Consolidating loans can help cut debt

But their stories are common enough that many of the 41.5 million Americans with student debt—including perhaps you—can find some useful advice in what our experts had to tell them.Above: Mattie Talbert (left) and her mother pose for a photo last May before Talbert graduated from the University of South Carolina.(For Talbert, there’s little downside to consolidating her loans, but that’s not always the case.Read more about that here.) “You don’t want to be surprised years later if you switch jobs and were planning to have your loans forgiven…For one, she has to remember to recertify every single year to remain in a qualifying income-driven plan.That means she needs to update her annual income, based on her most recent tax return, with her loan servicer.

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There are some important ongoing steps in pursuing PSLF that Talbert needs to be aware of.There are also dozens of city- and state-sponsored teacher forgiveness programs.(The American Federation of Teachers has a list of teacher-specific forgiveness programs here.) You can’t take advantage of both federal forgiveness programs at the same time.Talbert has 17 individual loans, and only some of them automatically qualify for the income-driven plans that lead to loan forgiveness.So her first step is to fill out a form to consolidate all her federal loans into one new loan under the Direct Loan program.

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