10 Pointers on College Loan Consolidation
By Georgio Heberto
Should I consolidate my college loans or not?
- Still in school, yes! Rates are low, but they’re scheduled to go up. Your college loan payments will then remain as manageable as possible when you leave school. If you have graduated, or will be graduating this May or June, yes! Graduates can lock in historical low rates, and reduce their monthly payments more than half. You can lock in a rate even while still in school, and even if you have been out of school for a couple of years can get a good deal, too.
- The newest twist in the consolidation puzzle is the “in school consolidation”, affecting students who are currently enrolled and will be enrolled past the July 1 consolidation. You can consolidate your existing college loans now to secure the low rates for at least part of their student loan portfolio.
- Consolidating could save thousands of dollars in interest payments on college loans. There are impending student loan rate changes and new interpretation of regulations by the Department of Education, also, Congress is considering ending the fixed-rate program. Experts are urging students to consolidate to relieve themselves of a higher debt load.
- Many students and families are looking for a simple, clear answer about whether to consolidate college loans or not. The simple answer is to take some of the bite out of the debt by loan consolidation. You could live like a miser and save as much money as possible or consolidate your federal student loans now.
- For students still in school, you have an opportunity to choose consolidation. Consolidating would put a college loan borrower into repayment status, but the student can defer payments until after graduation by making a deferment request. Consolidating today can have payments put off until graduation.
- The federal loan program allows consolidation, which is when a borrower pools his student debts together so that only one monthly payment is necessary, rather than several. It’s not just the convenience of one payment that is making consolidation so compelling. The most significant aspect of the program is that it allows a person to permanently lock in a lower interest rate on loans. These loans are backed by, or granted directly by, the federal government.
- Rates for federal Stafford loans, the most prevalent type of student loan, as well as some other types of federal student loans are set annually based on the rate of 91-day U.S. Treasury bills at the end of May. The exact rate won’t be known until the end of the month, but experts say it will be about 2 percentage points higher. (Private loans and federal loans cannot be consolidated together.)
- For the first time, the U.S. Department of Education will allow students still in school to consolidate federally backed loans. Federal PLUS loans can also be consolidated. PLUS loans are used to help pay the cost higher education.
- Students, regardless of enrollment, should absolutely consolidate their college loans, arranged through the student’s lender. There are no fees, no credit checks, and interest rates are expected to move higher. Those are good reasons to consolidate.
- Act quickly to put lock on current federal-aid interest rates. Graduates should act now to insulate themselves from a drastic rate change. Apply early. Do not wait until the last minute to file paperwork. Those who have already graduated or left school should not wait to investigate consolidation. In the first six months after graduation, you are in a grace period. Within that six-month window, you can lock in a low rate on Stafford loans and spread the repayment over as long as 30 years.
If you’re going to consolidate, now is the best time to do it.
Georgio Heberto is dedicated to offering news, articles, and instruction on financing college education. You have a definite choice in how you finance your education and beyond.