Consolidating Federal Student Loans Keeps Graduates on Course

Although many people have achieved the dream of completing their college education, many of them face an unfortunate downside following graduation: paying back the inevitable student loan.

Too often it is not just one loan looming over students, many of whom have yet to settle into the sometimes overwhelming realities of the workforce and daily life.

Student, one of the nation's premier education funding companies, can be the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel by helping students consolidate their multiple federal loans. From Stafford Loans and Perkins Loans to PLUS Loans and HPSL Loans.

"Although the 2.77 percent interest rate on federal loans was at an all-time low between July 1, 2004 and July 1, 2005, the lowest the rates ever had hit in history, now is still a good time to consolidate," said Andrew Ernstrom,

Currently the interest rate is in the 5 percent range and is expected to again increase in July 2006. The cap on the program is 8.25 percent, but projections for the next increase are between one or two points.

"Everyone knew the rates were going up about 2 percent this past July 1," Ernstrom said. "So there was a mad dash nationwide to get everyone's loans consolidated," which allowed borrowers to take their variable rate loans and then lock them into a fixed rate.

Historically during the past 40 years interest rates averaged closer to 7 percent.

An important aspect of consolidation includes the six-month grace period. "Make sure to consolidate while you're in the six-month grace period because you get a cheaper interest rate," he said. The rate increases .6 percent when the grace period ends.

Students have been gung-ho about federal loan consolidation. "The only reason people wouldn't consolidate is because they don't think the rates will go up, but all the trends out there say they will, so it makes sense to do it now," Ernstrom said. The interest rates for student loans are set up off of the 91-day Treasury bill. Since May 30 when the rate was reset, the rate increased about .92 percent. "If the rates were reset today, everyone's rates would be .92 percent higher. And by next July who knows how high it could go," he said.

Student's Federal Student Loan Consolidation Program extends loan payments up to 30 years, depending on a borrower's balance. As many people originally take out loans on a 10-year repayment plan, consolidation offers the same interest rate on the same amount of money but at a longer term, making the payment much more affordable. There are no prepayment penalties for the program, so borrowers can pay off loans at their own pace and have the benefit of a longer term if needed. Consolidation can decrease some payments up to 60 percent.

Even if students already have consolidated, NextStudent can help further lower their interest rate with reconsolidation, which allows borrowers to reset their forbearance and deferment rights, take advantage of new industry discounts and also can lower their payment.

"In the past students who had consolidated did not have the opportunity to consolidate again unless they took out new student loans," said Katie Carpenter, education finance manager at NextStudent. "In the past few months the Department of Education has allowed all previously consolidated loans to be reconsolidated," she added.

In turn, consolidation is the answer not only for students paying back their loans but for lenders. According to the Oct. 23, 2005 article titled "College loan plan raises questions" at (North County Times) by J. Stryker Meyer, "A General Accounting Office report noted that people who consolidate their loans are three times less likely to default on their student loans."

Student loan zone believes that getting an education is the best investment you can make, and it is dedicated to helping you pursue your education dreams by making college funding as easy as possible. Learn more about Student Loan Consolidation at

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