After graduation (and the short deferment period most people take advantage of afterward), the majority of people will be left with a pile of student loan debt to figure out. Colleges are great about signing you up, but not so great about educating you on repayment. However, student loans come in all shapes and sizes. To get through a program, especially a pricier one, students end up taking out multiple loans of different sizes from different sources in order to cover their education, and sometimes their lifestyle. If you were left with multiple loans to cover your load, it may be overwhelming to look at and arrange payment for multiple programs with different terms and due dates. But not to worry, there are many ways to eliminate your student loan debt. You may be considering loan consolidation as an option.
Student loan debt consolidation can look different based on the type of loans you have and where (or with whom) you are attempting to consolidate them. Here are some different options and points to consider if you are considering consolidating your student loans.
If all your Student Loans are Federal:
According to studentaid.ed.gov, the following loans may qualify for debt consolidation (taken straight from the site), dependent on additional factors of course:
- Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans
- Unsubsidized and Nonsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
- PLUS loans from the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program
- Supplemental Loans for Students
- Federal Perkins Loans
- Nursing Student Loans
- Nurse Faculty Loans
- Health Education Assistance Loans
- Health Professions Student Loans
- Loans for Disadvantaged Students
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans
- Direct PLUS Loans
- FFEL Consolidation Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans (only under certain conditions)
- Federal Insured Student Loans
- Guaranteed Student Loans
- National Direct Student Loans
- National Defense Student Loans
- Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students
- Auxiliary Loans to Assist Students
You may consider applying first for a “Direct” loan consolidation program through the government in order to keep some of the government specific benefits offered- such as loan forgiveness programs or income-driven repayment. However, if you have already made progress toward any program with time spent paying, you may lose the time earned when consolidating. You are also not required to consolidate every loan you have, you can pick and choose. In this case, you may be able to keep some of the progress you have made toward something like a debt forgiveness program while still consolidating your other loans. By consolidating these debts, you may be able to get loans on a fixed rate vs. a variable, lowering your monthly payment with longer repayment terms. The application is free and fairly short to complete.
If you have Private Student Loans:
Unfortunately, private student loans can not be consolidated under a “Direct” consolidation with the federal government, so you would be consolidating privately. Although you would not have access to programs like income-driven repayment or loan forgiveness programs, there could still be a benefit to consolidating your student loan debt. Many people find having fewer loans to look after relieves some of the stress around making payments and keeping track of their finances. You may also be able to consolidate all loans with better terms. Remember, however, that a lower payment doesn’t necessarily mean you are saving money. If you lengthen the life of the loan, you may end up paying more interest over time, making the loan more costly in the end. The best outcome will vary from person to person. Sit down with the facts and decide for yourself what your best consolidation option is if any. By being proactive in attacking those student loans, you set yourself up for success moving forward.