How To Consolidate Student Loans

    More than 44 million borrowers owe $1.4 trillion in student loan debt in 2017. Most of them could streamline the repayment process by consolidating their student loans. Find out how.

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    Why Consolidate Student Loans?

    It simplifies repayment and could save you money. It is quite common for people with student loans to deal with 10-12 lending institutions, which means 10-12 payments and 10-12 due dates each month. When you consolidate student loans – either federal or private – it’s one payment to one lender, once-a-month. Simple.

    About the Program

    Loan consolidation for student loans was created to make it easier for millions of borrowers to pay off their debt. Both federal and private lenders recognize that lower monthly payments help may be the best option, if you don’t get the job you want immediately after graduating from colleges. Find out more about the choices debt consolidation offers.

    When You Will Qualify

    Ideally, you would qualify for debt consolidation after graduation. However, you also could qualify when you leave school or are enrolled less than half-time. You can’t consolidate private loans in the federal Direct Consolidation Loan program, but some private lenders allow you to consolidate federal and private loans together.


    Should I Consolidate My Student Loans?

    The Direct Consolidation Loan program is the right choice if your goal is to simplify the process and keep your options open for the many repayment plans available for federal loans. You will not get lower interest rates. Your rate is determined by the weighted average of the interest on the loans being consolidated rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of 1%.

    If you’re using private lenders for student loan consolidation, there is a chance you could get a better interest rate and possibly lower monthly payments. A slim chance.  These are private loans where credit score and other conditions are weighed in. If you have a tremendous job that pays really well and no dings on your credit report when you graduate, you could find a lender willing to give you a break on interest to get your business. If not … well, it never hurts to ask.

    Here are some things to consider when evaluating the prospect of student loan consolidation.

    Why you should:

    • Lower interest rate/monthly payments. Interest rates do drop. Your credit score can improve. That combination make you an attractive borrower and result in lower monthly payments.
    • Less hassle. The average borrower has seven loans and three loan servicer companies when they graduate. That’s a lot of responsibility to keep up with. Consolidation means one check to one lender, once-a-month.
    • Variable or fixed? All federal loans are fixed rate, but private lenders can offer tempting variable rates of less than 3%. Just hope the economy doesn’t go in the dump and your variable rates go through the roof.
    • Remove co-signer. Mom and Dad were good enough to co-sign the loan so I’d get a better interest rate. Now it’s my obligation to let them off the hook and handle the debt by myself.

    Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t consolidate loans:

    • Perks are reduced or gone. No discount for opening an account at the lender or allowing them to withdraw payments automatically. Could hurt my chances for public service loan forgiveness. Deferment option is hurt and doing automatic pay discount; no public service loan forgiveness; can’t defer anymore; no other choices for changing to different repayment program.
    • End up paying more. Yes, you get some relief, but the life of the loan is extended and you’ll pay a lot more in interest. For example, the average student owes $37,172 at graduates. If the interest rate is 5%, they will pay $10,140 in interest over 10 years. If the loan period increases to 20 years, they pay $21,704.
    • Good rates already. Interest rates in 2016 for direct unsubsidized loans were 4.29, up slightly from 3.40 in 2013. Hard to imagine beating that rate.
    How Student Loan Debt Adds Up

    See How Student Loan Debt Adds Up

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    Types of Loans Eligible for Consolidation

    There are two primary types of educational loans — private and federal. While both may be eligible for consolidation, it is important to think of these two types independent of each other when considering consolidation.

    Federal Student Loans

    Federal student loans are the easiest and most beneficial to consolidate because they offer low interest rates, increased payback terms (which decreases the monthly cost) and because they reduce the number of lending institutions you have to pay every month. For example, instead of making multiple payments to multiple lenders at various times of the month, you simplify the equation by making a single monthly payment.

    Learn more about private student loans

    Private Student Loans

    Private student loans are granted and managed by lending institutions – banks, credit unions, college foundations – and typically charge a higher fixed or variable-interest rate than federally funded loan programs. Private student loans are credit-based, meaning student borrowers with high credit scores will pay lower interest rates than those with low scores because banks assess the risk of each borrower.

    Learn more about federal student loans

    What's The Difference?

    All students are eligible for federal loans, regardless of financial need. You can consolidate Direct Student Loans using one of several income-based repayment plans and there are loan forgiveness programs.

    However, if you try to refinance a federal loan through a private lender, you will lose eligibility for things like forgiveness programs, deferment, forbearance, as well as the income-based repayment programs.

    With private loans, your credit score is a factor in whether you qualify and you may need a co-signer. Debt consolidation is one of the few repayment options available on private loans and there are no loan forgiveness programs.

    You can’t include private loans when consolidating through the federal Direct Consolidation Loan program. You can include federal loans when consolidating with a private lender, but you lose the perks associated with federal loans so it’s best not to mix the two.

    Student Loan Tip

    Process for Consolidating Federal Student Loans

    Get an Evaluation

    The application process for student loans can take as little as 30 minutes. To get started, call Debt.org’s trusted partner at 888-502-2105 and let one of their counselors get a snapshot of your overall financial picture. Your options are determined by the amount of debt you carry and the difficulty you have meeting monthly payment obligations. Consolidating student loans into one payment could free up additional cash or help to structure payback of your loans on more favorable terms.

    Review Your Options

    The first stage of review to verify how many of our loans qualify for consolidation. Then decide if you want a payment plan based on your current income or prefer a longer repayment period to get the lowest fixed payment possible. Our partner will explain all the options available and give you a recommendation. It helps to have your student loan login and PIN so you can provide up-to-date information on the status of all your federal loans.

    Submit Your Application

    When you decide to consolidate, our partners will make the process easy for you. They will handle all the hard work. The federal student loan application process is detailed. One mistake or omission can result in a rejection. Your paperwork will be prepared and submitted for you, after your approval.

    Get Your Loans Paid Off

    Once you receive application approval, your current federal loans will be paid off in less than 90 days and then you begin paying on the consolidation loan.

    Start Making Payments

    A lower monthly payment and a more forgiving timeline is the second chance you’ve been waiting for. Take advantage of this opportunity. All federal loans have fixed payments, so be sure to make your payments on time and feel good knowing you solved your debt issues by being proactive.

    Federal Student Loan Repayment Plans

    If you’re paying off federal student loans, you are one of 44 million borrowers with outstanding student loan debt. The Direct Consolidation Loan Program offers several repayment plans that give you up to 25 years to pay off the debt. The programs are tailored to your income and family size. You can even switch programs if your financial or family situation changes.

    Consolidating Private Student Loans

    The process for consolidating private student loans is focused around your credit score. If your credit score has improved dramatically since graduation, you may be in line for a lower interest rate. Home equity loans are another way to consolidate a lower interest rate. There also could be a variable interest rate loan that suits your situation. Contact several lenders before making a final decision on consolidating your student loans through a private lender.

    Student Loan Consolidation

    Student Loan Consolidation & Your Credit

    All federal and private student loans are considered unsecured debt. That means they are not backed by collateral, an asset like a house, a car, or a piece of land.

    Unsecured student loan debt is looked upon more favorably by lenders when it comes to evaluating your credit worthiness. Student loan debt is often considered good debt because it represents an investment in your future.

    If you are timely in making your federal and/or private student loan payments to your lender, having this type of debt can actually strengthen your credit rating after about six months of steady payments. Better yet, if your student loans are consolidated, reducing the number of active accounts on your credit report will improve your score as well.

    Ready to consolidate your student loans?

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    Author

    Bill Fay
    Staff Writer

    Bill Fay is a journalism veteran with a nearly four-decade career in reporting and writing for daily newspapers, magazines and public officials. His focus at Debt.org is on frugal living, veterans' finances, retirement and tax advice. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.

    Sources

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    2. McGuran, B., Nykiel, T. (2017, March 13) Student Loan Consolidation: Federal and Private. Retrieved from https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/student-loans/consolidate-student-loans-2/
    3. Lux, M. (2015, October 8) How long does student loan consolidation take? Retrieved from http://studentloansherpa.com/long-student-loan-consolidation-take/
    4. NA, ND. Private Student Loan Consolidation. Retrieved from http://www.finaid.org/loans/privateconsolidation.phtml
    5. Powell, F. (2016, December 27) 3 Student Loan Refinance Options for 2017. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2016-12-27/3-student-loan-refinance-options-for-2017
    6. Loan Holder Services (2012). What Is the Consolidation Process? Retrieved from http://www.loanconsolidation.ed.gov
    7. The College Board (2011). Trends in Student Aid 2011.
    8. FinAid Student Loan Consolidation (2012). Retrieved from http://www.finaid.org/loans/consolidation.phtml
    9. The College Board (2011). College Loan Options: How to Tell a Perkins from a PLUS. Retrieved from http://www.collegeboard.com/student/pay/loan-center/433.html
    10. FinAid Private Education Loans (2012). Retrieved from http://www.finaid.org/loans/privateloan.phtml
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    12. Credit.com, Inc (2012). Student Loan Consolidation Tips. Retrieved from http://www.credit.com/products/loans/Student-Loan-Consolidation-Tips.jsp
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