Student loan consolidation rates: What to expect


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It’s possible to consolidate or refinance your student loans into one loan with a single monthly payment. The major difference between these two options is that consolidation is generally offered through the federal government for federal student loans, while refinancing is generally completed with a private lender.

When you consolidate student loans with the federal government through the Direct Loan Consolidation program, the new interest rate is the weighted average of your prior rates. Another option is student loan refinancing, which can be completed with a private lender. If you refinance, the new interest rate on your loans is based on factors like your credit score, employment history, among others.

Understanding the differences between consolidation versus refinancing is critical before deciding to take the plunge, especially since private refinancing means you lose your federal student loan benefits.

Related: Should I refinance my federal student loans?

What Is Federal Student Loan Consolidation?

You can combine your federal student loans into one by taking out a Direct Consolidation Loan from the government.

Consolidating your loans may help simplify your repayment process if you have multiple loan servicers. In some cases, consolidating your loans may also be necessary if you are interested in enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan. In order to use a Direct Consolidation Loan, you must have at least one Direct Loan or one FFEL.

The interest rate on a Direct Consolidation Loan is fixed and is the weighted average of the rates on your existing loans. What you end up with really depends on what rates were when you took out your loans (some Direct Consolidation Loan payment plans also factor in your total education debt, including private student loans).

Using current interest rates, say you took out a Direct Subsidized Loan of $25,000 for undergrad (3.73% interest rate for the 2021-2022 school year), a Direct Unsubsidized Loan of $50,000 for grad school (5.28% interest rate), and another Direct PLUS Loan of $10,000 for grad school (6.28% interest rate). If you consolidated, your weighted average rate would be 4.94%.

You can also use SoFi’s debt navigator tool to explore your student loan refinancing options and get a sense of what might be best for your unique situation.

What is Student Loan Refinancing?

When you refinance student loans, it means you are borrowing a new loan which is then used to pay off the existing student loans you have. This new loan will have a new interest rate and terms, which as mentioned, are based on personal factors like an individual’s credit history and their employment history.

Refinancing is completed with a private lender and borrowers may have the choice between a fixed or variable interest rate. In some cases, borrowers who refinance to a lower interest rate may be able to spend less in interest over the life of the loan. To get an idea of what refinancing your student loans could look like, you can take a look at SoFi’s student loan refinancing calculator.

Comparing Student Loan Refinancing and Consolidation

As previously mentioned, consolidation can be completed for federal student loans through a Direct Consolidation Loan. Refinancing is completed with private lenders and can be done with either federal or private loans. An important distinction is that Direct Loan Consolidation allows borrowers to retain the federal benefits and borrower protections that come with their federal loans while refinancing does not.

Depending on how a borrower’s financial situation and credit profile has changed since they originally borrowed their student loans, refinancing could allow borrowers to secure a more competitive rate or preferable terms. The rate and term on a refinanced loan will be determined by the lender’s policies and the borrower’s financial situation and credit profile, including factors such as credit score, income, and whether there is a cosigner. Generally, borrowers can choose between a fixed or variable interest rate.

The interest rate on a Direct Consolidation Loan is the weighted average of the previous loan’s interest rate and all interest rates are fixed for the life of the loan.

Private Student Loan Refinancing Rates

It may be possible for borrowers to qualify for a more competitive interest rate by refinancing their student loans with a private lender. Student loan refinancing rates vary widely. According to Forbes, in December 2021, the average fixed interest on a 10-year refinanced student loan was 3.40%. On a five-year variable-rate loan the average interest rate was 2.49%. As noted previously, the rate you get typically depends on your total financial picture and credit history, including your credit score, income, and employment history.

Borrowers may also consider applying for student loan refinancing with a cosigner, which could potentially help them qualify for a more competitive interest rate.

Why Interest Rates Aren’t the Only Thing to Consider

Interest rates aren’t the only thing to consider when deciding whether to consolidate or refinance. If you go with a Direct Consolidation Loan, keep in mind that you might pay more overall for your loans, since this usually lengthens your repayment term. You will also lose credit toward loan forgiveness for any payments made on an income-based repayment plan or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

If you refinance with a private lender, you won’t be eligible for student loan forgiveness because you lose federal loan protections, including deferment or forbearance when you refinance with a private lender. But some private lenders offer their own benefits, like a temporary pause on payments if you lose your job through no fault of your own.

It’s important to think carefully before consolidating or refinancing your student loans. Consider things like whether a prospective private lender offers any options for relief if you hit a rough patch.

Even if you get a lower interest rate, make sure you can afford the new monthly payments before committing. And remember that this information is just a starting point for your decision. Don’t be afraid of doing more research and trusting you’ll make the right decision for you.

The Takeaway

Consolidating federal student loans can be done through the federal government with a Direct Consolidation Loan. The interest rate on this type of loan is the weighted average of the interest rates on the existing loans.

Refinancing allows borrowers to combine both federal and private student loans in a single new loan with one interest rate. The rate may be variable or fixed, depending on the lender and will be determined by the lender based on criteria like the borrower’s credit history, among other factors. Again, refinancing will eliminate any federal loans from borrower protections like income-driven repayment plans.

Learn more:

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website.
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9 smart ways to pay off student loans


No one ever wants to talk about the unglamorous work that goes on behind the scenes, but it’s the unspoken progress that makes or breaks every successful business owner, athlete, or creative person. It is helpful to have this mindset and to think about student loan repayment like any other big feat worth accomplishing.

It begins in knowing that paying down student loans in a way that is financially smart and effective takes time and effort, most of which lies in the preparation — the proper planning, budgeting and education will make tackling your student loans during the next decade or more so much easier.

While there is no one single smartest way to pay off student loans, there are steps that you can take that will put you in the best position to pay off your student loans on a timeline and with terms that work best for you. In addition to understanding your student loans, your goal should be to build an overall financial plan that includes your loans.

Related: Why your student loan balance never seems to decrease

9 ways to pay off student loans

If you want to understand how to repay student loans in the smartest and most financially responsible way possible, here are nine steps to implement in your loan repayment plan.


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Keeping track of all of your student loans and other sources of debt can be tricky, especially if you are a recent graduate. Your first step should be to organize them on a list. On your list should include the loan service provider (the bank, federal government, or private lender), amount of the loan, monthly payment, interest rate and when the loan will be paid off in full.

If you aren’t sure what your monthly payments on your student loans will be, you can use our student loan calculator. This calculator estimates how much you could be paying each month on your student loans.

If you have credit card debt or other personal loans, include these on your list. With all of your sources of debt, mark on a calendar the date that the monthly payments are due.

While you always need to make the monthly minimum payments on all debts (unless your student loans are within their grace period or are in forbearance), listing them out allows you to identify which debts to pay off first. If you have high interest credit cards adding up each month, a credit card consolidation loan may be a great option to look at.

Once your credit cards are paid off, you’ll want to think about whether your goal is to pay your loans off quickly, or to simply make the monthly payments until the loans are done. The former is a good way to save on interest over time.

Some folks do prefer to pay only the minimum monthly amount on their student loans so that they can save and invest while they pay down their student loans.

If the interest rates on your student loans are low, this may be a good reason to start investing with your extra funds, in order to take advantage of compound returns. If the interest on your loans is higher than you could reasonably expect to make investing, it might make more sense to pay off your loans first. Which option is right for you is a completely personal decision.


No matter who you are, learning how to budget your money should be on the top of your financial to-do list. It takes time and effort to develop a budgeting system that works for you, but it is doable, and totally worth it. To get started, track your monthly cash inflows and outflows for two months.

Total up how much money you spent in each category, including debt payments like student loans. Once you have a general idea of what you’re spending in each category, you can begin to build a budget framework. For example, if you spend $260 on groceries one month and $300 the next, you can now set yourself a realistic grocery budget. Leave room for annual, bi-annual and quarterly expenses, as well as incidentals.

With a budget that is built to include student loan payments, you’ll be more equipped to make all of your payments on-time and know how much is available to spend on other needs and wants. Also, understanding exactly how you’re spending allows you to identify the areas where you’re overspending.

For example, a close look at your budget could reveal that you’re spending more than you realized on dining out, subscriptions, clothing, or even rent — and gives you the power to make a change. And by saving money in other categories, you’ll free up money to apply to your financial goals.


Hopefully, your student loans are already set up to be automatically deducted from your bank account. (This is a good strategy for all your monthly bills.) If they aren’t, contact your student loan service provider to set it up. This way, you’ll never miss a payment because you forgot or are somewhere where you can’t access the internet.

Remember, every time you miss or are late on a payment, it negatively impacts your credit score. Bad credit could preclude you from opportunities in the future, such as being able to refinance your loan to a lower interest rate. Take every extra precaution to make sure your loans get paid on time.

As an added bonus, some service providers offer a discount, usually.25%, if you arrange to pay by automatic payments. When you sign up, be sure to ask if such a discount is available.


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Most student loans allow you to pay more than the minimum monthly payment, and doing so can be a great strategy if your goal is to pay back your loan faster than the stated term. In addition to a faster payoff, you can save on interest over the life of the loan. Even small amounts make a difference. One drawback is that some providers have prepayment penalties. When you contact you student loan service provider, be sure to ask if they charge such fees.

To do this, call your loan service provider to adjust your automated monthly payment to a higher amount, and clarify that you want that money dedicated to the principal of the loan. Make sure, after the next month’s payment, that the money was indeed put towards the loan’s principal.

Looking for more advice on paying down your student loans? SoFi’s student loan help center offers tips, guides and resources on all things student loans.


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Increasing your monthly payment isn’t the only way to put a dent in your loans; at any point, you are allowed to make a lump sum payment towards the principal of your loan. This is a great way to speed up the student loan repayment process without having to commit to paying more each and every month.

You may have more opportunities to do this than you think: Utilize your tax refund, holiday money, birthday money, work bonuses or inheritance money. Additionally, putting income from a side hustle or other passive income towards student loans could be a financially rewarding move over the long-term.




Most federal student loans come with a standard, ten-year repayment plan. With federal loans, there are other options for repayment plans with lower monthly payments, calculated using your income. These plans lower your monthly payments by extending the length of your loan, usually from ten years to twenty or more years.

When you choose one of these options, it is important to know that even though your monthly payments are lower, you can end up paying more in interest over time. Therefore, it’s not a great choice if you want to pay off your loans quickly or pay as little in interest as possible, but it is available to those who are having trouble making their monthly payments.

If you are planning to utilize the Public Student Loan Forgiveness program for your federal loans, you will need to select one of the income-dependent repayment programs.




When you refinance a loan or multiple loans, a lender pays off your current loan(s) and provides you with a new loan, ideally at a lower rate. A lower interest rate could mean savings over the life of your loan.

Though refinancing might not be the right option for everyone, it’s a strategy that every student loan holder should, in the very least, research and consider. Also, understand that while refinancing can consolidate multiple loans, federal loan consolidation is a different process. With federal loan consolidation, the government bundles your loans together into one, using a weighted average of the interest rates.

If you are able to refinance to a lower rate, you will want to ask yourself whether the purpose is to lower your monthly payment but keep the same term, freeing up some money in your monthly budget, or to keep your monthly payment the same (or higher) and to shorten your term so that you can pay off your student debt faster.

Exploring refinancing with a private lender usually doesn’t take a lot of time and it doesn’t cost you anything.


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With all raises, you can use the extra income towards your financial goals. This could mean increasing the monthly amount you pay towards your loans, making the occasional lump sum payment towards the loan with the extra windfall, and/or saving and investing money for your other long-term financial goals.

How much money you earn is an important factor contributing to your financial stability and ability to pay down your student debt. While budgeting is important, so is knowing your worth and asking for more when you deserve it. If you haven’t already, start keeping track of your successes now so that at your next compensation conversation, you’re loaded with concrete data on why you deserve a bump.


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Although not yet as widespread as retirement or healthcare benefits, more employers are offering student loan repayment help as a benefit to attract and retain employees.

Depending on your personal situation, student loan repayment help could be as important than a raise or other benefits. Whenever you’re comparing job offers, it’s critical to understand and compare benefits packages, because although they’re not flashy like a big salary or company equity, benefits can be just as valuable.

If you’re looking for a new job, include student loan repayment help in your search. While it shouldn’t be your only consideration, it’s great to have an idea of what you’re looking for in an employer.

Learn more:

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.




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