Bio: I Am Andy Josuweit, CEO and co-founder of Student Loan Hero. My relationship with debt started seven years ago after graduating from an expensive private school with $74,000 in student loans.

I was told I would earn about $80k upon graduation, but I wasn’t able to find a job with a salary anywhere near that. Without steady income (and a terrible economy in 2009), I ended up defaulting on my student loans and my balance ballooned to $107,000.

Building Student Loan Hero allowed me to help people who struggled in the same way I did. After a seven-year-long journey, I finally paid off my student loans (in full) three months ago. All $107,000! Now that my debt is officially behind me, I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to share some insight into my six-figure payoff story.

Our free tools, calculators, and guides are helping 100,000+ borrowers manage and eliminate over $2 billion dollars in student loan debt. Ready to ROCK this AMA!

Follow me on Twitter: @josablack & @StudentLoanHero

My Proof: http://imgur.com/a/7QbhC https://twitter.com/josablack/status/822104543714508802 https://twitter.com/StudentLoanHero/status/822104766184558593

Update: You guys are awesome! Obviously, I can’t get to all your questions. If you're still looking for help, feel free to check out our website here where you can get free repayment advice and find answers to your student loan questions. I will be wrapping this up around 5 pm EST.

Final Update: Thanks for having me! I'm exhausted, so time to call it quits. Many folks had the same questions, so I'll answer them here:

1) SLH makes money the same way that Bankrate, NerdWallet, and CreditKarma do via performance-based advertising. This means we earn a commission when a customer decides to apply for a product/service. Everything on SLH is 100% free for users, although we do have some tools that allow you to "Pay What You Want" (and anyone can decide to pay $0 if he/she wishes).

2) There is some confusing language in our Terms of Use. I realize that this outdated. Just to be clear, we have never rented/sold/leased any customer data nor do we plan on doing so in the future. Our team will be updating this legal language ASAP.

3) Lastly, there is no magic bullet when paying off debt. It takes hard work, patience, and determination. I simply hope to make student loan repayment less confusing with some simple tools and resources that anyone is free to use.

Thanks everyone for sharing your stories/questions/and feedback! If you have any additional questions, you can always email our team here: [email protected]

Comments: 3775 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

DSN11381230 karma

So if I have a $55,000 private student loan with navient I'm pretty much fucked ?

studentloanhero936 karma

Your situation certainly sucks, but you’re not completely fucked! One of the first things you can do to protect yourself is check your credit report on annualcreditreport.com. You can ensure your loans are captured accurately, and are not erroneously in default. You can also check out income-driven repayment plans to help manage your debt and decrease your payments. If you have had a bad experience with Navient, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau.

bigfoot675878 karma

What's your best tip for people so they avoid being in your previous situation entirely?

studentloanhero1233 karma

Great question! My best tip would be to not bury your head in the sand and hope that the situation will go away. My initial student loan balance of $74k ballooned to $107k simply because I ignored the problem, stopped making payments, and let some of my loans slip into default. So I always encourage student loan borrowers to take action rather than let what happened to me happen to them. Perhaps that means switching to an income-driven repayment plan or putting student loans in deferment. Either of these options is better than ignoring the bills and missing payments. Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. It only makes things worse.

b1nhdang123640 karma

Hi, I have one year left in dental school with 278k loans at avg rate of 6.24%. Will have to take out another 90-100k next year for boards and other expenses. Once I graduate should I immediately go into PAYE or IBR or should I refinance my loans? Goal is to pay off as fast as possible and with an opportunity to buy a practice in 4 or 5 years. Thanks

Chantottie706 karma

This is insane to me. Please help me understand where you go to school and how you have ~300k in debt. How/where do you need 100k/year to live as a student? How much is a job in your field expected to pay per year??

b1nhdang123356 karma

WesternU...our tuition is 75k living cost about 12-15k. Boards cost about another 4k next year. Takes into account the off time period from graduation to actually finding a job as well. Hopefully can find a job over 140k a year but should increase if my production and work ethic is great

emotional_downvoter1007 karma

This is why I eat sugary foods, to help poor up and coming dentists pay off their loans. Not because I don't have self control. Not that.

studentloanhero195 karma

haha - nice... fueling the economy one snickers bar at a time!

studentloanhero338 karma

Ouch, that’s a lot of debt. Are they all federal loans? If you do an income-driven repayment plan like PAYE or IBR, your payments will be capped at a percentage of your discretionary income. That can make your debt more manageable as you build your practice. If you opt to refinance your loans, you can get a lower interest rate and different repayment terms, but you do have some drawbacks; you’ll lose out on federal loan benefits like access to income-driven repayment plans and deferment or forbearance. We actually have a guide for student loan repayment specifically for dentists that can give you more information about your options.

bumblebee1211239 karma

I currently have 55,000 dollars of student loans. My interest is 6.75% and I feel like I just cannot make a dent. With a mortgage and car payments I just feel like this is impossible. Any advice?

studentloanhero184 karma

Hi, and thanks for your question! If those $55,000 are federal student loans, you’ve got plenty of options for reducing your payments while you focus on other debt like that mortgage. One of the best choices may be to look into income-driven repayment plans. These are a set of plans available for federal loans that will set your payments to be in line with your income, rather than using your loan balance as a basis.

I actually was enrolled in one of these plans while I was struggling to juggle all of my debt. You can read more about them here and calculate your potential payments using these calculators. I hope this helps!

wwrkmps84 karma

You're recommending that people focus (focus, as in dedicate more resources) towards their mortgage, rather than student loans? Why?

Edit: What's being commented on is conjecture at this point. OP said nothing about falling behind or struggling to make payments. They DID, however, say that they can't make a dent in their student loan, and the advice was geared towards lowering the payment amount and focusing on the mortgage, which is the point that I was attempting to clear up.

studentloanhero49 karma

This isn’t universally applicable advice, but if you’re really struggling to make your debt payments in the short or medium term, federal student loans are very flexible. The government offers a menu of options to dramatically reduce or temporarily suspend your payments, often with reduced interest. When you have other, more rigid debt such as a mortgage or auto loan, reducing your student loan payments may be your only viable option.

hellomisterb183 karma

I'm super overwhelmed with all the options to repay federal loans (~$67,500 direct un/subsidized). I'm working in public service and currently qualify for the forgiveness program. What disadvantages are there to paying back the loans based on an income-driven plan or the public service forgiveness program?

studentloanhero155 karma

Yeah, there’s no doubt that the number of federal options is overwhelming and there’s not a ton of help on choosing the best one for you. But it’s great to hear you’re familiar with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF)! This program is one of the best deals out there. In order to receive full forgiveness on your eligible federal loans (and your Direct unsubsidized loans are eligible), you must complete 120 monthly payments (10 years) on an income-driven repayment plan and/or the Standard, 10 Year Repayment Plan.

So if you’re not already enrolled, getting onto an income-driven plan should be your first move. Counter-intuitively, you want to minimize the amount you pay when you’re pursuing PSLF because anything you don’t pay is ultimately going to be forgiven anyway. one of these plans is the first step. In addition, you must: Work in qualifying public service employment for at least 30 hours/week while making those 120 payments (sounds like you’ve got this covered). Completed the PSLF employer certification form for each employer during that 10 year period. You can find that here. Then, after you’ve completed 120 monthly payments, you can complete the forgiveness application!

Public Service Loan Forgiveness be a great option for public teachers, government workers, or non-profit employees who are struggling to repay their federal student loans. Doctors working in public hospitals can often take advantage of this program as well. You can learn more here.

Typat33 karma

Are you taxed on the amount that is forgiven? It still would be cheaper regardless but just curious if you should be saving for a lump sum to pay off.

studentloanhero53 karma

Good news, you don’t have to pay any taxes for loans forgiven under PSLF! You only have to pay income tax on loans forgiven through an income-driven repayment plan (which also only grant forgiveness after 20-25 years depending on the plan). So basically, if you didn’t claim your tax-free PSLF forgiveness after 10 years, you could continue paying for 20-25 years and receive taxable forgiveness. Needless to say, if you qualify for PSLF, this is a much better option.

_jimbromley_100 karma

So my loans are through Navient and I have been fighting with them for over a year because they will not put my payments where the ed.gov site says they should be. Navient is charging over double and I can't pay it. It has impacted my credit and I call argue and fill out forms every month. Now the USDE is suing them for exactly this! How do I get started trying to get this straightened out?

studentloanhero49 karma

We hear about a lot of problems with servicers. And we did see the news that came out yesterday about Navient. We’ll be covering this on our blog along with what borrowers can do. If you’re having problems, see here for where you can go to report the issues and potentially find help.

charkue64 karma

Hi Andy. I have just over $31,000 in student loans. I'm severely underpaid making around $30,000 annually. I've been making $500 payments monthly for a while, and my debt is slowly going down, but I'd like to see it go down quicker.

Other than finding a job that pays more, what strategies can you recommend I use to reduce my debt? The interest is the same on each of my loans. Does it make sense to pay off the smaller of the loans first?

Thanks.

studentloanhero53 karma

Hey, thanks for the question. First, let me give you kudos for making such large payments on your loans, I’m a big proponent of paying down your debt ASAP. So let’s talk strategy. The fastest and most efficient way to pay down your loans is to target paying off the loan with the highest interest rate first (after making the minimum payment on all other loans, of course) and then going from there. You can use our Prepayment Calculator to estimate how much time and money you’ll save by efficiently allocating additional payments. Secondly, you may want to look into refinancing. Based on your current debt-to-income of at least 1, your odds may not be great for being approved. However, you’re paying your loans down fast enough that you may soon be in a position to seriously consider it. Refinancing can lower your interest rate, helping you reduce the total amount you’ll pay. Student Loan Hero also provides a free dashboard where you can sync your student loans and manage your repayment; you might find that helpful.

Dopcflood31 karma

Can you explain in layman's terms what you do to reduce the student debt of individuals?

studentloanhero37 karma

Absolutely. Let me put on my ELI5 cap for a second. At a high-level, we do 3 major things:

First, we write (A LOT) of blog posts about how to pay off student loans quicker and easier. For example, here’s our Ultimate Guide to Paying Off Student Loans Faster. This is one of our more popular guides.

Second, we have a free web app which helps borrowers manage, track, and pay off their loans faster. Specifically, it helps borrowers keep all their loans in one place and get specific recommendations on how to pay off their student loans quicker. (We use a pretty neat algorithm to help with the latter.)

Third, we talk quite a bit about refinancing student loans to lower interest rate and get out of debt quicker. It’s not right for everyone, but for some people it can make a massive difference. For example, we have a team member here who refinanced his federal student loans with Earnest a couple months ago and dropped his interest rate from 6.05% to 3.43%. Massive win for him, and for the thousands of other borrowers who do the same.

There’s a lot more we do, but in general terms those are the 3 bigger things we’re doing right now. We’re also moving into other areas to help people improve their finances in general. For example, how to lower credit card debt, whether you should rent or buy a home, and more things along those lines. What else do you think we should do?

nick_frank3230 karma

Hello, I currently have about $35,000 in student loans and just recently bumped my payments to the maximum amount of around $500 per month. I was wondering if it's possible to pay off my higher interest loans (6.5%) first and then move to the lower interest loans (3%) through fed loan servicing? Or should I try to consolidate my loans and get a lower fixed APR if that's even possible?

studentloanhero22 karma

Glad to hear you’ve bumped your payments up! By maximum, do you mean the most you can afford? I’m asking because there shouldn’t be any limit on your monthly payments. And yes, all lenders will allow you to choose which loan you want to apply extra payments to. This as long as your loans have not been consolidated. You can learn how to do that here. It’s likely going to be hard to find a lower interest rate than 3%, so you may be better off using the Debt Avalanche to pay off the higher interest rate loan first, or you could consider refinancing only that loan and leaving the 3% loan as it is.

gargoylefreeman25 karma

Cool site. I look forward to using it.

1) Should I make biweekly payments rather than monthly to save on interest? How would that even work with autopay?

2) Should I pay off my loans, amounting to about $35k, which are between 3.5-4.5% interest? I do have the money to pay them off. The reason I have not done so is because I might want to take out a mortgage loan in the future and the second reason is that the student loan interest is tax deductible. Also, I believe investing in the stock market provides better returns.

studentloanhero26 karma

Thanks for the kind words! 1) So the thing about biweekly payments is they are painless way to make an extra student loan payment in a year. There are 12 months in the year, but 26 weeks. So if you make 26 half-payments, that’s an extra month’s worth of payments shaved off your balance. The savings aren’t huge, but they can add up. If you did this for your whole 10-year repayment period you’d shave almost a year off your debt.

If you’re enrolled in your servicer’s autopay function, however, that might be harder to pull off if they just debit your account for the monthly amount. So you’re smart to consider that, and definitely check with your servicer to make sure extra payments are applied correctly. 2) Personally, I would almost always choose to pay off my debts over just leaving cash around. It’s a guaranteed return. And after struggling with my student loans, I just really value my financial freedom.

But I understand that is one of my personal values and not everyone is going to see things the same way. I can see where in your situation, with current mortgage rates about equal to what you’d pay on your student loans, saving for a bigger down payment (and lower mortgage) would be financially advantageous. And it is possible you’d be better off investing than paying off student debt. Again, it comes down to your financial goals and how comfortable you are with risk. But I think if you choose to pay down existing loans and avoid new debts, you can’t really go wrong.

squidforlunch7 karma

Would you rather fight 1 Dave Ramsey-sized Suze Orman or 100 Suze Orman-sized Dave Ramseys?

studentloanhero14 karma

Suze Orman scares the shit out of me… so I guess I’ll go with 100 Daves? I heard he has several whiskey barrels in his basement, so this can get interesting.

AckBallz4 karma

My gf has $100k in student loans. She says that she can't consolidate them any further because she has both public and private loans. I know each situation is different, but generally speaking, does re-financing through So-Fi help? Are there any other quick tips that might help.

Love your work btw, you rock.

EDIT: Seems like you have answered a similar question above and saw the blog post about refinancing. I guess my questions now are: do you have a recommendation for the best institution to use to refinance? Also, any advice for someone that has their "head in the sand" and does not actively address the problem?

studentloanhero7 karma

Thanks for that! I think you guys rock even more for trying to tackle these student loans head-on. It wasn’t possible before, but now the option exists to actually refinance and consolidate both your Federal and private student loans into a single loan from many private lenders. It’s important to know that any consolidation or refinancing through a private lender will not allow you to take advantage of any of the federal benefit programs (such as income-based repayment or student loan forgiveness). However, it may still make sense if you aren’t taking advantage of any of the special repayment plans (or aren’t planning to) if the lender provides a lower interest rate. This will reduce the total repayment over the lifetime of the loan and lower monthly payments. SoFi is one of our partners on our site and they do provide the option to consolidate public and private loans. It may be worth spending some time on our Student Loan Calculators to calculate ad compare your scenarios for repayment options. Good luck!!

juicebox6083 karma

My biggest hurdle is that i didn't graduate from the private school i attended and i find it very difficult to consolidate the private loans that i have as a result. Any suggestions?

studentloanhero6 karma

Refinancing student loans if you didn’t graduate can be tricky; most lenders require people graduate from school to be eligible. However, to the best of my knowledge, Citizen’s Bank, may consider some borrowers who don’t have a degree. You can get more information about them here on our site.

MrRichyy3 karma

How do you guys have 6% and 7% student loans?! I'm dumbfounded thats an insane interest rate. My private loans are at 2.7% and I was complaining! My government loans are 3.7%. I seriously feel for you.

studentloanhero2 karma

That’s an awesome interest rate, congrats! Having such a low rate can make repayment go so much faster, and help you save money over the long-term.

benkordus2 karma

How about the schools stop charging as much?

studentloanhero0 karma

I agree, although I’m not sure how we tackle this problem… Perhaps the government can cap yearly tuition increases? Although, this might stifle innovation and research projects. I do like where the market is headed with several new private education companies, like General Assembly, Bloc, Springboard, Udemy, Flatiron, and even open EDU platforms like Coursera. The biggest issue here is credentialing and quality control. The Obama administration rolled out Gainful Employment and Cohort Default Rate legislation to help weed out the bad operators.

Persistent_Platypus2 karma

What is your opinion on refinancing loans, is there ever an instance where it is more beneficial than leaving loans as is?

studentloanhero2 karma

Thanks for asking. In my view, refinancing can help in a few ways. The obvious is if you have a higher-interest student loan, like PLUS loans, and can refinance to a lower rate. It’ll save on interest and put more of your payments toward the principal than the interest. Another benefit that’s overlooked is you actually get to choose your loan term and loan servicer. I refinanced about $33,000 in student loans, and just the relief of having a servicer that was actually helpful made it worth my while.

That being said, I definitely caution people to weigh the tradeoffs with the benefits. With refinancing federal student loans to private, you lose a lot of federal benefits and options like income-based repayment. That can leave you in a really tough spot if you find yourself needing that kind of help down the road. If you have a really high balance, income that’s low compared to your loans, or pay that varies a lot — that’s when refinancing might leave you worse off than before.

ZealZen1 karma

When should I pay minimums and when should I attack the debt like a grizzly bear at an elementary school?

studentloanhero2 karma

If you have the money available, I’d recommend start making payments as soon as possible. If it’s just the minimum, that’s great, but even applying a little extra--or attacking it like a crazed grizzly in an elementary school--can help cut down your repayment term and save you money in interest.

NakedDaggerMan1 karma

Can you help me pay off my loan to the "Help u/nakeddaggerman" foundation? About 20 bajillion should do it.

studentloanhero2 karma

If I get 20 bajillion, I’m keeping it for myself. Private island here I come!

hxcn00b6661 karma

I was just about to do my exit counseling to begin setting up my student loan payments. I'm wondering how your process works. Do your tools and calculators just give estimates of how much you should be paying over how long? Or is it something that will actually help me cut down the cost of my loans?

studentloanhero2 karma

Congrats on getting through to exit counseling! The best way to use Student Loan Hero is as a resource to help you pay off your loans. When you create an account, you can sync up all the loans you have. This will allow you to see all your loan information from our dashboard to give you a bird's-eye view of the progress you’ve made on all your student loans. Using the information from the loan-sync, you can create a custom plan including forgiveness, refinancing, and other options, like consolidation, that will help you cut down the cost of your loans. Our calculators are set up to help you with multiple scenarios to determine your best plan of attack on these loans.

A really good way to get you familiar with the crazy world of student loans is this Beginner’s Guide to Paying Off Student Loans!

Experimentzz-1 karma

Can you pay off my debt? Pls.

studentloanhero4 karma

Haha. We actually just finished a sweepstakes where we gave away $4,500 towards our readers’ student loans. We saw some great response, including touching stories by the winners. We’re tossing around the idea of doing another sweepstakes soon. What would you like to see us give away?