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Can I Convert Navient/Sallie Mae Private Loans Into a Federal Loan?

Converting private student loans from lenders like Navient and Sallie Mae into a federal student loan eligible for forgiveness would be great. Unfortunately, this move is really hard to accomplish.

Written By: Michael P. Lux, Esq.

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In today’s mailbag, we will take a look at Katie’s student debt problem. Katie co-signed some private student loans for her daughter to attend college. The loans were originally with Sallie Mae and then later transferred to Navient. Recently, Katie discovered that these loans do not qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). She wants to know if she can convert private student loans into eligible federal loans. If you have a question for the Sherpa, feel free to ask us!

Katie writes:

Dear Loan Sherpa,

I am a co-signer of my daughter’s student loans that we took out about a decade ago (she has a Ph.D. now, at least), and initially, they were Sallie Mae. Then they went to Navient, I guess. We had always assumed they were eligible for forgiveness for working in certain sectors — public loan forgiveness, I guess it is called. However, we were told that Navient loans are private, and therefore not eligible. Is there any way to convert them?

Thanks for any advice here!


Before Doing Anything: Verify the Loan Status

The tricky part about Katie’s question is that both Navient and Sallie Mae have managed private and federal student loans.

The only way to know the status of your loans for certain is to visit the Department of Education’s Federal Student Loan Database. If the loans show up on this database, they are federal loans. If you can’t find your loans in the database, they are likely private loans.

Can I Convert Private Student Loans into Federal Student Loans?

If your loan is private, it isn’t eligible for programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness or income-driven repayment plans. Furthermore, there is no procedure or mechanism to convert a private loan into a federal student loan. Although some in Congress have made relevant proposals to resolve the issue, these proposals have received limited support.

Borrowers with Sallie Mae and Navient private loans can slowly convert them into eligible federal debt via creative repayment. However, this approach won’t provide the immediate fix that Katie seeks.

Fortunately, even if you are stuck with private loans, there are a couple of ways to make your payments go further.

Option 1: Take Your Business Elsewhere

One of the biggest developments in student loans over the past five years has been the private student loan refinancing market’s growth. There are now many companies that will refinance old high-interest loans at a lower interest rate. The catch is that you have to be a good credit risk for a new lender to take on your debt. That means a high credit score and sufficient income to pay all of your bills comfortably.

If Katie’s daughter fits the above description, she could refinance without having Katie co-sign. That means the loans fall off of Katie’s credit report, and her daughter potentially gets a lower interest rate and/or lower monthly payments. One benefit of this approach is that it would provide Katie with a cosigner release.

Option 2: See if Navient can help out

If Katie and her daughter are facing payments that are not affordable, they might be able to convince Navient to temporarily lower the interest rate on their loans due to their hardship. This could result in smaller monthly payments and a larger portion of the payment actually reducing the principal balance. Navient offers this relief through a program called the Navient Rate Reduction Program. The program exists to help borrowers who didn’t have the money to keep up with their student loans.

The problem with the program is that it isn’t a borrower’s right under the student loan contract. Accordingly, Navient can approve or deny you for the program at their sole discretion.

Final Thoughts on Converting Navient or Sallie Mae Private Debt into Federal Loans

Unfortunately, there is no method in place to turn a private loan into a federal loan. For private student loan borrowers, that means no income-based repayment plans or student loan forgiveness.

Fortunately, even if you’re stuck with a private loan, there are at least a couple of ways you can make your monthly payments go a little bit further.

Next Steps

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 “Can I Convert Navient/Sallie Mae Private Loans Into a Federal Loan?”

  1. Is this true even if the loan was originally (2006) a federal Sallie Mae loan and later consolidated into a personal loan by Navient?

    • This question is pretty complicated. Sallie Mae serviced federal student loans back in 2006, but they also issued private student loans. Navient later took over as a federal student loan servicer, and they did also handle some federal direct consolidation, which could mean the debt is federal. However, Navient also advertises personal loans on their site, which would mean that debt cannot be converted to federal. In other words, the Sallie Mae to Navient timeline really doesn’t shed much light.

      The best strategy here is to figure out whether or not your loans exist in the federal student loan database. The links in the article above should explain the process.


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