12 Tips to Pave the Way for a Graceful Exit

12 Tips to Pave the Way for a Graceful Exit

Submitted by Debbie Murphy
Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc.

The road to successful student loan repayment for your students begins with choices made before and while they attend college. But making a graceful exit from school—whether students are graduating or leaving school without completing their program—can have an equally huge impact on their repayment success. We’ve got 12 tips for you to share with your students that will help them start off on the right foot as they leave college life behind and head toward repayment.

  1. Get organized by capturing and keeping track of key loan information, such as your lender or loan servicer, balance, repayment status, interest rate, loan type, and grace period.
  2. Establish an online relationship with your loan servicer(s) as soon as possible so you can access repayment assistance, learn about options, and easily complete many tasks, such as requesting a deferment or forbearance, making a payment, or changing repayment plans, at any time.
  3. Keep all of your lenders and servicers informed of where you are and how to contact you. You’re responsible even if you don’t get (or open) communications from them. Avoiding servicers because you’re having trouble making payments only makes it worse, so just engage with these people; they’re there to help you resolve problems.
  4. Take time to learn about all of the repayment options available to you—including income-driven repayment plans—and choose a repayment option that works for you. Otherwise, you’ll be set up with standard repayment, which may not suit your financial situation.
  5. If you leave without completing your program, you’re at particular risk for unemployment or underemployment, so make sure you learn about deferment and income-driven repayment options that may help you out of a financial snag. Depending on how you left school, you may have missed out on important exit counseling where you would have learned about your loan options and how to get the help you need.
  6. Stay calm, even if things seem bleak. You can use deferment or forbearance if needed, but before you do that, consider making interest-only payments, since interest may likely be accruing, depending on your situation.
  7. Lower your principal, and you’ll pay substantially less over time. Whenever you can, pay more than required. To ensure that additional amounts are put toward principal, send a written request to your servicer, and follow up to be sure they are correctly applied to your principal balance.
  8. Pay off loans with the highest interest rate first. If you have both private and federal loans, start with the private loans, which generally have a higher interest rate and less flexible repayment options.
  9. Before consolidating your loans into one single monthly payment and interest rate, make sure you consider what your interest rate would be. Also, never consolidate federal loans into private loans, since you lose benefits that come with them.
  10. Make paying off your student loans a top priority, especially if you leave school early. Even though your interest rates may be relatively low, you’ll want to pay them off as soon as possible to avoid paying more in the long run—and to position yourself for a favorable return to school later on, should you choose that.
  11. Continue part-time enrollment to keep payments at bay—and to make progress toward getting your degree. Without program completion, a partial education is especially costly.
  12. Make changes to your repayment plan when your situation changes—and continue to supply your servicer with annual income information that keeps you enrolled in income-based repayment plans. If you fail to provide this, your payments can drastically change and put you in a bind until you are re-enrolled in a plan you can afford.

More Information                                                        

Counseling your students for successful repayment is a daunting task. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Education, federal loan servicers, and other organizations offer help with financial literacy, delinquency prevention, and default outreach resources. You’re not alone when it comes to helping your students succeed in repayment!

Debbie Murphy is a Senior Marketing Associate with Great Lakes, serving schools in Iowa and Wisconsin. You can reach Debbie at (800) 491-8210, or by email at dmurphy@glhec.org. Additional information about Great Lakes can be found online at schools.mygreatlakes.org.

Governor’s Proclamation of Financial Aid Awareness Month

In what very well may be the last February for this to occur, seven financial aid representatives and six others from the financial aid community met at the Capitol on Feb. 11, 2016, to observe Gov. Terry Branstad’s formal signing ceremony where he proclaimed February as Financial Aid Awareness Month.

As chair of the Community Outreach Committee, I want to thank everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to participate in this event. I also want to offer a special thank you to Julie Leeper for scheduling this event with the governor’s office. As you may notice, neither Julie nor Todd Brown is in this picture, which is not because they weren’t there, but because they were silly enough to take my instructions seriously and were dutifully waiting at the location I provided for us all to meet. My sincere apologies to both Julie and Todd.

Please don’t forget to submit your entry to win the covetable Fabulous Frieda Award, in recognition for the efforts your office made to promote completion of the FAFSA, during Financial Aid Awareness month. Entries must be submitted by Thursday, March 31st to be considered.


Pictured above from left to right are, Gary Adams (Iowa Student Loan), Lisa Croat and Joe Brookover (Mercy College of Health Science), Kayli Burnside and Michael Finley (AIB), Matt Brown (Iowa Student Loan), Kristi Fuller and Chris Ditter (Drake University), Brad Spielman (DMACC), Rob Miller, Brittania Morey and Erick Danielson (ICAN), Andrea Gnat (Grand View University), Tom Fey (Fey & Gomez Inc.) and of course governor of the great state of Iowa, Terry Branstad, front and center.

Meet your IASFAA Executive Council

Get to know President-Elect Chris Ditter

  • Grew up on a farm outside of Dubuque and went to Western Dubuque High School. Go Bobcats!
  • Graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA and MAE.
  • Married to husband, Chad, and have two daughters Sydney in 9th grade and Hailey in 8th grade
  • Ran track in high school where I was co captain my senior year and placed 2nd at state track meet at Drake in the 400 meter hurdles. Was inducted into my high school hall of fame.
  • Was also very active in band and marched in Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and at the World’s Fair. Was a drum majorette and band queen (LOL-I’m not making this up).
  • I’ve worked in financial aid for over 26 years beginning my career at UNI as a grad student. Worked as Financial Aid Counselor at Wartburg College, Director of Financial Aid at Southwestern Community College and Outreach Representative with the College Planning Center. Currently the Associate Director at Drake University.
  • IASFAA participation includes Program, Community Outreach and chaired Exhibitor Relations, Electronic Services and the first Make High School Count program. Also held Treasurer and Treasurer-Elect positions and participated in Leadership Symposium.
  • First IASFAA conference attended was in Okoboji where we had steak for lunch!
  • On a trip to Vegas, participated in the longest game of telephone (over 800 people) and got called up on stage and met a number of Vegas acts including Penn and Teller and Sheena Easton.
  • This past summer went on a work trip my husband earned to Whistler, British Columbia, Canada and went zip lining for the first time on the Sasquatch (North America’s longest zipline). It is 1.24 miles long and reaches speeds of up to 62 mph.
  • Just recently discovered the addictiveness of Netflix and have watched Pretty Little Liars, the Walking Dead, Continuum and most recently Making a Murderer.Ditter, Chris photo

College Application Campaign

On October 16, Governor Branstad signed a proclamation at North High School in Des Moines proclaiming October as Iowa College Application Campaign month.  The Iowa College Application Campaign is part of a national effort to engage and inform students across the state about the college application process. The purpose is to build awareness of higher education and encourage students, especially those from underserved populations, to take a significant step towards college by completing college applications their senior year, during the school day.Branstad2 (2)                               Proclamation (2)

North High School is one of nearly 80 high schools participating in this year’s campaign by holding events throughout the month of October to assist students, especially those from underserved populations, through the college admissions process.  In 2014, students from 58 high schools completed applications during this event.  One of the goals of the application campaign is to help students who might not otherwise apply for college admissions navigate the college application process.

The Iowa College Application Campaign is administered by the Iowa College Student Aid Commission and supported by the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa Association for College Admission Counseling (Iowa ACAC), School Administrators of Iowa (SAI), the Iowa Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (IASFAA), the Iowa College Access Network (ICAN), Iowa’s postsecondary institutions of higher education and participating Iowa high schools.

You can help by volunteering your time at one of the many sites hosting a campaign event.  Many of the students need someone to sit with them and assist while they are completing admissions applications.  Prior experience is not required!  A list of participating sites can be found at https://www.iowacollegeaid.gov/content/iowa-college-application-campaign-events.  Contact the site coordinator to find out how you can help!