Student loan consolidation is one type of repayment option available to borrowers with debt. There are many factors to consider before consolidating loans. Understanding the pros and cons is the first step to determining if consolidation is the right move.
Is Student Loan Consolidation Right for You?
Understanding student loan debt consolidation means understanding the loans you currently have. Getting all the details, terms and specifications for each of your loans is imperative to making the decision to consolidate or not.
What is student loan consolidation?
Student loan consolidation takes all your federal student loans and creates one new loan, with a simpler repayment plan. Borrowers with loans from multiple sources or several loans from one lender might consider consolidation.
Borrowers with federal student loans can apply for a Direct Consolidation loan. Borrowers with private loans also have options to consolidate through their loan servicer or a competitor.
Student loan consolidation may or may not reduce your interest rate. You will typically also have a longer repayment schedule which means paying more interest over time. While one payment is nice, do the math before consolidating to make sure it’s the best option for your loans.
What details do I need to know about my loans?
Make sure you know all of the following information about your student education loans:
- Private, federal or a mix of both
- Repayment start date
- One loan payment or multiple
- Career field
- Income expectations
- Interest rates
Each of these items can make your loans a better or worse candidate for consolidation.
What are the advantages of consolidation?
Student loan consolidation can be a very useful financial tool for some borrowers. The first advantage is that consolidation can potentially lower your monthly payments. By increasing the amount of time you have to pay back the loan, your monthly payments would be lower.
The next advantage is a fixed interest rate instead of a variable one. The new interest rate is based on the weighted average of the interest rates of the consolidated loans. Rather than depending on the market, you will always know your rate and monthly payments.
Finally, you will have the convenience of making one loan payment instead of many. This can ensure no missed or forgotten loan payments.
What are the disadvantages of consolidation?
While student debt consolidation seems like a great thing, there are disadvantages. Any benefits, like interest rate discounts, rebates, or forgiveness, will probably be lost. If you are a teacher, nurse or some other profession that qualifies for loan forgiveness, make sure you are aware of your loan situation. Compare the money you’ll pay out if you consolidate verses if you don’t and qualify for loan forgiveness.
Once you consolidate your loans, you cannot undo it since the individual loans are considered “paid off” and no longer exist. You also cannot consolidate private and federal loans together. They must be done separately.
A fixed interest rate can be a good thing, but you could also get locked into an interest rate that is high at the time you start the student loan consolidation process. Setting the interest rate through a private lender relies on your credit; if you don’t have good credit, your interest rate can suffer.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors when thinking through consolidating college debt. Remember, don’t just consolidate because a family member, friend or commercial made it seem like the best choice. Do your research, run the numbers and make the best decision you can.