Recent graduate? Or graduating this spring? 6 reasons why you should think about consolidating.
If you’re like me (and millions of other student loan borrowers), you got through school with a wide variety of different federal student loans. Stafford Loans. Perkins Loans. Subsidized Loans. Unsubsidized Loans. Grad PLUS loans. Maybe others. Managing the repayment of each of these loans can really turn into a full-time job, and if you accidentally start missing payments, you’re in trouble.
You may be eligible to combine all of those loans into a single federal consolidation loan. Here are some of the benefits.
- One loan, one payment. Instead of having to keep track of several student loan payments every month, you have one loan, and one simple payment.
- Lower monthly payments. You may be able to reduce your monthly payments because consolidating allows you to extend the repayment period. You can also select a more favorable repayment plan, such as the Income-Based Repayment plan (see my article on that below).
- Lower interest rate. Depending on the interest rates of your federal loans, you may be able to lock in a better interest rate for your consolidation loan. This is particularly helpful for loans with variable interest rates. Lock in a fixed, lower rate and it will save you a lot of money in the long run.
- Rights attached. With a new consolidation loan comes fresh rights to temporarily postpone or reduce your payments if you experience economic hardship.
- Get out of default. If you have defaulted on some of your federal loans, a consolidation loan could be one option to get you out of default.
- Improve your credit score. Your credit history has no bearing on your eligibility for a consolidation loan, and it may actually raise your score over time.
Just keep in mind that there are a lot of issues you must consider when applying for a consolidation loan. For example, certain federal loans provide very specific rights and benefits that you may lose if you include them in the consolidation. You also don’t have unlimited opportunities to consolidate, so you want to make sure you do it right the first time; too many people have made significant mistakes that cost them later.
Ultimately though consolidation, when done right, is a great option for many borrowers.