“You Can Just Hear The Relief In Their Voices”

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Maloney in front of waterfall

Maloney is a senior counseling specialist.

Think you don’t have options when it comes to your student loans? That may not be the case. Aaron Weber spoke with Maloney, one of our senior counselors, about common student loan problems and how to solve (or even prevent!) them.

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What’s the most common question you get when you talk to a student loan borrower?

Honestly, a lot of people don’t even know what to ask. They say, “I can’t pay. What do I do?”

My favorite calls are when someone calls in stressed out and we’re able to tell them about a repayment option they didn’t know about.

Most people have a lot more on their plate than just student loans, and [loans] seem scary and impossible to deal with, so they avoid it. When they find out that they can manage it, and that we can help them, you can just hear the relief in their voices.

What are some common misconceptions people have about student loans?

Well, a lot of people don’t know who’s who. They know servicers and sometimes collection agencies call them and ask for money, and that’s pretty much it. “Bills,” basically, is what they see.

They don’t know that SALT™ isn’t a collection agency or a servicer. We’re not sending bills, you know? We’re here to help. Once they figure that out, though, it’s really gratifying.

Sometimes, they’ve done a little research and think they don’t have any options. They’re working so they can’t use unemployment deferment, but they don’t make enough to cover their student loans, and they think that’s it. But they could use economic hardship deferment—or income-based repayment.

Income-based repayment really is something that not enough people know about. Or they have heard of it, but don’t know that it works even if you don’t have much income (a low income means a VERY low payment—potentially as low as zero dollars). And that it includes a forgiveness option, even if it does take a long time to qualify for it.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were applying for college?

When I was applying to college, I didn’t know the difference between federal and private student loans. I just wanted to go to college, move out of my parents’ house, and be independent. I didn’t know that I could get a much better value going to college in state, so I just signed anything I could to get to school. I’ve been able to manage it, but it would have been a lot easier if I’d known what I was doing.

My nieces and nephews are juniors and seniors in high school right now, and I’m sending them links to the scholarship search on SALT, and talking to them about different in-state schools, helping them make choices with both eyes open. One of them wants to go to college in California, and it might be a good fit, too. If she goes, though, she’ll know how much it costs and have a good plan for paying it back.

Have a question for a student loan counselor? Leave it in the comments!

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