“Some borrowers may be better off targeting the highest-rate loan for quicker repayment,” said Kantrowitz. “You can’t do that after consolidating. If the interest rate on the refi will be higher than most of the interest rates on the refinanced loans, except for one or two, you may save money by accelerating repayment of the highest-rate loans instead of refinancing.”
To obtain federal student aid, you’ll have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA. As the name implies, the form is free and puts you in the running for financial aid for college, including federal student loans — making the whole application process easier, even if the form itself takes some time to fill out.
It takes a while to qualify for a cosigner release, 36 on-time payments to be exact. Fixed interest rates range from 6.45 to 12.05% and variable rates go from 6.42 to 12.02% APR. Like with most student lenders, you can get a 0.25% rate discount with automatic payments. Citizens charges no origination or pre-payment fees of any kind. You should never have to pay an extra fee to pay off your student loans early, but those types of lenders don’t make it on this list.
Being so large, Sallie Mae can offer pretty much any variation of private student loan that exists. Loans are available to students and parents. There are no origination fees or pre-payment penalties and it takes about 15 minutes to apply. For undergraduate loans, variable rates range from 4.37 to 11.23% and fixed-rate loans range from 5.74 to 11.85% APR. Once you make 12 on-time payments, you can qualify for a co-signer release and carry the loans on your own.

U-fi® is a registered trademark of Nelnet, Inc., for products and services provided by Nelnet Consumer Finance, Inc. You should exhaust lower-cost federal borrowing options before turning to non-federal loans. You are, of course, not limited to seeking loans or other products from U-fi.com, and are free to obtain information and loans from all other providers of student loans and related products.

If you or your child graduated before July 1, 2006, it pays to roll multiple federal loans into one—you’ll lock in an interest rate that’s lower than what you’re paying on each separate loan. Earned a diploma since then? All federal student loans now carry fixed interest rates, so there’s no financial benefit to consolidating. (And it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to combine any variable private loans.) Nevertheless, if you have trouble keeping track of payment deadlines and have been hit with late fees on occasion, go ahead and consolidate. (For more information, go to SimpleTuition.com.) You’ll save some dough by doing so.


If you’re a recent grad looking for a job, bring this up during salary negotiations. Be willing to take a lower salary and to commit to staying at the job for a specific time period in exchange for a payment toward your schooling. If you’re a veteran employee, raise the subject at your annual review by saying, “I’ve been a loyal employee for [insert time period], and I look forward to continuing to grow and learn here. As part of my compensation, can you put [insert amount] toward my loan?”
When it comes to Stafford, Perkins, PLUS, and Direct Consolidation loans—which make up 85 percent of education debt—there are five repayment options. They range from the standard plan, which requires a minimum payment of $50 every month for up to 10 years, to the new, income-based plan that caps your monthly payments at a “reasonable percentage” of your income (determined by the federal government)and forgives any debt remaining after 25 years. So which schedule is best for you?
Receiving federal student loans like the Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans starts with completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You can perform the entire process online at the FAFSA website. Some loans are awarded based on your family’s financial need, so you’ll want to gather the following pieces of personal and financial information when applying:

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.
Receiving federal student loans like the Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans starts with completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You can perform the entire process online at the FAFSA website. Some loans are awarded based on your family’s financial need, so you’ll want to gather the following pieces of personal and financial information when applying:
“Students who are able to pay off their loan relatively quickly have often sided with a variable rate,” said Dayan. “However, the longer it takes a student to pay off the loan with variable rates, the more chances there are for the rates to change over the lifetime of the loan. If a student’s future income is uncertain, and they don’t plan on paying off the loan quickly, many students consider fixed-rate student loans for more consistency.”
“Students who are able to pay off their loan relatively quickly have often sided with a variable rate,” said Dayan. “However, the longer it takes a student to pay off the loan with variable rates, the more chances there are for the rates to change over the lifetime of the loan. If a student’s future income is uncertain, and they don’t plan on paying off the loan quickly, many students consider fixed-rate student loans for more consistency.”
Key information to understand student loans includes being aware of the annual and cumulative loan limits, interest rates, fees, and loan term for the most popular private student loan programs. Often the interest rates, fees and loan limits depend on the credit history of the borrower and co-signer, if any, and on loan options chosen by the borrower such as in-school deferment and repayment schedule. Loan term often depends on the total amount of debt.

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.
Keep in mind that you should work with a lender that doesn’t charge loan origination fees, which might cancel out interest savings. It’s also a good idea to weigh the risks of refinancing federal student loans, because doing so would change them to private loans and permanently forfeit federal protections such as income-driven repayment and forgiveness options.
Capitalized interest on student loans happens when your loan servicer adds unpaid interest to your total loan balance. This makes your balance increase and then accrue even more interest. To put it simply, you pay interest on your interest and it can cause you to owe more than the amount you originally borrowed. This happens when you defer or forbear your student loans.
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Lenders rarely give complete details of the terms of the private student loan until after the student submits an application, in part because this helps prevent comparisons based on cost. For example, many lenders will only advertise the lowest interest rate they charge (for good credit borrowers). Borrowers with bad credit can expect interest rates that are as much as 6% higher, loan fees that are as much as 9% higher, and loan limits that are two- thirds lower than the advertised figures.
No matter who the lender is, private student loan applicants may need a cosigner, especially undergraduates or students who don’t have a credit history or steady income or meet the age of majority for their state of residence. However, a cosigner is not required in order to apply. Even if you have an established credit history, a cosigner may improve your ability to get approved, enable you to secure a lower interest rate, and speed up the credit decision process. Student borrowers that meet these requirements on their own do not need a cosigner (but may still choose to apply with a cosigner).
When you consider the value of a college education — including the fact that average lifetime earnings for college graduates are nearly $1 million more than individuals with only a high school diploma or GED — student loans may be a smart investment. If you budget properly and have a good sense of the actual amount of money you need in loan funds to supplement other forms of aid as well as your resources, you can limit your overall indebtedness by borrowing only what you truly need. You should also consider the fact that there are no prepayment penalties. (Note: the lender partners on our site do not charge a prepayment penalty.)
U-fi® is a registered trademark of Nelnet, Inc., for products and services provided by Nelnet Consumer Finance, Inc. You should exhaust lower-cost federal borrowing options before turning to non-federal loans. You are, of course, not limited to seeking loans or other products from U-fi.com, and are free to obtain information and loans from all other providers of student loans and related products.

Variable Rates: Starting variable rates range from 3.65% to 11.25% APR (with autopay), and will never exceed 13.95% (sometimes lower in certain states as required by law). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin of between 1.58% and 9.98%. The current one-month LIBOR rate is 2.27%. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law.

For example, you could apply part of your yearly bonus from work or a tax refund to your debt, said Brian Walsh, a certified financial planner and financial planning manager at SoFi. Or you could participate in a challenge like dry January or a no-spend month to come up with the extra cash. It might feel painful to put something fun like a cash windfall toward your student loan debt, but the results can be dramatic.
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