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“With (our student loan program), if the borrower makes 12 months of on-time principal and interest payments, they can request to release the co-signer,” he says.“That creates tremendous flexibility, especially for families applying for loans for multiple kids.” Students consolidating federal loans can do so through the Department of Education’s website at Loan gov, by phone at (800) 557-7392 or by downloading a paper application at Loan gov/borrower/and mailing it in. Consolidation provides grads with the ability to combine their student loans into one megaloan, but it comes with drawbacks. Along with gaining a new degree, many graduates will also leave campus with new student loan payments they’ll have to fit into their post-graduate budgets.And once consolidated, they usually have variable interest rates, O’Connor says. Consolidating private student loans when interest rates are low (like now) “could potentially save thousands of dollars.” It also means your interest rate can fluctuate higher as the years tick by.Unlike federal loans, it can be trickier to get your private loans consolidated.Consolidating private loans works in a similar fashion, as far as paperwork goes.The difference is you’ll need to apply through a private lender.

One major advantage of federal consolidation loans is that borrowers don’t need a stellar credit score to qualify, they can apply any time (even if their loan is in default) at Loan gov, and they’ll always get a fixed interest rate.Some are better than others, so make sure to look at the varying terms of each one — staying away from charges or origination fees and checking the maximum interest rate so you won’t get burned down the road.Most also have limits on how much you can consolidate.These include deferment — the ability to suspend payments under certain circumstances such as serving active military duty, attending further education or unemployment — and forebearance, which allows borrowers to postpone payments while still accruing interest, in cases of financial hardship.Federal loan borrowers can also lower their monthly payments by extending the life of their loan, having their payments capped according to their income and by having their debt dismissed after making 25 years of consecutive payments under the income-based repayment plan.

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