When consolidating student loans, it's important to know what you're getting into first. As with any financial decision, you must do your homework before signing on the dotted line. Consolidating student loans is not a difficult process, but there are several rules and regulations in place that you must know before deciding to consolidate your student loans into one easy to manage loan. This is a list of some of the most important rules and regulations pertaining to student loan consolidation. Make sure you understand each of these rules before going through with the consolidation loan.
Student Loan Consolidation is Free
Obtaining a student loan consolidation loan is a free process, so never pay a fee for consolidating. If the lender is charging an upfront fee to consolidate your student loans, it's most likely a scam and you should take your business elsewhere. This scam is often referred to as an "advance fee loan scam", and it's relatively common in the student loan consolidation world.
You Cannot Consolidate While Still in School
You may consolidate your student loans only after your loans enter their grace period, which is six months after graduating or dropping out of school. You can also consolidate once repayment of the loans begin, although you should consider consolidating before that point. It may not be beneficial to everyone, but it's definitely worth taking a look at the numbers to see if it would save you money and make your loans easier to manage.
You Can Only Consolidate Student Loans in Your Name
This rule seems pretty obvious, but in some cases where the student is married or has their parents' name on any of the student loans, it may come into play. Students and parents may consolidate their student loans, but they cannot combine them into one consolidation loan - They must be separate. Same thing holds true for married students who both have student loan debt. As of 2006, married students cannot combine their student loan debt into one consolidation loan - They can, however, each have their own consolidation loan.
Student and Graduates May Consolidate With Any Lender
There are no restrictions that limit which lenders are eligible for consolidating student loans, so you may choose whatever lender you wish. This allows you to shop around for the lender with the best interest rates and incentives. Keep in mind that most lenders require you to have a minimum balance totaling $7,500 or sometimes higher.
Any Federal Student Loan is Eligible for Consolidation
Any type of federal student loan can be consolidated, including single student loans. That being said, you can only consolidate an existing consolidation loan one time, but not in every circumstance. In order to reconsolidate a consolidation loan, you must add a previously not included student loan to the consolidation. In this case, your interest rate would be reconfigured using a formula to weigh the old interest rate with new rate brought on by the student loan being added to the mix. Please note that a student loan consolidation loan uses a weighted average of all of the included student loans to determine the overall interest rate - Reconsolidating in future will not completely reset your interest rate.
Consolidation Loans Offer Longer Repayment Terms
Federal student loans feature standard 10-year repayment plans. When consolidating student loans, you can extend these terms to 12-30 years depending upon how much is owed. As with any loan, though, it's not recommended to extend the terms of the loan, because interest charges will be greater the longer the loan exists. It's recommended to pay off the loan as soon as possible. That being said, extending the consolidation loan repayment plan can help people to better afford the lower payments brought on by a longer repayment plan.
There's No Prepayment Penalties
You may pay off your student loan consolidation at anytime without any risk of prepayment penalties. I highly recommend paying off the consolidation loan as soon as possible to avoid some of the interest charges and to relieve yourself of the financial burden as quickly as possible. Just make sure that when making additional payments each month, you inform the lender that the additional amount should go towards the principle of the loan rather than future payments.
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