Wallet Wednesday: Paying off student loans

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The 2016 graduating class has an average student debt of more than $37,000 per student. Millions of Americans are working to pay off student loans. What are your options?

Barbara Thomas, Vice President of SouthEast Bank, broke down the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF.)

There are four qualifying factors that will allow you to become part of this program:

You must have a federal loan that was taken out through the Direct Loan Program.

You have to go on a qualified income based repayment program.

You must work for a qualifying employer. (Government organizations or non-profits.)

You have to make 120 monthly payments in full and on time.

"Here we are 10 years later and 500 thousand individuals have qualified, but so many of them have not been qualified because they did not meet the full requirements. They either missed a payment ... actually quite a few of them are not qualified because their employers are not qualified," said Thomas.

If you don't qualify for the program, you can also talk to your bank about refinancing. An option SouthEast Bank gives qualifying customers.

"We refinance student loans because the federal government loan program is one size fits all, which means regardless of your credit history you're given the same exact interest rate which is sort of crazy because that's not how consumer lending works."

There is currently legislation on the table, that if passed, would change the PSLF, but if you're already in the system you will be grandfathered in.

A quick Google search on student loan refinance will also give you many options away from the PSLF. You can also visit the Education Loan Finance website online.

Thomas said the best thing you can do is educate yourself on your options.

"Educate yourself on your opportunities because the last thing you want to have happen is when you go to purchase your first dream house or your car that you know what your credit situation is and you've positioned yourself well."