“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.”
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.
Also be aware that many private student lenders require a cosigner, usually a parent or other relative who would take over responsibility for the loan if you stop payments for any reason. That also means your payment activity impacts their credit score, so if you do sign up for a loan with a cosigner it is important to both of you that you pay on time.
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.