Make fun of the so-called "professional students" all you want. You know, the ones who, unlike the TAs, remember the original Dukes of Hazzard TV show. But would you be in a huge hurry to check out of the ivory tower and into debtors' prison?
More and more, recent graduates are trading their sheepskins for student-loan debt payments. Plenty of college grads face five-figure debts, and for those with professional degrees, loans of $100,000 or more aren't uncommon.
But what if you had the means to wipe the student-loan slate clean? Those who are fortunate enough to get good-paying jobs out of school may accumulate savings rapidly enough that they can pay off their loans early. If you can choose, which should you do: Kill off the loan, or keep cash in the bank? Well, it depends.
Wipe out that loan ASAP if:
- You're stuck in a high-interest private student loan. Private loans aren't subject to the same interest-rate limits that apply to many federal loans, so even if you consolidate your loans, you may end up paying more than you should. If private loans are a necessity, be sure to shop around to see whether you can get lower rates.
- The interest you're paying is not tax-deductible.
- You are flush with cash -- or at least flush enough to pay off your loans and still have money left over to start your emergency savings account.
- A sweet job with an even sweeter salary awaits.
Sit on your student loan if:
- You locked in a low, fixed-interest rate before the July 1 deadline.
- You're able to deduct the interest from your taxes.
- You have other higher-interest debt looming -- for example, if you paid for your college textbooks with a credit card, and those books are still sitting on the balance.
- You're unsure of your future income.
When it comes to paying off debt, do a side-by-side interest-rate comparison of all of your loans to see which one you should knock off first.
More reading to get smart about student loans:
- 60-Second Guide to College Savings Strategies
- Fast Facts on 529s
- The How-to Guide to Paying for College
This article was originally published on Aug. 8, 2005. It has been updated.