What you May Not Know about Consolidating Student Loans
Refinancing education loans can be so simple and attractive that many borrowers tend to overlook some critical points about student loan refinancing. Sometimes what you don’t know can save you a great deal of money, time, and frustration. Below you’ll find a few little know facts that can save you big bucks when refinancing your education loans.
Consolidation Loans have a fixed interest rate versus a variable interest rate
Most education loans have a variable interest rate which can mean significant changes in the monthly payments if interest rates increase as they did on July 1st, 2006. With a fixed interest rate, the monthly payments and total payoff balance is a set amount. Some education loans such as the Perkins Loan and the HPSL (Health Professionals Student Loan) are fixed rate loans. Before consolidating it’s important to weigh the repayment benefits of rolling these kinds of loans into the consolidation.
Consolidation lenders vary significantly in terms of money-saving incentives
What separates one lender from another when it comes to consolidating education loans are the types of incentives each offers. Lender incentives can greatly reduce monthly payments and the total amount owed over the lifetime of the loan. Many lenders offer incentives for auto-debit payments, but rarely more than .25%. Another standard incentive is a 1% reduction in interest rates after 36 months of on-time payments. When shopping for a lender to consolidate your education loans, look for one that goes above and beyond these standards. ScholarPoint for example, offers an auto-debit interest rate discount of .50% and a 1% reduction in interest after only 24 months, a full year earlier than the norm.
Your loans must be current in order to consolidate education loans
If you’re behind on your loan payments, you’ll need to get caught up before refinancing. Once you refinance, you’ll most likely enjoy much lower monthly payments to ease your budget once you are caught up.
Private education loans and federal education loans cannot be combined when refinancing
While federal student loans are funds lent by the government, private student
oans are those offered by independent lenders and tend to have a higher rate of interest. Those who have both types of education loans will need to secure 2 different consolidation loans. It’s best to consolidate federal education loans first and then start the process of consolidating your private education loans. You can however, consolidate federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans together. They do need to be tracked separately, but a quality lender will take care of this for you.
Your deferment and forbearance limits start over when you consolidate
One of the most important benefits of education loans is that they allow students to put their loans in to deferment or forbearance status during difficult times encountered while building their careers. When you refinance, you are essentially getting a whole new loan, meaning that your deferment and forbearance limits are reset.
Consolidating during the post graduation grace period allows you to lock in the lowest rate
Interest rates during the grace period (6 months after graduation) are .60% lower than after the grace period when loans move into repayment status. Consolidating before the grace period is over helps to lock in this much lower interest rate. It’s best to start the consolidation process soon after graduation to ensure that there is adequate processing time. You can specify that your new consolidated loan begin at the end of your grace period so that you may enjoy both benefits.
Borrowers can no longer reconsolidate student loans
For many years, borrowers have had the opportunity to reconsolidate their education loans if they were unhappy with their lender or found a better loan offer elsewhere. As part of the Federal government’s July 1st 2006 student loan changes, borrowers now face major restrictions when it comes to finding a new lender for already consolidated loans. Unless you plan to take out new loans that would allow you to reconsolidate, it pays to shop around and find a lender you are going to be happy with because you only have one opportunity to consolidate.
Refinancing education loans is one of the easiest ways to lower monthly bills and make paying back your college education affordable. Keeping these little known facts in mind can save you a great deal of money and make consolidating your education loans a smooth and simple process.