Comparing the Different School Loan Consolidation Programs
Michalis 'BIG Mike' Kotzakolios
When you’re looking for a school loan consolidation to combine your many student loans into one payment, there are a lot of rules that you must follow, especially if your loans are federal loans. Here, we outline some of these rules to help you navigate the school loan consolidation maze.
There are two different school loan consolidation programs; namely, the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) and the Direct Consolidation Loan programs. It’s important to know the difference between the two. First, any school loan consolidation that you want combined have to be accepted by the Direct Consolidation Loan Program. Federal Family Education Loan lenders might accept all eligible loans for the FFEL consolidation, but some lenders might not include non-FFEL loans in the school loan consolidation. However, if a loan isn’t accepted in the Federal Family Education Loan consolidation program, lenders might offer alternative school loan consolidation programs for these debts.
School loan consolidation lenders under the Federal Family Education Loan program must offer several repayment programs. These include the standard repayment plan, the graduated repayment plan, an extended repayment plan, and an income-sensitive repayment plan. Keep in mind that although these four repayment plans are offered by all FFEL lenders, the actual details of the repayment can vary. For example, the income-sensitive repayment plan takes the borrower’s income and total debt load into account.
With the Direct Loan Program, you are offered the standard repayment plan, the graduated repayment plan, the extended repayment plan, and the income-contingent repayment plan. With this particular income-contingent repayment plan, the payment is based on a formula that takes the borrower’s income, family size, and total loan amounts into account.
If you default on an FFEL consolidation loan, some lenders might allow you to include the defaulted loan into a new consolidation loan. However, not all lenders will offer this option. The Direct Loan Program also has stipulations for consolidating defaulted loans into new loans. If you are eligible to consolidate your defaulted loans into a new loan, you will regain eligibility for federal student aid.
Under the Direct Consolidation Program, you may consolidate your loans while you are enrolled in school. If you are eligible for an in-school consolidation, you can get a six month grace period before repayment begins. You might also qualify for a lower interest. If you have only FFEL loans, you might still be eligible for a consolidation and grace period while still in school through the Direct Consolidation Loan program. With the FFEL consolidation program, you can only consolidate your loans after leaving school, and all your loans have to be in the grace period or repayment period.
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