“If you refinance a federal loan into a private loan, you walk away from important federal benefits and consumer protections, such as income-driven repayment, loan forgiveness programs, default resolution options, flexibility during times of hardship and discharges based on disability or death of the borrower,” said student loan lawyer Adam S. Minsky.
Refinancing replaces multiple student loans with a single private loan at a lower interest rate. You can choose a new loan term that’s shorter than the one you originally received. That may increase your monthly payment, but it will help you pay the debt faster and save money on interest. You’ll also have just one bill to pay, rather than multiple.
The only problem is that you cannot benefit from most of these student loan repayment options if you are married and filing jointly. You must be filing separately to participate in most of these repayment plans and then you are hit with penalties when filing taxes. You cannot win. I am going to be paying off my student loans until I am 72. Unfortunately, job prospects in Illinois are scarce and I am stuck working part-time in the education field and making one-fourth of the salary I should be making in my field.
“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.”
If you or your recent grad has this type of loan—which makes up 15 percent of total U.S. education debt—this may seem like an odd move. After all, the interest rates on variable private loans (given by banks and credit unions) are currently lower than the fixed rates on federally backed and private loans. But historically this situation is unusual, and if the economy improves, interest hikes are probable in the near future. “Rates could climb 5 to 6 percent over the next four years, making your monthly burden unmanageable,” says Kantrowitz. That’s why it’s wise to unload these balances as soon as possible. If you can, pay twice the required amount until you have eliminated this debt and make only the minimum monthly contribution toward your fixed-rate federal loans, since those rates cannot increase.
The primary cardholder is responsible for the debt. There is no cosigner release option. Cosigners may be released after a series of qualifying, on-time monthly payments. This varies by lender. Cosigners may also be released via student loan refinancing. And this includes the option to transfer debt from the parent to the student (through select partners). Eligibility is based on credit an income verification.
“Before aggressively paying down your student loans, you should make sure you paid off high-interest debt such as credit cards or personal loans,” said Walsh. “You should also make sure you are saving enough for your long-term goals,” he said ― think retirement ― since, over time, the returns from investing have been higher than the interest rate most people pay on student loans.
“People often make the mistake of going with the option that has the smallest monthly payment, which causes them to pay thousands more in interest over the loan’s life span,” says Lauren Asher, the president of the Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit that works to make college more affordable. Aim to put 10 percent of your gross (that is, pretax) income toward your education debt. Go to studentaid.ed.gov to calculate which repayment plan fits your budget.
CommonBond isn’t just a student lender trying to make money. They do a lot of social good, too, much of which happens through a partnership with nonprofit Pencils of Promise. CommonBond also offers a program for businesses to offer student loan assistance as an employee benefit. Wouldn’t it be great if all employers helped with student loans? CommonBond offers four repayment options that start either in-school or after graduation.
Keep in touch with your loan servicer. Notify your loan servicer when you graduate; withdraw from school; drop below half-time status; transfer to another school; or change your name, address, or Social Security number. You also should contact your servicer if you’re having trouble making your scheduled loan payments. Your servicer has several options available to help you keep your loan in good standing.
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