Out of the several steps, the first one may be most important.
"It starts with doing your homework," said Brendan Coughlin, head of consumer lending and deposits at Citizens Bank. "There are a lot of options out there."
As part of TheStreet's Ask the Expert Series, we spoke to Coughlin about the best strategies for student debt management. See our video page for more on the way soon.
Don't feel overwhelmed. Here's how the market breaks down.
Roughly 92% of student loans in the U.S. are made by government lenders. But "most often, for many consumers you can actually find a better deal in the private market, a lower interest rate, a more affordable product for you," Coughlin said. "So do your homework. Don't take exactly what you get from the guidance counselor's office or the financial aid office as your only option that should let you get the best interest rate, reduce your debt burden."
Plus, "when you graduate, the first thing you need to do is trade in your old student loans for new loans," said Coughlin. "You got that first loan when you are 18 in your parent's basement making no money with very limited credit history. You've now graduated. You have a job. You have a good income, you deserve a better rate."
"And the best thing to do is research how you can restructure that debt at a lower rate. Get yourself debt free a lot faster."
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