Private Student Loans vs Federal Student Loans

There are a few different options when it comes to financing a college education, and it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each. Then, you’ll likely be better able to develop a funding strategy that fits your unique situation.

Depending on your academic qualifications, you may have been awarded scholarships or grants, which is funding that won’t (typically) need to be repaid. Any expenses not covered by a scholarship will need to be financed, often through a combination of work-study, personal funds, or student loans.

It is fairly common for college students to take out student loans to finance their education. There are two main types of student loans — private student loans and federal ones. We’ll compare and contrast some of the more popular features of both private and federal student loans and explore some features that can help you determine what makes the most sense for your financial situation.

Recommended: How Do Student Loans Work? Guide to Student Loans

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are funded by the federal government and, in order to qualify, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) every year that you want to receive federal student loans. We’ll delve more into FAFSA soon — but first, here are some important distinctions to consider.

Subsidized vs Unsubsidized Loans

Federal loans can be subsidized or unsubsidized. If you’re an undergraduate student and you have a certain level of financial need, you may qualify for a subsidized loan. The amount of money you qualify for will be determined by your school . They’ll also determine how much money you should receive in subsidized loans, if any.

If you are granted a subsidized loan, the U.S. government will cover, or subsidize, the cost of accrued interest on the loan while you are a full- or half-time student. Your interest payments are also covered with subsidized loans during the six-month grace period after graduation as well as during any periods of loan deferment.

If you receive unsubsidized federal loans, you will not need to demonstrate financial need when applying and, as with subsidized loans, your school will determine the amount you can receive, based on what it will cost you to attend. But with unsubsidized loans, you are responsible for the principal amount of the loan as well as any interest that accrues throughout the life of the loan.

Direct PLUS Loans for Parents and Graduate Students

Direct PLUS Loans are another source of federal student loan funding. To qualify for graduate PLUS Loans, you need to be a graduate-level or professional student in a program that offers graduate or professional degrees or certifications and be attending college at least half-time.

Or, parents can also apply for a Parent PLUS loan if they’re the parent of a dependent undergraduate student attending an eligible school at least half-time. “Parent” can be defined as biological or adoptive — or, under certain circumstances, you can be a step-parent.

To obtain a Direct PLUS loan, you cannot have an adverse credit history (you can learn more about that here ). Plus, you (and, if applicable, your dependent child) must meet the general eligibility requirements for federal student aid.

Recommended: The Differences in Direct vs. Indirect Student Loans

More About the FAFSA

If you plan to apply for any of these types of federal loans, you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA form. Be aware of your state’s FAFSA deadline — FAFSA funding is determined on a rolling basis, so the sooner you can apply, the sooner you may qualify.

Benefits of Federal Student Loans

First off, you won’t be responsible for making student loan payments while you are actively enrolled in school. Your repayment will typically begin after you graduate, leave school, or are enrolled less than half-time. Interest rates on federal student loans made after July 1, 2006 are fixed and are typically lower than interest rates on private student loans.

And depending on the type of federal loans you have, the interest you pay could be tax-deductible. Aside from Direct PLUS Loans, credit history doesn’t factor into a federal loan application. When it comes to federal student loan repayment, there are several options to choose from, including several income-driven repayment plans.

And if you run into difficulty repaying your federal student loans after graduation or when you drop below half-time enrollment, there are deferment and forbearance options available. These programs allow qualifying borrowers to temporarily pause payments on their loans should they run into financial issues — but interest may still accrue. The loan type will inform whether a borrower qualifies for deferment or forbearance.

Borrowers can contact their student loan servicer for more information on these programs.

Qualifying borrowers can also enroll in certain forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). These programs have strict requirements, so borrowers who are pursuing forgiveness should review program details closely.

Federal Student Loans Pros and Cons

Here is a recap of some of the pros and cons of federal student loans.

Pros Cons
Aside from PLUS Loans, borrowing a federal student does not require a credit check. Federal borrowing limits may mean that students aren’t able to borrow enough funds to pay for college.
Undergraduate students may be eligible to borrow Direct Subsidized student loans. The borrower isn’t responsible for paying interest that accrues on subsidized loans while they are enrolled at-least half time, during the grace period, and during qualifying periods of deferment or forbearance. There is a borrowing limit on Direct Subsidized student loans and not all students will qualify for subsidized loans, since they are need-based.
There are deferment and forbearance options if borrowers run into financial difficulty during repayment. Depending on the type of loan interest may accrue during periods of deferment or forbearance.
There are deferment and forbearance options if borrowers run into financial difficulty during repayment. Depending on the type of loan interest may accrue during periods of deferment or forbearance.
Borrowers have access to federal repayment plans, including income-driven repayment plans.
Fixed interest rates that are generally lower than interest rates on private student loans.
Borrowers have the option to pursue federal loan forgiveness through programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

The CARES Act and Federal Student Loans

The CARES Act, passed in March 2020 in response to COVID-19, includes provisions to help borrowers with federal student loan repayment. The bill temporarily pauses payments on most federal student loans, without interest, through May 1, 2022.

Additionally, the CARES Act suspends involuntary collections and negative credit reporting during the same time period.

While required payments are paused, borrowers are still able to make payments on their loans if they so choose. 100% of payments made during this time will be applied to the principal balance of the loan.

Borrowers enrolled in forgiveness programs will not be impacted by the nonpayment of their loans during this time. The Education Department will consider this time period as if the borrower had continued making payments.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are not funded by the government. To apply for them, you can check with individual lenders (banks, credit unions, and the like), with the college or university you’ll be attending, or with state loan agencies.

Because these loans are available from multiple sources, each will come with its own terms and conditions. So, when applying for private student loans, it’s important to clearly understand annual percentage rates (APRs) and repayment terms before signing as well as the differences between private vs. federal student loans.

Since private student loans are not associated with the federal government, their repayment terms and benefits vary from lender to lender. Some private loans require payments while you’re still attending college. Unlike federal loans, interest rates could be fixed or variable. If you are applying for a variable-rate loan, it’s a good idea to check to see how often the interest rate can change, plus how much it can change each time, and what the maximum interest rate can be.

When applying for a private loan, the lender typically reviews your financial history and credit score, which means it may be beneficial to have a cosigner.

Again, be sure to ask your lender about repayment options in addition to any deferment or forbearance options.

These will all vary by lender, so it’s important to understand the terms of the particular loan you are applying for.

Private loans can help fill the monetary gap between what you’re able to cover with grants, scholarships, federal loans, and the like, and what you owe to attend college. It’s never a bad idea to take the time to do your research, shop around, and find the best loan options for your personal financial situation. For a full overview, take a look at SoFi’s private student loan guide.

[embedded content]

Determining Whether a Student Loan is Federal or Private

To find out if the student loan you have is a federal student loan, one option is to check the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). This database, run by the Department of Education, is a collection of information on student loans, aggregating data from information about student loans, from universities, federal loan programs, and more.

Borrowers with federal student loans can also log into My Federal Student Aid to find information about their student loan including the federal loan servicer.

Private student loans are administered by private companies. To confirm the information on a private student loan, one option is to look at your loan statements and contact your loan servicer.

Options for After Graduation: Consolidation vs Refinancing

After graduation, depending on one’s student loan situation, borrowers may wish to consider consolidation or refinancing options to combine their various loans into a single loan.

What is Student Loan Consolidation?

The federal government offers the Direct Consolidation Loan program that allows borrowers to combine all of their federal loans into one consolidated loan.

Loans consolidated in this program receive a new interest rate that is the weighted average of the interest rates of all loans being consolidated — rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of a percent. This means that the actual interest rate isn’t necessarily reduced when consolidated. If monthly payments are reduced, it is most likely because the repayment term has been lengthened. Additionally, only federal student loans are eligible for consolidation in the Direct Consolidation Loan program.

What is Student Loan Refinancing?

Borrowers with private student loans might consider refinancing their loans. Essentially, refinancing is taking out a new loan. Depending upon individual financial situations, applicants could qualify for a lower interest rate through refinancing.

When an individual applies to refinance with a private lender, there is typically a credit check of some kind. Each lender reviews specific borrower criteria, which varies from lender to lender, which influences the rate and terms an applicant may qualify for.

Recommended: The SoFi Guide to Student Loan Refinancing

But what if you have both federal and private loans? If you combine your federal loans through the Direct Consolidation Loan program and refinanced your private loans, you’d still have two payments. SoFi can refinance federal and private student loans together to give you one convenient payment. It’s important to note, however, that the benefits and protections offered with federal student loans don’t transfer when loans are refinanced by private lenders, so keep that in mind.

To get a sense of how refinancing might impact your student loans, take a look at this student loan refinancing calculator.

Refinanced Student Loans Pros and Cons

Refinancing student loans can have pros and cons. This table details a few to consider.

Pros Cons
Potential to secure a more competitive interest rate depending on factors like borrower’s credit score and income history. This could result in a substantial reduction of accrued interest over the life of the loan. Not all borrowers will qualify to refinance or be approved for a lower interest rate than on their existing loans.
Potential borrowers can apply with a cosigner to potentially secure a more competitive interest rate. Interest rate and loan terms are set by the lender and are based on factors including the applicant’s credit history.
Refinancing allows you to have a single monthly payment with the lender of your choice. Refinancing any federal loans eliminates them from borrower protections, including deferment options, income-driven repayment plans, or the option to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
The loan term can be adjusted — either shortened or extended — when student loans are refinanced. Extending your loan term will generally result in lower monthly payments, but will typically result in increased interest costs over the life of the loan.

Can You Refinance a Private Student Loan to a Federal One?

It’s not possible to refinance private student loans into federal loans. Because private student loans are made directly with private lenders, not the federal government, it is not possible to refinance them into federal student loans.

Combining Federal and Private Student Loans

Refinancing federal loans with a private lender is the only option that allows borrowers to combine both federal and private student loans into a single loan. While refinancing may allow borrowers to secure a competitive interest rate or preferable terms, it’s very important to understand that when you refinance federal student loans, they no longer qualify for federal benefits or borrower protections.

Refinancing may make sense for federal student loan holders who do not plan to take advantage of any federal programs or payment plans, but it won’t make sense for everyone. When you are evaluating whether you should refinance student loan debt reflect realistically on your professional and financial situation. For example, borrowers who are enrolled in income-driven repayment plans or are pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness, may find that refinancing their federal student loans doesn’t make sense for their personal goals.

The Takeaway

Refinancing won’t be the right choice for everyone. Again, refinancing federal loans eliminates them from the federal benefits and borrower protections — including the current CARES Act protections. Consulting with a financial professional could be helpful as you determine which repayment strategy fits best with your financial goals.

Those who are still interested in refinancing could consider SoFi, where there are no origination fees and no prepayment penalties. You can choose between a fixed or variable rate loan. And borrowers who unexpectedly lose their job could qualify for SoFi’s unemployment protection program, which allows the suspension of monthly payments for up to 12 months.

Learn more about whether student loan refinancing or a private student loan with SoFi could be the right financial solution for you.


We’ve Got You Covered


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL MAY 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’swebsite .
SOSL20010

Source: sofi.com

Understanding Your Student Loan Promissory Note

Generally speaking, promissory notes are legally binding contracts that state the terms of a loan, such as the amount to be repaid, the interest rate that will be charged, and any other important terms and conditions of that particular loan.

A student loan promissory note is no different; you’ll be required to sign one, accepting the terms of your student loan(s) before the lender disburses your money.

If a student loan promissory note sounds super important, that’s because it is. You can think of it as your student loan contract. Like any legal contract, it’s important to know the nuances of what you’re signing. Here’s what you should know about student loan promissory notes and master promissory notes.

What Is a Student Loan Promissory Note?

A promissory note is your student loan contract. It details the terms and conditions of that loan, as well as any rights and responsibilities you have as a borrower. Both federal student loans — loans backed by the U.S. government — and private student loans require that you sign a promissory note.

With private student loans, borrowers will generally be required to sign a promissory note for each student loan they borrow, because each loan’s terms and conditions may be different. Federal student loan borrowers may have the option to sign just one master promissory note.

What Is a Master Promissory Note?

Borrowers with federal student loans may be able to sign just one master promissory note. If eligible, a master promissory note covers all federal loans borrowed for a period of 10 years. There are versions of the master promissory note for both students borrowing Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans and a version for borrowers who are using Direct PLUS Loans.

Whether you’ll be able to sign a master promissory note is determined by the school you attend and the types of federal loans you have. Some schools do not offer the option to have students sign a master promissory note that covers borrowing over multiple years.

So be certain to understand what your school allows, and whether you need to sign multiple promissory notes or one master promissory note. The financial aid office at your college should be able to guide you through the process.

What Should I Look for on My Student Loan Promissory Note?

Understanding the terms and conditions of a student loan promissory note is akin to understanding the terms of student loans. Here are some important items to consider on your loan, and note:

Loan type: First, it is important to know what type of loan you have. Federal loans will have different terms than private loans, which are loans accessed through an independent bank, credit union, or other lender.

Repayment options: Federal loans come with some options to help you manage your debt post-graduation, such as student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment. If you have federal loans and access to multiple repayment plans, take some time to understand the ins and outs of different plans.

Deferment options: Federal loans may also offer options for student loan deferment, which would allow you to suspend making payments during periods of economic hardship, immediately after you leave school, etc. Private loans may also offer some deferment options, but every lender is different, so you’ll need to check your note.

Interest rate: The interest rate is a percentage of the principal loan amount that the borrower is charged for borrowing money. Be certain to understand the interest rate on your student loans, and whether that rate is fixed or variable. Federal student loans have fixed interest rates.

Private student loans may offer variable rates. If the rate is variable, it is possible that it will increase in the future, which would also increase your monthly payments. Be especially wary of private loans that offer introductory rate offers that later expire — they could end up costing you quite a bit of money.

Additional costs: In addition to the loan’s interest rate, a student loan promissory note should include information on any additional costs, such as a loan fee (also known as an origination fee). Student loan fees will vary by lender, so be sure to check yours. Sometimes a loan fee is deducted directly from the amount that is disbursed.

Prepayment fees: Speaking of additional costs, one thing to check for is whether your student loan allows you to “pre-pay” loan payments. If you think there’s a chance you’ll want to pay your loan back faster than the stated terms, check to see whether prepayment is allowed, and if so, how additional payments are applied and whether there are any fees attached. Making prepayments on the principal value of the loan could help reduce the amount of money you owe in interest over the life of the loan.

Cosigner removal: With some loans, especially private loans, you may be required to have a cosigner. (That’s because private loans rely on your — or your cosigner’s — creditworthiness to determine the terms of your loan. Federal loans do not.) Upon graduation, some borrowers want to release their cosigner of the responsibility of having their name on the loan, so you may want to find out whether that’s a possibility.

Allocation of funds: Some loans may require that the money is spent only on designated expenses, such as books or tuition. If you’re looking to upgrade your apartment, you might not be allowed to do so using student loan funds. Make sure to check on any stipulations on how you can spend the money.

When Is the Promissory Note Signed?

In general, borrowers will need to sign the promissory note for their loans before receiving any funds. Students who are borrowing federal student loans are able to sign their master promissory note online by logging into their federal student loan account.

Private lenders may have their own policies for signing a promissory note, it’s helpful to check-in directly with the lender if you have any questions.

Understanding Your Options

If you haven’t picked up on it already, knowing how student loans work and understanding your student loan contract is the name of the game. Taking out a student loan can be a huge financial commitment and shouldn’t be done without careful consideration — which means knowing what’s on that promissory note.

Before going to sign your student loan promissory note, it’s also a good idea to spend some time thinking about your financial goals. A good place to start is by looking at how much you’ll take out in loans, total, and compare that to how much money you can expect to make after you graduate from school. Use a student loan calculator to get an idea of what your monthly payments could be given your total debt and the interest rate.

Rarely is it financially sound to take out more in loans than you absolutely need. It might seem like Monopoly money now, but this is all money that you’ll have to pay back, with interest. The repayment process can be painstaking, especially as a person early in their career or during a setback, like layoffs or a health issue. Taking out the bare minimum in student loans may mean working part-time in college, exploring more affordable college options, or continuing to apply for scholarships after you’re enrolled.

Once you’ve graduated, keep in mind that refinancing your student loans is a way for some graduates to lower the interest rates on their loans or lower their monthly payments. Refinancing is a process where your existing loans are consolidated and paid off with a new loan from a private lender.

Generally, the borrower has the option to keep the same repayment schedule or increase or decrease the amount of time left on their loan. (Increasing the duration of a loan may result in paying more interest over time, whereas decreasing the duration of a loan may result in higher monthly payments, but less interest paid overall.)

If you’re planning on using your federal loans’ flexible repayment plans or student loan forgiveness programs, refinancing with a private lender may not be the right choice for you as you will lose access to those federal benefits. However, some private lenders, like SoFi, offer protections to borrowers who lose their jobs or experience economic hardship. SoFi even provides career counseling to help their borrowers get back on track.

The Takeaway

A student loan promissory note is a contract between the borrower and the lender that details the loan’s terms and conditions and where the borrower promises to repay the loan. Federal student loan borrowers may be able to sign just one master promissory note, which will cover all federal loans for a period of up to 10 years. Private lenders generally require a promissory note for each individual loan.

Understanding the terms and conditions of your loan when signing of the promissory note can help you set your expectations for borrowing and ultimately repaying your student loans.

Whether you need help paying for school or help paying off the loans you already have, SoFi offers competitive interest rates and great member benefits as well.

See what you’re pre-qualified for in just a few minutes.


We’ve Got You Covered


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL MAY 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SLR18247

Source: sofi.com

REPAYE vs PAYE: What’s the Difference?

Struggling to make your student loan payments? Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) may ease the burden. The choice boils down to your degree of financial hardship, desired repayment term, and income trajectory.

Both adjust your monthly loan payments based on your income and family size.

PAYE vs REPAYE: An Overview

If your federal student loan payments under the standard 10-year repayment plan are high compared with your income, one of the four income-based repayment plans might be an option.

The PAYE and REPAYE plans generally enable eligible federal student loan borrowers to cap their monthly student loan payments at 10% of their monthly discretionary income. (Discretionary income is the difference between annual income and 150% of the poverty guideline for family size and state of residence.)

One main difference: While borrowers need to apply for both programs, the PAYE plan typically requires proof of financial hardship.

The pay as you earn repayment plans are available for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans; Grad PLUS loans; Direct Consolidation Loans that did not repay any Parent PLUS loans; FFEL loans if consolidated; and consolidated federal Perkins Loans.

Key Differences Between PAYE and REPAYE

Both plans extend the length of your loan beyond the standard 10-year repayment plan. Both require you to “recertify” your income and family size each year. Both cap your monthly loan payment at 10% of your discretionary income.

Both consider the same federal student loans eligible.

Both plans are designed to forgive any loan balance after 20 or 25 years, although if you’re also working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you may qualify for forgiveness of any remaining loan balance after 10 years of qualifying payments.

So what are the differences?

PAYE

•   Requires proof of financial hardship.

•   Has a repayment period of 20 years.

•   Counts a spouse’s income unless you’re married and file separately.

•   You’re eligible if you took your first loan out on or after Oct. 1, 2007, and received at least one Direct Loan on or after Oct. 1, 2011.

REPAYE

•   Has a repayment period of 20 years if all loans being repaid under the plan were for undergraduate study.

•   Has a repayment term of 25 years if any loans being repaid under the plan were for graduate or professional study.

•   Always considers a spouse’s income.

•   Has no application restrictions based on when you took out your federal student loans.

There are also differences in the interest subsidy.

What Is the Interest Subsidy?

If your payments under PAYE or REPAYE are too small to cover the interest your loan accrues each month, the government will help in the form of an interest subsidy.

Under both plans, the federal government covers surplus interest charges on subsidized loans for the first three years.

With REPAYE, though, after three years, the government will pay 50% of the accruing interest on subsidized loans. Eligible unsubsidized loans receive a 50% interest subsidy at all times if your payment is too small to cover the interest.

Interest will capitalize under both plans if you fail to recertify income and family size or you leave the plan, and in the case of PAYE if you no longer can demonstrate a financial hardship.

Answers to Common Questions

How do I apply for a repayment plan?

You only need to submit one application for any income-driven repayment plan and will need to supply financial information. It will take about 10 minutes. The federal Student Aid Office also will recommend a repayment plan based on your input.

I want to apply for PAYE. How is financial hardship defined?

A general rule of thumb: If your debt exceeds your income, you likely demonstrate hardship under PAYE.

More specifically, your loan servicer will compare your monthly payment under the standard plan and PAYE. If you’d pay more under the standard plan, you have a financial hardship.

What if I’m in PAYE and no longer demonstrate hardship?

Your loan payments will stop being based on your income, and unpaid interest will be added to your loan.

What if I forget to recertify my income and family size for either plan?

Your loan payments will no longer be based on your income. They will revert to the amount you would pay under the 10-year standard repayment plan.

I’m married and have a moderate income I don’t expect to change much. What’s the better fit?

PAYE might fit best.

I’m single, I’ll probably earn much more in the coming years, and I can’t prove a financial hardship. Which plan of the two might fit me better?

REPAYE.

Does a Parent PLUS Loan qualify for either plan?

No.

Looking to lower your monthly
payments or reduce your term?
Check out SoFi student loan refinancing.

Income-Driven Repayment Alternatives

PAYE and REPAYE may lower your monthly student loan payments, and forgiveness of any balance after 20 or 25 years is a big perk. But these plans aren’t the only way to reduce the sting of loan payments.

You can also refinance your student loans — private and federal — with a private lender and potentially qualify for a lower interest rate.

Got graduate school or federal parent loan debt? Many borrowers refinance Grad PLUS Loans and Parent PLUS Loans, as those have historically offered less competitive rates.

The government Direct Consolidation Loan program combines federal student loans into a single federal loan, but the interest rate is the weighted average of the original loans’ rates rounded up to the nearest eighth of a percentage point, which means the borrower usually does not save any money. Lengthening the loan term can decrease the monthly payment, but that means you’ll spend more on total interest.

With PAYE or REPAYE, federal loan benefits and protections like deferment and public service-based loan forgiveness are in play and will not carry over with a refinanced private loan. But borrowers who qualify for a lower interest rate could see substantial savings over the life of the loan through refinancing.

The Takeaway

PAYE and REPAYE tie federal student loan payments to income and family size for 20 to 25 years. They differ in small ways, and each has its merits, but borrowers might want to consider refinancing student loans if they can get a better rate.

SoFi blazed the trail in student loan refinancing, offering flexible repayment plans and charging no origination fees.

Rates have been at historic lows. See what you qualify for in just two minutes.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL MAY 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SLR18183

Source: sofi.com

Paying for College Without Parents Help

Paying for college without support from parents may seem like an overwhelming proposition, but it’s possible. Making college affordable without parental support may start before you even choose a college, by reviewing tuition and financial aid available to you at the colleges and universities you are interested in attending. Choosing the right college for you can go a long way in helping you pay for your education.

Other strategies that could help you make college more affordable include applying for scholarships and working through college. Each student is in a unique financial situation, and you may find a combination of these strategies can provide the help you need in order to pay for college. These strategies could also be used by students who do have parental assistance.

Strategies to Help Pay for College Without Parental Support

Finding the resources to pay for college can be a challenge and if you’re embarking on this journey alone, it may be stress inducing. These strategies and ideas could help you craft a plan that allows you to pay for college. As mentioned, a combination of these ideas may be required based on your unique financial situation.

Choosing the Right College

The best college for your situation lies at the intersection of ones that provide the programs you need to achieve your career goals and the ones you can afford.

Decisions you’ll need to make include:

•   Living at home or in a dormitory or other housing by the college

•   Choosing between a public or private college

•   Picking between in-state and out-of-state colleges

Living at Home

If you can live near the college, rent-free, or at low cost, then this is likely the most cost-effective choice. Perhaps you have family members who, although they can’t otherwise help you with college, will allow you to live with them while you pursue your education. Or maybe you could rent a cost-effective apartment near a community college or other school that doesn’t require freshmen to live in a dorm.

Considering Private vs Public Colleges

Public colleges are, generally speaking, less expensive than private colleges. According to The College Board, for the 2021 to 2022 school year, the average cost for tuition and fees at four year private institutions was $38,070, compared to the public college average which was $27,560 for out-of-state students attending a state school.

Prices get even more reasonable if you attend school in your home state and receive in-state tuition; The average cost of in-state tuition and fees was $10,740.

In general, in-state universities are more affordable than going out of state. But the difference between out-of-state and in-state students can vary widely, so check into your colleges of choice for confirmation. Factor in traveling costs for out-of-state options and also consider online college programs where you can take classes no matter where you are located.

Starting at a Community College

Completing your first two years of study at a community college is another option that could dramatically reduce the overall cost of college. In addition to less expensive courses, it may be possible for you to live at home, another financial benefit of attending community college.

Applying for Relevant Scholarships

Because scholarships don’t typically need to be repaid, they are a valuable tool to help fund your college education. If you’re finishing high school, talk to your guidance counselor about possibilities. There are often local scholarships provided by businesses and civic groups that you can apply for.

These days, you can also find a lot of scholarship opportunities online. There are often major-specific opportunities and more general offerings. It’s worth investing a bit of time in researching and applying for scholarships — a couple hours could really be worth it when those scholarship offers start rolling in.

Recommended: What Is a Merit Scholarship & How to Get One

As you’re researching scholarships, be sure to find quality opportunities and be wary of scams. Don’t shy away from smaller scholarships. While it would be nice to have one large scholarship to cover your cost of college, smaller scholarships can add up, incrementally chipping away at what you need to afford college. Some scholarships may be location-based. Check out SoFi’s state-by-state financial aid guides for more information on scholarships local to your home state.

When you find a college scholarship of interest, check the guidelines carefully to ensure you qualify and to make sure that you apply in exactly the right way. Fill applications out thoroughly, as early as possible within a scholarship timeline.

Proofread before turning in your applications and note that, although you can often reuse parts of one scholarship application to complete another, each opportunity has unique requirements, formats, and deadlines.

Need to fund your education?
Learn more about SoFi private student loans.

Obtaining Grants to Help Pay for College

Grant funding can come from multiple sources, including state agencies, local organizations, corporations, and more. And as with scholarships, this is money you don’t typically need to pay back. The biggest source of college grant funding comes from the federal government, with one of the best known is the Pell Grant .

Federal grants come in different categories, including:

•   Need-based grants which are based upon financial hardship.

•   Merit-based grants awarded to students who exhibit exceptional scholarship and/or community involvement.

•   Grants awarded to specific groups, including students with disabilities, those from under-represented groups, veterans, National Guard members, foster care youth, and those who select certain careers.

Obtaining federal grant funding without help from your parents can be challenging, though. That’s because most federal grants require students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), which, if you are a dependent student, will be considered incomplete without parental information. In the event that your parents are unable to fill out their portion of the FAFSA , you’ll have to contact your college’s financial aid office and show appropriate documentation that verifies that your parents cannot fill out the form.

In certain circumstances, you can obtain independent student status and complete the FAFSA yourself, but parental refusal to help with FAFSA completion might not be enough to gain this status.

Even if you fully support yourself financially and are no longer claimed as a dependent on your parents’ tax forms, this status may not necessarily be granted. See your guidance counselor if you want to explore obtaining this status.

Applying for Student Loans

As mentioned, students that fund their college educations without assistance from their parents often need to craft a financial aid plan that consists of funding from multiple sources. In certain circumstances, students may have found funding from both the federal government and private lenders.

Applying for Federal Student Loans

Federal and private student loans are available, but most federal loans require a portion of your FAFSA to be completed with parental information, unless you have independent student status.

Effective with the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 , college financial aid departments can offer students unsubsidized Stafford loans even if their parental section on their FAFSA isn’t completed, as long as they confirm that parents are not willing to financially help the student or fill out the FAFSA.

Applying for Private Student Loans

You can also apply for private student loans, although, if you don’t have a built up credit history, you may need a cosigner. Private lenders generally evaluate a potential borrower’s credit history, among other factors, as they make their lending decisions. Adding a cosigner with a strong credit history could potentially help secure a more competitive interest rate. If you aren’t able to find a cosigner, it is possible to apply for a student loan without a cosigner.

Another important note is that private student loans may not offer borrower protections like those offered to federal student loan borrowers, such as the option to apply for Public Services Loan Forgiveness. For this reason, private student loans are generally borrowed as a last resort option.

With determination and a willingness to seek out and accept help, students do find ways to fund their college educations without assistance from their parents.

Cutting Costs While Attending College

Smart budgeting and careful spending can help you stay in line with your means as you pay for college. Cutting costs when possible could allow you to save or funnel more money toward college tuition.

If, for example, you plan to rent a room in a house near your college of choice, you can furnish it in funky, eclectic ways using stylish and affordable finds from thrift stores and garage sales. ​If you’re handy, you can even build your own loft bed and other furniture, with plenty of instructions available online.

Recommended: What Percentage of Parents Pay for College?

Food gets expensive quickly. If you’ll be on a college meal plan, choose one that doesn’t include waste. Or if you’re living somewhere where you can cook your own food, plan thrifty meals in advance and shop in bulk. Watch for a slow cooker at rummage sales, and you can cook plenty of delicious soups and more.

Another considerable expense: textbooks. Do your due diligence and shop around to see if there are any used options you can purchase at a discounted rate. If the book you are buying is directly related to your college major, and you plan on saving it for reference in the future, it could be worthwhile to buy the book. If it’s a textbook for an elective class, you could consider renting the textbook which can often be cheaper than buying it brand new.

Working While Attending School

In addition to potentially helping you qualify for financial aid, your FAFSA may qualify you for federal work-study programs. Of course, finding a part-time job that isn’t associated with work-study is also an option.

You will need to determine how many hours per week you can work and still do well in school. And you’ll also need to find a job that is willing to accommodate the work-school balance you require. For example, it’s important to find an employer who will offer flexibility in scheduling during, for example, midterms and final exams.

The Takeaway

Students who are planning on paying for college without their parents’ help can start by choosing an affordable college option, applying for scholarships, getting a part-time job, and applying for federal student aid. As a dependent student, applying for federal aid may be challenging without your parent’s support, because the FAFSA may be considered incomplete without their information.

In the event that other avenues of funding have been depleted, students may consider private student loans. Note that as previously mentioned, private student loans don’t always have the same borrower protections as federal student loans. This is why they are generally considered an option after all other sources of funding have been evaluated.

If private student loans seem like an option for you, consider SoFi. Private student loans at SoFi have no hidden fees and the application process can be completed entirely online. Potential borrowers can find out if they pre-qualify, and at what rates, in just a few minutes.

SoFi makes the student loan process simple. Find your rates in just minutes.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’swebsite .
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SOSL18187

Source: sofi.com

How to Save Money in College – 20 Ways

College is expensive. In the 2020-21 academic year, tuition and fees averaged $38,185 for students at private universities — that’s $152,740 for all four years!

The cost of public colleges for out-of-state students wasn’t much lower, with annual tuition and fees averaging $22,698.

The price tag is a bit smaller for in-state students at public schools (an average of $10,388), but all of these figures have kept climbing every year and show no signs of slowing down.

These numbers don’t include all the other necessary expenses of college life, such as room and board, books, supplies, clothing, and entertainment. At the same time, it’s difficult for college students to earn a lot during these years, given the demands of school.

Plenty of options exist for financing your time in college, including scholarships, loans, and part-time work. But even if you started to save for college early, trimming your expenses while you’re in college can mean owing less in loan repayments (and interest) down the line — and avoiding credit card debt.

Saving Money as a College Student

Luckily, once you adopt a money-conscious mindset, you’ll likely find there are many ways to save money in college. And building the habit of budgeting now can serve you well as you move on to life in the real world. Here are some tips for how to save money in college:

1. Take Advantage of Student Discounts

Lots of businesses and service providers offer special deals to students. You can buy clothing, shoes, and furniture for your dorm or apartment for less at certain retailers with a valid student ID.

Entertainment is another area where you can save. Some movie theaters offer discounts at some locations or on certain days. Some museums and sports events offer discounted access to students, as well. You may also find discounts on certain music and video streaming sites. And you can save on travel with discounts at certain car rental and car insurance companies, as well as on trains and buses.

2. Buy Your Books (and Other Necessities) Used

If you don’t need that new book smell, renting or buying used textbooks is a classic way to save money in college. You can find used books at many campus bookstores or certain online retailers.

Used books often come at a fraction of the price of a brand new book, and many are in perfectly good condition. Plus once you’re done, you can try to resell the book.

You can save by buying other items secondhand as well. You might try looking for used clothing and furniture at thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, flea markets, or on sites like Craigslist, OfferUp, or even Facebook Marketplace.

3. Cook Meals at Home

Food eats up a big chunk of most people’s budgets — in normal times, Americans spend about 10% of their disposable income on food, and an increasing share of that has gone to restaurant meals.

College students with limited cooking skills and small kitchen spaces may be tempted to eat out for every meal. But restaurant tabs can add up quickly.

Shopping wisely for your own ingredients and making simple meals at home can help you save a lot of money — and leftovers from one home-cooked meal can be lunch the next day!

4. Serve as an R.A.

Becoming a resident assistant can not only be rewarding but also help you cut down on living expenses. R.A.s are a sort of big brother or sister in dorms, organizing social events, advising younger students, enforcing rules, and mediating disagreements. Many R.A.s receive free or discounted housing and meals, and some also get a stipend.

5. Cut Out the Extras

One of the best tips to save money in college is to look for areas in your budget where you can trim by choosing a less expensive option.

If you frequent coffee shops, for example, perhaps you can brew your own java a few days a week, or find a less fancy option with free refills.

Instead of always going out to bars with friends, maybe you can take turns hosting wine and cheese nights at your homes. If you belong to a fancy gym, search for lower-cost options on campus, join a sports league, or do your running outdoors.

Instead of a spring break trip to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, consider camping, hanging out at the local swimming pool, or volunteering. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

6. Pay Your Bills on Time

When you pay all of your bills by the due date, you can avoid unnecessary fees and help keep interest from piling up. If you’re worried about forgetting, you may be able to set autopay through your credit card, the service provider itself, or your bank.

Staying on top of bills not only avoids added costs, but may also help keep your credit report in good shape. That could help you qualify for better terms on loans and credit cards down the line.

7. Take Advantage of Family Discounts

You may have left home, but maybe don’t cut the cord completely just yet. Many phone and car insurance plans are cheaper if you sign up with family members, rather than as an individual. If your family is on board, this can be one of the easiest ways to go about saving money in college.

If you’re under 26-years-old, you should be eligible to stay on your parents’ health insurance plan, which may be less expensive than purchasing your own. And you might also see if your parents will unofficially keep you on various “family plans” by sharing their logins for things like video streaming services.

8. Sign up for Cash Back Credit Cards

If you’ve decided to use a credit card, you might as well earn some cash back while you’re at it. As long as you pay your bill in full each month to avoid fees and interest, you may benefit from a reward credit card. You could earn points that can be applied as a statement credit, sent to you in check form, or put toward merchandise or gift cards.

When signing up for a cash back credit card, look for one with a low or no annual fee that offers the highest amount of cash back possible. And remember, any benefits will likely evaporate if you do not pay your balance in full every single month.

9. Frequent the Library

Instead of purchasing books, look for them at your local or on-campus library. Your library may also offer magazines and movies so you don’t have to spend money on those, either. Many public libraries now offer digital loans you can download and enjoy instantly on your favorite device.

You might also consider using the library as a free and quiet place to study instead of spending money at the local coffee shop. To make your library experience even more enjoyable, invite friends to form a study group.

10. Give Up Your Car

If you live on campus, you may not actually need a car and all its associated monthly costs (insurance, repairs, gas, and parking, to name a few). Look into free campus shuttles and public transportation to get you where you need to go.

If you need to use a taxi or rideshare service, you can comparison shop to find the cheapest option, and if you’re looking to take a longer trip, split the cost of a rental car with friends.

11. Look Into Work-Study Options

Federal Work-Study is a program for students in financial need that provides student-friendly part-time jobs to help cover school expenses. Before enrolling in college, you can ask about different work-study programs that may be available.

Bonus: You’ll benefit from the work experience when it’s time to jump into the job market!

12. Look for Discounted Banking Products

Some banks offer college savings and checking accounts that don’t charge the same types of fees as normal accounts do. There may not be minimum balance requirement, either.

Look into different banks and what kinds of benefits they are offering to college students before making your decision.

13. Take Advantage of Free Campus Activities

Colleges often host a number of different activities for students throughout the week. There might be dances, plays and musicals, sporting events and more, all for free.

By choosing these activities instead of going off campus, you can have fun and save money at the same time.

14. Stay Focused

Though college can be a lot of fun, you also need to keep your eye on the prize (graduation) and stay on top of your schoolwork.

Taking more than four years to graduate could blow your higher education budget and negatively impact your earning potential. Some hyper-focused students even graduate in fewer than four years!

15. Buy in Bulk

This one requires a little price sleuthing, but for nonperishable items you use a lot of, you’ll typically save money buying in bulk. This is true whether you have access to a membership at a bulk goods store like Costco or Sam’s Club, or you’re choosing between package sizes at a superstore like Target or Walmart. If you can’t use or store an enormous quantity of, e.g. toilet paper, consider going shopping with a friend and splitting the goods.

16. Turn in the FAFSA Every Year

Every year, you need to fill out your FAFSA form to qualify for financial aid. If you don’t turn it in, you could be throwing away free money.

Though the form may be confusing, it’s worth asking your parents or college counselors for help filling it out.

17. Sell Your Textbooks

Once you’ve completed your courses for the year, you can take the books you purchased and resell them to get some of your money back.

To get the best possible price, compare quotes from your campus bookstore against the going online sale rate. Websites like Bookscouter.com help you compare prices before you list your books for sale.

18. Consider Printing Expenses

You may already pay for use of on-campus printers with your student fees. Don’t spend additional money on printers, ink, and paper if it’s cheaper to utilize the printing resources at the library or other places around your campus.

19. Look Into Local Restaurant Deals

To enjoy a nice meal out while saving money, keep your eye out for deals at local restaurants. Many establishments offer happy hour specials or special discount nights.

Apps like Groupon and Yelp can offer discounts on local dining with just a few taps.

20. Find the Free Food!

You can’t get cheaper than free. Departments and organizations on campus will often offer free food like pizza and sandwiches to entice students to attend their events.

Keep an eye out for signs around campus. You could score some free dinner and you might find some interesting people or a new hobby while you’re at it!

Other Ways to Finance College

Saving can get you far. But when it comes to actually paying for college, you have a few options if you or your parents haven’t saved enough to cover the costs in full. One of the most advantageous is to land scholarships or grants that will fund all or part of your tuition.

These are available through state and federal governments, universities, non-profit organizations, and corporations, and many are tailored to students of specific backgrounds or intending to enter certain fields. You can search for some opportunities on FastWeb , FinAid , and Scholarships.com .

One of the most common ways to pay for school is to take out federal student loans. You can apply by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), which will help the government and your school determine the amount of federal aid you qualify for.

Private student loans can help fill the gaps in financial aid.

Federal student loans are a likely part of the federal student aid package you receive. They come with fixed interest rates and certain benefits, such as a six-month grace period after graduation, income driven repayment plans, and options for pausing or reducing payments while you’re in school or facing an economic hardship.

The Takeaway

It’s wise to exhaust all your federal grant and loan options before taking out private student loans, since they typically offer less flexibility and fewer borrower protections compared to Federal student loans. However, if you need to fill gaps in paying for school, you can look into private student loans from various financial institutions.

When you apply for a private student loan with SoFi, the process is straightforward and fast. You can choose from several flexible payment options, and there aren’t any fees.

Qualifying for the loan, as well as the interest rate and terms you receive, depend on your credit history (or that of your co-signer) and other factors. You can check your rates before applying — in just minutes.

Looking for ways to make college affordable? Explore your private loan options on SoFi today.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’swebsite .
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SOPS19011

Source: sofi.com

Student Loan Consolidation Rates: What to Expect

It’s possible to consolidate or refinance your student loans into one loan with a single monthly payment. The major difference between these two options is that consolidation is generally offered through the federal government for federal student loans while refinancing is generally completed with a private lender.

When you consolidate student loans with the federal government through the Direct Loan Consolidation program, the new interest rate is the weighted average of your prior rates. Another option is student loan refinancing, which can be completed with a private lender. If you refinance, the new interest rate on your loans is based on factors like your credit score, employment history, among others.

Understanding the differences between consolidation versus refinancing is critical before deciding to take the plunge — especially since private refinancing means you lose your federal student loan benefits.

What Is Federal Student Loan Consolidation?

You can combine your federal student loans into one by taking out a Direct Consolidation Loan ​from the government.

Consolidating your loans may help simplify your repayment process if you have multiple loan servicers. In some cases, consolidating your loans may also be necessary if you are interested in enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan . In order to use a Direct Consolidation Loan, you must have at least one Direct Loan or one FFEL.

The interest rate on a Direct Consolidation Loan is fixed and is the weighted average of the rates on your existing loans. What you end up with really depends on what rates were when you took out your loans (some Direct Consolidation Loan payment plans also factor in your total education debt, including private student loans).

Using current interest rates, say you took out a Direct Subsidized Loan of $25,000 for undergrad (3.73% interest rate for the 2021-2022 school year), a Direct Unsubsidized Loan of $50,000 for grad school (5.28% interest rate), and another Direct PLUS Loan of $10,000 for grad school (6.28% interest rate). If you consolidated, your weighted average rate would be 4.94%.

You can also use SoFi’s debt navigator tool to explore your student loan refinancing options and get a sense of what might be best for your unique situation.

What is Student Loan Refinancing

When you refinance student loans, it means you are borrowing a new loan which is then used to pay off the existing student loans you have. This new loan will have a new interest rate and terms, which as mentioned, are based on personal factors like an individual’s credit history and their employment history.

Refinancing is completed with a private lender and borrowers may have the choice between a fixed or variable interest rate. In some cases, borrowers who refinance to a lower interest rate may be able to spend less in interest over the life of the loan. To get an idea of what refinancing your student loans could look like, you can take a look at SoFi’s student loan refinancing calculator.

Comparing Student Loan Refinancing and Consolidation

As previously mentioned, consolidation can be completed for federal student loans through a Direct Consolidation Loan. Refinancing is completed with private lenders, and can be done with either federal or private loans. An important distinction is that Direct Loan Consolidation allows borrowers to retain the federal benefits and borrower protections that come with their federal loans while refinancing does not.

Depending on how a borrower’s financial situation and credit profile has changed since they originally borrowed their student loans, refinancing could allow borrowers to secure a more competitive rate or preferable terms. The rate and term on a refinanced loan will be determined by the lender’s policies and the borrower’s financial situation and credit profile, including factors such as credit score, income, and whether there is a cosigner. Generally, borrowers can choose between a fixed or variable interest rate.

The interest rate on a Direct Consolidation Loan is the weighted average of the previous loan’s interest rate and all interest rates are fixed for the life of the loan.

Private Student Loan Refinancing Rates

It may be possible for borrowers to qualify for a more competitive interest rate by refinancing their student loans with a private lender. Student loan refinancing rates vary widely. According to Forbes, in December 2021, the average fixed interest on a 10-year refinanced student loan was 3.40%. On a five-year variable-rate loan the average interest rate was 2.49%. As noted previously, the rate you get typically depends on your total financial picture and credit history, including your credit score, income, and employment history.

Borrowers may also consider applying for student loan refinancing with a cosigner, which could potentially help them qualify for a more competitive interest rate.

Why Interest Rates Aren’t the Only Thing to Consider

Interest rates aren’t the only thing to consider when deciding whether to consolidate or refinance. If you go with a Direct Consolidation Loan, keep in mind that you might pay more overall for your loans, since this usually lengthens your repayment term. You will also lose credit toward loan forgiveness for any payments made on an income-based repayment plan or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

If you refinance with a private lender, you won’t be eligible for student loan forgiveness, because you lose federal loan protections, including deferment or forbearance when you refinancing with a private lender. But some private lenders, like SoFi, offer their own benefits, like a temporary pause on payments if you lose your job through no fault of your own.

It’s important to think carefully before consolidating or refinancing your student loans. Consider things like whether a prospective private lender offers any options for relief if you hit a rough patch.

Even if you get a lower interest rate, make sure you can afford the new monthly payments before committing. And remember that this information is just a starting point for your decision. Don’t be afraid of doing more research and trusting you’ll make the right decision for you.

The Takeaway

Consolidating federal student loans can be done through the federal government with a Direct Consolidation Loan. The interest rate on this type of loan is the weighted average of the interest rates on the existing loans.

Refinancing allows borrowers to combine both federal and private student loans in a single new loan with one interest rate. The rate may be variable or fixed, depending on the lender and will be determined by the lender based on criteria like the borrower’s credit history, among other factors. Again, refinancing will eliminate any federal loans from borrower protections like income-driven repayment plans.

Depending on an individual’s personal circumstances, either consolidation or refinancing may make more sense than the other. If refinancing seems like an option for you, consider SoFi, where there are no hidden fees and borrowers have access to benefits like career coaching.

Check out whether you qualify for student loan refinancing with SoFi in just two minutes.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL MAY 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’swebsite .
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SLR18199

Source: sofi.com

When to Apply for Student Loans: Student Loan Deadlines

If you need a loan for college, you may be wondering whether a private student loan is a right choice for you. And, once you’ve made the decision to take out a student loan, you might want to know the differences between federal vs. private student loans and the deadlines associated with each.

Keep reading to learn all that information and more, so you can determine how and when to apply for student loans.

What Are Private Student Loans?

Private student loans are student loans that are offered by private lenders like banks or credit unions to help people pay for the costs associated with college. Similar to applying for an auto loan or mortgage, private student loans require a loan application and approval from the lender.

Depending on how much money you need for school, you can borrow a set amount from a private lender, but the amount they grant you ultimately depends on financial factors like your income, credit score, and the credit history of yourself and/or your co-signer (if applicable).

Unlike federal student loans with fixed interest rates and terms, the fees, repayment plans and interest rates for private student loans are set by the individual lender. Because of this, it’s important to “shop around” with private lenders until you find rates and terms that meet your financial needs.

Private student loans can help pay for tuition, books and supplies, transportation, fees. Using your student loan for housing or room and board expenses is also an option.

Recommended: Examining the Different Types of Student Loans

Should I Get a Student Loan?

The question of whether or not you should get a student loan is quite personal, and depends on your unique financial situation. In a nation where, in 2020, the average federal student loan debt per borrower was $36,510 and the average private student loan debt per borrower is $54,921, taking out student loans is clearly a popular decision, but whether it’s the right decision is a different story.

For starters, when deciding whether it’s a good idea to take on college debt, it helps to ask whether a degree would be valued in your desired career.

In addition, there are a few other steps you can take to see if taking out a student loan will be worth it in the long run:

•   Look up the tuition, room, board and other costs of attending your desired college(s)

•   Create a budget to determine whether you can afford those costs after factoring in financial alternatives like scholarships, savings, family help, etc.

•   Use a student loan payment calculator to assess how much you can expect to pay in student loan debt when you graduate

•   Research salary levels in your desired field to see if the expected compensation will cover the cost of student loan payments over time

•   Assess how comfortably you can live at your expected income level, factoring in payment estimates from the student loan calculator

Once you’ve whittled down this information, you should have a better idea of whether taking out student loans is aligned with your long-term financial goals.

Recommended: How Do Student Loans Work? Guide to Student Loans

Other Steps to Take Before Securing Student Loans

Exploring ways to pay for school without taking on student loan debt is the first line of defense in college financial planning.

Since this isn’t always an option, you can minimize your reliance on loans by taking the following steps:

1.    Pull funds from a 529 college savings plan that you or your guardians may have set up for future college costs.

2.    Apply for scholarships and grants to offset the cost of tuition, room, board and other expenses.

3.    Fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form to start the process of securing federal grants or federal student loans and use this money to cover as much of your tuition as possible.

4.    Opt for Federal Direct Subsidized Loans and Perkins Loans if you qualify.

5.    Offset your remaining college costs with unsubsidized federal loans.

6.    Opt out of PLUS loans if possible, as their interest rates and origination fees can be steep.

Finally, once you’ve exhausted the six options above, you can turn to a private student loan to cover any remaining costs associated with your college education.

When Is a Private Student Loan a Good Option?

There are some instances where a private student loan might be an option worth considering:

•   You’d like to cover the gap between your financial aid package or scholarship and your college expenses

•   You don’t have specific financial need requirements, but still want help subsidizing the cost of college

•   You’re looking to shop around with lenders to compare multiple loan options before selecting

•   You have strong credit or a cosigner with a strong credit score who could potentially help you qualify for a more competitive interest rate

•   You’re hoping to refinance your student loans in the future

When Should You Apply for a Private Student Loan?

Generally speaking, it’s wise to consider federal student loans first, but if you do decide a private student loan is the right option for you, you might be wondering when to apply for private loans.

You can apply for a private student loan directly from the desired lender’s website. It’s wise to apply after you’ve made your final school decision and once you know how much you need to borrow, so you won’t have to submit multiple student loan applications for all the schools you’re considering.

Private vs Federal Student Loans

When it comes to private vs. federal student loans, there are a few features and specifics that can help you make your decision:

Federal Student Loans Private Student Loans
Funded by the federal government. Terms and conditions that are set by law. Funded by private student loans lenders like banks, credit unions, state agencies, or schools. Terms and conditions that are set by the lender
Payments aren’t due until after you graduate, leave school, or change your enrollment status to less than half-time. Payments can be due while you’re still in school, but deferment is sometimes possible.
The interest rate is fixed, based on the federal interest rate at the time, and often lower than private loans. The interest rate can be fixed or variable and is based on your individual financial circumstances.
No credit check is required to qualify, except for Direct PLUS Parent Loans. Established credit and/or a cosigner may be required to qualify.
Interest may be tax deductible. Interest may be tax deductible.
Loans can be consolidated. Loans cannot be consolidated, but can be refinanced.
You may be able to postpone or lower your payments. You need to check with your lender to see if you can postpone or lower your payments.
There are several different repayment plans. You need to check with your lender about repayment plans (if any).
There is no prepayment penalty fee. There could be a prepayment penalty fee.
You may be eligible for loan forgiveness if you work in public service. Many private lenders don’t offer loan forgiveness.

Deadlines for Federal Student Loans

To apply for federal student loans, students must fill out the FAFSA. There are three separate deadlines to consider:

1. The College or University Deadline

College deadlines for filling out the FAFSA will vary based on the school itself, but typically occur before the academic year begins. Each college will have its own FAFSA deadline, so visiting their financial aid website for this information is an important first step.

To fill out the 2022–23 FAFSA form itself, you can use your 2020 tax information to apply as early as October 1, 2021, and must submit the application by June 30, 2023.

2. The State Deadline

Your home state sets the second deadline when it comes to FAFSA applications. The deadlines are listed on the FAFSA form itself, or you can visit the state deadline list on StudentAid.gov.

3. The Federal Deadline

The U.S. Department of Education sets the final deadline on the list. This entity is in charge of FAFSA and their website will feature the 2022-2023 FAFSA application until June, 2023.

Federal student aid programs have a limited amount of funds available, so the sooner you can submit your application and avoid encroaching on the hard deadlines, the better.

Recommended: FAFSA 101: How to Complete the FAFSA

Deadlines for Private Student Loans

When applying for student loans from a private lender, there isn’t typically a set deadline in place. Still, this doesn’t necessarily mean you want to wait until the last minute, since you’ll need plenty of time before tuition, housing, and other fees are due to secure the funds from your student loan.

Many private student loan lenders can approve your application in a few minutes or less, but it can sometimes take up to two weeks for full approval. That’s why it’s smart to keep your eyes on your school’s payment deadlines and ensure your funds will be disbursed on time.

What Type of Private Student Loan May Be Right for You?

At the end of the day, there are ways to find the right private student loan for your unique circumstances, all it takes is some shopping around.

Considering the following factors can help you determine which type of private student loan makes the most sense for your personal situation:

•   Interest rates and fees

•   Payment flexibility

•   Lender credibility

•   Ability to refinance or release a co-signer

•   Whether the lender sells their loans

•   Repayment benefits

•   Whether the lender is a preferred partner of your college or university of choice (this information is usually found on the school’s website)

Because the rates and terms on a private student loan are determined by the individual lender and are impacted based on the borrower’s personal financial history, finding a private student loan may require a bit of shopping around.

Looking for Private Student Loan Options?

If you’re looking for a private student loan lender who understands the value of your education and thinks no-fees is a normal part of the application process, consider a private student loan with SoFi.

You can check your rate online and select one of four flexible repayment options on a loan that fits your budget.

The Takeaway

There are several factors that determine whether you should get a student loan — from what you can afford after factoring in financial alternatives like scholarships, savings, family help, etc. to how comfortably you can live with your student loan payments after graduation.

Generally speaking, it’s wise to apply for federal student loans first and turn to private student loans once you’ve exhausted other alternatives. This is because private student loans are not required to follow the same rules as federal student loans, and may lack benefits like income-driven repayment plans or the option to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Private student loans are offered by private lenders like banks or credit unions to help people pay for college. You can apply for a private student loan by shopping around and comparing interest rates, fees, repayment options, and other features on the lenders’ websites.

The deadlines for federal student loans are based on the college you plan to attend, the federal FAFSA deadline for the academic year you’re applying and your state’s FAFSA deadline.

Find out more about using a private student loan from SoFi to help pay for college.

Photo credit: iStock/insta_photos


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SOPS1121037

Source: sofi.com

Top 5 Tips for Refinancing Student Loans in 2022

It’s a new year—and the perfect time to take a fresh look at your student loans. With recent changes in the financial landscape, now is a great time to consider a change if you are one of the 40MM+ individuals with student debt. Refinancing and consolidating student loans can be a financial game changer: You can pay your debt in a single monthly payment and potentially lower your rates—meaning less interest and more peace of mind.

Here are our top five tips to help you navigate and understand student loan refinancing.

1. Know Your Loans

Make sure to take inventory of the current loans you have. Which lenders are they with? Are they private or federal loans? What’s the balance owed and the interest rate for each loan? It’s important to know where you are today to better evaluate your best options for student loan refinancing.

For example, the Federal Direct Loan consolidation program won’t let you combine your private and federal student loans to a single payment or interest rate. You should also understand what deferment and forgiveness benefits are, and if they’re applicable to your loan and circumstances.

2. Do the Math

In order to better understand how much you’ll benefit from refinancing, it’s best to know your numbers: Specifically, the overall balance owed and average interest rates across both your federal and private loans. Once you have that info, you can use an online Student Loan Calculator to see how refinancing will impact your current situation and the monthly and lifetime savings you can expect (if applicable).

3. Understand Fixed vs. Variable Rates

This is important, as most lenders will offer both fixed and variable interest rate options when refinancing student loans. Which one should you choose?It depends: Do you want your rate to stay constant long-term or start out low and adjust incrementally? Head over to our fixed vs. variable rates page for a helpful overview of fixed and variable rates to see what best suits your needs.

4. Choose a Lender

When it comes to choosing a lender for student loan refinancing, you’ve got options. There are many helpful articles and online resources to find the right lender for you, but ultimately you’ll want to find a refinancing partner that offers a competitive rate. Additional benefits can also be helpful—like payment deferral (in case of job loss), career coaching, or discounts on other financial products that can save you money.

Here are a few sites that may be helpful in finding the best match for your student loan refinancing: Student Loan Hero , Magnify Money , and Lendedu .

5. Lock In Your Rate

The sooner you refinance your student loans, the quicker you can start meeting your financial goals with a simpler monthly bill or a lower interest rate. So don’t wait—make 2022 the year for action. Check your rate in 2 minutes.

Learn how you could lower your monthly payments and save on total interest when you refinance student loans with SoFi.

Want event more tips on student loan refinancing? Explore SoFi’s student loan help center for guides, resources, and advice on all thins student loans!


The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
SLR17154

Source: sofi.com