Listen, there are a whole bunch of myths about student loans that we need to take a second to debunk right now. It’s time to call the student loan industry out on its lies so you can have a healthy financial future. I’m sick and tired of seeing students losing their freedom, stability and peace of mind to one of the biggest lies in our culture today—that you have to take out student loans to go to college. It’s simply not true.
So, let’s get right to it.
Myth #1: You can count on student loan forgiveness.
When you’re trying to figure out how to pay for college, this is how a typical thought process might go: I’m desperate. I need to take out loans to go to school because that’s the only way I’ll be able to afford it. But it’s cool—I can get them forgiven later.
I hate to break it to you, but it’s not that simple. Any time you have to rely on the government for anything, prepare to be disappointed (or at least super confused).
Even if President Biden’s forgiveness plan goes through (which isn't looking likely right now), it will only cancel a portion of federal student loan debt for certain borrowers. But while that may offer some relief, it definitely doesn’t solve the problem for most. What about people who owe more than $10,000 in loans? What about those who have private student loans? Forgiveness like this is not something you can count on happening multiple times—let alone once.
And the traditional route of applying for student loan forgiveness is a pretty sketchy system too, considering the fact that there are a ton of fine-print requirements that are constantly changing. Way too many people work in low-paying public service jobs for up to 10 years—because they were told that’s how they could get their loans forgiven—only to find out they don’t qualify after all and wasted a whole bunch of time. People have even been granted forgiveness, only to get denial letters after the fact. And the only way they could finally get their loans forgiven was by suing the U.S. Department of Education.1 That’s pretty shady.
Keep in mind, the lenders aren’t really interested in helping you with your student loan debt out of the goodness of their hearts (wouldn’t that be nice?). If there’s money in it for them, they’re going to try to find a way to keep you stuck in that system—and that involves changing the requirements for forgiveness on a whim.
So, if you’re trying to figure out how to pay for school, a better mindset would be, Okay. College is freaking expensive. How can I find a way to pay for it without student loans so I won’t be in debt for the rest of my life? The student loan industry wants you to believe it’s impossible, but I promise you, it’s not.
Myth #2: Income-driven repayment is a good idea.
First, let’s talk about what an income-driven repayment plan actually is: a plan that bases your monthly payment amount on your income and family size. It’s marketed as an easier, more convenient alternative to a standard repayment plan, but really, it’s just a way to keep you in debt longer.
Let me tell you why. There are a few different income-driven plans out there—all requiring a monthly payment of about 10–20% of your discretionary income (that’s income after taxes are taken out). Most repayment periods for income-driven repayment plans are 20–25 years.
Do you want to spend 20 years of your life giving 10–20% of your income to the government every month while they’re making money off the ridiculous amount of interest you have to pay? Heck no.
Ready to get rid of your student loans once and for all? Get our guide.
No matter what kind of repayment plan you have, your student loans are still debt, and you need to find ways to get intense and pay them off ASAP. Plus, just like student loan forgiveness, there are all kinds of shady requirements and loopholes for these plans that you can read about on the Federal Student Aid site. But save yourself the time and energy, and instead put that energy into paying off your student loans quickly.
Myth #3: Deferring payments will make my life easier.
Student loan deferment is what happens when you temporarily don’t have to make payments, but you may or may not still be responsible for interest, depending on the type of loan(s) you have. But it’s not available to everyone. There are only a few different ways to possibly qualify for deferment, including if you’re on active-duty military service, serving in the Peace Corps, or on welfare.
But even if your request is granted, the loan doesn’t go away. Deferment is basically saying you’ll deal with it later. That could end up hurting you more in the long run, especially if you still have to pay interest.
Myth #4: Always consolidate or refinance student loans.
If you took out multiple student loans, you might’ve heard that consolidating or refinancing are ways to get more manageable payments. They’re similar concepts, but they have a few key differences.
Student loan consolidation is the process of taking all your different loan payments and turning them into one big payment. It also takes the weighted average of your interest rates on your loans and rolls them into one. But only federal loans can be consolidated for free through the government.
Consolidating your federal student loans can be helpful if you’re juggling multiple loans, especially if they have variable interest rates. Having to keep up with only one fixed monthly payment is nice. But you might be better off tackling your smaller loans one at a time, rather than lumping them all together into one massive loan. And consolidating doesn’t give you a lower interest rate—so it’s more a matter of motivation than saving money.
Student loan refinancing is different from consolidation in that it deals with private loans—or a combination of federal and private loans—and you have to find a private lender or company to do this for you. They will then pay off your current loans and become your new lender. And at that point, you’ll have a new rate and new repayment terms.
But only refinance if:
- It’s 100% free to refinance.
- You can get a lower interest rate.
- You can keep a fixed rate or trade your variable rate for a fixed rate.
- You don’t have to sign up for a longer repayment period.
- You don’t need a cosigner.
- You haven’t recently declared bankruptcy.
- It will actually motivate you to pay off your student loans faster.
And remember: When you already have student loan debt, you shouldn’t be asking, How can I get more manageable payments? You need to ask, How can I destroy this debt as fast as possible?
Myth #5: Student loans are forever.
Y’all, I get so sad when I hear young people talking about how they believe they’ll be paying off their student loans until the day they die. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I’ll be real with you—there’s no quick and easy fix to your student loan problem. At the end of the day, you chose to borrow the money, and you agreed to pay it back. But you have the power to take control of your money situation. You’ll have to work hard, change your lifestyle, and say no to stuff when you don’t want to, but you can attack this debt and get it paid off way faster than you could on any repayment plan.
If you’re ready to say goodbye to student loan payments, check out my course—The Ultimate Guide to Getting Rid of Student Loan Debt. I walk you through everything you need to know about forgiveness, budgeting for your payment, and the surefire way to pay off your student loans fast.
You don’t have to live with your student loans forever. You have what it takes to ditch student loan debt for good!