on the students' self-perceptions of mental health.

Researchers say that the study results should serve as a warning to college administrators that students who are already overwhelmed with worries about financial and family matters when they arrive on campus may respond to high or increasing levels of stress by managing their time poorly, performing poorly in classes, or turning to drugs and alcohol or other self-destructive behaviors in an attempt to relieve stress.

Barely 52 percent of participants classified their perceived mental health status as "in the highest 10 percent" or "above average." This characterization reflects a drop of 3.4 percent from the answers given by first-year students in 2009, and a drop of 11.7 percent from 1985, when mental health self-assessment questions were first added to the survey.

Concerns about the economy and post-graduation employment may be driving students to work harder. The study indicates that participants reported a stronger drive to achieve and higher perceived academic abilities than did past study participants. Nearly three-fourths of study participants said better earning potential was the chief benefit of a college degree.

Tag : student loans,federal student loans,best student loans,private student loans

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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Pay Off Student Loans - 3 Tips For Quickly Paying Off Your Debt

Looking for ways to pay off student loans? After you complete college, you main focus is gaining adequate employment in your chosen field. But for far too many, the stress of paying off college debt is exhausting. Entry and mid-level positions often times simply do not pay enough to quickly pay down student loans; especially when you factor in the cost of living. Thankfully there are a few solutions to help you pay down your student loans.

One is the Income Based Repayment plan (IBR). What happens is government loan officers will look at your current income and come up with a repayment plan that you can afford. People with graduate degrees often have monthly payments of over $1000. With an IBR, that payment can drop down to $300. Another upside to the IBR is if you choose to work for the government, a non-profit organization or as a volunteer, after certain amount of years you may be eligible for loan forgiveness programs, where your loan amount and any interest accrued will be forgiven.

Another option is to apply for as many scholarships and grants as you can. This is money that you don't have to pay back. Also if you work, see if your employer offers any type of tuition assistance. Many companies do, especially if the field you are studying is relevant to your current position. If you don't work, get involved in a work-study program. These jobs are usually a part of your financial aid package and the work is conveniently located on campus. Whether you work on campus or through a private employer, try to save at least half of your income in a high-interest savings account. That money will really come in handy at the end of your college education and you can apply it to your student loans.

Then there is loan consolidation. Sometimes the method of consolidating college loans gets a bad rep. But the negativity comes from programs that charge a high interest rate to consolidate. An easy way around this is to do your research. Find the best student loan consolidation program, offered at the best rates. Get quotes and be sure to read all the fine print. The only bad thing with consolidation, is usually once you go this route, you will not be eligible for any type of loan forgiveness program.

Paying off student debt is a hassle. But if you research all the opportunities available to you, you may be able to pay off student loans sooner than you expect.

Get more tips on how to pay off student loans, plus learn many ways to consolidate student loans debt (and what to do if you default on the loan repayments).

Tag : student loans,private student loans,best student loans,governtment student loans

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Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Paying for College: 5 Tips for Minimizing Student Loan Debt

If you plan to attend college at some point in your life, you should have a plan to keep your student loan debt to a minimum.

Knowing how you'll be paying for college before you head off to campus can be the key to getting the degree you want or attending your first-choice school without committing yourself to 10 years or more of debt from college loans.

1) Savings and Investments

No matter how old you are, you can start a college savings account for yourself. Whether you choose to put your extra cash in a traditional bank savings account or into longer-term investments like savings bonds or treasury bills, there are definite benefits (including tax advantages) of having a solid plan to pay for school.

Using savings bonds to pay for college expenses will yield more favorable tax treatment on the interest earned on the bonds. Savings bonds are already exempt from state and local taxes, and you may be able to eliminate federal taxes if you spend your bonds on qualified college expenses.

2) 529 College Savings Plans

You can even open a 529 college savings account and name yourself as a beneficiary. If you're already in college, a 529 plan is a great way to start saving for a post-graduate degree, even if you're not sure you'll be pursuing one. Should you decide not to go to graduate school, you can assign a new beneficiary to your 529 account. The gains will still be non-taxable as long as they're used for qualified college expenses.

Proceeds from a 529 plan won't qualify for favorable tax treatment, however, if you use them to pay down your college loans. Likewise, you'll also lose the tax benefits of savings bonds if you use those to repay your college loans.

Instead, use these savings tools to pay for your educational expenses when you incur them, and reduce your overall need to take out student loans while you're in school.

You'll need to declare your college savings account(s) on your FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which may reduce the amount of college financial aid you qualify for.

But while having a substantial savings for college may cut into your eligibility for need-based grants and scholarships, which are awarded to students who demonstrate financial need, you'll be reducing your need for school loans at the same time.

In the long run, graduating from college with little or no debt from college loans will put you in a stronger financial position after graduation and help you reap the financial benefits of your new college degree much sooner than you would if you were stuck using a large chunk of your new salary to make payments on your student loan debts each month.

3) Scholarships and Grants

Each semester you're enrolled in classes, spend time looking for scholarships and grants, which will reduce your need for student loans.

Small one-time scholarships and grants may not pay your entire tuition bill, but they'll reduce the amount of money in school loans you need to borrow upfront, which in turn will minimize the amount of interest you'll end up paying on your student loan debt after you graduate.

4) In-School Student Loan Payments

If you're in a position to do so, make payments on your student loans while you're still in school.

Making payments immediately on your college loans - even small payments - will reduce the overall amount of interest that accrues on the loans while you're still in school and can lower the amount of your monthly student loan payments after graduation.

5) Student Loan Insurance

If you use non-federal private student loans to pay some portion of your college expenses, consider taking out an insurance policy that will pay off the balances of your private college loans in the event of your death or disability.

In many cases, depending on the particular lender, private student loans are not discharged on the death or disability of the borrower and could leave your family in a precarious financial position in the event something unfortunate happens to you. When you're young, the premiums for such policies are highly affordable and could provide cost-effective security for you and your family.

Besides saving you money over the long term in interest charges, keeping your student loan debt to a manageable level may also help you down the road when you're trying to qualify for other forms of credit like a car loan, a credit card, or a mortgage.

You may think a house or a new car is a long way off for you, but depending on how much student loan money you borrow and what kind of money you're making after college, the debt from your school loans can hang around for a long time.

Many credit products look at your debt-to-income ratio (the amount of debt you owe in relation to the amount of money you make) to determine whether you'll be approved. If you're carrying around a significant amount of student loan debt after graduation, with large monthly student loan payments, you may not qualify for other lines of credit - even if you have a good credit rating and are making your student loan payments on time each month - unless you also have a substantial income.

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