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A Guide to Student Loan Consolidation


Student Loan Consolidation

Congress set up the Consolidation Loans Programs to allow student loan borrowers to combine their loans into a single new loan with flexible repayment and extended loan repayment features.


You are entitled to one 6-month grace period after you stop attending a school at least half time. During this grace period, the lender or loan servicer will contact you and tell you how much your payments will be and how to make them. If you go back to school, you can obtain a deferment so you do not have to continue payments. The Direct Loan Program offers a range of repayment plans:

  • Standard Repayment plan - fixed payment for up to 10 years to repay.

  • Extended Repayment plan - fixed payment for 12 to 30 years to repay, depending on loan balance.

  • Graduated Repayment plan - smaller payments at first and larger payments later for up to 30 years to repay, depending on loan balance.

  • Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan - payment amount is based on your loan balance and your income (and your spouse's income if you are married) and can vary year to year for up to 25 years. The Income Contingent Repayment plan is NOT available to PLUS loan borrowers.
    Individualized payment plans can also be arranged with the Direct Loan Servicing Center.

Changing repayment plans is a good way to manage your loan debt when your financial circumstances change. For example, you can usually lower your monthly payment by changing to another repayment plan with a longer term to repay the loan. There are no penalties for changing repayment plans.


Borrowers who default on their student loans are reported to credit bureaus, so your credit rating and future borrowing ability will be negatively impacted. In addition, legal action can be taken to require payment through garnishment of wages and withholding of tax refunds.

Interest rate

The interest rate for FFEL and Direct Consolidation Loans is set according to a formula established by federal statute. The fixed rate is based on the weighted average of the interest rates on the loans at the time you consolidate, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of a percent. The interest rate does not exceed 8.25 percent. The consolidation rate is fixed for the life of the loan, which protects you from future increases in variable rate loans but prevents you from benefiting from future decreases in variable rates.

Borrowers with Stafford Loans issued on or after July 1, 1995, can reduce the consolidation rate by up to half a percentage point or more by consolidating before the end of the grace period.

If a borrower wanted to consolidate only Direct or FFEL Stafford Loans made between July 1, 1998 and June 30, 2006, the 2006-07 Consolidation Loan interest rate for loans that have entered repayment would be 7.14 percent. To consolidate those same loans during a grace or deferment period, the rate would be 6.54 percent. If a borrower consolidated PLUS Loans made between July 1, 1998 and June 30, 2006, the interest rate for the resulting PLUS Consolidation Loan would be 7.94 percent.

The interest rate you would receive, however, depends on which federal student loans are being consolidated. For example, your rate would be higher if you consolidated a 5 percent Federal Perkins Loan along with a 6.54 percent Direct or FFEL Stafford Loan


  • Lower monthly payments by as much as 45%
  • A single monthly loan payment on one bill
  • Low, fixed interest rates
  • No application fees or credit checks
  • A variety of flexible payment plans that allow you to design a repayment plan that best suits your financial needs
  • Special borrower benefits that can lower the amount of interest paid over the life of the loan
  • No penalties for prepayment, so you can repay your loan early at any time
  • A personal loan counselor who can answer your questions and help you through the application process


  • If you are close to paying off your student loans, it may not make sense to consolidate or extend your payments
  • Remember that by extending the years of repayment for your loans, you may be increasing the total amount you have to pay in interest. Be sure to discuss your options with a loan counselor before you select a payment plan.
  • Not all programs offer the same borrower benefits, make sure you choose a reliable program that offers good borrower benefits and reliable service.


Borrowers who consolidate will not pay any application fees or prepayment penalties.

Credit Checks

Under FFEL Consolidation Loans, no credit checks are required, even for PLUS borrowers. Under Direct Loan consolidation, PLUS borrowers are subject to a check for adverse credit history.


The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the U.S. Department of Education's central database for student aid.  It receives data from schools, agencies that guaranty loans, the Direct Loan program, the Pell Grant program, and other U.S. Department of Education programs.  NSLDS provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and Pell grants that are tracked through their entire cycle; from aid approval through closure.

  • Borrowers who are currently in their grace or repayment period and who owe money on eligible Federal student loans
  • Borrowers currently enrolled in school can no longer consolidate their loans. The Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 eliminated the provision that allowed a FFEL or Direct Loan borrower who is enrolled in school on at least a half-time basis to request to enter repayment early on his or her Stafford Loans if the lender approves. Repayment is now defined as not beginning until 6 months and one day after the date the student ceases to carry at least one-half the normal full- time academic workload, as determined by the school. Therefore, a FFEL or Direct Loan borrower who is still enrolled in school at least half-time may no longer request to enter repayment early to apply for a FFEL or Direct Consolidation Loan.
  • Borrowers who are delinquent or in default must meet certain requirements before they may consolidate their loans. Contact your loan holder for more information.
  • PLUS loans (parent loans) are eligible for consolidation once they are fully disbursed.

One Thing to Note

Once made, Federal Consolidation Loans cannot be unmade. That's because the loans that were consolidated have been paid off and no longer exist. Take the time to study your consolidation options before you submit your application. This checklist has been designed to help you determine whether and how you should consolidate your loans.

Eligible Loans

The following federal education loans are eligible for consolidation into a Direct Consolidation Loan:

  • Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans
  • Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • Direct PLUS Loans and Federal PLUS Loans
  • Direct Consolidation Loans and Federal Consolidation Loans
  • Guaranteed Student Loans
  • Federal Insured Student Loans
  • Supplemental Loans for Students
  • Auxiliary Loans to Assist Students
  • Federal Perkins Loans
  • National Direct Student Loans
  • National Defense Student Loans
  • Health Education Assistance Loans
  • Health Professions Student Loans
  • Loans for Disadvantaged Students
  • Nursing Student Loans

Ineligible Loans

Some loans are always ineligible for consolidation. While these loans may not be included in a Direct Consolidation Loan, they may be considered in the calculation of the maximum repayment period under the Graduated or Extended Repayment Plan. These include but are not limited to the following:
  • Loans made by a state or private lender and not guaranteed by the federal government
  • Primary Care Loans
  • Law Access Loans
  • Medical Assist Loans
  • PLATO Loans


Two lenders who provide consolidation loans with online applications are Scholar Point and Next Student


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