Did you know you can insure your student loans against default? That’s right, there are various insurance products that you can purchase that will make your loan payments and/or pay off your loan in case you are injured, deceased, or disabled. As we discussed in a previous blog post, student loans are in flux right now with payments temporarily suspended and proposed loan forgiveness in play but it is still important to have contingency plans in place for your loans in case you are unable to make the payments.

Bankruptcy Law Matters

This is very important because under federal bankruptcy law, unlike other debt such as credit card, medical, and car loans, student loans generally can’t be eliminated in a bankruptcy so they will follow you around for the rest of your life (unless you pay them off first!). So if you become disabled due to an accident or injury and you can’t make your student loan payments, the loan provider can put your loan in default and send it to a collections agency that will harass you for payment, in addition to damaging your credit report. Dealing with a student loan in default is the last thing you want to deal with if you become disabled. It is possible to get federal student loan debt discharged in bankruptcy due to a permanent disability, but that is a difficult process and even if you are successful the discharged loan will be considered taxable income and the government will send you a nice tax bill on the loan amount.

Disability Insurance

Disability insurance is insurance that will pay benefits to you if you become temporarily or permanently disabled, and will continue to make your student loan payments while you are unable to work to generate income and make your student loan payments. This can be purchased as a rider on your existing disability insurance plan and is usually fairly cheap. Talk to your existing insurance provider about adding this rider to your policy.

Student Loan Life Insurance

This is definitely not the most fun conversation and you probably won’t be the life of the party if this is your opener, but an important financial product to have as you get older is student loan life insurance. There are generally 2 types of life insurance: term and whole. Term is a simple product where you buy an insurance benefit of $1 million for example and the policy expires after a 20 or 30 year term. Whole life insurance is more complicated and expensive, and for the purposes of this article we are going to stick to term life insurance. You should have term life insurance that will pay a benefit in the event of your untimely death, and this benefit can be used to pay off your student loan debt. It’s important to note that in the event of your unexpected death, federal student loans will be discharged so if you only have federal loans then you don’t need term life insurance. If you have private loans, then you should look into term life insurance because if something happens to you then the loan provider will look to recoup the loan amount from your estate and / or your parents if they co-signed for your loan.

There has never been more disruption to the student loan market than during COVID. From loan forgiveness, to loan forbearance, to load modifications, to new loan service providers, to modified payoff schedules, the options and choices seem endless. It’s tough to navigate these waters especially with all of the other ways the pandy has affected your life (in person classes? Remote classes? Masks? vaccines?). In this blog we’ll try to give you a high-level overview of what’s happening and what you can do to best manage the situation based on your individual circumstances.

Some Background

In 2019, we talked about important things to know about your student loans. These still hold true: you still need to understand the rate and terms of your loan, your repayment options, relief options, and avoid debt relief scams. Check our 2019 post to familiarize yourself with these important facts about your loans, as it’s only gotten more complicated and these principles apply now more than ever.

The biggest change in the last year has been the federal loan forbearance program. The important thing to remember here is that forbearance is not forgiveness; forbearance temporarily pauses your payments, but the debt is still there and possibly increasing. Forgiveness means the loan is forgiven, and you don’t have to pay it back (although you might owe taxes on the loan amount since it could be treated as income).

What Now?

Since March 2020, payments for most student loans have been paused under the forbearance program. The so-called “administrative forbearance” offered by the Education Department is scheduled to end on September 30, 2021. There is pressure to extend this date, as one of the government’s largest student loan services won’t be renewing its contract so a huge amount of loans will have to be transferred to a new loan servicer at the same time as the forbearance program is ending. Regardless, it’s a good idea to plan on resuming payments in October by making sure your contact info is updated with your loan servicer and on your StudentAid.gov profile. Find out what your payment will be, and if you don’t think you can afford it then consider an income-driven payment plan which bases your payments on how much money you make.

Even if forbearance is extended, it’s a good idea to plan on resuming payments because even while you are in forbearance your loan debt could increase as interest is added to your outstanding balance; this could cause future payments to be even higher. Student loans also follow you forever, as they can’t be discharged in bankruptcy court unlike most other debts. So you want to make sure that you have your student loan payments under control.

There has also been talk about student loan forgiveness / cancellation of all student loan debt (currently $1.7 trillion and counting) and / or up to $10,000 per student. This is all still talk and has very little chance of passing, so don’t base your plans on your debt being forgiven.

The important thing to do is act now. If you wait until late September when 30 million student loans suddenly come due, the call centers will be crushed and you might not have time to get your loan sorted before payments come due.

After the unprecedented 2020-21 academic year, students are looking forward to getting back on campus and leaving remote learning behind. While the worst of the pandemic is hopefully in the rear view mirror, the next school year will definitely not be a return to normal as we knew it just yet. The biggest issues will still be masking and vaccinations. While Universities have traditionally encouraged some vaccinations, it really was not a requirement until recent years when local college meningitis outbreaks led to some Universities requiring meningitis vaccines for incoming students. With the return to in person instruction this fall and the proliferation of covid-19 vaccinations, hundreds of Universities are now requiring covid vaccinations for students, faculty and staff while others are not. Students this year face a variety of issues regarding vaccinations as they prepare to head back to campus.

Covid Vaccinations

The biggest issue with Covid vaccinations is that they have not been approved by the FDA yet due to the extremely limited time that they have been tested. Prior to the Covid vaccine, the fastest vaccine approval by the FDA was 4 years. The current vaccines available in the US are being made available by what is called an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), which basically overrides the traditional approval process due to the emergency situation of the Covid 19 pandemic. So if the vaccine is not approved by the FDA, can it be mandated by Colleges and Universities? That is a question that is currently playing out in the courts. Some campuses like Rutgers have had student protests against the vaccine mandates, and some employees such as at a hospital in Houston have sued their employers to fight EUA vaccine mandates. Ultimately it seems as if the FDA will approve the vaccine, and the courts will allow it to be mandated so these issues might be moot.

Smorgasbord of shots?

International students face a particularly difficult choice if they have been vaccinated in their home country by a vaccine that is not authorized by the FDA EUA; these students face a difficult choice of mixing different Covid vaccines without any idea of if it might provide additional protection, or how it might impact their health. It seems unethical for a University to require a student to get 2 different sets of injections without regard to side effects or efficacy as a precondition to getting an education, so hopefully this one will resolve itself and allow admission for international students without having to be vaccinated twice with different vaccines.

Be Your Own Advocate

Ultimately as a college student it boils down to making the decision that is best for you and your family. Covid 19 has been devastating, but it has primarily afflicted the elderly and those with underlying comorbidities such as obesity, diabetes, etc. If you are a young, healthy college student your personal risk profile is very low. The vaccines have their own set of risks for college students as well; there are reports of serious adverse reactions among college students and even deaths. If you are vaccinated, then you should be protected and don’t have anything to fear from the non vaccinated. If someone chooses not to vaccinate themselves, then that is a risk they are taking for themselves. If you are successfully vaccinated, then you are doing your share to help end the pandemic and should be commended. If you are leery of vaccinations then perhaps you should consider a school in a state that doesn’t require covid vaccinations. In any case it remains to be seen whether in the future a student will have control over medical interventions on their own healthy bodies, and vaccine mandates will be used as a coercive tool to force medical interventions on healthy young people against a disease for which their risk of death or even hospitalization is very low.

The strangest year in higher education in 100 years is coming to an end, classes are ending, and it’s time to sell your used textbooks again. While things might have looked a lot different on your campus this year (if you were even on campus!), the basics of buying and selling textbooks (also known as “textbook buyback” since the campus bookstores buy back your used book) haven’t changed much.

Some things never change

Although the pandemic disrupted virtually every aspect of everyone’s life over the last year, the basic laws of economics and supply and demand remain the same. The most important rule of thumb when selling your used textbooks is that you want to sell when everyone is buying (and buy when everyone is selling!). For us that means if you sell your textbook in May when everyone else is doing the same, and not many people are buying, then you will get less money for your books. If you can wait a couple months until July or August to sell when everyone is buying, then you will get substantially more for your books. Obviously this doesn’t work if you lose or damage your books, so if you don’t trust yourself to keep those expensive textbooks safe and sound then it’s probably better to sell in May and go away.

Buyback Basics

The ground rules for selling books that we posted in 2017 remain the same.

Avoid the Campus Bookstore:
they have a local monopoly, and will always offer you the least money for your books.

Shop Around: Use the Campusbooks.com sell tool to compare prices and get the most money for your used books.

Be Honest:
Don’t try to oversell the condition of your used textbook. It will just create more headaches for you. If Fido ate chapter 7, then let them know. Better to get something than nothing.

Cash or Credit? Make sure you know if the merchant you sell to is offering you cash or store credit. Merchants usually will offer more in credit than they will in cash.

CampusBooks.com Tools

In Textbook Buyback Part 2, we explored the CampusBooks.com tools that help you save money on textbooks. The CampusBooks Buy Vs Rent Superbot has only gotten smarter over the years and gives you one of the most powerful tools around to compare your total cost of ownership, and whether it makes sense to buy vs rent your textbooks. You can use the tool to see what the expected selling price of your book would be in the future based on historical trends. Used in conjunction with the CampusBooks.com buyback price comparison, and you have the best tools at your disposal to make sure you get the most money for your used textbooks.

Blogging is an enjoyable way to express yourself, share your knowledge, and strengthen your writing skills in between classes. Two thirds of people’s main reason for blogging is to generate income, while 31% of bloggers successfully earn money from their content. Unlike writing an essay, however, writing for an online audience requires a different set of skills and considerations. By taking the time to hone your writing skills to suit the digital sphere, you’ll get your content in front of a bigger audience and become an all-round stronger writer.

Write engaging content

Web content typically needs to be more lively and engaging than the formal academic work you’re used to writing. Whereas the average human attention span was found to be twelve seconds in the year 2000, it’s now a mere eight seconds long — that’s one second less than the attention span of a goldfish. You therefore need to ensure your web articles do everything they can to hook readers and keep their attention. In particular, infographics are a great way to provide readers with a visual representation of your content and increase both article visibility and engagement. They’re especially useful for breaking up, summarizing, and clarifying long-form, complex, and data-driven content. Fortunately, infographics aren’t complicated to put together. You just need to first create an outline which includes the key driving facts, statements or numbers in your article. Free online design tools like (Venngage or Piktochart) can then be used to create and finalize your infographic.


Pay attention to composition

Only 16% of online readers read content word-for-word. 79% of readers admit to just scanning blog posts rather than reading the entire piece. So, when writing for an online audience, it’s important to use these statistics to your advantage and implement key web-specific composition strategies. Unlike with academic writing, you don’t want to bore the reader with long and solid blocks of text. For example, headings and subheadings can help organize the page into digestible sections and help readers find specific information. Ideally, they should be short (between four and eight words) and include keywords from the associated paragraphs. Additionally, use bullet points to make your content more user-friendly. Bullet points are great for breaking up long paragraphs and capturing the attention of scanners and turning them into readers.

Use SEO

Including SEO (search engine optimization) keywords in your content means your articles will rank higher in the search engine results, and therefore be more easily found by readers searching for that information. While it’s beneficial to incorporate relevant keywords naturally into your content, it’s just as important not to overdo it. Primarily focus on crafting engaging, unique and informative content. Search engines (and readers) reward strong writing above all, whereas overusing keywords can injure search engine rankings and decrease visibility.

Writing for the web can be an enjoyable hobby that eventually becomes financially rewarding. By taking care to tailor your articles to suit the web, you’ll attract a wider audience and strengthen your overall writing skills

Spring Break 2020 was a pivotal moment in higher education history. Upon learning about the rapidly spreading coronavirus, schools around the world shut down their campuses — many while students were still on spring break. College students abruptly went home and began navigating a world of remote learning.

A year later, schools still struggle to mitigate COVID-19 spread, and students are itching for the sunshine. As temperatures rise throughout the United States, what can you expect for Spring Break 2021?


Spring break canceled

The main approach that many universities have taken is simple: Spring Break 2021 is canceled. Some university officials chose to eliminate the vacation entirely to stop students from traveling during the annual academic respite. But spring break hotspots, like Miami Beach, are seeing a massive turnout of college spring breakers nonetheless.

With most of their classes over Zoom anyway, students complete coursework using their hotel’s WiFi and then heading out to the beach. While it’s easy to understand indulgent behavior after a very challenging year, reports suggest that students disregard COVID-19 safety precautions: skipping masks and overfilling hotel rooms. Public health officials warn against potential spikes on campus once students return.

Incentivized staycations

Some institutions are trying a different approach. Rather than canceling spring break, UC Davis is offering students money to stay in town for their spring break. Students are experiencing a challenging year, and a few days off from the stress of assignments and midterms are no doubt needed.

Leaving campus to vacation is the bigger concern, as increased travel coincides with increased virus spread. Awarding some extra cash to stay close to home not only boosts the local economy, but also incentivizes students to stay nearby while still getting some needed self-care.

Match your mask to your swimsuit

Whether your school is actually observing spring break or not, there are a couple of precautions students should take. If possible, get your flu vaccine, and if available, your COVID-19 vaccine. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Don’t share your drinks. Try to social distance. If you decide to travel and socialize, make sure to quarantine upon returning to campus to eliminate virus spread. If you’re feeling any symptoms at all, get tested.

Be creative with your spring break. Try camping instead of overfilling vacation rentals. Hit the beach but not the bar. There are plenty of creative ways to celebrate the season and keep campus safe.

Which schools are doing a great job of keeping COVID cases low and staying open? What’s their secret?

More stressful than final exams or roommate disagreements, the pandemic has upturned traditional college expectations. Institutions around the world transitioned to a remote-learning environment, and many saw enrollment suffer because of it. As the tides turned in 2021 with the vaccine rollout and holiday spikes ebbing, some schools are re-engaging with in-person teaching, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Penn State University. But college towns worry about large student gatherings and shared residential spaces facilitating quickly-spreading clusters throughout the local community. But it’s not all doom and gloom; certain campuses are out-performing others to operate somewhat normally and maintain low COVID cases. What steps have they taken to keep their campuses safe?

Creating a Campus Task Force

One of the first key steps in managing the virus’s impact on campus was to develop a COVID task force. Wagner College in New York started early, developing its own Pandemic Response Team in January 2020. Leveraging medical and public health experts through the northeast, Wagner mandated weekly testing protocols and transparent reporting mechanisms. The task force was critical in the college’s success; rather than quickly reacting to concerns or overcorrecting, stakeholders throughout campus could collectively work through decisions and create a unified message. Rather than multiple departments sending separate emails, a singular COVID leadership team could develop a concise website and message.

Facilitating Surveillance Testing

Unlike its Ivy League peers up north, Duke University remained predominantly open throughout the pandemic. Administrators credit their innovative approach to COVID-19 testing and tracing. Students received testing schedules and their results via a unique smartphone app developed by the institution. Duke implemented “pooled testing,” a method by which multiple samples are diagnosed with one test; this allows more students to get tested with fewer resources. The catch? This method only works when positive cases in the community remain low. Duke also implemented extensive testing protocols for its athletes, and NCAA fans will watch a relatively normal season. The school’s contact tracing team was quick to respond to positive test results, interviewing individuals and immediately notifying those at risk of exposure.

Enforcing Relevant Consequences

Even with the implementation of testing protocols and quarantine rules, campus officials must be prepared for students to push back against COVID policy. Whether it’s COVID fatigue or a general disregard for the virus’s severity, students are unlikely to follow all the rules all the time. Some universities have pursued more severe consequences, suspending hundreds of students at once for attending parties. Others have overloaded conduct officers by sending countless students through a tedious conduct investigation. Schools that are successfully staying open are getting more creative with consequences. Baylor University in Texas is piloting weekly COVID testing for all members of the campus community, with a particularly harsh consequence for Gen-Zers who skip their test: students who miss three testing appointments lose their Wi-Fi access. But there are incentives as well, including raffle prizes and gift certificates for students who get tested.

Offering Teletherapy Options

Mental health providers have witnessed a rise in young adults struggling with anxiety and depression. Colleges, like Loyola University in Illinois and City University of New York (CUNY), are expanding counseling services by hiring more providers and purchasing technology to better facilitate teletherapy. University officials recognize that mental health creates significant barriers to academic success, and many students cannot afford private services. Investment in student outreach and counseling is a crucial step for campuses to endure and recover from the pandemic.

On January 20th, his first day in office, President Biden suspended student loan payments and interest through September 30. For anyone with a federal student loan, this means you don’t need to make payments until October 2021, no interest will accrue to your outstanding balance, and if you are in default then your loan will not be collected during that time. While that is obviously great news and gives you breathing room by deferring payments, it’s important to remember that this merely pauses payments for a few months; the debt will still be there and you will have to resume payments Oct 1 (unless an extension is passed).

Save your Payments

While your payments are paused, if you have income then it’s a good idea to save the money you would have made for your student loan payments so you can use this time to build a financial cushion. That way when October rolls around, you will have some savings to fall back on and you will be ready for your student loan payments to resume. You can also still continue to make manual payments on your loan if you wish, but auto debits have been suspended until October 1.

Biden also wants to cancel up to $10,000 in student loan debt per student, but this would require an act of Congress and other hurdles so don’t count on this relief yet. You should still plan on including student loan payments in your budget.

Lower your Payments

During this time, you should plan on keeping your future payments as low as possible for when they do resume. The best way to keep your payments low is to enroll in an income based repayment plan. These payments are based on your adjusted gross income, so the payments are limited as a percentage of your income. The less you make, the lower your monthly payment will be. It’s a good way to manage your payments over a long period of time, with payments as low as $0 and loan forgiveness possible after 20 years of payments.

You can also defer your payments if you become unemployed or suffer certain medical issues that prevent you from generating income. Check with your student loan servicer for details. Don’t defer payments without getting written confirmation from your loan servicer first, as student loan debt cannot be wiped away in bankruptcy so if you miss payments it will affect your credit report.

To see your options, the Department of Education has a useful simulator that allows you to see your options and how it affects your overall financial plan.

Be Ready

Once you know your options, it’s a good idea to plan in advance since when October rolls around and millions of students are contacting their servicers at the same time it could be difficult to get things done in a timely manner. Contact your loan servicer and get all of your information ready so you are ahead of the pack.