One of the biggest myths when it comes to student loans is whether you can consolidate your Federal and private student loans.
Think about it: you just graduated from college with about five different student loans. Three of them are Federal student loans and two of them are private. What do you do? Should you combine them? Should you leave everything alone?
Well, since 2014, you can actually refinance and consolidate both your Federal and private student loans into a single loan with many private lenders. However, there are times when combining all of your loans (both Federal and private) makes sense, and there are times when it may not.
Here is what you need to know about consolidating and refinancing your Federal and private student loans together.
Why Consolidate Your Federal and Private Student Loans?
Student loan consolidation can really help borrowers who would prefer a single payment for their loans. With multiple loans, it can be tough to manage different amounts due, different payment due dates, and many more statements to keep track of.
By consolidating your private student loans and federal student loans, you can have a single bill each month, with the potential for lower payments.
Federal Student Loan Consolidation
According to StudentAid.gov, the following types of student loans are eligible for consolidation:
• Direct Subsidized Loans
• Direct Unsubsidized Loans
• Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans
• Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
• Direct PLUS Loans
• PLUS Loans from the FFEL Program
• Supplemental Loans for Students (SLS)
• Federal Perkins Loans
• Federal Nursing Loans
• Health Education Assistance Loans
• Some previous consolidation loans
When you The interest rate will also be fixed at the current Federal Direct loan rate.
You are eligible for any “Direct” repayment plan – and you can setup a timeline from 10 to 30 years to pay back the loan.
This is one of the best ways to lower your current payment on your Federal student loans.
Private Student Loan Consolidation
If you want to combine your private student loans together into one payment, you have to refinance your student loans. The process is very similar to Federal loan consolidation, but it is done through a bank rather than the Department of Education.
The benefits of refinancing your private student loans are typically two-fold. First, you get a single monthly payment for all of your previous private student loans. This makes repayment options and financial management easier.
Second, you may be able to get a lower interest rate, which will save you money over the life of the loan. Many borrowers don’t have great credit when they start college, simply because they haven’t built it up yet. However, students tend to have much better credit histories after graduation. This could help qualify you for a lower interest rate on your loan.
How to Consolidate Your Private and Federal Student Loans Together
If you want to consolidate your Federal and private student loans, you have to do it through a private lender. The Federal Direct Consolidation Loan program does not consolidate private loans into Federal loans. However, several banks and services do allow you to combine your Federal and private loans into one payment.
When It Makes Sense to Consolidate Student Loans
Depending on your post-graduation experience, it may make a lot more sense to combine your loans. A common scenario is a graduate who has Federal student loans but is just on the standard repayment plan. If your Federal loans are at 6.8%, and you aren’t taking advantage of any of the special repayment plans, you may benefit by consolidating to a private student loan with a lower interest rate.
For example, a $20,000 Federal student loan at 6.8% will cost a borrower $27,619 to repay – $7,619 in interest. By contrast, if that student refinanced into a private student loan, they could significantly lower their interest rate and monthly payments. That would also reduce the total repayment over the lifetime of the loan – saving the borrower thousands in interest over the same 10 years.
The key here is to look at your own repayment terms and see if a lower interest rate is worthwhile.
When It Makes Sense to Keep Your Student Loans Separate
On the other hand, if you are taking advantage of benefits of your Federal student loan, such as income-based repayment plans or forgiveness plans, you should not consolidate your Federal student loans into your private student loans. Your Federal benefits will disappear if you do this, and you’ll end up owing the full balance of your loan over time.
Going back to our original situation, you could still refinance your private student loans and consolidate your Federal student loans through the Direct Consolidation program. That way, you could take advantage of the lower rates potentially offered through a private student loan refinance, while still maintaining your benefits on your Federal student loans.
Simple tips to remember:
- Don’t consolidate your Federal loans into private student loans if you take advantage of Federal benefits (such as income-based repayment or student loan forgiveness)
- Consider consolidating all your education loans into one single private loan if you have a standard repayment on your Federal loans and want to save money and have a single payment.