Refinancing Associate Degree Student Loans

How to Pay for an Associate Degree

An associate degree is a two-year course of study often offered by a community college or junior college. You can get one of four types of associate degrees: AA (associate of arts), AS (associate of science), AAA (associate of applied arts), and AAS (associate of applied science).

Paying for an associate degree doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s what to know about the options.

What Is an Associate Degree?

Associate degree programs can include a wide variety of course degrees, including general education coursework and job training. Many associate degrees require students to complete about 60 credits.

Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers with an associate degree had median weekly earnings of $1,002 in 2023 compared with $905 for workers with a high school diploma.

Recommended: Can You Refinance Student Loans Without a Degree?

How to Pay for an Associate Degree

There are several ways to pay for an associate degree. Many students use a combination of job income, savings, and federal financial aid. You must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to qualify for federal aid and many scholarships and grants. Keep in mind that if you’re working while going to school, you must maintain at least half-time status (about 6 credit hours per semester) to be eligible for federal aid.

Scholarships and grants are award money that you don’t have to repay. Grants are usually need-based, while scholarships are awarded based on academics, extracurricular activities, major, and other merit factors.

You can apply for both federal and private student loans for associate degrees. Federal student loans are loans that come from the federal government. You do have to repay student loans after you leave school, even if you don’t finish your degree.

You may also want to apply for private student loans if the aid you receive won’t be enough to cover your expenses for the semester or for the year. It’s generally recommended that you exhaust all of your federal loan options before looking into private student loans, which aren’t backed by the federal government. Here’s an overview of applying for both federal aid and private student loans for associate degrees.

Step 1: File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

In order to qualify for federal student aid (aid from the federal government), you must file the FAFSA and fill in the school code for the school or schools on your list. You’ll have to fill out the FAFSA every year prior to the start of a new school year.

Recommended: FAFSA Guide

Step 2: Review your Student Aid Report (SAR).

The financial aid office at the school you’re considering will receive your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for federal and state aid. You and the college will both receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a paper or electronic document that offers basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid. It also lists your answers on the FAFSA.

Step 3: Look over your financial aid award.

You’ll receive a financial aid package after you provide the college with all the necessary documentation. You will likely receive a financial aid award package via email, which will detail the scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans that your school will give you. You’ll then have to accept or decline the aid you receive from the college. If you’re awarded federal student loans, you can decline all or part of those loans.

You’ll also need to complete entrance counseling and the Master Promissory Note at the Federal Student Aid website.

Step 4: Evaluate your need for private student loans.

Do you need more coverage? You may need to apply for private student loans to cover the costs of your degree. This means shopping around for a private student loan lender that fits your needs. Find out if your school offers a lender list, and be sure to compare:

•  Interest rates

•  Student loan fees (like origination fees)

•  Repayment options

•  Whether you’ll need a cosigner. You may require a cosigner if you don’t have a credit history. A parent, relative, or any other creditworthy individual can cosign with you to boost your chances of getting a student loan.

Paying Off Student Loans for an Associate Degree

What are your options for paying off student loans? Here are some of the repayment paths to consider.

Job Income

Ideally, you’ll find a job directly related to your associate degree. You can set up automatic deductions from your bank account so you won’t need to worry about missing a payment. Contact your student loan servicer if you’d like to set up automatic deductions.

One way to pay off your loans faster is to pay more than the minimum monthly amount. This will also help you save on the interest that will accrue on your loans, because you’re paying them down faster. You can also save up and pay off a lump sum.

Start Early

You don’t need to wait to graduate to start paying off your student loans. You can start paying off your student loans early, while you’re still in school. This is a great way to save on the interest that could accrue on your loans in the future and help you pay your loans off faster.

It’s a good idea to have a plan in place if you want to start paying them off early (an online budgeting tool may help). Even little amounts can make a difference over the long run.

Use Tax Deductions

Some tax deductions can often be a big help and student loan tax deductions are no exception. You can get a student loan interest deduction when filing your taxes when you pay at least $600 in qualified student loan interest. Your lender will send you IRS Form 1098-E, the Student Loan Interest Statement. You’ll be able to save money on your taxes as long as you have student loan interest to deduct.

Apply for Loan Forgiveness

It’s important to note that you can only qualify for student loan forgiveness through federal student loans. For example, you may want to qualify for loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. If you work for a government or not-for-profit organization, PSLF forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 monthly payments under a repayment plan as a full-time employee.

If you have Direct Loans or FFEL Program loans, you may be able to take advantage of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. In this case, you must teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency. You can qualify for up to $17,500 on your Direct Loan or FFEL Program loans.

Contact your loan servicer if you think you qualify for one of these programs and take a look at other cancellation or discharge programs you might qualify for.

Refinancing Student Loans

When refinancing associate degree loans, a lender pays off your current loan or loans and gives you a new loan with new terms, ideally at a lower interest rate. Refinancing can help you save money over the life of your loan.

Note that having a good credit score is key to refinancing your student loans. Your credit score is a three-digit number that summarizes how well you pay back your debts. A private lender will also take your credit utilization into account, which reveals how much of your available credit you actually use. Having a high credit score and low utilization ratio can help you get the best rates possible.

If you’re thinking about refinancing associate degree loans, it’s important to understand that you can’t refinance a federal student loan into a new federal student loan — all refinances become private student loans. This also means that you give up the possibility of qualifying for forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge through the federal government, as well as deferment or forbearance options.

Refinancing Student Loans With SoFi

Refinancing student loans can be a great way to save money over the life of the loan if you’re able to refinance at a lower interest rate and you don’t plan to use federal programs. As a reminder, if you refinance a federal loan, you’ll lose access to federal benefits and protections.

If you’re considering refinancing, SoFi offers competitive rates, no origination fee, and unemployment protection. You can also talk to a representative who can walk you through the process.

Find out if SoFi student loan refinancing is right for you.

FAQ

How much are student loans for an associate degree?

Federal and private student loan lenders may charge a variety of fees for associate degree student loans, including origination fees, late payment fees, and returned check fees. However, some lenders don’t charge any of these fees at all. It’s a good idea to do a side-by-side comparison of all costs before you choose one lender over another.

Does FAFSA cover associate degrees?

Yes, you can tap into federal student aid options to pay for associate degrees. You must file the FAFSA and send the information to the schools on your list that you’re considering to complete your associate degree. You may qualify for a combination of federal student loans, grants, and work-study for student loans for an associate degree. One of the best things you can do is to talk through the details with a financial aid professional at the college you plan to attend.

Can you refinance after your associate degree?

Yes, you can refinance associate degree student loans after you obtain your associate degree. You’ll want to determine whether you can get a better interest rate and/or pay your loans off faster with a refinance. However, note that you’ll lose access to federal loan benefits and protections when you refinance. Federal programs such as forgiveness and income-driven repayment do not apply to private student loans.


Photo credit: iStock/SolStock

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.


Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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Explaining Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Most of us simply don’t have the cash on hand to pay for college or graduate school out of our pockets. For the 2023-24 school year, the College Board estimates it costs $41,540 on average annually to attend a private non-profit four year university and $11,260 for in-state students at a public four-year school.

That means you might need to take out student loans to fund your education.To make sure you’re not in danger of defaulting on your loans or paying too much, you might want to understand some basics of student loans.

When you take out student loans, they’re either private or federal — meaning they either come from a private lender, like a bank, or are backed by the federal government.

Federal student loans are either subsidized or unsubsidized Direct Loans. There are also Federal Direct PLUS loans for parents or graduate and professional students. Interest rates for federal loans are set by Congress and stay fixed for the life of the loan. Federal student loans come with certain protections for repayment.

But what are the differences in the types of federal loans? When you’re weighing your options, you might want to understand some of the differences between a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan vs. a Direct Subsidized Loan vs. a private student loan, so you can evaluate all of your options.

What Is a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan?

The federal government offers two umbrellas of Direct Loans: unsubsidized and subsidized. When you take out a loan, the principal amount of the loan begins to accrue interest as soon as the loan is disbursed (when the loan is paid out to you). That interest has to be paid or it is added onto the loan amount.

Subsidized Federal Student Loans

On a Federal Direct Subsidized Loan, the federal government (specifically, the US Department of Education) pays the interest while you’re in school, during the six-month grace period after you graduate, and if you temporarily defer the loans. On a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you are responsible for paying all of the interest on the loan from the moment it starts accruing.

Since the interest is paid for you while you are in school on a subsidized loan, it doesn’t accrue. So the amount you owe after the post-graduation grace period is the same as the amount you originally borrowed.

Unsubsidized Federal Student Loans

On a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, the interest accumulates even while you’re in school and during the grace period — even though you aren’t required to make any payments while in school.

The interest is then capitalized, meaning it gets added to the total principal amount of your loan. That amount in turn accrues interest, and you end up owing more when you graduate than you originally borrowed.

Of course, you can make interest payments on your unsubsidized loan while you’re in school to save yourself money in the long run. However, you’re not required to start paying off the loan (principal plus interest) until six months after leaving school.

For the 2023-2024 school year, the interest rate on Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans for undergraduates is 5.50%, the rate on Direct Unsubsidized Loans for graduate and professional students is 7.05%, and the rate on Direct PLUS Loans for graduate students, professional students, and parents is 8.05%. The interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and are set annually by Congress.

Origination fees for unsubsidized and subsidized loans is set at 5.50% for the 2023-2024 academic year.

How Do You Apply for a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan?

The first step to finding out what kind of financial aid you qualify for, including Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Subsidized Loans, is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).

Your school will then use your FAFSA to present you with a financial aid package, which may include Federal Direct Unsubsidized and Subsidized Loans and other forms of financial aid like scholarships, grants, or eligibility for the work-study program.

The financial aid and loans you’re eligible for is determined by your financial need, the cost of school, and things like your year in school and if you’re a dependent or not.

Who Qualifies for Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans?

Federal Direct Subsidized Loans are awarded based on financial need. However, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are not based on financial need.

To receive either type of loan, you must be enrolled in school at least half-time and enrolled at a school that participates in the Federal Direct Loan program. And while subsidized loans are only available to undergraduates, unsubsidized loans are available to undergrads, grad students, and professional degree students.

Pros and Cons of a Federal Unsubsidized Direct Loan

There are pros and cons to taking out federal unsubsidized direct loans.

Pros

•   Both undergraduates and graduate students qualify for Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

•   Borrowers don’t have to prove financial need to receive an unsubsidized loan.

•   The loan limit is higher than on subsidized loans.

•   Federal Direct Loans, compared to private loans, come with income-based repayment plan options and certain protections in case of default.

Cons

•   Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans put all the responsibility for the interest on you (as opposed to subsidized loans). Interest accrues while students are in school and is then capitalized, or added to the total loan amount.

•   There are limits on the loan amounts.

Recommended: Should I Refinance My Federal Loans?

The Takeaway

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students and are not awarded based on financial need. Unlike subsidized loans, the government does not cover the interest that accrues while students are enrolled in school. Unsubsidized federal loans are eligible for federal benefits like income-driven repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


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.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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.

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Reasons Why You Would Put Money Into a Savings Account

6 Benefits of Having a Savings Account

Keeping all your cash in a checking account may seem like the simplest way to manage your money. But if that’s the only type of bank account you have, you’re missing out on all the benefits that come with a savings account.

No matter what your financial goals are or how much money you’re able to set aside, opening a savings account is probably a good idea. You typically don’t need a lot of money to open a savings account, and a high-yield savings account allows you to earn a competitive interest rate while still keeping your money safe and accessible.

Read on to learn why a savings account can be an important component in anyone’s financial toolkit.

1. Separate Your Saving From Your Spending

A savings account is designed to hold money you don’t need right away. Maybe you’re looking to save up for a large upcoming expense, like a vacation, car, or downpayment on a home. Or, perhaps you want to build an emergency fund to provide backup for any unexpected bumps in the road (like a medical bill, car repair, or loss of income). A savings account can help you reach these goals by putting some distance between your savings and your daily spending needs.

Without a savings account, it can be all too easy for the money in your checking account to become an all-purpose fund where you spend more than you planned. If funds earmarked for future spending are stored in your savings account, you might think twice about delaying your future plans for an impulse purchase like new shoes or a fancy meal out.

You might even opt to open multiple savings accounts to help you organize your cash by goals. Maybe you have an emergency fund but are saving for a trip or new furniture. Savings accounts are typically easy to open and separating your money can help you monitor progress towards each goal.

💡 Quick Tip: Tired of paying pointless bank fees? When you open a bank account online you often avoid excess charges.

2. Your Money Is Insured

With investing, you could lose money, break even, or earn a return — there are no guarantees. If you open a savings account at a bank insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) or a credit union insured by the National Credit Union Association (NCUA), on the other hand, your money is guaranteed up to $250,000 per depositor, per ownership category.

This means that even if the financial institution fails, your savings are protected up to that limit. You would either receive that money directly or, more likely, a new account would be opened for you at another bank with the same balance you had before.

Your money is generally safer in a savings account than under the mattress or in a piggy bank. If your stash of cash were stolen or destroyed in a fire or flood, you likely would not be able to get your money back.

3. You Earn Interest on Deposits

Savings accounts typically offer a higher annual percentage yield (APY) than checking accounts, which are designed for spending and not necessarily for accumulating large balances. This allows you to earn money on your money just by letting it sit in the bank.

While the average savings account APY is only 0.47%, some banks and credit unions offer much more than the average. The best savings account interest rates are now around 5.00%. If you put $10,000 into a savings account that pays 5.00% APY, you would earn about $500 in a year. An account paying just 0.40% APY, on the other hand, would earn about $40. The more you deposit, and the longer it stays in the account, the greater the difference in returns.

Generally, you can find the highest APYs and lowest fees at online-only banks. Without the added expenses of large branch networks, online banks are usually able to offer more favorable returns than national brick-and-mortar institutions.

Earn up to 4.60% APY with a high-yield savings account from SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings account and earn up to 4.60% APY - with no minimum balance and no account fees.


4. It Doesn’t Require a Large Initial Investment

Many investments, such as mutual funds, require a significant amount of money as an initial investment, sometimes thousands of dollars. Savings accounts, on the other hand, typically have a low bar for entry. Traditional brick-and-mortar banks often request an initial deposit, but it can be as low as $25 to $100. Many online-only banks have no minimum deposit requirements.

With some traditional savings accounts, you need to keep your average monthly balance above a certain threshold (such as $300 or $500) to earn a certain interest rate or to avoid monthly fees. Many online savings accounts, however, don’t charge monthly service fees, and don’t require that you keep a specific amount of money in the account to avoid fees or get a certain APY.

5. Your Money Is Accessible

Unlike investment accounts, most savings accounts (even online-online accounts) can be accessed any time at an ATM. Just insert your debit card, tap some buttons, and you can get your money in hand. With a traditional savings account, you can also get cash in person at a teller.

If you need more money in your checking account, you can simply go online or use your bank’s app to transfer money from your savings account to your checking account, even if the accounts are at two different banks.

This is why many people use a savings account for their emergency fund. When the unexpected happens, you can easily access the funds you need and immediately deal with the problem. There’s no waiting period or need to sell off investments to gain access to your money.

That said, savings accounts typically come with withdrawal limits, often six per month. If you exceed your bank’s monthly limit, you may get hit with a fee. These limits aren’t necessarily a bad thing, though. After all, savings accounts are designed for saving rather than spending.

6. You Can Put Saving on Auto Pilot

Finding extra cash to set aside each month isn’t always easy. A great way to make sure you’re working towards your near-term savings goals is to establish an automatic monthly deposit into a savings account. This can help you build up your savings without thinking about it.

You can automate saving by setting up a recurring transfer from your checking account to your savings account on the same day each month (perhaps right after you get paid). Or, you might choose to automatically direct deposit a portion of each paycheck into savings, with the rest going to checking.

It’s fine to start small. Since the money will get added to your account every month without fail, putting just $50 or $100 a month into savings can add up to a significant sum over time.

If you’re married or in a domestic partnership, you might consider opening a joint savings account to help you work towards mutual goals. You can each set up an automatic deposit into that account, doubling your efforts.

💡 Quick Tip: Want a simple way to save more everyday? When you turn on Roundups, all of your debit card purchases are automatically rounded up to the next dollar and deposited into your online savings account.

The Takeaway

Opening a savings account is a good way to keep savings safe and easily accessible while earning a higher interest rate than checking accounts provide. This type of account can be a great choice for your emergency fund or to work towards short-term savings goals, like a vacation, home upgrade, or large purchase.

If you decide a savings account is what you need, shopping around to compare APYs, account fees, and features can help you choose the right savings account to meet your goals.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


Photo credit: iStock/Povozniuk

SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


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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Guide to Refinancing Student Loans With Bad Credit

Guide to Refinancing Student Loans With Bad Credit

It’s possible to refinance your student loans with bad credit, but you may face challenges getting approved with a low credit score. This may also lead to a higher interest rate.

When you refinance your student loans, a private lender will take a look at your credit score to evaluate how well you’ve paid off debt in the past. A higher credit score may improve your chances of approval and could help you secure a more competitive interest rate. But your credit score isn’t the only factor lenders review. Lenders typically also take a look at your income, current employment situation, and financial history.

Read on for strategies to refinance student loans with bad credit.

What Is Student Loan Refinancing?

Refinancing student loans means that you take some or all of your student loans and replace them with one new loan to achieve a repayment advantage. For example, you may refinance in order to get a lower interest rate and, as a result, pay less over the life of your loan. You may also refinance to extend your loan term, which will lower your monthly payments (but doing so will also result in paying more interest over time).

You can refinance both private and federal student loans. As you are deciding when to refinance student loans it’s important to understand that if you refinance federal student loans, you lose certain benefits with your loan, such as deferment and public service-based loan forgiveness.


💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

What Is Considered Bad Credit?

Your credit score is a three-digit number that shows how well you pay back debt.

What is a bad credit score? The definition of “bad credit” varies depending on the credit scoring model used. A credit scoring model is a statistical analysis used by credit bureaus to evaluate your creditworthiness. “Bad credit” simply means that your credit reports, or records of how well you’ve paid off debt, reveal negative credit actions that you’ve had in the past.

According to FICO®, one of the most popular scoring models, a bad credit score is anything below 670. Another popular scoring model, VantageScore, considers a bad credit score below 661. To put it in perspective, a credit score ranges from 300 to 850.

Some lenders require a minimum credit score to refinance student loans. Requirements vary by lender, so check in with the lenders you are considering to understand their minimum requirements. And keep in mind that lenders evaluate factors beyond just your credit score when making lending decisions.

Strategies for Refinancing With Bad Credit

If you plan on refinancing student loans with bad credit, you may want to consider backtracking and checking your credit reports. There may be mistakes on your credit reports that are hurting your credit score. For example, you have already paid off a particular loan but your credit report shows that you haven’t yet.

You can obtain a free copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — which track your credit.

There are other strategies you can consider as well: refinancing with a cosigner, improving your credit score or debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, looking into credit unions, considering nonprofit debt consolidation, checking into secured loans, and looking for lenders with lower credit requirements. Let’s take a look at each option for student loan refinance for bad credit.

Refinance With a Cosigner

If you have a relatively low credit score, applying with a cosigner increases your chances of getting approved for a student loan refinance.

Refinancing student debt with a cosigner means that you ask someone else to agree to help you repay a loan along with you. Cosigners are equally obligated to repay a student loan and are liable if you fail to repay your loan. Any missed payments will affect both you and your cosigner’s credit history.

Build Your Credit Score

You can build your credit score by making payments on time to your creditors, catching up on accounts for which you still owe money, and limiting credit applications. Let’s take a look at all of these student loan refinance need to know opportunities to build your credit score:

•   Make on-time payments: Making all payments on time is one of the best ways to improve your credit score. You may want to consider setting up auto pay to avoid missing or making late payments.

•   Pay off delinquent or defaulted accounts: If you have accounts for which you still owe money, pay them off. Pulling all accounts up to “paid” status can help your credit score. If you think you need help organizing and prioritizing, you may want to reach out to a credit counselor for assistance. It’s also a good idea to get current on revolving credit balances (such as credit cards and other lines of credit) because paying late or skipping payments can hurt your credit as well.

•   Limit credit applications: Continually applying for credit can hurt your credit score because every time a lender does a hard credit check, your credit takes a small hit. All of those credit checks can slow your progress in improving your credit score.

Building credit by doing things like making on-time payments is one of the best ways to improve your credit score. Use credit cards responsibly and pay off the balance each month, get a secured credit card, or become an authorized user on another individual’s credit card.

Improve Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

What is a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio? DTI refers to your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income — the amount of money you have coming into your household.

The best way to improve your DTI is to reduce your debt payments each month or add more income to your household each month. There are several ways to make this happen: paying off your debt (including credit cards, personal loans, auto loans), adding a second or side job to your already-existing income, negotiating a raise at work, working overtime, or applying for a higher-paying job.

Recommended: Why Your Debt to Income Ratio Matters

Check Credit Union Requirements

In addition to banks, online lenders, and other types of lenders, credit unions also offer student loan refinancing opportunities. A credit union is a non-profit financial services cooperative that exists to serve its members. You must be a member of a credit union in order to borrow money from it.

If you already belong to a credit union, consider finding out the credit qualifications necessary for refinancing student loans with that credit union. Shop around among credit unions or other alternative banking solutions to learn more about interest rates, overall payoff amounts, repayment flexibility, and how well each institution treats its customers.

Nonprofit Debt Consolidation

Nonprofit debt consolidation can help you put all of your debts into one manageable payment. It offers a two-pronged advantage: You lower your monthly payment and eventually eliminate unsecured debt, which is debt that isn’t backed by collateral.

Credit card debt is a good example of a debt not backed by collateral. A mortgage, on the other hand, is backed by collateral — the collateral is the home that you borrowed money to purchase. A student loan is a type of unsecured debt because it is not backed by collateral.

Why tap into a nonprofit credit counseling agency for help? They must act in your best interest, though you will have to pay fees for the service. Trained debt counselors can help you come up with a debt payment plan, debt settlement plan, debt consolidation loan, or, if absolutely necessary, declare bankruptcy.

It’s important to note that only unsecured debt is eligible for consolidation.

Secured Loans

Secured loans are backed by collateral, such as a car (in the case of an auto loan) or a house (in the case of a mortgage). If you stop making your payments, the lender can take the collateral backing your loan (the auto or home) to satisfy the debt.

Generally, personal loans are unsecured and can be used for almost any expense. However, some personal loans may be secured by some form of collateral. When evaluating a secured vs. unsecured personal loan, look at things like the interest rate and the type of collateral required to back the loan. Keep in mind that collateral can be seized by the lender if there are issues with repayment.

However, you can use a secured loan to pay for a student loan refinance if you find better terms through a secured loan. For example, you could choose to get a second mortgage to pay for educational expenses.

Unsecured debt is usually considered riskier by lenders (because it isn’t backed by collateral) and may come with a higher interest rate, which is why secured debt may seem more appealing.

Look for Lenders With Lower Credit Requirements

Think you’re ready to pursue a student loan refinance with lower credit requirements? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of doing so.

Pros

Cons

Can help with debt management by consolidating all loans into one loan You may have trouble qualifying for a refinance due to bad credit
You may save money by qualifying for a lower interest rate, which often reduces the amount of money you pay toward your loans over time You may pay more for your loan due to higher interest rates for those with bad credit
You can transfer Parent PLUS Loans (a federal loan that parents can take out to finance the cost of college) to the student instead of keeping it in the parents’ name You will lose access to federal benefits if you refinance federal student loans

In order to get the best rates and terms, you may want to consider beefing up your credit score before you apply for a refinance. Consider taking a look at a calculator for student loan refinancing to help you learn about the costs.

Alternatives to Refinancing Student Loans

Refinancing your student loans isn’t your only option. Keep in mind that refinancing federal loans eliminates them from federal programs and protection like income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. You may also want to consider a few alternatives, including consolidation, forgiveness, deferment, or forbearance (for federal student loans), or talk to your lender about your options.

•   IDR plans: The U.S. Department of Education has a website called Federal Student Aid where student loan holders can find four types of IDR plans. They are, with the repayment terms, as follows:

◦   IDR Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Plan: 20 years

◦   Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan: 10 or 25 years

◦   Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan: 20 or 25 years

◦   Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan: 25 years

•   Consolidation: Consolidation allows you to combine all of your federal student loans into one monthly payment with one servicer. Consolidation won’t lower your interest rate — the new rate is the weighted average of your existing interest rates. You cannot consolidate private student loans — you may only refinance them.

•   Forgiveness: If you have federal student loans, you may want to consider looking into student loan forgiveness options, which means that you do not have to repay your loans in part or full if you meet specific requirements. For example, you may be able to tap into teacher loan forgiveness, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), income-driven repayment plans, military service forgiveness, or other options.

•   Deferment or forbearance: Deferment and forbearance allow you to temporarily postpone or reduce your payments. Borrowers with federal loans may qualify to defer repayment due to cancer treatment, economic hardship, graduate school, military service and post-active student duty, rehabilitation training, unemployment, and more. Private lenders may have their own programs for forbearance. Check in with your private lender directly.

•   Talk to your lender or loan servicer: You can also talk through all your payment options with your loan servicer. If you’re having trouble making your payments, explain how and why (and be prepared to show proof).

The Takeaway

Borrowers with a low credit score (a bad credit score is defined as a FICO score below 670 or a VantageScore below 661), may find it challenging to get a student loan refinance with bad credit without a cosigner.

However, there are other avenues you can take for student loan refinancing with bad credit, including improving your credit score, improving your DTI, researching options with a credit union, non-profit debt consolidation, or getting a secured loan. You may also want to consider alternatives to refinancing private student loans with bad credit if you have federal student loans, through consolidation, forgiveness, deferment, or forbearance. You may also try talking to your lender or loan servicer for all your options, asking them about alternative options to refinance a student loan with bad credit.

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.


Photo credit: iStock/Vladimir Vladimirov

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.

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.

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.

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Guide to Student Loan Cash-Out Refinance

Guide to Paying Off Student Loans with a Cash-Out Refinance

If you are feeling the weight of your student loans, you are not alone. Student debt is currently the second largest kind of debt in the US after mortgages, and it can feel as if it’s taking a very long time to pay it off. Some borrowers find that a cash-out refinance, which allows you to tap into the equity in your home and receive cash back at closing, can be a good move. In some cases, it may allow for payment terms that better suit your budget and needs.

However, a student loan cash-out refinance isn’t the right choice for everyone. It can be helpful to weigh the pros and cons to help you decide if it makes sense for your personal financial situation. Read on to learn the definition of refinancing student loans, what a cash-out refinance is, and what the upsides and downsides are.

Refinancing to Pay Off Student Loans

Before considering a cash-out refinance, let’s review what refinancing is. Typically, student loan refinancing means that a lender pays off your existing loans with a new student loan ideally at a lower interest rate, which can save you money over time.

If you have some type of federal student loans, you can only refinance with a private lender, which means losing certain federal student loan benefits and protections, such as income-driven repayment and forgiveness plans.
Also, it’s important to note that if you refinance for an extended term, you may well pay more interest over the life of the loan, even if your monthly payment is lower.

Calculate paying off your student loan before you decide whether this method makes sense for you.

Next, consider a different option. If you are a homeowner, you might look into a cash-out home refinance. This is a very different financial arrangement than a student loan refinance. When you complete a cash-out refinance, you are refinancing a home loan to tap the equity in your home and then use the funds to pay down or off your student loans.


💡 Quick Tip: Enjoy no hidden fees and special member benefits when you refinance student loans with SoFi.

What Is a Student Loan Cash-Out Refinance?

Here’s a closer look at the last option mentioned above, which can be a good path for some borrowers. If you own a home and have student loan debt, you can roll your student loan into your mortgage using a student loan cash-out refinance.

Here’s how cash-out refinance works: You get a mortgage loan that allows you to tap into your home’s equity to pay off your student loan debt. You consolidate your mortgage loan and your student debt. You also get a lump sum of money upon closing, which comes out of your home’s equity, and can be put toward your student loan debt.

If your home is valued at $450,000 and you have a $300,000 mortgage and over $50,000 in student loan debt, you might take out a cash-out refinance loan for $350,000 and get $50,000 to pay off your student loans. You would then have eliminated that educational debt, but now owe more against the value of your home.

Some notes:

•   To qualify, you typically must have a credit score (a number that indicates how likely you are to pay back a loan on time) of at least 620 to get a mortgage that isn’t from a government agency.

•   You also generally need to have a debt-to-income ratio (DTI) of under 43%, which refers to your monthly debt payment compared to your monthly gross income.

•   You’ll also need at least 20% of equity in your home in order to take advantage of a cash-out refinance.
Your lender pays off your first mortgage, which results in a new mortgage loan, which probably has different terms than your original loan (a different type of loan and/or a different interest rate).

How Cash-Out Refinance Works for Student Loans

Typically, you can borrow up to 80% of your home’s equity. Equity refers to the difference between the current value of your home and the amount of money you owe on your mortgage.

To get a student loan cash-out refinance, you can prequalify and choose the right mortgage refinancing option for you. Your lender will detail the interest rate and monthly payments that fit your goals.

Once your application has been approved, you’ll sign your paperwork. Your lender will pay off your student loan at closing by sending the cash to your student loan servicer to take care of your student loan debt.

Taking out money for a cash-out refinance means you just move debt from one location to another. Ultimately, you still have to pay off that debt — it just takes a different form.

Recommended: Cash-Out Refinance vs HELOC

Pros of Cash-Out Refinance for Student Loans

Why might you want to use a cash-out refinance to pay off student loans? Here are some of the reasons why it might be a good choice.

•   You could get a better interest rate. Before you refinance, you want to make sure you’re getting a lower interest rate than your current student loan interest rate and your current mortgage interest rate.

Calculating the new interest amount will tell you whether you’ll save money. (You’ll also want to figure in any fees.) If you lengthen your loan term along with your cash-out refinance, you may lower your monthly payments but pay more interest over the long run.

•   You may tap into tax deductions. The interest you pay on student loans and your mortgage are both typically tax-deductible. However, you’ll have to itemize deductions if you choose a cash-out refinance with your mortgage.

You can take either the standard deduction or itemize deductions on your taxes. If your allowable itemized deductions are greater than your standard deduction or you cannot use the standard deduction, you can itemize. However, it’s important to note that the new larger standard deduction means you may want to consider whether it makes sense to itemize.

In tax year 2023 (meaning taxes filed by April 2024), the standard deduction for married couples filing jointly is $27,700. For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction is $13,850. For heads of households, the standard deduction is $20,800.

•   You no longer have to make two payments. Instead of making both a mortgage payment and a student loan payment, you would make one payment. This can simplify your financial life and help you stay on top of your payments.


💡 Quick Tip: If you have student loans with variable rates, you may want to consider refinancing to lock in a fixed rate before rates rise. But if you’re willing to take a risk to potentially save on interest — and will be able to pay off your student loans quickly — you might consider a variable rate.

Cons of Cash-Out Refinance for Student Loans

It’s important to consider the downsides of cash-out refinancing for student loans as well.

•   You give up certain borrower protections. Refinancing a federal student loan via a cash-out refinance means you forfeit certain borrower protections that come with federal loans, such as income-based repayment plans, loan forgiveness, and other options through the Department of Education.

•   You turn unsecured debt into secured debt. Student loans don’t require any collateral. However, your mortgage does, which means that you turn what was once unsecured debt into secured debt. If you stop making your mortgage payments, you could lose your home to foreclosure.

•   You’ll pay closing fees. You’ll pay closing costs to refinance a mortgage, which can include title fees, appraisal fees, settlement fees, recording fees, land surveys, and transfer tax. The amount you’ll pay depends on your mortgage, the terms, and your state. They can be 3% to 5% of the loan’s value. You’ll want to consider whether these fees are worth what you’ll gain by refinancing.

When to Execute a Student Loan Cash-Out Refinance

It can be hard to decide when to refinance your student loans. This option may make sense for you if you:

•   Know you’ll save money in the long run: It’s important to fully understand how a student loan cash-out refinance works. If you’ve calculated your new loan amount and know you’ll save money after streamlining your debt, you could be a good candidate for a student loan cash-out refinance.

A new repayment term over a longer period may seem like a great deal because you’re lowering your monthly payments, but you’ll pay more in interest over your loan term. You may also pay more in interest due to the higher loan amount which might give you higher potential fees and expenses.

•   Have a plan to tackle your debt after refinancing: It’s important to be sure that you’ll be able to make your mortgage payments every month.

•   Want just one payment: Having just one loan with a longer repayment term means you simplify your debt. This way, you don’t have to keep track of multiple payments every month.

Finally, you may want to go through with a student loan cash-out refinance if you know for sure that you won’t need or be eligible for federal student loan repayment programs, forgiveness options, or other benefits, and have a plan to tackle debt. It’s a good idea to envision your top priorities — whether you want to save money, prefer just one payment, or would like to lower your monthly payments — or prefer all three benefits!

There are other reasons you may consider getting a cash-out refinance to pay off student loans, but this list gives you a jump start.

Refinancing Your Student Loans With SoFi

Considering cash-out refinancing or student-loan refinancing. SoFi offers both.

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

How long does underwriting take for cash-out refinance?

Refinancing a mortgage typically takes 30 to 45 days but can take up to 90 days, depending on how quickly you provide information to your lender, the complexity of the loan, and your lender or broker. Often, the faster you provide documentation, the quicker your lender can underwrite and process your loan.

How do you get your money from a cash-out refinance?

Upon closing, you get a lump sum from your lender when you get a cash-out refinance. The loan proceeds pay off your existing mortgage(s), including closing costs and any prepaid items. You can do what you want with the remaining funds.

Do you pay closing costs on a cash-out refinance?

Yes, you’ll pay closing costs to refinance a mortgage. The amount you’ll pay depends on a variety of factors but is typically 3% to 5% of the loan amount. It’s a good idea to consider how long it’ll take you to recoup your closing costs after refinancing.


Photo credit: iStock/FatCamera

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.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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