Nearly two-thirds of college graduates leave school with debt, which means many couples have to manage outstanding student loans after they get married. If you and your spouse each have multiple student loans, you could potentially end up with a large number of loans to manage in one household. That might make the idea of consolidating student loans with your spouse appealing. So, can you do it? And, if so, is it a good idea?
Yes — and maybe.
The federal government no longer offers spousal consolidation of federal student loans. However, you may be able to combine your federal or private loans by refinancing with a private lender. Whether or not that’s a wise move will depend on a number of factors, including the types of loans you have and your interest rates.
Here’s a look at options available for consolidating your loans as a couple, plus other ways to make student loan payments more manageable after marriage.
Consolidating Federal Loans
Consolidating is the process of combining your loans so you only have to make one payment and keep track of one due date, rather than several. Individual borrowers can consolidate their federal student loans through the federal government.
When you consolidate federal loans, the government pays them off and replaces them with a Direct Consolidation Loan. Your new fixed interest rate will be the weighted average of your previous rates, rounded up to the next one-eighth of 1%.
Previously, married federal student loan borrowers could consolidate their loans together through a joint consolidation loan. However, the government ended that program in 2006 and no longer offers federal loan borrowers a way to consolidate student debt with a spouse.
Currently, the only way to consolidate federal student loans with a spouse is through refinancing with a private lender. This involves taking out a new, larger student loan to pay off all of your existing loans. The lender will base your new loan’s interest rate on your combined income and creditworthiness, and both of you will be listed as primary borrowers on the loan.
It’s important to note that consolidating in this way will convert those federal loans into private loans, which removes all federal benefits and protections, such as income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs.
💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.
Refinancing Student Loans With Your Spouse as a Cosigner
Another way to commingle student loan repayment responsibility is to apply for refinancing with your spouse as a cosigner (or vice versa). While your loans won’t be consolidated together if you’re approved, you’ll share ownership of the loan with your spouse. This could be a good idea if you would not be able to qualify for a refinancing on your own or could qualify for a better rate if your spouse serves as a cosigner, due to their added income and/or good credit.
An advantage of cosigning versus joint consolidation is that some lenders allow you to eventually remove a cosigner from a loan, which could be useful should you ever part ways. Joint refinancing, on the other hand, generally doesn’t have an “out” clause.
Recommended: Student Loan Consolidation vs Refinancing
How to Combine Student Loans With Your Spouse
If you’re interested in combining student loans with your spouse, here’s a look at the steps involved in a joint refinance.
1. Find a lender. You’ll need to find a lender that offers joint refinancing (not all do). Ideally, you’ll want to shop around and compare offers from multiple lenders to make sure you find the best deal. Browsing around and receiving prequalified rates won’t affect your credit, since companies will do a “soft” credit check.
2. Apply for the loan. Once you find a lender you want to work with, you’ll need to choose which loans you want to consolidate (you don’t have to include every loan you have) and officially apply for the loan. Both you and your spouse will need to supply personal and financial information.
3. Review your documents and sign. Once approved, it’s a good idea to carefully review all the documents you receive and check the fine print before signing anything. Confirm the loan terms you were approved for match the ones you applied for.
4. Keep paying your individual loans until the refinance is complete. When you refinance a loan, your new lender must then pay off your old lender. It may take a little while for that process to finalize. In the meantime, it’s important for you and your spouse to continue making your payments on your individual loans until you’ve received notice from your new lender that the debt transfer is complete.
Recommended: Pros and Cons of Refinancing Student Loans
Advantages of Consolidating Student Loans With Your Spouse
Combining your student loans with your spouse’s through refinancing comes with certain advantages. Here are some to consider:
• Simplified repayment Rather than juggling multiple student loan payments and due dates, you and your spouse will only have one payment to make.
• A potentially lower rate If your spouse has better credit or a higher income than you, refinancing with your spouse may allow you to qualify for a lower interest rate than you’d get on your own. Together, you could potentially save money.
• You could lower your payment You may be able to lower your monthly payment by getting a lower interest rate and keeping the same repayment term. You can also lower your payment by extending your loan term. (Note: You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.)
• Fosters teamwork When you combine student loans with your spouse, there’s no longer separate debt. You have one joint goal you’re working towards as a team.
Recommended: Making Important Money Decisions in Marriage
Disadvantages of Consolidating Student Loans With Your Spouse
Although consolidating student loans with your spouse can seem appealing, there are some significant drawbacks to keep in mind:
• Few lenders offer it Only a small number of lenders offer spousal student loan consolidation. With few options to choose from, you may have trouble getting approved or finding a competitive interest rate.
• Loss of federal protections If you or your spouse have federal student loans and you refinance them, they become private student loans. You’ll lose federal loan benefits and protections, including the ability to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan and access to federal forbearance or deferment options.
• Divorce could be messy When you refinance your student loans with your spouse, you are taking on a new loan together. If you end up divorcing, you’ll still be legally obligated for the combined debt and you’ll have to work out payment terms with your former spouse as part of the divorce agreement.
• You might not lower your rate In most cases, refinancing only makes sense if you can get a lower interest rate. This is especially true if you have federal loans because you give up many protections by refinancing.
Other Ways to Tackle Student Debt as a Couple
A joint refinance isn’t the only way to manage your combined student debt load. Here are some other tips for how to manage student debt as a married couple.
• Be honest — with yourself and your spouse Having a high student loan balance might feel overwhelming, but avoiding your debt or hiding it from your spouse can affect your relationship. You can start by getting acquainted with exactly how much you each owe, your interest rates, and the loan terms.
• Know your repayment options If you have federal loans, it can be helpful to read up on the different plans available for student loan repayment and the pros and cons of each. If you’re having trouble making payments, you can look into income-driven repayment plans or other federal loan forgiveness programs. Speak to your loan servicer(s) if you’re concerned with your ability to repay your total loans as a couple.
• Consider consolidating separately If your or your spouse has multiple federal student loans, consolidating with a Direct Consolidation Loan can help you better manage the loans you have in your name. If you have loans other than Direct Loans, it can also give you access to additional repayment options. Federal consolidation won’t lower your rate, however. It could also extend your loan term, which would increase your overall costs.
• Look into refinancing separately If you (or your spouse) has higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans, refinancing could help you get a lower rate, a lower payment, or both. Keep in mind that refinancing federal student loans with a private lender means giving up federal benefits. And, if you opt for a longer loan term, you could end up spending more over the life of the loan.
💡 Quick Tip: It might be beneficial to look for a refinancing lender that offers extras. SoFi members, for instance, can qualify for rate discounts and have access to financial advisors, networking events, and more — at no extra cost.
Figuring Out the Financial Path that’s Right for You
While you and your partner can’t jointly refinance your student loans with the federal government, you may be able to find a private lender that offers a spouse consolidation loan. Other ways to manage student loan repayment after marriage include: listing all of your loans and coming up with a repayment strategy together, re-evaluating your payments plans, and looking into consolidating or refinancing your loans separately.
Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.
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