Can You Refinance Student Loans?

Guide to Who Can Refinance Student Loans

When you refinance student loans, you pay off your existing loans with a new loan with new terms from a private lender. The primary benefit of refinancing is that you can save money over the life of the loan if you’re able to lower your interest rate.

While certain lenders will refinance federal and private loans together, you’ll lose access to federal benefits and protections if you refinance a federal loan, so it only makes sense if you don’t plan to use any federal programs.

So can you refinance student loans? Here’s what to know about who is eligible for refinancing, types of student loans that can be refinanced, and more.

Who Is Eligible for Student Loan Refinancing?

A borrower generally needs to meet specific credit score, income, and degree requirements to qualify for a student loan refinance. Ideally, a borrower will qualify at better terms than their existing loans, such as at a lower interest rate. As mentioned, the main goal of refinancing is to lower your interest rate so you can save money over the life of the loan.

The process of refinancing student loans involves shopping around for a lower interest rate and then filling out an application for a refinance. Once a refinance is approved, your new lender pays off your old lender. After you receive the new loan, you make payments to your new lender. Here are some of the common requirements to qualify for a student loan refinance.

Credit Score Requirement

Your credit score is a three-digit number that summarizes how well you pay back debt. For refinancing student loans, you’ll typically need to have a credit score in the high 600s to qualify.

You may need to raise your credit score before you apply for student loan refinancing. You may be able to raise your credit score by doing the following:

•  Pay your bills on time

•  Dispute errors on your credit report

•  Keep your credit utilization rate — the amount you use on your revolving accounts such as credit cards — low compared to your total available credit

•  Increase your credit limits

•  Remove negative entries to your credit report (if old collection accounts show up on your credit report, request that they be removed)

Recommended: How Do Student Loans Affect Your Credit Score?

High Enough Income

Student loan lenders often require you to show proof of a certain level of income in order to qualify for a student loan refinance. They want to make sure you can repay your new loan.

They will want to know how your income compares against the amount of debt you have and they’ll calculate your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio to find out if you qualify. A DTI ratio compares the amount you owe each month to the amount of income you bring in—it’s your total monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income. It’s a good idea to shoot for a debt-to-income (DTI) of under 50%, though a lower DTI (such as under 35%) is even better.

Wondering “Can I refinance my student loans if I don’t have a high enough DTI ratio?”
To improve your DTI ratio, consider making more payments toward your debt, avoid taking on more debt, increase your income, and postpone making large purchases so you’re not using as much of your credit.

Degree Requirements

In most cases, you’ll have to have a degree or leave college in order to qualify for a refinance. Some lenders won’t allow a refinance if you attended a school that didn’t allow students to accept federal aid dollars.

What Types of Student Loans Can Be Refinanced?

Can you refinance private student loans? Can you refinance federal student loans? Yes, if you choose a lender that refinances both, but note that you can only refinance with a private lender — you cannot refinance federal loans and private student loans into a new federal loan. (When you combine several federal student loans into a single loan through the federal government, that’s federal student loan consolidation, which is different from refinancing and generally doesn’t save you money.)

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are issued by a credit union, bank, or online lender, not the federal government. They typically carry a higher interest rate compared to the interest rate on federal student loans.

You may be able to get a lower interest rate on your existing private student loans if you refinance. You may want to consider prequalifying for a loan, which means that a lender will do a soft credit check. Checking with several lenders can help you compare the interest rates among lenders. It might be a good idea to consider refinancing private student loans if you know you’ll get a lower interest rate. A student loan refinance calculator tool for comparing refinance rates can help.

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans come directly from the federal government and specifically, from the U.S. Department of Education. Can you refinance federal student loans? Yes, but refinancing your federal student loans turns your student loans into private student loans—and you’ll lose access to federal benefits and protections.

When you refinance federal student loans, you lose access to federal loan programs like income-driven repayment, which sets your payments at an amount based on your family size and income. It could also mean that you might forgo loan forgiveness, which means you don’t have to pay back some or all of your loan. You should consider whether it makes sense for you to give up these federal loan programs before you refinance.

Why You Might Consider Refinancing Your Student Loans

If your main goal is finding a way to pay less on your student loans and you’re able to find a lower interest rate on your student loans, refinancing might make a lot of sense for you.

It can also be a good option if you’re interested in merging your student loans together to simplify your payments. And if you’re sure you won’t need to access federal benefits because you have a reliable income and job security, it may also be a better option than federal student loan consolidation, which usually doesn’t end up saving you money.

Recommended: How Student Loan Refinancing Works

Why You Might Avoid Refinancing Student Loans

Despite the attraction of saving money with a possibly lower interest rate or merging several loans together, you might not want to lose out on federal student loan protections. You could lose out on temporary loan payment relief (deferment or forbearance) or loan forgiveness and discharge.

Losing out on federal student benefits may hurt you later on. Be sure to consider what you’ll do if you lose your job or have trouble making your student loan payments down the road.

Can You Refinance Student Loans While Still in School?

You may not be able to refinance your student loans while you’re still in school. However, your best bet is to ask your lender directly. Refinancing with a co-signer may help you improve your application and secure better terms.

If you decide you want to go for it, you can submit a formal application, which includes the lender looking into details like the ones listed above, like income degree requirements and personal details. At this point, a lender does a hard credit check. Once your old loan is closed, you’ll then make regular payments to your new lender.

Student Loan Refinancing With SoFi

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.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

FAQ

Can you refinance your student loans if you didn’t graduate?

Yes, you can refinance your student loans if you didn’t earn a degree, though it may be more difficult. Ask various lenders the same question: “Can I refinance my student loans?” and learn more about your refinancing options. If you have federal student loans, you can also look into other options to reduce your monthly repayment amount, such as extending your loan term (although you’ll end up paying more in interest over the life of the loan) or explore whether you might qualify for an income-driven repayment program or forgiveness. Contacting your loan servicer is a good place to start.

What credit score do you need to be able to refinance student loans?

Every lender is different and requires different requirements to be able to refinance. Your personal qualifications also matter. However, in general, it’s important to have a credit score in the high 600s in order to qualify for a refinance. Ask lenders for more information before you make a final decision. You may also want to use a calculator tool for comparing refinance rates.

Can both federal and private student loans be refinanced?

You’re asking good questions if you’re wondering, “Can I refinance federal student loans?” or “Can I refinance private student loans?” The quick answer is that yes, both federal and private student loans can be refinanced, but you must refinance both types into a private student loan, and you’ll lose access to federal benefits and protections if you refinance federal student loans.


Photo credit: iStock/Andrii Sedykh
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.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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 .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

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How Does Student Loan Deferment in Grad School Work?

Attending graduate or professional school requires careful consideration so that you don’t end up with a heavier student debt burden than you planned for.

That means not only having a plan for graduate school loans but knowing what to do with any existing undergraduate student loans. One question many potential grad students may have is, if I go to graduate school, will my loans be deferred?

You could defer loans while in grad school for temporary relief, but loan refinancing or an income-driven repayment plan could bring longer-term help.

Read on to learn more about how to defer student loans while in grad school, and other alternatives to consider.

Deferment vs Forbearance

Graduation from undergrad or graduate school is followed by a payment grace period of six months for most federal student loans. But if you hit a snag at some point and can’t afford payments, both deferment and forbearance are designed to allow you to apply to postpone payments.

The main difference between the two: Interest accrues on only some federal student loans during deferment, whereas it accrues on nearly all of them in forbearance. Any unpaid interest is capitalized, or added to your loan balance, at the end of the payment pause, increasing the total amount you end up repaying.

To answer the question of, if I go to graduate school, will my loans be deferred?, it is possible to do, as long as you qualify for deferment.

Deferment, for up to 12 months at a time, for a maximum of 36 months, may be a better choice than forbearance if:

•   You have subsidized federal student loans and

•   You’re dealing with substantial financial hardship

If you apply to defer student loans while in grad school and don’t qualify, and your financial hardship is temporary, forbearance is an option.

If you have private student loans, many lenders will allow you to apply for a payment pause during hardship, too, though the terms and fees may be less borrower-friendly than is the case with federal student loans.

Do I Qualify to Defer My Payments?

Here’s how to defer student loans while in grad school: For federal student loans, you’ll need to submit a request to your student loan servicer, usually with documentation to show that you meet the eligibility requirements for the deferment. For private student loans, you’ll need to check the rules directly with the lender.

A variety of circumstances may qualify you for deferment. These are several of them.

Economic Hardship Deferment

You:

•   Are receiving a means-tested benefit, like welfare

•   Work full-time but have earnings that are below 150% of the poverty guideline for your family size and state

•   Are serving in the Peace Corps

Unemployment Deferment

You receive unemployment benefits or you are unable to find full-time employment.

Graduate Fellowship Deferment

You’re enrolled in a graduate fellowship program that provides financial support while you pursue graduate studies and research.

Military Service and Post-Active Duty Student Deferment

You are on active duty military service in connection with a war, military operation, or national emergency; or you’ve completed active duty service and any grace period.

Rehabilitation Training Deferment

You’re enrolled in an approved program that provides mental health, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or vocational rehab.

Cancer Treatment Deferment

You may qualify for deferment while undergoing cancer treatment and for six months afterward.

When Interest Accrues in Deferment

If you’re looking into defer student loans while in grad school, you’ll want to check how interest would be handled during the payment pause and whether, if unpaid interest is capitalized, you’re prepared to take on a higher overall cost of the loan.

During deferment, you are generally not responsible for paying interest on:

•   Direct Subsidized Loans

•   Federal Perkins Loans

•   The subsidized portion of Direct Consolidation Loans

•   The subsidized portion of Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program Consolidation Loans

With deferment, you are generally responsible for paying interest on:

•   Direct Unsubsidized Loans

•   Direct PLUS Loans

•   FFEL PLUS Loans

•   The unsubsidized portion of Direct Consolidation Loans

•   The unsubsidized portion of FFEL Consolidation Loans

•   Private student loans (if the lender allows deferment)

If you’re starting graduate or professional school or are in the thick of it, your federal borrowing options are Direct PLUS Loans (commonly called grad PLUS Loans when borrowers are graduate students) and Direct Unsubsidized Loans (also available to undergrads).

As noted above, those loan types accrue interest during a deferment.

Direct loans for graduate students currently carry a 7.54% rate (the rates are set by federal law for each academic year), with a loan fee of 4.228%.

Nongovernment lenders may offer private graduate student loans, sometimes with a fixed or variable rate and no loan fee.

Something to consider: If you pursue deferment on loans in the second category above to manage costs while in grad school, it’s a good idea to at least consider making interest-only payments during the deferment.

Options to Deferment in Grad School

There are at least two other ways, beyond forbearance, to get a handle on student loan payments in grad school.

Income-Driven Repayment

Some graduate students who have federal student loans might want to consider switching, even temporarily, to an income-based repayment plan.

Your monthly payment would be tied to family size and income, which may be low for a graduate student enrolled full time.

The four income-driven repayment plans stretch payments over 20 or 25 years, after which any remaining balance is supposed to be forgiven. After graduation, you could switch the student loan repayment plan back to the standard 10-year plan.

Though borrowers often pay less each month using one of these plans, they’ll generally pay more in total interest over the duration of the drawn-out loan.

The good news is that new federal regulations will prevent interest from accruing in certain situations with these plans. For example, previously, a monthly payment might have been less than the amount to cover interest on your loans. That unpaid interest was added to the amount you borrowed, and the amount you owed increased. However, under the new rules, excess interest will no longer accrue starting in July 2023, which could save you money.

In addition, any student debt that was forgiven used to be taxed as ordinary income, but the 2021 COVID relief package put a stop to that at the federal level, at least through 2025.

Refinancing

Another way to potentially lower your monthly payments without deferring your loans (and accruing interest) is by refinancing your student loans. Note: You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.

With student loan refinancing, a private lender pays off your loans (both federal and private) with one new loan, ideally with a lower interest rate.

A decrease in an interest rate while maintaining the loan’s duration is a compelling way to both save money each month and over the life of the loan. To understand how a change of even 1% can affect how much interest you’ll pay on a loan over time, you can use this student loan refinance calculator.

Should you refinance your student loans, it’s important to first understand that you’ll lose access to federal programs such as income-driven repayment and loan forgiveness as well as future benefits applicable to federally held loans. Be sure to consider this carefully before refinancing.

Private lenders may or may not have a deferment option.

Lenders that offer student loan refinancing typically require a good credit history and a steady income, among other factors. A student loan refinancing guide can help you learn more about the process.

The Takeaway

Student loan deferment before or during grad school could bring temporary relief. It could also add unpaid interest to loans and create a bigger balance to pay off. Those looking to manage payments long term may want to look into alternatives.

One option is student loan refinancing. SoFi offers low fixed and variable rates, flexible terms, and no fees for refinancing student loans.

Plus, as a SoFi member, you’ll have access to a professional-grade list of benefits like career coaching and financial advice.

See what interest rate you may qualify for in just minutes.


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.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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6 Benefits of Refinancing Student Loans

6 Benefits of Refinancing Student Loans

Refinancing allows you to consolidate your existing student loans — you trade multiple loans for one student loan payment. When you refinance, you may be able to lower your monthly payments, reduce your interest rate, shorten your repayment terms, save money, and even add or remove a cosigner.

It’s a good idea to ask yourself, “Why refinance student loans?” before you start searching for the right private lender for you. Read on for a list of the benefits that may come your way when you refinance your student loans.

What Is Student Loan Refinancing?

Student loan refinancing involves consolidating your student loans with a private lender. In the process, you receive a new loan with a new rate and term. Moving forward, you’d make payments to that private lender on that one loan only.

It’s worth noting that refinancing is not the same as consolidating through a Direct Consolidation Loan. A Direct Consolidation Loan means that you combine multiple federal loans into one federal loan through the U.S. Department of Education. You usually don’t save money with a Direct Consolidation Loan, because the resulting interest rate is a weighted average, rounded up to the nearest ⅛ of a percent.

You may be able to refinance your federal student loans and private student loans all at once. However, it’s important to remember that refinancing your federal student loans means that you lose access to federal benefits and protections like income-driven repayment plans, some deferment and forbearance options, and loan forgiveness programs for certain borrowers, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Federal student loans come with benefits and repayment options unique to them.

Is Refinancing Your Student Loans Worth It?

Is refinancing student loans a good idea for you? There are some benefits of refinancing student loans, like securing a lower monthly payment or a more competitive interest rate.

Continue reading for more information on when refinancing your student loans may make sense for your specific situation. Remember that not everyone will benefit from each of these advantages — it depends on your own needs.

1. Lower Monthly Payments

Refinancing may lower your monthly payments because you may lower your interest rate.

Or refinancing can lower your monthly payments if you lengthen your loan term. Extending your loan term, however, means you may pay more in interest over the life of the new loan. Some private lenders may offer lengthier repayment terms, varying from five to 25 years.

2. Reduced Interest Rates

In the context of reduced interest rates, refinancing student loans is probably worth it, especially if you choose a shorter loan term. That said, it’s important not to assume anything. It’s a good idea to take all calculations and factors into consideration before you pull the trigger on a refinance.

Private student loan lenders may offer both variable and fixed interest rates. Variable interest rates fluctuate depending on the situation in the broader market. They may begin at a lower rate but increase over time. In contrast, fixed interest rates stay the same throughout the life of your loan. If you are planning to pay off your loan quickly, you may consider a variable interest rate refinance.

3. Shorter Repayment Terms

Your repayment term refers to the number of years that you spend repaying your loan. A shorter repayment term may save you money because you’ll pay interest over a fewer number of years. In general, loans with a shorter repayment term come with lower interest costs over time but higher monthly payments. On the other hand, loans with a longer repayment term usually come with lower monthly payments.

It’s important to calculate your monthly payment and decide whether a higher monthly payment can fit into your budget.

4. Opportunity to Save Extra Money

Qualifying for a lower interest rate and either shortening your repayment term or keeping your current loan term may allow you to save money. Not only that, but when you don’t have several student loan payments to juggle, it may be easier to budget by lessening the confusion of having to make multiple loan repayments.

5. Consolidating Loan Payments

The perks of refinancing aren’t all money related. As mentioned earlier, you can simplify your loans and eliminate the confusion of having to make several loan payments every single month. Organizing your loan payments can go even further than this. Simplifying all of your bills (not just your student loans) may even give you some of the same psychological benefits of a Marie Kondo tidy-up, such as improving mental health, time management, and productivity.

Simplifying could also help you avoid missing payments, which can affect your credit score.

6. Adding or Removing a Cosigner

Applying for a cosigner release removes a cosigner from loans.

Why might you want to remove a cosigner from your loans through refinancing? You may no longer want a cosigner to remain responsible for repaying your debt if you were to default. Cosigning can also have implications for a cosigner’s debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, the ratio between the amount of debt they have related to their income. Their credit will show the extra debt they took on when they cosigned for you.

Learn more about refinancing student debt without a cosigner.

Tips for Finding a Lender

Ready to find a lender? Start by getting quotes from a few lenders, which usually just takes a few minutes online. Once you have several estimates, compare rates among lenders. Make sure you look at annual percentage rates (APRs), which represent the true cost of borrowing — they include fees as well.

Beyond getting a low-interest rate, you also want to look carefully at repayment terms. Are you looking at a shorter- or longer-term length? Choosing your current term length or a shorter term can help you save money.

Using a calculator tool for refinancing student loans can also help you estimate how much money you may save and give you a sense of what your monthly payments might be.

Life Changes That Can Make Student Loan Refinancing Worth It

Certain life changes and situations can also make refinancing worth it. For example, if you want to raise your credit score, save more money, or buy a house, you may want to consider refinancing.

•   Higher credit score: Making payments on time helps boost your credit score. One refinanced student loan payment is much easier to keep track of than multiple student loan payments. Simplifying can help prove that you’re a reliable borrower.

•   Save money for other things: If you want to save for a new living room set or for your child’s college fund, for example, refinancing can change your interest rate and help you save money over the long term.

•   Lower your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: When you’re on the hunt for another type of loan, such as a mortgage loan to buy a home, you may discover that you need to lower your DTI. Refinancing your student loan debt can help you pay off your loans faster and therefore lower your DTI more quickly.

Learn more in our guide to refinancing student loans.

Explore SoFi’s Student Loan Refinancing Options

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. And 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.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


Photo credit: iStock/stockfour

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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What Is the Average Student Loan Debt After College?

According to data from The College Board, college graduates from the class of 2021 graduated with an average of $29,100 in student loan debt. The amount of student loan debt a person takes on can vary based on factors like the type of school they attended, whether or not they pursued an advanced degree, and whether they received any scholarships or not. Read on for more information on average student loan amounts.

Average Student Loan Debt After College

As of March 2023, the total amount of student loan debt was approximately $1.78 trillion , and according to EducationData.org, there are 45.3 million borrowers in the country.

That means there are a lot of us trying to understand and navigate the student loan landscape. How much are we borrowing? And what can we do to decrease the amount we owe?

As earlier mentioned, The College Board found that cumulative debt levels upon graduation — meaning the debt students had accumulated over the four years of undergrad — was $29,100 per borrower for those graduating in 2021 (the latest stats available). And in 2020 – 2021, 54% of graduates carried student loan debt.

How Average Student Loan Debt Has Changed in the Last 10+ Years

It’s no secret that college is expensive and has only gotten more expensive in the last 10 years. According to data compiled by U.S. News, the cost of attending college with in-state tuition at public national universities increased by nearly 175% from 2002 to 2022.

Over roughly that same period of time (from 2010 to 2020), total outstanding student loan debt grew from $845 billion to $1.7 trillion in order to cover those costs. Though as of the third quarter of 2022, the total outstanding federal student loan debt is $1.6 trillion. This student loan debt crisis is taking a financial toll on graduating students, potentially affecting their credit and home-buying prospects.

Recommended: Scholarship Search Tool

Average Student Loan Debt

There is good news, though: the growth of student loan debt is starting to decline. The average cumulative student debt was $29,900 for 2011 graduates (with bachelor’s degrees) and $32,100 for 2016 bachelor’s degree recipients. For the undergraduate class of 2021, the average was $29,100.

Public vs Private Four-Year Schools Student Loan Debt

The College Board’s annual survey of trends in student aid found that 2021 graduates of public four-year institutions had an average college debt of $21,400, compared to private, non-profit school borrowers, who graduated with an average debt of $22,600.

It should be noted that numbers for for-profit schools are harder to come by, but what is true across analyses is that students at for-profit schools take out more in student loans and default at higher rates.

Recommended: College Finder Tool

Undergraduate vs Graduate Student Debt

Let’s look at this from a different angle. How does undergrad debt compare to grad school debt? The College Board’s annual survey of student aid trends found that on average, undergraduates took out $3,780 in federal loans in the 2021-2022 school year. That same year, graduate students took out $17,680 in federal loans.

If you are planning to get an advanced degree, prepare for a potential mortgage-sized debt load. As an example, over half of people with law degrees have at least $150,000 in student loan debt according to the American Bar Association’s 2021 Law School Student Loan Debt survey.

The Average Student Loan Debt for Borrowers Under 25

There are about 6.9 million people under the age of 24 with student loan debt. As a group, they owe just over $101 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Q3 2022 report .

Average College Debt by State

When we look at the average student loan debt broken down by school and region, it also becomes clear there is a range of highs and lows across the country. The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) puts together a comprehensive report on national student debt, using numbers self-reported to college guide publisher Peterson’s from thousands of colleges and universities.

The numbers reported by schools vary but it does allow for a geographic look at the average student loan debt by state.

According to EducationData.org’s report (updated in April 2022) , the highest debt states (including Washington DC) in 2021, the last year for reported numbers, were Washington DC ($54,945), Maryland ($42,861), Georgia ($41,639), Virginia ($39,165), and Florida ($38,459). The states (including Puerto Rico) where college graduates had the lowest average debt were South Dakota ($30,954), Iowa ($30,464), North Dakota ($28,604), and Puerto Rico ($28,242).

Average Student Loan Payment

A borrower’s monthly student loan payment can vary quite a bit depending on the amount of debt they carry and the type of payment plan they have selected. According to data from the Federal Reserve, typical payments for student loans can range from $200 to $299. Though, as noted, your monthly payments may be more or less depending on factors like your loan amount and payment plan.

How Long It Takes to Pay Off Student Loans

But even as the growth of new student loan debt is slowing, there continue to be outstanding student loan amounts that haven’t yet been paid off — which helps to explain why the total loan balances are hitting record highs.

If you have a federal loan when you graduate, you can choose a repayment plan. The default option is the Standard Repayment plan, which is 10 years of fixed monthly payments.

Recommended: Student Loan Repayment Options

There are a few other options that extend the repayment term or allow you to repay on an income-driven plan. Many graduates take longer than 10 years to pay back their loans, and about a third of borrowers have gone into student loan default in the past 20 years, according to survey data from The Pew Charitable Trusts .

Though, it’s worth noting that the U.S. Department of Education announced in April 2022 that it would eliminate the negative consequences for those with defaulted student loans as a part of the student loan pause that began due to Covid-19 and was extended by the Biden-Harris administration.

There isn’t a lot of data on exactly how long it takes students to pay off their student loans, partially because it varies based on how big your loan amount is and partially because some numbers count consolidation as loan repayment — when in reality you’ve taken out a new loan with different terms.

The U.S. Department of Education lists the maximum repayment timelines for Direct Consolidation loans, which for borrowers holding between $20,000 and $40,000 in student loan debt is 20 years. Direct Consolidation loans allow borrowers to consolidate their federal loans into a single loan.

Recommended: Student Loan Options: What is Refinancing vs. Consolidation?

But it is worth noting: the sooner you pay off your loan, the more you save in the long run because you aren’t accruing interest for as long. Part of the reason so many students struggle to make payments is that their student loan payments are large in comparison to their incomes.

The interest rate can be a big factor in that. While interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and set annually by the government, interest rates on private student loans are based on a number of factors and are updated as needed. Use SoFi’s student loan calculator to figure out how your monthly payments could change at different interest rates.

Refinancing Student Loans With SoFi

Those looking for options to manage student loan payments might consider student loan refinancing. This process involves borrowing a new loan from a private lender. Lenders review applicant credit history and earning potential (among other financial factors) to determine the new loan terms, with a new, hopefully, lower interest rate.

Borrowers who refinance student loans with a private lender may also be able to adjust their repayment term. Extending the term could lower monthly payments but may end up making the loan more expensive over the life of the loan.

Those who want to continue to take advantage of federal loan benefits like income-based repayment may not want to refinance with a private lender, because all federal student loan benefits are lost when a federal student loan is refinanced.

It takes just a few minutes to get a quote to see what refinancing with SoFi could do for your student loans. The application is entirely online and there are no fees.

Learn more about refinancing your student loans with SoFi.

FAQ

Is $50,000 a lot of student debt?

Yes, $50,000 is a lot of student loan debt. According to data from The College Board, the average amount of debt a 2021 graduate carried was $29,100.

How many people have student loan debt in the US?

In the U.S. as of Q3 2022, there are approximately 42.8 million people who have student loan debt, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.

What is the average someone pays a month for student loans?

The average someone pays per month for student loans will vary based on factors like the total loan amount and the repayment plan they have selected.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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.


External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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A Guide to Refinancing Student Loans

Upon graduating, the average student loan borrower has just over $37,000 in student loan debt. Meanwhile, the average graduate student holds significantly more — sometimes up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you’re tired of paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars toward student loan debt, there’s some good news: You can apply for student loan refinancing. Refinancing through a private lender could give you the opportunity to lower the interest rates on your loans and save money over the life of the loan. However, you do lose access to federal benefits, so make sure you fully understand how refinancing works before moving forward.

How Student Loan Refinancing Works

Student loan refinancing is the process of paying off your existing loan loans with a new loan. Ideally, the new loan would have a better interest rate or better terms. For example, the borrower may want to switch from a fixed rate to a variable rate or extend the term in order to lower their monthly payments. (Note: You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.)

To understand why a borrower might refinance, it helps to first understand the major parts of a student loan. Every student loan is comprised of the following variables:

1.    The value of the loan (the “principal”)

2.    The interest rate on the loan

3.    The repayment period (also known as the loan’s term)

When a borrower refinances their student loan(s), they are typically looking to change either the second or third list item, or both. Keep in mind that refinancing means forfeiting federal loan benefits such as income-based repayment plans, deferment, and forbearance.

How to Refinance Student Loans in 7 Steps

If you’re considering refinancing your student loans, you’ll want to compare lenders and select the loan with the best interest rate and term. Once you choose a lender, you’ll apply for the loan and start making payments to the new lender. Here’s a more in-depth look at how to refinance your student loans in seven steps.

1. Should You Refinance Student Loans?

The first question you need to ask yourself is, “Should I refinance my student loans?” To answer the question, you need to understand more about student loans and the specific types of student loans you have. Student loans come in two main varieties: federal and private.

Federal student loans are backed by the U.S. government’s Department of Education. These are the loans that borrowers apply for using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. Private loans, on the other hand, are obtained through a bank, credit union, or other lender, and they are not backed by the U.S. government.

Determine which types of loans you have and which ones you’re wanting to refinance. Federal student loans, for example, can be consolidated into one loan with one monthly payment, known as a Direct Consolidation Loan. If you’re planning on using federal benefits, this option could be the best. If you want to refinance private loans only or federal and private loans, a traditional student loan refinance is what you’ll need. Keep in mind, though, that you will lose access to federal benefits when refinancing with a private lender.

Recommended: Consolidate vs Refinance Student Loans

Always be sure to ask whether a student loan refinancing company can refinance the types of loans that you currently have. Next, use that information to ask yourself the following questions:

1. Am I planning on using a student loan forgiveness program?

Because refinancing is the process of paying off your existing loans with a new, private loan, you will lose any access to the programs offered by federal loan programs, such as student loan forgiveness or income-driven repayment.

If you are currently working towards student loan forgiveness, you’ll probably want to think twice before refinancing your federal student loans.

2. Am I currently using an income-driven repayment plan?

Flexible repayment plans, such as one of the income-driven repayment plans, are another offering by the federal government on federal student loans. Private loans don’t generally offer any such programs. If you need to keep your monthly payments low and have exclusively federal student loans, refinancing might not be right for you. Refinancing with a private lender forfeits your access to the government’s income-based repayment plans.

3. Am I planning on using a forbearance or deferment program?

Both forbearance and deferment allow the borrower to suspend their payments for a period of time and for a variety of reasons, such as economic hardship or military service. Student loan forbearance and deferment are for federal student loans only. If you think you may need this benefit in the future, it may not be best to refinance with a private lender.

4. Do I have a good or great financial history?

When you refinance your student loans, your lender will base your interest rate off of your credit score, credit profile, debt-to-income ratio, payment history, and other financial data. If your credit score is less than ideal, you may not qualify for a lower interest rate, which could defeat the purpose of refinancing. It’s best to be aware of where you stand credit-wise before moving forward with a refinance.

2. Prepare Your Personal Financial Information

If you decide that refinancing is right for you, it’s a good idea to shop around at different lenders to check their rates. Before you do that, you’ll want to have your basic personal financial information ready. In general, potential lenders need some combination of the following information to give you a quote:

•   Name

•   Address

•   University

•   Degree

•   Total student loan debt

•   Debt-to-income ratio

•   Credit score estimate

The information a borrower needs to provide varies from lender to lender, but this is the basic idea.

3. Compare Lenders

Because student loan refinancing companies set their own rates and terms, it is important to do some shopping around. Not only will you want to get rate quotes, but you may also want to ask questions, such as:

•   Are there other fees, such as origination fees?

•   Is there a prepayment penalty if I want to pay my loan off early?

•   Can the lender refinance both federal and private loans?

•   Is there a forbearance program if I am laid off from my job?

•   How do I access customer service?

•   What is the loan application timeline?

If a company interests you, you can submit the information you gathered from Step 2. With this information, the lender will likely run a soft credit check. This should not affect your credit score, but make sure the lender guarantees it won’t.

If you meet a lender’s eligibility requirements, they’ll generally provide you with multiple offers, including offers with different term lengths and interest rates (both fixed and variable rates).

4. Choose a Lender and Loan

After you’ve had the chance to review both the loan offers and the lenders themselves, it’s time to decide.

While many borrowers gravitate toward the loan with the lowest interest rate, it is worth remembering that the lowest rate might not amount to the lowest amount of total interest paid on a loan.

The longer the loan’s term, the more interest a borrower will pay. For example, if you have a loan term of 10 years, you’ll have to pay off the entire loan balance plus the interest that was accrued over the 10 years. But, if you extend your loan term 20 years, that means 10 more years of interest accruing on your loan.

Also, a loan that charges an origination fee could end up costing more than a loan with a higher rate of interest that does not charge an origination fee. Often, an origination fee is added to the balance of the loan, with the interest rate calculated on top of this new figure.

5. Gather Necessary Documents

Once you’ve chosen a lender and a loan, you’ll submit documentation that supports the information you provided during the initial rate check, as well as identifying information.

Although it will vary by lender, you’ll likely need some combination of the following:

•   Proof of citizenship

•   Valid ID number

•   Paystubs, tax returns, or other income verification

•   Statements for all of the loans you are planning to refinance

If you are applying for a refinance with a cosigner, they will need to provide this information, as well.

6. Apply

Once you’ve gathered all your documentation, it’s time to apply for your new refinance loan. Upon turning this information into the lender, they typically run a hard credit check and send the application through a final approval process.

A lender should inform you if any of your documentation is missing, but you may want to check back in after a few days if you haven’t heard from a customer service representative.

7. Waiting for Approval

Once you’ve applied for the loan and submitted all your documentation, all that’s left to do is wait for your approval. How long this process takes will depend on the lender, but it could be as short as 24 hours and as long as a couple of weeks. Check with each lender to be sure.

Once your loan is approved, consider signing up for autopay (if they offer it and you haven’t already). Many lenders offer a discounted rate for borrowers who allow payments to be automatically deducted from their accounts.

Pros and Cons of Refinancing Student Loans

As with anything, there are both pros and cons of refinancing student loans. While you could receive a lower interest rate and lower monthly payment, you will lose access to federal benefits and programs.

Pros and Cons of Refinancing Student Loans

Pros

Cons

Lower interest rate possible Lose access to federal forgiveness and repayment programs
Lower monthly payment possible May pay more in interest over the life of the loan
Switch from fixed to variable rate, or vice versa Fees may be charged
Can change the loan term Lose any remaining grace periods
Condense multiple loans into one loan with one payment Must have good credit to qualify for the best rates

Refinancing Student Loans With SoFi

And there, you’ve done it. You’ve learned how to refinance your student loans in seven steps. If you decide that refinancing is right for you, SoFi offers an easy online application, competitive rates, no fees, and other member benefits such as career coaching and financial advice.

Prequalify for a refinance loan with SoFi in just two minutes.

FAQ

Does refinancing student loans mean the same thing as consolidating student loans?

Refinancing and consolidating student loans are similar and often used interchangeably, but they do mean different things. A student loan refinance is done through a private lender and combines multiple federal and/or private loans into one loan with one monthly payment. With this type of financing, you lose access to federal benefits. A student loan consolidation, on the other hand, is done through the U.S. Department of Education and combines multiple federal loans into one. Your payment does not typically decrease, but you do keep access to federal benefits and streamline your monthly payments into one.

Can refinancing a student loan help to pay off debt faster?

Yes, refinancing student loans can help you pay off your student loan debt quicker. Ideally, you’ll reduce your interest payment and shorten the length of your loan. This allows you to pay less money in interest overall and get rid of your debt as soon as possible.

What are the downsides of refinancing student loans?

The biggest downside to refinancing student loans is losing access to federal benefits, repayment plans, and forgiveness programs. However, if you are in a field that’s not eligible for forgiveness and you don’t plan on needing a deferment or forbearance, it could be worth the savings to move forward with a refinance. As always, it’s best to heavily weigh the pros and cons for your specific situation before moving forward.


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.
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.
The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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 .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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