Campus, Finance & Economy, News

New delayed-start loan repayment plan may help grads.

Financial service provider Sallie Mae is introducing a student loan repayment plan that allows students of good standing at colleges such as Boston University to push back their loans an additional year following the normal six-month grace period after graduation, officials said.

Randall Ellis, a BU economics professor, said while loan flexibility already exists for students, the new plan could be beneficial for those looking to explore new options.

“For some students, increased flexibility in repayment is helpful and can be beneficial,” he said. “Right now, students who are in repayment are advised to communicate with their lenders. Borrowers are able to request deferrals when they are having difficulty.”

The new policy, referred to as the Graduated Repayment Period, was announced in a Thursday Sallie Mae press release.

A Sallie Mae spokeswoman said the new option, which became available Monday for undergraduate and graduate students attending degree-granting institutions, will allow students greater flexibility without forcing them to repay over a significantly longer period of time.

“We’ve been working on it for some time,” she said. “Our research showed that consumers and schools wanted this extra year of budget flexibility … At the same time, we found most consumers want to pay off their loans in a decade and prefer to limit the amount of interest they will accrue. The Graduated Repayment Period was designed to keep the total cost low without extending the length of the loan.”

The new plan is designed to keep the total cost of loans low so that students have a year to make more money, the spokeswoman said.

“College students have a promising future ahead of them, but, as new graduates, they also face uncertainty and change as many of them take on a job search, create a budget and establish financial independence,” she said. “The Graduated Repayment Period will serve our customers who need more time after graduation to make payments on loan principle.”

Financial aid expert and publisher Mark Kantrowitz said the new policy will provide borrowers with more affordable options.

“This is good for a borrower who doesn’t get his or her ideal job immediately after graduation, but expects to get a better job or a big raise after a year,” Kantrowitz said.

Kantrowitz said borrowers should be aware that the plan will let students delay paying their loans, but will come at a slight cost.

“Since the repayment term on the Sallie Mae Graduated Repayment Plan will not increase, this means that the monthly payment after the initial one-year interest-only payments will be somewhat higher than it would have been in a standard repayment plan,” he said.

Alicia Leone, a School of Management junior, said she believes for students who are struggling to find a niche in the job market, the new plan will allow them to secure employment before starting to paying off their loans.

“Our generation is highly motivated,” Leone said. “This allows kids to spend the time they need finding a job that is best suited to what they went to school for, and in turn will allow them to be both happier and more successful.”

Several other students said they were more skeptical about the new Sallie Mae program.

Adrien Gates, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he believes the program may help students in wake of recent tuition hikes, but will only help those motivated to pay off their loans.

“Students definitely need some wiggle room considering the constant rise of tuition,” Gates said. “But college students tend to procrastinate and it would be hard to identify good [repayment plan] candidates.”

Andrew Caplan, a College of Communication sophomore, said allowing students to take time off before paying back their loans may not actually bring them benefits.

“When I hear ‘delay’ I think ‘lazy,’” Caplan said. “I’d like to believe that all graduates will stow their funds for an entire year to help pay off college, but I know better. I foresee more problems coming from waiting a year than benefits.”

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