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Glossary of Student Loan Refinancing Terms

December 20, 2018

There are so many terms that borrower’s encounter in the student loan application process, most borrowers may not be exactly sure what each means. If you’re getting ready to apply or just want to know what the documents are talking about, here’s our glossary of common student loan terms that you should know.

 

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and Gross Income

Gross income is the total income you earn in a year before deductions for federal or state taxes, credits, and so on. Adjusted gross income is the income you earn in a year which is eligible to be taxed after accounting for deductions. AGI is usually lower than your gross income and is what many institutions use to determine if you can get perks like loan tax benefits or financial aid, grants, etc. The easiest place to find these are on your official tax return.

 

Adverse Action Letter

When you apply for credit, insurance, a loan, or sometimes even employment, and are denied due to something negative on your credit report, the organization inquiring might be required to send you one of these. It explains why you were turned down and it’s important because it gives you a reason to see if something is wrong on your credit report.

 

Amortization

This term describes how the principal is paid over the course of a loan.  Most student loans are fully amortized, meaning that if all payments are made as scheduled over the life of the loan the principal balance will be fully repaid at the maturity date.  Other types of loans, including some types of mortgage loans, have a feature known as a balloon payment.  With a balloon payment, regularly scheduled payments do not fully repay the principal amount borrowed, so when the loan matures the final payment contains a larger, or balloon, payment of all remaining principal.

 

Annual Loan Limit

This is the maximum loan amount you can borrow for an academic year. Loan limits can vary by facts like grade level and loan type.

 

Award Letter

If you received financial aid, expect to see an award letter that explains the different types of aid for which you are eligible. The document will also include information about your loans, grants, or scholarships, and you’ll see a new one each year that you’re in school.

 

Borrower

The person who is responsible for paying back a student loan. You may not be the only one responsible, like if you signed with a cosigner, but the loan is for you and your academic fees and tuition. You’re the borrower.

 

Capitalized Interest

When unpaid interest gets added to the principal balance (increasing your overall balance and future interest), this is called capitalization. This is why it’s important to pay interest whenever possible. Capitalization might happen at the end of a grace period or deferment, or after forbearance, depending on whether it’s a federal or private loan. When a loan is consolidated or if it enters default, capitalization may occur.

 

Cosigner

If needed, borrowers can add a second person who shares responsibility for a student loan. This second person co-signs the loan and becomes partially responsible for repayment in the event that the primary borrower is not able to pay.

 

Consolidation Loan

Consolidation is when a new loan replaces your current student loans. People might do this to make payments easier to manage or to reduce the amount you owe each month or in total. There are lots of things to know about consolidation.

 

Default/Delinquent

A loan is considered delinquent when a scheduled payment is not made in a timely manner.  Delinquency can result in the imposition of late charges, collection calls or letters, and negative information being placed on a credit report.  Default is when the lender determines that the borrower has failed to honor the terms of the loan agreement in such a way that the lender is entitled to declare the entire loan balance due and payable, even if the loan has not yet reached its maturity date.  Serious delinquency is very often the reason for a loan being declared in default, but loan agreements typically provide that certain other events can trigger a default.  Before entering into a loan agreement, always read the loan agreement carefully and understand what can constitute a default under that loan.

 

Deferment

Students can usually postpone loan repayment if they meet certain criteria. This might be a pre-set time limit or can be when someone is in school and not able to make payments. Unsubsidized loans accrue interest while being deferred, but subsidized loans do not accrue interest while in deferment.

 

Disbursement

This is when your school receives funds like financial aid money or student loan funds. The institution then applies it to your bill for tuition and school-related fees. If you consolidate, the disbursement happens when money is sent to pay off your old loans.

 

Discharge

When some or all of your student loan debt is canceled, this is called discharge.

 

Entrance/Exit Interview or Counseling

Schools provide entrance or exit counseling to help students understand important financing topics like how to repay loans and stay in good standing with student loans. This can happen during enrollment as an entrance to the process, and after graduation as part of leaving the school system.

 

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

This amount is an estimate based on how much money you, your spouse, and/or family can contribute to your tuition for the academic year. It’s calculated with information provided on your FAFSA and helps determine your financial need. Financial need is calculated as the cost of attendance minus your EFC. This determines your eligibility for aid including Stafford loans, Perkins loans, scholarships, and grants.

 

Fixed or Variable Interest Rate

If an interest rate cannot change over time, it is fixed. A variable interest rate can change over the life of the loan.  Variable rates can move up or down based upon changes to an identified index, such a prime rate, a particular U.S. Treasury note, or LIBOR.  LIBOR stands for the London Interbank Offered Rate, and is an index commonly used with student loans.  Some variable rate loans may have a “cap” and/or a “floor.”  A cap is the maximum rate that can be applied to the loan, regardless of changes to the index.  A floor is just the opposite – the minimum rate for the loan regardless of changes to the index.

 

Forbearance

Forbearance is when you can postpone or reduce student loan payments, but interest continues to accrue and increase the total amount you owe.

 

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

FAFSA is the application a student must complete to apply for any type of federal student aid including loans, grants, or scholarships.

 

Full-Time/Part-Time Enrollment

Whether you are enrolled or not, and your status as part-time or full-time can affect different aspects of student loan financing and repayment. Part-time is usually six credit hours and full-time is twelve, but this can vary.

 

In-School Deferment

While in actively enrolled in school, you might be able to postpone your federal or private student loan payments until you graduate or drop below half time.

 

Loan Forgiveness

When you qualify for certain programs, you may be able to have the final balance of your loans forgiven after a certain period of time. There are specific criteria for eligibility and usually a detailed application process.

 

Master Promissory Note (MPN)

This document states the terms of repayment for your student loans and is the official document proving your commitment to repay the money you borrowed with interest. To receive federal loans, all borrowers must sign an MPN.

 

Principal Balance

The principal balance is the amount of money borrowed under the loan that you currently owe. It doesn’t include interest or fees that are either unpaid or yet to accrue.

 

Repayment Period

This amount of time is what you have to repay your student loans. Standard for Stafford loans is ten years, but this can be extended with reduced repayment plans. The longer you take to pay your loans, usually, the more you end up paying in interest. A repayment plan is the formal agreement you have with a servicer that details how you plan to repay your loans each month.

 

Repayment Terms

These terms represent all of your rights and responsibilities for the student loan, including what you’ll pay for monthly payments. Lenders are required to disclose repayment terms to you before you can commit to borrowing a loan.

 

Right to Cancel

Once an approved application has been accepted by the borrower, the federal Truth in Lending Act requires the lender to provide a Final Truth in Lending disclosure statement.  This final disclosure statement includes a three business day right to cancel, during which time the borrower can change their mind and cancel the loan.  To protect borrowers, the lender cannot disburse the loan proceeds until the right to cancel period has expired.

Servicer

The loan servicer handles your student loan billing like collecting payments and offering customer service between you and the lender.

 

Student Aid Report (SAR)

The SAR is a detailed list of all of the financial and personal information you submitted for your FAFSA, including financial info for your family. Your school receives a copy of this and you should receive one as well.

 

Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

While in school and during your grace period, the government pays the interest on your subsidized loans so you don’t have to. Federal loans that are not based on financial need are unsubsidized, meaning you’re responsible for paying the interest that accrues.

 

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Woman holding credit report
2019-10-18
Will Applying for a Student Loan Hurt My Credit Score?

So you’re looking for student loans to finance your education – good for you! Student loans can be an option to bridge the gap when financial aid doesn’t cover the full cost of your tuition and college expenses, which is the case for about 43 million Americans. Nonetheless, it’s smart to think about how student loans can affect your financial future and whether applying for a student loan will hurt your credit score.   First off, let’s explain what a credit score is. Simply put, it’s a three-digit number that indicates your relative credit risk. One of the most common credit-scoring model is a FICO® score. Ranging from 300 to 850, the higher the number, the more likely (theoretically) someone is to pay their bills on time. Factors that determine your credit score include:
  • Payment history
  • Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI)
  • How established your credit is
  • Credit mix
  • Recent applications for credit
  Needless to say, a major indicator of your financial well-being is indicated in your credit score.  

How Applying for Private Student Loans Affects Your Credit Score

  Whenever you apply to take out a loan, a credit inquiry from one or several credit reporting agencies will likely occur. If you have a solid credit history, the effects are usually minimal. However, the effects will typically be larger for someone with little-to-no credit. According to an article by Bev O’Shea posted on Nerdwallet, whatever impact your credit score suffers should fall off after 12 months, and after about 24 months, the inquiry should disappear from your credit report entirely.   There’s also an important distinction between a “soft” and “hard” credit inquiry.   A “soft pull,” as it’s known, can be done just in connection with pre-qualification for a loan, whether it’s a credit card offer you receive in the mail, mortgage, student loan, or car loan. Some employers will do a soft pull of your credit as well. Soft pulls do not impact your credit score.   A “hard pull” generally requires your consent and happens when you apply for the credit you’re seeking. It’s the hard pulls that show up on your credit report. It’s important to monitor your credit report and dispute any hard inquiries you didn’t authorize.   In the case of private student loans, a prequalification will not affect your credit, whereas applying for a loan will show up on your report.  

Applying for Multiple Private Student Loans

  So, what if you submit multiple applications? Will they all affect your credit score? It’s hard to know for sure, as credit-scoring model companies don’t provide a lot of detail about their models. Generally speaking, credit-scoring models appear to take into consideration that if an applicant has multiple inquiries for a student loan they may be shopping for the best rate. One key point is that the closer those inquires are together, the less impact it may have on your credit score.   In other words, shopping around to find the best loan option for you should not affect your credit score dramatically and is likely not a major cause for concern. By applying for multiple private student loans, you can see which lender will actually give you the best rate – important when it comes to saving money over the life of your loan.   ELFI offers a variety of private student loan options for financing your undergraduate or graduate education, as well as private student loan options for parents.* Check out our full list of frequently asked questions or contact ELFI at 1-844-601-3534 to speak with a Personal Loan Advisor.   *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.   Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.
Female medical student standing next to professor
2019-10-17
Medical School Debt: Why Now May Be the Time for You to Refinance Student Loans

The road to becoming a doctor is a long and expensive one. After 4 to 5 years of undergraduate studies, 4 years of medical school, and 3 to 7 years of residency, many graduates are well into their 30’s before they earn a doctor’s income. Residency does come with a paycheck, but the average Resident Physician makes $58,803 a year, according to glassdoor.com. It's hard to imagine much of that is applied to medical school debt.   Americans owe a total of $1.6 trillion in federal and private student loans and newly-minted doctors carry a good portion of those loans, carrying an average of $179,000 in medical school debt, six times more than the average graduate.   Student loans can be a financial and emotional burden, even for doctors, and consolidating and refinancing those loans can be a relief on both fronts. With consolidation, you can roll multiple loans into one, leaving you with a single monthly payment. This simplifies repayment. Refinancing means agreeing to new and different terms of your loan with the goal of getting a better interest rate or term. Better rates and terms can make medical school debt more manageable.  

Why Now is the Time to Refinance

Monthly principal and interest payments on student loans can bury many borrowers. A lower interest rate can help you save thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. Better rates also mean you can pay down that medical school debt faster, also helping you pay less in the long run.   The importance of refinancing now is that you can start saving immediately. Depending on what you qualify for through private lenders like ELFI1, you could lower your interest rate, have a single monthly payment, lock in a fixed interest rate, and more. All helping you to enjoy the fruits of your hard work faster.   Another reason to refinance now is that the Federal Reserve Board lowered interest rates twice already this year. This federal interest rate applies to banks—it’s the amount of interest they charge each other to lend federal reserve funds. The benefit for you, as a borrower, is that the less interest banks pay, the less you can potentially pay.  

Refinancing Federal vs Private Loans

In our blogs, we regularly discuss the difference between private student loans and government student loans. Keep in mind, the differences between these loans come back into play for refinancing.   Regardless of your initial loan type, when you refinance your medical school debt, you take out a new loan with a private lender – ideally at a meaningfully lower interest rate. With this new private loan, you can lose access to federal benefits like:
  • Income-driven repayment plans
  • Ability to pause payments through deferment and forbearance programs
  • Loan forgiveness programs
  ELFI has a team of Personal Loan Advisors who can help you decide if refinancing makes sense for your situation. As always, we encourage borrowers to look for student loan refinancing loan options with no origination fees or application fees first.  

Downfalls to Refinancing Medical School Debt

Other than losing out on federal borrower benefits, refinancing your loans might not make sense right now. If you already have a low-interest loan, you might not see much savings. To see what you can save, use ELFI’s savings estimator tool.   Additionally, some banks charge fees that could potentially offset any interest savings. With ELFI, you’ll never pay:
  • Application fees
  • Origination fees
  • Prepayment penalties
  Finally, if you’re still in your residency or fellowship, it might make sense to wait until you have a higher income or better credit score, both of which will impact the interest rates available to you. Or you might considering having a cosigner to help you achieve an even lower rate.  

Other Options to Payoff Medical School Debt

While refinancing can lower your monthly payments and get you a better interest rate, there are other options for lowering your medical school debt.   Consider overpaying your monthly amount. This option isn’t realistic for all borrowers, but if you’re savvy enough to live simply or lucky enough to apply a spouse’s paycheck, you can quickly pay down that medical school debt. Some graduates might even have the option of taking out a zero-interest (or ultra low-interest) loan from relatives or friends. Once the student loan is repaid, you can put the excess funds toward other debts or investments.  

Understanding Your Loan Refinance Options

It is important to explore all your options when opening an initial student loan. It's equally as important to explore the best refinancing options for reducing your medical school debt. If you need help navigating those options, contact ELFI. As pioneers in the space, our management team has over 30 years of expertise in student loans and student loan refinancing.     1Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.   Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.
Adult students walking in collegehall
2019-10-16
Can I Refinance My Student Loans and Go Back to School?

Many Americans, at one time or another, have thought about their student loans as they contemplate whether or not they can afford to go back to school and pursue additional higher education. Maybe you were able to partially pay your way through college, but couldn’t quite close the gap, so you turned to federal student loans or private loans  to make ends meet. You may have been accepted into your first-choice school and you made the financial leap using student loans to fund the degree of your dreams. Whatever the case may be, you’re now in a situation where you need to change your current student loan structure in order to go back to school and take the next step in your education. Student loan refinancing may be the best option to help you lower your monthly payments and allow you to go back to school with financial peace of mind.  

So I Can Refinance My Student Loans and Go Back to School - But Why Should I?

  The short answer to the question “Can I refinance my student loans and go back to school?” is often a “yes”. There are lots of options for dealing with student debt, and those options change depending on the amount of your current student loan debt, whether your current student loan is federal or private, and what you’re looking to achieve through student loan refinancing. This means that no matter what your financial situation, you can almost certainly take advantage of a student loan refinance through a reputable private lenders such as ELFI1 provided you can meet credit criteria established by each lender.   One
advisor stipulates that you should only take out new student loans that won’t overburden your financial situation by taking on too much debt or “overleveraging”. Overleveraging means taking on more debt than your income can comfortably pay for, as measured by financial ratios such as “debt-to-income ratio,” or DTI. If you already owe a lot on your current student loans and have the financial means to afford new student loans, then you might want to consider refinancing the student loans you already have to make room for the new monthly debt payments you will have on the additional student loans you take out. That’s good news for graduates who shelled out a pretty penny for their undergraduate degree.   In general, the best reasons to refinance your student loans - if you’re taking on new debt to go back to school - would be to:
  • Get a lower interest rate (and potentially lower monthly payments)
  • To take advantage of new federal or private loan programs that may be financially suitable to you, or
  • To consolidate the student loans you already have with a single, private lender rather than dealing with multiple lenders on your existing student loans.
 

Is a Student Loan Refinancing My Best Option? 

  Student loan refinancing does have some benefits that other options, such as debt consolidation programs, would not (like allowing you to release a cosigner from your previous loans). One big benefit you’ll likely receive from student loan refinancing is a lower monthly payment. The federal student loan debt consolidation program, unlike student loan refinancing with private lenders, averages the interest rates of your existing federal loans and rounds up the weighted average interest rate by an eighth of a point, so while the interest rates of some of your loans may go down, others will go up to meet the average set in the consolidation process. That means that your interest costs likely won’t change all that much, if at all.   There are many reasons to explore refinancing your student loans, including improving your interest rate, payment timeline, or ability to take on new loans with the money you could save each month. Other benefits include releasing a cosigner from one or more loans, getting better customer service or benefits than you currently get from your lender, or having the convenience of making a single monthly payment instead of multiple payments. Consider using an industry-leading private lender such as ELFI for a fast loan prequalification experience (in as little 2 minutes!) that can get you the student loan funding you need.  

What Factors Should I Consider When Deciding on a Student Loan Refinance?

  A few of the factors most graduates need to consider when refinancing their student loans have to do with not only payment size, interest rates and terms, but also the type of loan they will refinance into and their own personal financial situation. Keep in mind how this may improve your ability to get better terms or rates on your current loan or on any new student loans you end up pursuing after your refinance in order to go back to school.   For example, many graduates considering a student loan refinance in order to go back to school don’t know that there is no federal student loan refinancing program. Both private and federal student loans can be refinanced with a private lender, but neither federal nor private loans can be refinanced into new federal loans. What you started with is what you get when it comes to your federal student loan - unless you refinance with a private lender.  Federal student loan rates are set by the US congress and mandated by law - you can’t get a better deal or any rate concessions the way you might be able to do with a private lender.   Another big factor when it comes to deciding on a student loan refinance is your personal financial situation. While this is often the first question that graduates looking at a student loan refinance ask themselves, it should be asked again - can you afford new student loans to go back to school, even if you get the refinancing terms and rates you want for your current student loans?

How Do I Choose the Right Time to Refinance My Student Loans?

  Some financial experts and financial bloggers, such as NerdWallet, suggest refinancing the minute you have the credit score and income to support getting a lower interest rate, regardless of whether you want to go back to school and take on new loans in the process.   Beyond this, and the obvious timing issues presented by deciding on whether, or when, to go back to school, be aware that your income, credit score and debt situation will have an overall impact on whether you can get the student loan refinance terms you want. Making sure to weigh all your options and pick a reliable lender who can help walk you through all your loan options. ELFI’s personal Loan Advisors are trained to help you navigate this process and to simplify it for you.  

How Do I Choose the Right Student Loan Refinancing Option?

  While there are many reputable student loan refinance providers available, expert and impartial voices like NerdWallet and Student Loan Sherpa agree that ELFI (Education Loan Finance)  is one of the best. With multiple loan options, flexible repayment structures, and best-in-class customer service, ELFI can make your dreams of refinancing your student loans and going back to school a reality. ELFI also goes a step beyond and provides each borrower a personal loan advisor to help them navigate the process.    

Final Thoughts

  No matter what your degree field or career aspirations, most graduates will be faced with the choice of whether to refinance their student loans, when to do it, and how to do it in a way that fits their lifestyle. Using a reputable student loan refinance company like ELFI can help you pick the best student loan refinancing option for you, especially if you intend to take out new loans and go back to school. Check ELFI out today for the best and latest in student loan refinance options and get on the road to the career of your dreams!   1Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.   Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.