The most expensive college in the United States—Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville, New York—charges $44,220 a year for tuition. And that doesn’t include fees and room and board, which can cost an additional $14,000. Even more disturbing is that the annual cost of a college education has risen by 130 percent in the past 20 years, according to the College Board. As a result, Americans have racked up about $1 trillion in education debt from both federal and private student and parent loans.
“If you refinance a federal loan into a private loan, you walk away from important federal benefits and consumer protections, such as income-driven repayment, loan forgiveness programs, default resolution options, flexibility during times of hardship and discharges based on disability or death of the borrower,” said student loan lawyer Adam S. Minsky.

Federal student loans, also known as Direct Loans, are funded by the government and may be awarded as part of your financial aid package if you completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). They feature fixed interest rates and offer several repayment options. Private student loans are offered by banks or other lenders, are credit-based and have fixed or variable interest rates.

When it comes to paying for college, sometimes you need a little extra help. If you have already exhausted savings, scholarships, grants, and Federal student aid, private student loans are the next place to look to pay the bills. While private student loans tend to charge a bit more than Federal ones, when they go to use for a valuable degree, they can be very much worthwhile.
Generally, borrowers should prefer loans that are pegged to the LIBOR index over loans that are pegged to the Prime Lending Rate, all else being equal, as the spread between the Prime Lending Rate and LIBOR has been increasing over time. Over the long term a loan with interest rates based on LIBOR will be less expensive than a loan based on the Prime Lending Rate. About half of lenders peg their private student loans to the LIBOR index and about 2/5 to the Prime lending rate.
No matter who the lender is, private student loan applicants may need a cosigner, especially undergraduates or students who don’t have a credit history or steady income or meet the age of majority for their state of residence. However, a cosigner is not required in order to apply. Even if you have an established credit history, a cosigner may improve your ability to get approved, enable you to secure a lower interest rate, and speed up the credit decision process. Student borrowers that meet these requirements on their own do not need a cosigner (but may still choose to apply with a cosigner).
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“If you refinance a federal loan into a private loan, you walk away from important federal benefits and consumer protections, such as income-driven repayment, loan forgiveness programs, default resolution options, flexibility during times of hardship and discharges based on disability or death of the borrower,” said student loan lawyer Adam S. Minsky.
Compare offers from multiple lenders including banks, credit unions and online lenders to find the lowest interest rate. Depending on the lender, you may be able to choose a fixed or a variable interest rate. A fixed rate stays the same throughout the life of a loan. A variable rate may start out lower than a fixed rate, but could increase or decrease over time depending on economic conditions.
Fixed interest rates will stay the same for the life of the loan but usually start our higher. Variable interest rates, on the other hand, fluctuate over time according to the market rate, but typically start our lower. There is no right answer to which is the best private student loan rate type; it really depends if you think interest rates will generally increase or decrease in the future.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 11/21/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
Travis Hornsby, founder of Student Loan Planner, suggests creating a refinancing ladder to maximize your savings. “The way you do this is start with a payment you can afford pretty easily, say, a 10- or 15-year loan. Pay extra when you have extra, and you’ll cut down the amount that you owe rapidly,” Hornsby explained. “After a couple of years, you can refinance again to a seven-year loan, often with the same payment but with a lower interest rate. Finally, you could refinance one more time to a five-year loan before you finish paying off the entire amount.”
“If you refinance a federal loan into a private loan, you walk away from important federal benefits and consumer protections, such as income-driven repayment, loan forgiveness programs, default resolution options, flexibility during times of hardship and discharges based on disability or death of the borrower,” said student loan lawyer Adam S. Minsky.
Being so large, Sallie Mae can offer pretty much any variation of private student loan that exists. Loans are available to students and parents. There are no origination fees or pre-payment penalties and it takes about 15 minutes to apply. For undergraduate loans, variable rates range from 4.37 to 11.23% and fixed-rate loans range from 5.74 to 11.85% APR. Once you make 12 on-time payments, you can qualify for a co-signer release and carry the loans on your own.
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.
Lowest rates shown include the auto debit discount: Fixed 4.74% - 11.35% APR and Variable 2.75% - 10.22% APR. Interest rates for Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options are higher than interest rates for the Interest Repayment Option. You're charged interest starting at disbursement, while in school, during your separation/grace period, and until the loan is paid in full. The repayment option that is selected will apply during the in-school and separation/grace periods. When you enter principal and interest repayment, Unpaid Interest will be added to your loan's Current Principal. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan. Advertised variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised APRs are valid as of 11/25/2019 and assume a $10,000 loan to a freshman with no other Sallie Mae loans. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: Borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction benefit. This benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month and may be suspended during periods of forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. Loan amounts: $1000 up to 100% of the school certified expenses: Loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received as certified by the school. Sallie Mae reserves the right to approve a lower loan amount than the school-certified amount. Repayment term of 5 to 15 years: This repayment example is based on a typical Smart Option Student Loan made to a freshman borrower who chooses a fixed rate and the Fixed Repayment Option for a $10,000 loan, with two disbursements, and a 8.44% fixed APR. It works out to 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $156.04 and one payment of $118.97, for a Total Loan Cost of $19,962.73.

College Ave only does student loans, so they are pretty good at it. College Ave loans are simple and straightforward. The online-focused lender offers terms from 5 to 15 years. It offers a cosigner release option. One thing to keep in mind: College Ave doesn’t offer a uniform forbearance option. Those are reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis. That offers more flexibility, but some doubt as to whether you may be approved at all if you run into financial difficulties.
If you are totally and permanently disabled you may be eligible for TPD discharge of your federal student loans. After you prove that you have mental or physical disability your debt will be removed completely. You can do so by providing service-related injury documentation from the Veteran Affairs office, a notice of award for SSDI or SSA with the next review in 5 years or more or a certified form from your physician.
After those two options, you should consider federal student loans. These typically have lower interest rates, better benefits, more protections for borrowers, and access to a wider variety of repayment plans. There are, however, federal student loan limits, so you may not be able to cover the rest of your education costs with them. In this situation, most students will turn to private student loans.
For example, you could apply part of your yearly bonus from work or a tax refund to your debt, said Brian Walsh, a certified financial planner and financial planning manager at SoFi. Or you could participate in a challenge like dry January or a no-spend month to come up with the extra cash. It might feel painful to put something fun like a cash windfall toward your student loan debt, but the results can be dramatic.
To obtain federal student aid, you’ll have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA. As the name implies, the form is free and puts you in the running for financial aid for college, including federal student loans — making the whole application process easier, even if the form itself takes some time to fill out.

You can also work for the Peace Corps to get a deferment of Stafford, Perkins, or Consolidation loans. If you work for Americorps for a year, you’ll receive $4,725 for your loans. Volunteering with Volunteers in Service to America for 1,700 hours will give you $4,725 for your loans, too. Thinking of joining the military? You can see the student loan benefit eligibility here.
Cosigner Release: If you are approved for a student loan with a cosigner, some lenders will allow you to release the cosigner from your loan (making them no longer responsible for repayment) after you make a certain number of on-time monthly payments. If this is something that is important for you, be sure to check if the lenders you are considering offer it and how long it takes.
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Hi Michelle. Does your spouse have any student loans? If so, his/her loan debt can be taken into account when calculating your payment. Also, the new Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan doesn’t require that you have a financial hardship, so you may qualify for that. Have you read this post: https://blog.ed.gov/2016/02/which-income-driven-repayment-plan-is-right-for-you/
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