Consolidating Student Loans

This is a guest post.
If you owe on multiple student loans, you may have heard of or are considering consolidating your student loan debt. Whether you are fresh out of college or struggling with making multiple student loan payments, consolidating your debt can relieve you of that burden in exchange for one manageable monthly payment.

What is Student Loan Consolidation?

Student loan consolidation is one personal loan big enough to cover the amount owed on multiple student loans. The loan amount you receive is used to pay off the other student loans which leave you with a single monthly payment to make. You can consolidate all federal student loans with a debt consolidation program through the US Department of Education. Although FFELP, or Federal Family Education Loan Program, no longer offers debt consolidation, you can still be eligible through the US Department of Education. You may also still qualify for the federal student loan consolidation program even if your college does not participate in the Direct Loan Program. Many private lenders also offer student loan consolidation options as well.

Eligibility Requirements for Student Loans

You may be eligible to consolidate student loans if you are enrolled at part time status or less or if you are no longer in school. You would also be considered eligible by most lenders if you are within the loan’s grace period or are currently paying on your loans. You should also have your loans in good standing and have at least $5,000 owed in student loans. Each loan consolidation lender may have their own eligibility requirements, so it is best to check with the specific ones you are considering.

The Benefits of Loan Consolidation

There are numerous potential benefits to consolidating student loans including streamlining multiple payments into one affordable monthly payment. You may have multiple due dates on loans and you may be struggling to remember which one is due on which date. Streamlining your student loans is simpler and easier to remember, it also allows you better control over your budget.

Another benefit of choosing to consolidate student loans is extending the repayment terms. Many student consolidation loans can be obtained as long-term debt. Although it will require you to pay your loan for a longer time period, it does reduce the amount paid each month into a more affordable payment.

You will also pay a lower interest rate with a consolidated loan. The interest rate is determined by weighing all the interest on your loans and finding the average rate. You may have variable interest rates on your student loans and consolidating them can give you a fixed rate which is highly advisable given the uncertainty of the US economy.

A lowered interest rate and a longer repayment term mean a lower monthly payment than what you were currently paying on multiple loans. A smaller monthly payment leaves more money in your pocket at the end of the month and allows you to use that money elsewhere.

The Disadvantage of Debt Consolidation

It is important to be aware of all aspects of a student debt consolidation loan in order to make the best and most informed decision. There are some drawbacks to consolidating debt including having a higher repayment term which means you, in the end, will be paying more than if you paid it off sooner. You will also end up paying more in interest on a long-term loan than a short-term as less of the monthly payment is applied to the principle. You may also have to pay prepayment penalties depending on your original student loan terms. There are some student loans that prohibit paying them in one lump sum or ahead of the schedule without incurring a monetary penalty. You may also be required to repay any waived fees or rebates. Check your current student loan contracts to find out if you may be penalized for paying off the debt through a consolidation program.

Unfortunately, there are countless fraudulent and unscrupulous lenders trying to talk you into consolidating your student loans with enticing introductory rates or temptingly low monthly payments. However, it is essential to read all the small print before signing any contract in order to avoid the numerous scams out there. You should be wary of any lender that is promising really low interest rates. You can determine your potential interest rate by compiling all the student loans, adding their interest rate and determine the average. You may have to round up to the nearest one-eighth of a percentage. Beware a lender that promises an interest rate significantly lower than that interest rate.

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