Refinance or Consolidate your Student Loans?
As young professionals, many of us left or will be leaving school with student loan debt. As our grace periods wear off and we enter repayment a lot of us find ourselves scouring the internet or asking friends and colleagues how they are going about tackling their student loans. It can be daunting going through the options - some of us have loans from undergraduate school and/ or graduate school. Some of us may have taken out private student loans, federal loans or a combination. Either way, we need to know the options for repaying these loans.
Student loan refinancing and student loan consolidation are two different tactics to help borrowers repay their loans. In some cases student loan consolidation is the way to go, and in other situations student loan refinancing is best. So what that difference?
Consolidation refers to combining multiple student loans into one loan. You may have taken out a separate loan for each semester of school and thus by consolidating you are combining all those different loans into one, which results in just one monthly payment instead of many. This is designed to make repayment easy and typically refers to federal student loans. Since it applies to federal student loans you keep all the benefits that federal loans offer (loan forgiveness, income based repayment, etc). Consolidation however, does not lower the interest you pay on the loans. The interest you pay is calculated based on the average interest of all your combined loans. It is important to note that consolidation does not necessarily save you money - it simply combines all your loans to make your payments easier to manage.
Consolidation is only done through the Department of Education (studentloans.gov)
Refinancing your student loans is a good option if you have several loans from several sources (private, federal, etc). This option does not combine your loans, but rather creates a brand new loan. Your new loan’s interest rate can be lower depending on your credit score, so it is important that this score is healthy. The great thing(s) about refinancing is that you will now have one single new loan instead of many and there is the potential to get a lower interest rate which can save you a lot of money over time.
Which is best?
If you have multiple private loans OR a single private loan with a high interest rate - Refinance
If you have federal student loans and planning on getting student loan forgiveness or rely on Income based repayment - Consolidate
If you have both federal and private loans and want a single loan with low interest rate - Refinance