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By Allison Videtti
If you’re struggling under the pressure of your student debt, you’re not alone. According to the Institute for College Access & Success, 69 percent of seniors who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2014 had student loan debt — to the tune of an average of $28,950.
While you can’t outrun your student loan debt, you do have options for getting it under control. One option is to consolidate your student loans. With a loan consolidation, a lender pays off your various student loans and gives you a new, single loan, often at a lower interest rate.
Federal student loans can be consolidated through the U.S. Department of Education. Private loans can only be consolidated through a credit union or bank. Some lenders, like Alliant, will consolidate both federal and private student loans.
If you consolidate your federal and private loans together, you may lose the protections a federal student loan affords, like deferment or forbearance, which allow you to temporarily postpone or reduce your federal student loan payments; income-based repayment programs; and potential loan forgiveness, like that offered to people who work in the public sector.
When you consolidate your federal loans through the U.S. Department of Education’s Direct Consolidation Loan program, you can extend the loan term to make your monthly payments more affordable, but you won’t see a favorable change in your interest rate. When you consolidate your private and federal loans through a credit union or bank, you could be offered a rate that is lower than what you’re paying right now.
But, consolidating student loans is not right for everyone. Since it’s a big financial decision with long-term implications on your finances, we’ve put together a little pros/cons list that you might find helpful.
Student loan consolidation can be a great option if you’re looking to simplify and lower your monthly payments, but there are other factors to consider, so be sure to do your homework. And while it’s easy to feel down about your student debt, look on the bright side: College grads earn over $800,000 more than the average high school graduate by retirement age.