Problem: According to the state attorney general’s office, about 750,000 Colorado residents have nearly $ 28 billion in student loan debt.
One solution: ask local mathematicians what is the most cost-effective way to pay off the debt.
Yu-Ju Huang, assistant professor of applied mathematics at CU, collaborated with Paolo Guasoni, head of mathematics at City University Dublin in Ireland, to figure out how borrowers can best pay off their ever-growing student loan debt. Said Khalili, Research Fellow at the Department of Mathematics at CU, supported the research that was published in Journal of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics this year.
Of the 750,000 Colorado residents suffering from student debt, more than 100,000 of Colorado’s 750,000 residents are in default and are not making loan payments, according to Kelsey Lesko, the student loan officer at the Colorado attorney general’s office.
“We often think of student debt as a financial problem, but it’s a human problem,” Lescaut said. “People are not just in debt. They postpone marriage. They cannot have children. They cannot pass a credit check to get a job. This is a huge problem. “
Huang and colleagues used mathematical modeling to calculate the most cost-effective student loan repayment strategy. Guasoni, originally from Italy, and Huang, who grew up in Taiwan, said they were from countries with little to no student debt. Both mathematicians were interested in the rise of the college debt burden in the United States, they said.
According to the data, US student loan debt surpassed $ 1.7 trillion in 2021, eclipsing auto loans and credit cards among the financial burden on tens of millions of Americans. Federal Reserve data… This debt has a ripple effect, forcing borrowers to delay buying houses and starting families.
“The level of debt that leaves new generations of college graduates is remarkable enough — a level of debt that has never been found in any other society,” Guasoni said. “There is a lot of misunderstanding about how these loans work and there is not enough information on how these loans should be managed.”
Guasoni and his team got down to work filling the information gap.
They found that income-based repayment plans, options that set monthly federal student loan payments based on income and family size, were not always in the best interest of the borrower.
“The optimal strategy for some borrowers is to pay a larger amount at the start of the loan term and postpone registration for an income-based repayment plan at a later date,” Guasoni said. “It’s a simple change in strategy, but just like extending a mortgage to use a lower interest rate, it can make a huge difference, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in savings over time.”
According to Huang, this option is most beneficial for students with large loans, such as students with advanced degrees in programs such as dental, medical, or law school, who typically have more than $ 100,000 in debt.
Various loan forgiveness programs are also available, promising to write off the balance of eligible loans if borrowers meet certain eligibility requirements and make consistent payments, but Guasoni said that by the time the government forgives loans – sometimes decades after issuance – the balance could expand to more over US $ 1 million on compound interest and will be subject to income tax in excess of 40%.
“In the year your student loan is forgiven you, you actually have to pay taxes as if you received the forgiven amount as income this year,” Guasoni said. “If you let your student loan grow over time, the amount you are going to owe in taxes is so large that you would be better off paying off the loan faster from the start. For large student loans, these taxes can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. ”
The exact calculation that allows borrowers to specify the terms of their loan can be found in the writings of scholars. Journal article.
The formula uses the loan term, income tax rate, student loan interest rate, and the borrower’s next most expensive loan interest rate to calculate the number. If the number is negative, mathematicians suggest enrolling in an income-based repayment plan immediately. In case of a positive result, it is equal to the number of years of waiting before being included in the plan, with the understanding that the borrower, in the meantime, must pay back as much as possible.
As an example, the researchers looked at a dental school graduate with $ 300,000 in debt at a regular rate of 7.08%. The researchers found that maintaining maximum payments based on an estimated starting salary of $ 100,000 to pay off the loan in the shortest possible time yields a total loan cost of $ 512,000. Immediate inclusion in an income-based repayment plan to lower repayments yields a total loan cost of $ 524,000 including taxes on the forgiven amount. Using the formula suggested by the researchers yields the lowest total cost of a loan of $ 490,000 – a savings of $ 34,000.
Huang noted that if the student loan amount is less than $ 50,000, it will probably be more cost effective to opt out of an income-based plan if possible.
Megan Smith, a Denver-based physical therapist, said that after completing her bachelor’s degree in Minnesota and earning her Ph.D. in physical therapy from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in 2016, she owed more than $ 100,000 in student loans.
“This is an astounding and almost unrealistic amount of money,” Smith said. “When you’re younger, the student loans you accept seem like counterfeit money. It doesn’t really take into account what this entails. You just subscribe to them to take the next step in college. “
Smith pays over $ 500 a month on his student loans through an income-based payment plan. Without the plan, she said, her monthly payments would have exceeded her rent.
“I don’t even pay enough to make a dent,” Smith said. “Now I am in debt more than when I graduated.”
A study by mathematicians notes that while student loans may increase access to higher education, recent research has shown that higher student loan balances contribute to reduced home ownership and entrepreneurship, delayed marriages, delayed parenting, and increased parenting moves.
“Also controversial is the interaction between student loans and tuition fees,” the research paper said, adding that studies have shown that an increase in student loans leads to an increase in tuition fees. “Thus, suggesting that colleges (not students) may be the beneficiaries of a significant portion of government grants.”
Thomas Hernandez, acting executive director of financial aid and scholarships at Metropolitan State University of Denver, would like to see more education in financial literacy at the high school level. Meanwhile, he said colleges need to educate students about their financial aid, especially at institutions like MSU in Denver, where so many first-generation college students are enrolled.
Any student who borrows a federal loan must complete an advisory course at MSU Denver to help them understand what they are signing up for, and the institution also runs financial literacy courses throughout the year.
The state also encourages borrowers who have questions or concerns about their student loans to contact Lescaut and her colleagues at State attorney general…
“Asking a 21-year-old to make a big life decision when he doesn’t really understand an important life decision is not a good thing,” said Smith, who feels traditional rites of passage like owning a home are being canceled by her student debt. … … “I wish I knew more about what I’m getting myself into.”