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Do I have to go “All In” on student loan refinancing?

Borrowers don’t have to combine all of their student loans when they refinance. In some cases, keeping a couple loans separate is a really smart idea.

Written By: Michael P. Lux, Esq.

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Refinancing your student loans is a major financial commitment. One thing that people often don’t realize is that refinancing is not an all or nothing proposition.

Borrowers do not have to refinance all of their student loans together. Student loan refinance lenders will allow borrowers to choose the specific loans that they want included in the refinance.

In fact, only refinancing certain loans can often be very advantageous. The following example is probably the best way to illustrate this concept.

Student Loan Refinance Example

Suppose you have three student loans. Each loan has a balance of $10,000. Loan A has an interest rate of 9%, Loan B has an interest rate of 7%, and Loan C has an interest rate of 3%.

After checking rates with a number of student loan refinance companies, you learn that the best interest rate you can get is 5%.

The Question: Should I Refinance Everything Together?

Many people make the mistake of thinking that combining all three loans is the best approach because you are still lowering your interest overall, so it is a smart move. Combining all three loans leaves the borrower with a $30,000 debt at 5%.

In reality, the smartest move would be to only consolidate the high-interest loans and to leave the low-interest loans alone. In our example, the borrower could have one $20,000 loan at 5% and one $10,000 loan at 3%. Doing this approach will help save a lot of interest over the years (the exact amount will vary depending upon how long it takes to pay off the loans).

A Note about Federal Loans and Student Loan Consolidation

This is one area where federal loans work much differently than private loans. If you combine your federal loans, it is done through the Department of Education. This process is called federal direct consolidation. Interest rates are not determined based upon what you qualify for; instead, it is just a weighted average of all of your loans. This calculation policy means that a reduction of interest rate is not an option through federal government consolidation.

Borrowers are able to refinance their federal loans with a private lender, but this comes with risks. Significant risks include losing out on the chance of student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans. Many choose to only refinance their private student loans. However, refinancing federal loans can also result in dramatic interest savings. As a result, borrowers need to carefully consider their options when it comes to refinancing federal student loans.

Finally, while there are many places to refinance student loans, the Department of Education is the only place that will consolidate federal loans.

The Advantages of Refinancing All Student Loans Together

The primary motivation behind any student loan refinance is to get a lower interest rate. However, there are a couple of other advantages that borrowers might also enjoy.

Having all of your student loans with a single lender is convenient. Even though we think this perk might be a little overrated, it does help prevent late payments or missed payments.

Borrowers who combine all of their student loans often can spread out the payments over a long period. This can mean more spending on interest over the life of the loan, but it reduces the monthly student loan bill. It also allows borrowers to set money aside for other financial goals such as buying a house or saving for retirement.

Ultimately, borrowers choose what loans they include in the refinance, the lender they select, and the repayment length they choose. All of these options can alter monthly payments and interest spending. The key for borrowers is to investigate the options available and select the route that best fits their individual needs.

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About the Author

Student loan expert Michael Lux is a licensed attorney and the founder of The Student Loan Sherpa. He has helped borrowers navigate life with student debt since 2013.

Insight from Michael has been featured in US News & World Report, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other online and print publications.

Michael is available for speaking engagements and to respond to press inquiries.

2 thoughts on “Do I have to go “All In” on student loan refinancing?”

  1. You can combine private and federal student loans with SoFi. I left my low interest undergrad student loan untouched. I consolidated federal and private law school loans. My private loan was in the high 8’s and variable. My federal loans were in the 6’s. My SoFi loan is in the low 5’s. I was also able to get rid of my cosignor. I will pay my loan off faster and save at least $17k over the life of my loan. I was very happy with the process. I’ve been using SoFi for at least 6 months now without issue.

  2. I want to add that I know some people consider consolidating private with federal risky but in my situation, it isn’t. I’m 5 years into paying the 10 year federal loans. I’m married and with my husband’s income I do not think I would qualify for IBR. Also, SoFi has their own forbearance options in an emergency. I will not be working in the public sector so forgiveness in 10 years is not an option for me. There are also some protections with private loans. Federal loans get super priority where they can garnish social security checks and tax returns and you are barred from working in federal employment if you have federal loans in default. Private loans don’t have quite as broad collection ability. In many states, social security cannot be garnished by private companies.


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