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If you’ve dropped out of college, but are still carrying student loan debt from that portion of your education, there are options. While most private lenders won’t offer refinancing options to borrowers who have not completed a degree, there are some who may. Continue reading for more information on refinancing and other options for dealing with student loan debt without a college degree.
Having Student Loans Without Graduating
If you enrolled in college but ultimately didn’t graduate, you’re not alone. After six years, less than 60% of students have earned a Bachelor’s degree, according to Forbes. Among students pursuing Ph.D.s, estimates suggest between 30% to 50% drop out.
There are many reasons that college students end up dropping out. Some, especially those who are low-income or the first in their families to go to college, may feel unprepared, unsupported, and culturally alienated.
Other students can’t afford the rising price tag of higher education. Others leave because they realize that college isn’t the right path for them or because they need to fulfill family responsibilities, such as caring for dependents.
Just because you didn’t graduate with a degree, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to pay for your education. Many students who drop out, just like those who finish school, end up with a significant student loan balance.
If you’re in the former group, you may be wondering whether student loan consolidation for non-graduates is a possibility or if you can refinance student loans without a degree. The answer is … sometimes.
Here’s what you need to know to explore these options for getting your debt under control.
Federal Student Loan Consolidation Without a Degree
If you have more than one federal student loan, not having a degree doesn’t stop you from being able to combine them through a Direct Consolidation Loan. Doing so can be beneficial because it allows you to make just one payment every month, instead of many, potentially with multiple loan servicers. That can make things simpler for you and make it more likely that you’ll remember to pay your loans on time.
Another potential reason to consolidate is that you could qualify for a lower monthly payment by extending the term of the loan. Also, by consolidating, loans that wouldn’t otherwise qualify might become eligible for income-driven repayment plans or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
Should I Consolidate Student Loans
Consolidation isn’t for everyone, however. If you end up extending the term of the loan, that means interest will have more time to stack up — meaning that though you might have a lower payment now, you’ll likely pay more in interest over time.
Plus, if you’ve already been making payments under an income-driven repayment plan or toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you could lose credit for those payments and have to start over.
You can apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan as soon as you leave school or are enrolled less than half-time. You’d submit an application through StudentLoans.gov . If your loans are still in the grace period, you can ask for the consolidation to be delayed so that it’s closer to the end of that period. If you receive the loan, you’ll need to start repaying it 60 days after it’s paid out.
What Is Student Loan Refinancing?
Student loan refinancing is similar to consolidation in that it involves combining multiple loans into one. The difference is that refinancing takes place with a private lender and may allow you to combine not only federal loans, but also private ones, or a mix of both.
You receive a new loan from the lender and use it to pay off your existing loans. For some borrowers, this new loan might come with a lower interest rate or lower monthly payment than their existing debt, particularly if they have a strong credit and employment history.
The downside is if you refinance federal loans, you give up protections and benefits that the federal government offers, including the opportunity to apply for deferment or forbearance during periods of economic hardship, or choosing an income-driven repayment plan to help make your loans more affordable.
Can You Refinance Student Loans Without a Degree?
Unfortunately, many private lenders won’t allow you to refinance your student loans if you haven’t graduated.
SoFi and some other lenders require that you have earned at least an associate’s degree from a Title IV accredited school in order to be eligible for refinancing.
Title IV schools are eligible to process federal student aid under the Higher Education Act. You can verify whether the institution you attended is a Title IV school on the federal student aid website .
Even though some of the most popular lenders require you to have a degree, that doesn’t mean you can’t refinance student loans if you did not graduate. Some financial institutions may offer refinancing to borrowers who dropped out.
Refinancing Your Student Loans
Now that you know you have options, you may be able to apply for student loan refinancing. You can check your rates with several lenders (using a soft credit check, if possible) to compare rates and terms and see what you might pre-qualify for.
If you decide to complete a full application, the lender may ask for information like your Social Security Number, information about your loans and repayment history, your income, and your employment history. They typically complete a credit check to find out your FICO® Score and look for any red flags, like a history of mixed payments, student loan default, eviction, or bankruptcy.
Those who don’t initially qualify for refinancing, or get a favorable rate, can try reapplying with a cosigner — someone who guarantees to repay the loan if they don’t.
If you feel you need a cosigner, one with strong credit history and a solid income and employment history (among other financial factors) could help you qualify. If you do use a cosigner, remember that if you default, any missed payments on your end may damage their credit.
Taking Control of Your Student Loans
Don’t be ashamed of not completing school. There are many reasons to take a different path. Still, it can be understandably frustrating to carry a student loan balance for a degree you don’t have.
But your student debt doesn’t have to rule your life. You can take the reins and apply for federal student loan consolidation or refinancing with certain lenders, even if you didn’t graduate. For many borrowers, that can help lighten the load.
Can I get a loan without a degree?
Yes, it’s possible to get student loans without a degree — if you are currently enrolled in school. The federal student loan program offers student loans to qualifying borrowers who are attending eligible institutions. Students may also look into private student loans.
Can you refinance student loans without a job?
Refinancing student loans without a job may be more challenging than if you are able to show a record of stable employment. However, lenders evaluate a variety of factors when making lending decisions including employment history, income, credit score, among other factors. The lender is trying to evaluate whether you are able to repay the loan. If you are able to show other sources of income — outside of a traditional job — it may be possible to refinance your student loans.
Do you need to graduate to refinance student loans?
In many cases, yes, you do need to graduate before you can refinance student loans. Many private lenders won’t allow you to refinance your student loans if you haven’t graduated. Though, there are some lenders that are willing to refinance student loans for borrowers who did not graduate.
Student Loan Refinancing
If you are a federal student loan borrower you should take time now to prepare for your payments to restart, including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.) 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, such as the SAVE Plan, or extended repayment plans.
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