Thursday, May 24, 2007

Student Loan Consolidation - "What if my loan is sold?"

I almost feel apologetic in writing on this topic since it seems I do it so frequently; it is, however, one of the most commonly queried topics (student loan consolidation) as well as one of the least understood/most confusing issues. When consolidating federal loans (after graduating), seek out the program that will save you the most money: Educational Loan Company, North Carolina, The Loanster, FinanSure, and Key Bank are examples of programs that offer the best borrower benefits (depending on your selected repayment strategy – see 4/25/2007 tip).

Many students become confused thinking they need to consolidate with their existing lender or the Dept of Ed (in the event that’s not their lender) in order to get the benefits of “federal consolidation” – neither case is true. You can consolidate wherever you want; and regardless of the federal consolidation program you use, the loan will always be regulated by the federal government (meaning your ability to defer the loan, and the other benefits associated with a federal loan will apply regardless of who you choose for your lender to be) … Many students have been asking the question “What if the lender sells my loan?” The obvious concern is that I don’t want to find a program with good financial benefits that I will lose when/if they sell my loan to someone else (an obvious [and common] bait and switch tactic). Asking the question of whether a lender will sell your loan is the wrong question to ask, however – the question you need to ask is whether or not the lender will offer something in writing that will enable you to keep the advertised benefits in the event that the loan gets sold to a different lender. Ultimately, does it really matter who you’re paying if you’re receiving the best benefits? I don’t think so. I share the example regularly of moving to Columbia about two years ago. When shopping for a mortgage, my only real interest was in getting “the best deal” (lowest interest rate; lowest loan fees). About two or three months later, our loan was sold. Did that bother me? No. The rate that we’d contracted earlier was established, so the only change was who payments were made to. This is what you want to ensure with your federal consolidation – don’t be concerned about whether or not the lender will sell your loan; rather, find out whether or not they will guarantee your benefits in the event that it does get sold.

NOTE. I'm sure several of you have already consolidated your loans, not fully understanding the issues I just outlined (the primary irrelevance of who your lender is [from the standpoint of deferment and other general 'federal loan' benefits], or the vast difference in benefits that companies may offer). Understand that if you're in your grace period and the loan has not yet been consolidated [it is scheduled to be done at the end of your grace period], you can likely "get out" of the loan and reconsolidate elsewhere ...

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