Why People Refinance Student Loans

By Julia Califano · January 02, 2024 · 7 minute read

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Why People Refinance Student Loans

Refinancing student loans involves taking out a new student loan (ideally with better rates and terms) and using it to pay off your existing loans. Generally, the reason why people refinance student loans is to save money, although there are some additional benefits that come along with refinancing.

Refinancing private student loans can be an easy decision if your income and credit score can qualify for a lower rate than you got originally. You can also refinance federal student loans with a private lender, potentially at a lower rate. But doing so means giving up federal benefits and protections, so it’s important to weigh the benefits against the risks.

Here’s what you need to know about refinancing student loans so you can decide if this option is right for you.

Benefits of Refinancing Private Student Loans

Refinancing private student loans comes with a number of potential perks. Here are some reasons why you might consider a student loan refinance.

A Lower Interest Rate

One of the main reasons people refinance their existing student loans is because they can find a lower interest rate through a new lender. This can help you save money, potentially thousands over the life of your loan. It can also help you pay off your loan faster, or lower the amount you pay each month.

While student loan interest rates have been on the rise in the last couple of years, you may still be able to do better if your financial situation has considerably improved since you originally took out your student loans.

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

Reduced Monthly Payments

Another reason why people refinance their private student loans is to lower their monthly payments. You can do this by qualifying for a lower interest rate. Or, you can do this by extending your repayment term. Generally, the longer the loan term, the less you pay each month. Just keep in mind that extending your loan term could cause you to pay more in interest over the life of your loan.

Consolidation of Multiple Loans

If your student loan debt is a messy mix of loans, it can be difficult to stay on top of your payments and track your repayment progress. In this scenario, refinancing can double as a form of debt consolidation and allow you to combine those different loans. Once you refinance, you’ll only have to deal with one loan (and one payment and one due date) each month.

Releasing a Cosigner

When students take out private student loans, they generally need a cosigner. These are usually family members or friends of the student, and they share legal liability for the loan.

If you originally needed a cosigner but are now in a financial position to handle your debt on your own, you might consider refinancing your private student loans. This will give you a new loan and, in the process, release your cosigner from liability for your debt. If you currently have a higher income or credit score than your cosigner, you might even qualify for a better rate.

Factors to Consider Before Refinancing

To determine if refinancing is the right move for you, here are some factors to consider.

Credit Score Requirements

Not every borrower is eligible for refinancing. To get approved, you typically need a credit score of at least 650. A score in the 700s, however, gives you a much better chance of qualifying.

Your credit score also helps determine your new interest rate. Generally, the better your credit score is, the more competitive your interest rate will be. If you can’t qualify for an attractive refinance on your own, you might want to recruit a cosigner who has excellent credit.

Financial Stability

A good credit score is one qualifier for a favorable refinance rate, but that’s not the full story. Lenders will generally look at a wide range of financial factors when determining your interest rate, including your annual income and your debt-to-income ratio (how much of your monthly income you currently spend on debts).

If all three of those financial factors have improved since you’ve taken out your private student loans, it can be worth shopping around for better terms. If, on the other hand, you don’t have consistent earnings and/or have a lot of credit card debt, you’ll likely want to wait until your situation stabilizes before looking into a refinance.

Recommended: Can You Refinance Student Loans More Than Once?

Length of Repayment Term

Refinancing allows you to alter your payment plan. Once you qualify, you can typically choose the new term of your loan, whether it’s five, 10, or 20 years. By setting a new repayment term, you can decide how quickly you want to pay off your loans.

You might choose a shorter repayment term to pay off your loan faster and potentially save on interest. Or, you might opt to go with a longer repayment term to lower your monthly payments. Keep in mind, though, that extending your term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan. It will also take you longer to fully pay off your loans.

When Refinancing Might Not Be the Best Option

Refinancing isn’t the right move for every borrower. Here are some scenarios where it may not make sense to refinance your student loans.

You Can’t Get a Lower Interest Rate

Before choosing to refinance, you may want to shop around and see what rates you can potentially qualify for.

Many lenders offer online prequalification where you can enter some information to receive a rate quote without having to submit an actual loan application (which results in a hard credit inquiry). Prequalifying lets you shop around for the personalized rates and terms so you have a better idea of what to expect if you were to refinance, without hurting your credit.

If you can’t get a better rate than you currently have, refinancing might not make sense, at least right now.

💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.

You Have Federal Loans and Could See a Decline in Income

If you have federal student loans and think your income could drop, or you might lose your job, it’s generally not a good idea to refinance those loans. Doing so means giving up federal student loan relief options, such as deferment and forbearance, as well as government programs like income-driven repayment. These protections could come in handy should you run into any financial hiccups.

Some private lenders offer relief programs but they may not be as generous as what you can get with the federal government.

You Are on an Income-Driven Repayment Plan

Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans are one of the many benefits available to federal student loan borrowers. When you choose one of these plans, the amount you pay each month is tied to the amount of money you make, so you never need to pay more than you can reasonably afford. Generally, your payment amount under an IDR plan is a percentage of your discretionary income (typically 10% to 20%).

Under all IDR plans, any remaining loan balance is forgiven if your federal student loans aren’t fully repaid at the end of the repayment period (either 20 or 25 years).

If you are currently on one of these federal repayment plans and you refinance, your loan becomes a private loan and you lose access to IDR plans.

You’re Working Toward Student Loan Forgiveness

In addition to the loan forgiveness associated with IDR plans, the federal government offers other types of loan forgiveness programs, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which is for public-sector workers, as well as a separate program just for teachers. If you think you may benefit from any of these federal relief programs, it’s probably not a good ideal to refinance your federal student loans. Doing so will bar you from getting your federal loans forgiven.

The Takeaway

So should you refinance your student loans? The answer depends on your financial situation and repayment goals. Generally, refinancing your student loans makes sense only if you can qualify for a lower rate than you have now.

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.


Why do people refinance their student loans?

Often, people will refinance their student loans to get a lower interest rate, a lower monthly payment, or both. Refinancing can also simplify student loan repayment by replacing multiple loans with a single loan and just one monthly payment.

Why should you avoid refinancing student loans?

Refinancing generally doesn’t make sense if you can’t qualify for a lower rate. You’ll also want to avoid refinancing if you have federal loans and are using (or plan to use) federal benefits like income-driven repayment or student loan forgiveness. Once you refinance a federal student loan, you’ll no longer have access to these federal programs.

Why should private student loan borrowers refinance right now?

You might consider refinancing your student loans now if you are able qualify for a lower rate than you originally got. Refinancing also gives you the opportunity to change the terms of your existing loan, remove a cosigner, and simplify your repayment process by replacing multiple loans with a single loan.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

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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.


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