Student Loan Consolidation: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly
With tuition costs rising across the country, it has become increasingly necessary for college students to take on debt in an effort to get their degree. But student loan repayments are often difficult for students to make, especially considering that early on graduates incomes are typically quite a bit lower then their ultimate earning potential. Due to these circumstances, Student Loan Consolidation is a valuable option for many recent college grads to pursue.
How Student Loan Consolidation Works
Student Loan consolidation works like most consolidation programs. A single lender takes on the various loans you have accumulated, like Stafford, Perkins, HEAL, NSL, and private loans. While the terms and repayment conditions vary among these many different lenders, a single loan consolidation company will pay off all these loans and offer you a single, typically longer term, loan. What this means practically, is that instead of having to pay off one loan in 3 years, another in 5, and another in 10, or having one loan’s interest rate be fixed and another variable, all your loans are compiled under a single system. You can then negotiate with your loan consolidation lender, about the terms of the loan. Typically, students opt for a repayment plan of 10 to 30 years. Obviously, the longer the term of the loan, the lower your monthly payment will be.
Consolidating your student loans offers you the opportunity to stretch out your payments, so as to take advantage of your future earning power. It is quite reasonable for students to believe that they will earn more as their careers progress, and by stretching out the length of their repayments, they won’t have to pay the most on their loan while their income is at its lowest point. Another benefit of student loan consolidation programs is that they take a lot of the confusion and problems out of student loan repayment. For recent graduates who have loans from a variety of public and private lenders, keeping up with the unique terms and conditions of every loan can often be a bit of a nuisance. For these reasons consolidation is a very popular option. But that does not mean that it is not without its costs.
Why Not Consolidate?
Loan consolidation of any variety, is so appealing for lenders because they can charge relatively high “consolidation” fees. While student loan consolidation is regulated better than most forms, loan consolidation companies still manage to add quite a bit to the principle of the loan (that you will ultimately have to pay back) in the form of fees. One way to avoid this is to insist that you be offered the opportunity to pay for ALL consolidation fees upfront. By doing this, you can ensure that you will at least be made aware of the quantity of charges being imposed upon you. Another problem with loan consolidation is that by extending the terms of your loans (say from 5 to 15 years) you dramatically increase the amount of interest you pay on your loans. Your interest payments on your loans accumulate over time. This means that the longer you take to pay your loan back, the more interest will accumulate. Many students fail to notice this, as they only focus on the interest rate, and not the total amount of interest that will be paid over the life of the loan.
Student loan consolidation is a valuable tool for students who want to defer their repayments until they earn more or for those who find the nuisance of maintaining many of their individual loans to be too troublesome. It is important for recent graduates to consider, however, that these benefits, despite what lenders may lead you to believe, do not come without negative tradeoffs. By being aware of both the positives and negatives of student loan consolidation, you can make more educated decisions about the whether student loan consolidation is the right solution for you.
About the author
[back to top]