A student loan is a kind of loan that students can avail of to help them in paying for their professional education. Student loans are guaranteed by the government and typically have lower interest rates than other kinds of loans.
Sometimes, one loan is not enough to finance all of your educational expenses, including tuition, books and school supplies. This can force you to borrow several student loans from different lenders, which can be quite confusing and even more expensive. To prevent this, you should consider student loan consolidation.
WHAT IS STUDENT LOAN CONSOLIDATION
Student Loan Consolidation is the process of combining all of your student loans into a single new loan with one repayment plan issued by one lender. The balances from all your previous student loans are paid off by the new loan. This allows you to pay only one loan instead of multiple loans.
The interest rate for the consolidated student loans is computed by averaging the interest rates of your current loans.
You can also consolidate your student loans with the loans of another person, such as your spouse. However, this is not advisable. This is because if you need deferment, both of you have to meet the necessary criteria. Also, you will still have to repay the loan even if you separate or divorce.
Most federal loans, such as FFELP and FISL loans, can be consolidated. Some private loans can also be consolidated. Various banks and student loan lenders typically offer loan consolidation options. You can also go directly to the Department of Education to consolidate. Both students and their parents can avail of loan consolidation.
ADVANTAGES OF CONSOLIDATION
Aside from simplifying your payment responsibilities, another benefit of student loan consolidation is that you are able to decide on the structure of your loan. Typically, consolidated student loans require smaller monthly payments than the original loans. If you’re having trouble making your monthly payments, then this option may just be for you. You can also convert your variable interest rate to a lower fixed rate, which can save you a lot of money. You can also extend your repayment term from the standard 10 years for federal loans to reach up to 30 years. There is no maximum amount that you can consolidate, and interest you pay may be tax deductible. Consolidated student loans also have flexible repayment options, including no prepayment penalties, allowing you to pay more than your monthly payments.
DISADVANTAGES OF CONSOLIDATION
Of course, there are also disadvantages to consolidating your student loans. By lowering your monthly payments, you will have to extend the repayment period, which, in the end, can result in more interest. However, since there are no prepayment penalties, you can pay more than the required payments so that you can repay the loan faster. Another disadvantage to consolidation is that once the student loans have been consolidated, you may not separate them again. You may end up losing benefits, such as loan deferment. You can also only consolidate once. Thus, it is essential that you research thoroughly for the best consolidation options before going through with the process.
AM I ELIGIBLE FOR CONSOLIDATION?
There are certain criteria you have to meet before you can consolidate your student loans. For federal student loan consolidation, you can only consolidate if your current loans amount to more than $10,000. You must be within your 6-month loan grace period after graduation or you should have already started repaying your loans. In order to be eligible, you also should have no previous record of loan consolidation. If you’ve gone back to school after your initial consolidation, then you are still eligible for a new one.
WHEN SHOULD I CONSOLIDATE?
Once you have started repayment or you are within the grace period, you can already consolidate your student loans. It is advisable to consolidate during the grace period, since this usually results in a lower interest rate.
HOW TO CONSOLIDATE
If you’ve decided to consolidate all or some of your existing student loans, the first thing you have to do is look for a bank or lender with the best offer. Student loan consolidation plans have different interest rates, fees for late payments and repayment terms. There are websites, such as FinAid, that can provide you with a list of lenders and their offers. Some websites can also help you arrange the consolidation. You can also consult a qualified loan counselor to help you determine whether consolidating your loans will truly be beneficial for you or not. They can help you in calculating the costs of your existing loans and compare it with the cost of the single consolidated loan. They can also explain to you your other options, such as income contingent payments, extended repayment and graduated repayment. By doing this, you can make an informed decision regarding student loan consolidation, and save a good deal of money in the long run.