A Guide to Student Loan Consolidation

Graduate

The federal government offers many options for financing your education from Federal Pell Grants and the Monetary Award Program (MAP) to PLUS Loans, Stafford Loans, and Federal Perkins Loans. Pell Grants and MAP awards do not have to be repaid, but student loans do.

Stafford Loans are low-interest student loans guaranteed by the government. Perkins Loans are campus-based loans with a fixed 5% interest rate, and a nine month grace period. Perkins loans are also guaranteed by the federal government. PLUS Loans (Parent Loans for Undergraduate Student) are granted to students based on the parents creditworthiness.

To cover the costs of tuition and education related expenses, most students will have to take out a number of loans from multiple lenders. The amounts, repayment terms, and repayment schedules will vary. Students may find that repaying several different lenders is not only taxing, but the payments may be too high after graduation and beyond. Fortunately, relief is possible through student loan consolidation.

Student loan consolidation is the refinancing of multiple student loans guaranteed by the federal government. The Higher Education Act (HEA) provides for a loan consolidation program under the Direct Loan Program and the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. Under these programs, the student’s loans are paid off and a new consolidated loan is created. The loan consolidation program is a good option because:

-It simplifies the loan repayment process by combining all of the student’s Federal student loans into one loan, meaning there’s only one place to pay each month
-The interest rate will be lower than one or all of the original loans
-The monthly payments are typically lower, possibly 50% lower than the original monthly payments
-The amount of time to repay the loan will be extended beyond the original time period
-Consolidation may act as a safeguard against default

Applying for student loan consolidation is easy. Before applying, use an online calculator to estimate what your new monthly payments would be under one of four repayment plans including:

-Standard Repayment Plan
-Graduated Repayment Plan
-Extended Repayment Plan
-Income Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR)

Under the Standard Repayment Plan, you will pay a fixed amount each month and your payments will be no less than $50 a month for 10-30 years, based on total debt. Under the Graduated Repayment Plan, your minimum payment amount will equal the amount of interest accrued monthly. Payments will start out on the low end, then gradually increase every two years for 10-30 years.

The Extended Repayment Plan is for students with student loan debt that exceeds $30,000. Under this plan, you will have a maximum of 25 years to repay the loan and you can choose a fixed rate payment option (same amount each month) or a graduated monthly payment option, as discussed above. Under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR), monthly payments are based on several factors including yearly income, Direct Loan Balance, and family size. Payments will be spread out over a time period not to exceed 25 years.

To apply for student loan consolidation, gather the following documents:

-Your monthly billing statement
-Your annual statement or quarterly interest statement
-Your coupon book
-Website of your lender or servicer
-Your school’s financial aid office information (if you are currently in school)

Once you have all of the information listed here, visit the Federal Student Aid Programs Student Loan Consolidation Website to apply.

  

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