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Student Loan Consolidation: Is It Right for You?
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- If you are married and your spouse also has outstanding student loans, you can jointly consolidate the loans with anagreement to repay regardless of total loan indebtedness or any future change in marital status.

- Student loans in default may be consolidated if satisfactory payment arrangements have been made with the loan lender or guarantor. Generally you will need to be in repyament and have made three consecutive and voluntary full on-time payments.

- If you are near the end of loan repayment, consider deferment or forbearance if in financial need. Although consolidation lowers monthly payments, it also means more interest will be accrued over the life of the loan and significanlty increase the loans total cost. To best reap the benefits of consolidation, try to make the same monthly payment and pay the loan ahead of time.

- For help locating information on your loans, the Department of Education's National Student Loan Data System keeps an an online record of all your federal education loans and grants. It provides loan descriptions, date of loan origination, and loan amounts, as well as any outstanding balances. You will need your U.S. Department of Education PIN to access the site. (If you do not have a PIN and need to apply, your pin will usually be mailed to you within ten business days of application).

- To lower total interest rates and cost of your loan, you may not want to consolidate all of your student loans (for example, you may choose to include only unsubsidized loans or exclude a high interest loan with a low balance.) Check with your lender which options would be best for you.

- A few more reasons to consider consolidation: Interest rates are expected to rise an additional 1.5% to 2.0% on July 1, 2006. Lawmakers are proposing to change the student consolidation loan program from a fixed interest rate to a variable interest rate, and may also include a 1% loan origination fee (currently there is no origination fee for consolidation.)

Need additional information? EdFund has a publication that discusses the advantages and disadvantages to loan consolidation, and provides tips on saving money along with worksheets.

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