Student loan consolidation can be used by student or parent borrowers to combine their multiple education loans into one loan with one monthly payment. As any student can take either federal or private student loans, he or she can also take a federal or private consolidation loan to make the education debt more manageable.
Both federal and private student loans offer significant benefits, but federal loans offer borrowers many benefits that don’t come with private loans; for instance: low fixed interest rates, income-based repayment plans, loan forgiveness and deferment options. While some private lenders may offer them too, it usually is associated with some strings attached.
For those reasons, every borrower should always exhaust federal student loans options before considering a private loan. The same advice applies to consolidating student loans – always look at federal consolidation loan first and only if you don’t qualify for a federal loan of it is not the right choice for any reason, and then seek a private consolidation loan.
It is important to remember that a federal student consolidation loan can’t include any private loan. Moreover, if you consolidate your federal student loan into a private consolidation loan, you will lose your federal borrower benefits mentioned above (unless you private lender tries hard to get your business and includes them in the offer).
There are important differences between federal and private student loan consolidation.
First of all, with federal student loan consolidation, you will have a fixed interest rate, while private student loan consolidations are credit-based, which means that your consolidation loan rate will not be locked – it will be variable. So, while you will not have to go through credit check in order to apply for a federal consolidation loan, you will need it to secure a private consolidation loan.
Student loan consolidation rates are determined differently for federal and private consolidations. The interest rates for federal loans are set according to a formula established by federal statue. It’s a fixed rate, based on the weighted average of the interest rates on each of your loans at the time you consolidate, rounded up to the nearest 1/8th of a percent and capped at 8.25%.
As private student loans are not funded by the federal government, they are subject to the terms determined by each individual lender (bank, credit union, other financial institution) and the market competition. In private student consolidation loans a borrower’s credit is the primary factor in the variable interest rate offered to the borrower. As the base for setting the consolidation loan interest rate, the private lenders most often use the Prime rate or the 3-month LIBOR Rate, to which they add a margin. That margin varies from lender to lender and is applied according to the borrower’s credit rating.
With regards to the interest rate on the consolidation loan, it’s typical for both federal and private consolidation loan to include 0.25% rate reduction for automated debit payments.