What Student Loan Borrowers Would Change If They Went Back To College


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It’s easy to feel regretful about your college years, especially when graduation leaves you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. Yet, a recent survey revealed that the majority of student loan borrowers, now in hindsight, would still have pursued their higher education.

According to Bankrate’s student loans survey, more than half (59%) of adult respondents with student loans said they still would have attended college but done something differently to curtail how much debt they took on, such as applying for more scholarships (23%), working or working more while they were in school (20%), getting a degree in a different field (19%), attending a cheaper school (17%), going to community college (15%) or doing something else differently (5%).

It’s likely that those with a college degree — even if it still costs them years later — found that it opened the door to job opportunities and higher earning potential. According to 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, adults ages 25 and older with a high school diploma but no college experience earned on average $809 per week, while those with a bachelor’s degree earned on average $1,334 per week (earnings listed are for full-time wage and salary workers). This works out to a $27,300 difference in annual salaries, which is a considerable amount.

If you’re one of the millions burdened with student loan debt, here’s what you can do to manage it.

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If you have federal student loans

Ally Bank Online Savings Account

Ally Bank is a Member FDIC.

  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

  • Minimum balance

  • Monthly fee

    No monthly maintenance fee

  • Maximum transactions

    Up to 6 free withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle *The 6/statement cycle withdrawal limit is waived during the coronavirus outbreak under Regulation D

  • Excessive transactions fee

  • Overdraft fees

  • Offer checking account?

  • Offer ATM card?

    Yes, if have an Ally checking account

For those who have their high-priority bills and emergency fund taken care of, it’s worth making payments on your federal student loans even as the pause remains. With interest also paused at 0%, the payments will be made directly toward your principal so you can chip away at it faster than if you were paying on an interest-accruing balance. Plus, when the forbearance period does end and payments and interest resume, you will then have a smaller balance that will be collecting less interest.

Once the payment and interest freeze on federal student loans is up, know that there are still income-driven repayment plans that can help you if you feel like you’re drowning in debt and can’t keep up. These plans recalculate your monthly bill based on any changes in your income, so your student loan payment is reflective of how much you can afford to pay. Two specific plans, Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), will even cap your federal student loan payment at 10% of your discretionary income and after the repayment period ends, any remaining balance is forgiven.

If you have private student loans

Private student loan borrowers may want to consider refinancing to score a lower interest rate than what they are currently paying on their debt. Through refinancing, you can also choose a longer or shorter repayment term, depending on how quickly you want to pay off your loans and how much you can afford in monthly payments. For example, a shorter payment term will help you get rid of your debt faster, but it means making higher payments each month.

Lenders like SoFi, CommonBond and Earnest have a wide selection of loan terms and interest rates to choose from. They also charge no application or origination fees, have zero prepayment penalties and offer flexible repayment terms, economic hardship payment options and autopay interest rate reductions.

SoFi Student Loan Refinancing

  • Cost

    No origination fees to refinance

  • Eligible loans

    Federal, private, graduate and undergraduate loans, Parent PLUS loans, medical and dental residency loans

  • Loan types

  • Variable rates (APR)

    From 2.24%; from 2.37% for medical/dental residents (rates include a 0.25% autopay discount)

  • Fixed rates (APR)

    From 2.99%; from 3.12% for medical/dental residents (rates include a 0.25% autopay discount)

  • Loan terms

  • Loan amounts

    From $5,000; over $10,000 for medical/dental residency loans

  • Minimum credit score

  • Minimum income

  • Allow for a co-signer

In addition, CommonBond offers a co-signer release option after 24 consecutive on-time monthly payments of the loan’s principal and interest, which acts as an incentive if you need a parent or guardian to co-sign the loan in order to take it out. Earnest also allows applicants with a fair credit score to qualify.

If you are thinking about refinancing your private student loans, it’s worth making a move fast. With the recent rise in interest rates — and the promise of more coming — borrowing money will only get more expensive.

CommonBond Student Loan Refinancing

  • Cost

    No origination fees to refinance

  • Eligible loans

    Federal, private, graduate and undergraduate loans, previously consolidated loans, corporate-sponsored student loans and international student loans

  • Loan types

  • Variable rates (APR)

    4.44% – 8.09% APR (rates include a 0.25% autopay discount)

  • Fixed rates (APR)

    4.49% – 7.74% APR (rates include a 0.25% autopay discount)

  • Loan terms

  • Loan amounts

  • Minimum credit score

  • Minimum income

  • Allow for a co-signer

Earnest Student Loan Refinancing

  • Cost

    No origination fees to refinance

  • Eligible loans

    Federal, private, graduate and undergraduate loans

  • Loan types

  • Variable rates (APR)

    Starting at 1.99% (rates include a 0.25% autopay discount)

  • Fixed rates (APR)

    Starting at 2.98% (rates include a 0.25% autopay discount)

  • Loan terms

    Flexible terms anywhere between 5-20 years

  • Loan amounts

    A minimum of $5,000, up to $500,000 (residents of California must request to refinance $10,000 or more)

  • Minimum credit score

  • Minimum income

  • Allow for a co-signer

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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