Consolidating private education loans

If you can handle your monthly loan payment as is, carefully investigate how consolidating will change the total amount you’re expected to repay.

You can get a consolidation loan from any private lending institution with government approval, or from the Department of Education itself. Some offer favorable terms like interest-rate reduction for making on-time payments or choosing automatic withdrawal; others may offer repayment plans that better suit your financial situation.

Student loan consolidation is the process of taking multiple outstanding loans and reorganizing them into one monthly payment.

Consolidation loans like the Stafford Loans, for example, can help make this possible with Direct and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) consolidation programs.

Timing is everything: You’ll need to complete all the paperwork and have it processed and approved before repayment begins.

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Interest rates are determined by the federal government and change each year on July 1, so check with a lender to get their take on possible rate fluctuation.

(There are no prepayment penalties for student consolidation loans.) On sites like Student Loans.gov, the student loan consolidation process must be completed in one single session.

In most cases, this process can take less than 30 minutes.

Current law dictates that you can only consolidate once, so if you consolidate at a 6 percent interest rate and rates later drop to 3 percent, you’re out of luck.

There are two exceptions: if you’ve since gone back to school and acquired new student loans, or if an outstanding loan was excluded from your original consolidation.

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