Most people are predicting that interest rates on student loans will go up on July 1. It might make sense for people with these loans to consolidate before the rate increase. I still have a small portion left over from my undergraduate degree but I’ve also begun accumulating a balance from my graduate degree, 90% of which is reimbursed by my employer. Thus, I am thinking about this topic and weighing my options.
According to CNN Money, rates may go up as much as 2.5 percentage points. I’d like to avoid that if possible.
One solution is consolidation of the student loans. There are advantages and disadvantages to consider, however.
First the advantages:
* Paperwork simplification. This isn’t really a big deal to me since I do everything electronically.
* Lock in low rates. Presumably, rates will go up. You can work with the loan consolidator to wait until the night before July 1 and if the rates end up going down, you can consolidate at the lower rate.
* No grace period. If the borrower is still in school when the consolidation occurs, the grace period is forfeited and the payments become due immediately. I’m fine with this situation as I’m going to school part time while working full time. Plus, as my company reimburses me, there will be very little I’ll actually have to pay.
* Only one consolidation allowed. Once the loans are consolidated, you miss any future opportunity to consolidate again at a lower rate. In the current environment, I don’t think raets will be lower in the near future.
* Less benefits. Many lenders offer incentives such as several percentage points off interest for making on-time payments or getting decent grades. Consolidation may not offer such incentives.
I’m certain that in my position, I should consolidate at the low rate now and pay off the student loans as quickly as possible while still maintaining a safety cushion of emergency cash.
Updated September 28, 2007 and originally published April 25, 2005.