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Consolidation Vs. Refinancing: Which is Right For You?

September 16, 2016

Anyone who has taken out a student loan has probably been required to sign a promissory note, which confirms a borrower’s responsibility to pay back the money used to offset the cost of higher education. Many colleges and universities also require exit counseling to inform their graduates of the repayment options available through federal loan programs. However, with private financing companies now offering additional options that could possibly lower monthly payments or interest costs over time, many financially savvy individuals seek to minimize and simplify their financial debts.

Choosing the right student loan repayment program can be confusing, and borrowers need to be aware that both federal and private lenders offer plans designed to match their budgeting capabilities and financial goals. In today’s financial environment, graduates may want to take advantage of lower interest rates while paying off their debt as soon as possible, or they may prefer to free up extra cash by choosing an extended term with lower payments.  Specific student loan repayment options and what each means may not be so clear to each individual borrower, so we have outlined the differences between student loan consolidation and student loan refinancing of both private and federal  education loans.

Federal Student Loan Consolidation

Federal or Direct Loan Consolidation allows borrowers to combine multiple federally-funded subsidized or unsubsidized student loans, regardless of income or credit history, into one payment that uses a weighted average of all interest rates. Because this form of student loan consolidation is only available for federal loans, student loans acquired by a private lender are not eligible. The benefits of this form of consolidation include the ability to combine loans into one simple payment, the opportunity to switch from various variable rates to one fixed interest rate, and the ability to extend the life of the loan, thereby lowering the total of monthly payments. Borrowers in the federal program are also eligible to take advantage of programs such as deferments, forbearances, or grace periods that temporarily reduce or suspend monthly payments during times of financial hardship. The downside is that borrowers can be less likely to save money or see drops in interest rates with this plan. Also, borrowers who extend the life of the loan to lower their monthly payment will likely pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

Private Student Loan Refinancing

Similar to student loan consolidation, refinancing student loans involve combining multiple student loans into one loan with one monthly payment. However, unlike Direct Loan Consolidation, this option is only offered by private lenders and includes restructuring both private and federal education loans to reward borrowers who demonstrate responsible financial habits with rates and payment options not offered through the federal consolidation program. New interest rates are calculated based on the borrower’s credit history and overall financial health, as well as current financial market conditions, rather than the weighted average of the included loans. This option can offer the greatest opportunity for a borrower to save money since the new rate is applied to every loan refinanced. However, it is important to note that when borrowers refinance with a private lender, they may lose special benefits such as income-based repayment, loan forgiveness, deferments, and forbearances associated with federal loans. Although not guaranteed, reputable private lenders are interested in the success of their clients and offer support services to help keep their borrowers in good standing during unexpected financial hardship, so be sure to consider the level of customer service available when choosing to refinance your student loans.

Which Is Right For You?

Choosing the financial path that is right for you and your budget is paramount. Compare the terms, interest rates, and benefits of your current student loans to a new potential lender and decide if the potential savings and the stability of your financial situation make the switch worthwhile. Then, figure out what you can comfortably pay each month and how long you intend to make payments on the loan (our loan payment calculator helps borrowers choose a loan term that fits different budgets). Finally, take a look at our application process or give us a call at 1-844-601-ELFI. Whether you choose to consolidate federal student loans or refinance the combination of private and federal student loans, our team works as your advocate, steering you in the direction that is right for you and your budget.

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2019-09-22
5 Common Questions About Student Loan Refinancing

Deciding to refinance your student loans is a big step in your financial journey. As with any big step, there are often questions that arise. We’re sharing some of the most common questions our Personal Loan Advisors hear from borrowers looking to refinance their student loans. 

1. Will my refinanced student loan have a variable or fixed interest rate?

Either! Education Loan Finance offers both fixed and variable interest rates, giving you the freedom to choose.  Fixed interest rates will not change from year to year, but variable interest rates will fluctuate based on the
LIBOR index and may increase or decrease over the life of the loan. Read our blog about variable and fixed interest rates to learn more.  

2. How long will the application process take?

You’ll be done before you know it! The application process is quick and easy. After providing some information about yourself and your student loans, you’ll upload documents and submit the application. If you refinance your student loans with ELFI, you’ll receive a Personal Loan Advisor who will be your point of contact throughout the process – one person who’ll be with you step-by-step.

3. Can I consolidate both federal and private student loans?

Yes! ELFI allows you to consolidate federal student loans as well as private student loans from multiple lenders. As long as they are student loans, ELFI can consolidate them. However, only student loan debt can be consolidated – no other consumer debt, such as credit card, auto, or mortgage can be included, even if it was used to pay education expenses. 

4. Can I consolidate my student loans with my spouse’s student loans?

While spouses are eligible to serve as a cosigner on an application, we cannot consolidate student loan debt among multiple borrowers – even if they are hitched! 

5. Will the application process affect my credit score?

We’ll run a “soft credit inquiry” during the pre-qualification phase of refinancing in order to provide you with preliminary rates that you may qualify for. A Soft credit inquiry won’t affect your credit score. However, once you choose your loan product and submit your application, we’ll need to view your full credit report – this will show up as a hard credit inquiry. These inquiries are common among student loan refinancing lenders.   Hopefully this short Q&A gave you some helpful insight about what to expect when refinancing your student loans. If you have questions about the student loan refinancing process, you can check out our full list of frequently asked questions or contact ELFI at 1-844-601-3534 to speak with a Personal Loan Advisor. 

Learn More About Student Loan Refinancing

  Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
Happy couple working on budget
2019-09-20
How to Know When It’s Time to Refinance Your Student Loans

There are plenty of milestones in life that give us reason to celebrate– high school graduation, marriage, the birth of child, paying off student loans. Yes, seeing your debt decrease and your savings increase for many people are a time worth remembering. And truth be told, being further out of debt can make those other milestones much more enjoyable. This blog is designed to help you reach that debt-free milestone quicker by refinancing your student loans. After all, getting them under control and adjusting the repayment terms to something more favorable could help make a dent. Here’s how to know it’s time to refinance your student loans:

You Earn Good Money

No one wants to see their hard-earning income fly out the window. If we’re talking about milestones, we would argue that the 15th and 30th of the month are recurring ones that give us plenty of joy, albeit short-lived. When we see money deposited we want to hold on to it and protect it. However, your debt doesn’t go away. Even though you’re earning good money you will have to face the music and pay off the education that helped get you to the position you’re in. Refinancing your student loans often means a better interest rate and the option to choose a better term.

You’re Credit-Worthy

Many people simply aren’t aware that federal interest rates are not dependent on your financial circumstances. There are a few factors involved, but the credit history of the borrower isn’t one of them. If you’ve been on-time with your credit card, mortgage, car loan, or any other debt, and maintained a good balance between the money you earn versus what you owe in debt, you’ve likely got a high credit score. When you refinance your student loans with a private lender that credit score helps determine your interest rate, and that in return can help save some money.

You Love One Payment

One of the added benefits of refinancing your student loans often means consolidating your loans. While it’s true you can still refinance partial loans, lumping them all together with a nice bow on top not only helps you feel empowered to pay them off, but also reduces the likelihood you’ll miss a payment due to the sheer number of them floating around out there.

You’re incentivized at Work

A growing number of companies are taking a long, hard look at the benefits they offer their employees. Gone are the days of sticking with one job from graduation to retirement. Today, it’s all about working for an employer that offers great benefits, compensation and work/life balance. And because of that, repayment part of an employee’s student loan obligations are becoming the norm. If you’re in this category, it may be wise to refinance your student loans, consolidate them, and watch your employer help pay down your debt. If you can check these boxes chances are you’re ready to refinance your student loans and are one step closer to that all-important milestone of getting out of debt. Speak with one of our Personal Loan Advisors to help walk you through the process.   Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.   NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the web sites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
2019-09-16
What I Would Have Told Myself in College: Barbara Thomas

  Barbara Thomas, Executive Vice President of Education Loan Finance (ELFI) provides some financial advice to college students based on her own experiences in college.   Hello, I’m Barbara Thomas. For most, like me, my college days were a great experience that lead to incredible personal growth. I had a marvelous sense of freedom and made many new friends. However, I have spent much time reflecting on what I would do differently if I could begin my college life all over again, given what I know now. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? So here’s my advice to all of you who are preparing to enter college, or are currently in your freshman or sophomore years.

Choose an Affordable College

When looking for the right college, don’t get beguiled by a famous name and a beautiful campus. And, while a state-of-the-art fitness center or an Olympic-size swimming pool might be important if you’re an athlete, most of the time you will be paying for them in higher college fees. Instead, make sure to keep your eyes on finances, as affordability should be a top concern. Considering the fact that many students end up taking on sizeable student loan debt, keep in mind that you (most likely) won’t be living on that beautiful campus in your late 20s or 30s.

Rethink Your Path to the Best Education.

Just because a college is more expensive, doesn’t
necessarily mean that it’s better than one that costs less. You should look upon college as an investment in your future. Consider what the return on investment (ROI) from your college education will look like. In other words, analyze which college is likely to provide you with the most bang for your buck. Here’s a report from U.S. News & World Report that gives you the ROI of different colleges.

Look at Alternatives to a Four-Year College.

If you find out that college is not the best path for you, it can turn out to be an expensive mistake. Keep in mind that dropping out of college won’t make your student loans disappear. So before you enroll in a college, consider these alternatives:
  • Take a gap year to earn money to put toward going to college and give yourself more time to decide what you want to do.
  • Consider attending a trade school to learn a valuable skill with high earnings potential.
  • Spend two years at a community college. Attending a community college can help you save on tuition. However, if you plan to transfer to a college of your choice, be sure to do some checking. Find out how many transfer students are accepted and how many of your community college credits can be used.
Do your research and crunch the numbers to make sure you’re making the best choice.

Earn More While in School

A survey of millennials found that earning money while in college was the number one thing that participants wished they had done (or done more of). This reflects the increasing financial cost that goes along with obtaining a college degree. The College Board estimated that in 2017 (updated figures are available), the average student loan debt upon graduation was $28,500. Keep in mind that a heavy debt load is going to affect your financial future – your ability to buy a home, start a family, and save for retirement. Apart from financial considerations, there is no better way to acquire real job skills than to hold down a job and learn about its demands firsthand. Employers know this, which is why previous work experience is the most popular measure to assess job candidates, even those straight out of college.

Research Ways To Lower Your Monthly Student Loan Payments

So, you’ve done everything right - you chose the higher education path that was right for you, and you have landed an interesting job. Now, what about those student loan payments? Are they weighing you down and preventing you from leading the life that you had envisioned after college? ELFI has a solution to your problem – it’s called refinancing. You can close out your original loan and take out a new one with a lower interest rate and/or a longer term. This can significantly lower your monthly loan payments. Get in touch with us to see how we can help you!  

Learn More About Student Loan Refinancing With ELFI

  Terms and conditions apply. Subject to credit approval.