Consolidating your federal education loans can simplify your payments, but it also can result in the loss of some benefits.

Learn about consolidation so you can weigh the pros and cons and decide whether a Direct Consolidation Loan is right for you.

Loan Consolidation

A Direct Consolidation Loan allows you to consolidate (combine) multiple federal education loans into one loan. The result is a single monthly payment instead of multiple payments. Loan consolidation can also give you access to additional loan repayment plans and forgiveness programs.

There is no application fee to consolidate your federal education loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan. You may be contacted by private companies that offer to help you apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan, for a fee. These companies have no affiliation with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) or ED’s consolidation loan servicers. There’s no need to pay anyone for assistance in getting a Direct Consolidation Loan. The application process is easy and free.

Should I consolidate my loans?
What types of loans can be consolidated?
When can I consolidate my loans?
What are the requirements to consolidate a loan?
What is the interest rate on a consolidation loan?
When do I begin repayment?
Are there different repayment plans?
How do I apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan?
Whom do I contact if I have questions about consolidation?

 


Should I consolidate my loans?

The answer depends on your individual circumstances. 

Pros

  • If you currently have federal student loans that are with different loan servicers, consolidation can greatly simplify loan repayment by giving you a single loan with just one monthly bill.
  • Consolidation can lower your monthly payment by giving you a longer period of time (up to 30 years) to repay your loans.
  • If you consolidate loans other than Direct Loans, it may give you access to additional income-driven repayment plan options and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. (Direct Loans are from the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program.)
  • You’ll be able to switch any variable-rate loans you have to a fixed interest rate.

Cons

  • Because consolidation usually increases the period of time you to have to repay your loans, you might make more payments and pay more in interest than would be the case if you don’t consolidate.
  • Consolidation may also cause you to lose certain borrower benefits—such as interest rate discounts, principal rebates, or some loan cancellation benefits—that are associated with your current loans.
  • If you’re paying your current loans under an income-driven repayment plan, or if you’ve made qualifying payments toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, consolidating your current loans will cause you to lose credit for any payments made toward income-driven repayment plan forgiveness or Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

If you want to lower your monthly payment amount but are concerned about the impact of loan consolidation, you might want to consider deferment or forbearance as options for short-term payment relief, or consider switching to an income-driven repayment plan.

Once your loans are combined into a Direct Consolidation Loan, they cannot be removed. The loans that were consolidated are paid off and no longer exist. 

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What types of loans can be consolidated?

Most federal student loans, including the following, are eligible for consolidation:

  • Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • PLUS loans from the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program
  • Supplemental Loans for Students
  • Federal Perkins Loans
  • Nursing Student Loans
  • Nurse Faculty Loans
  • Health Education Assistance Loans
  • Health Professions Student Loans
  • Loans for Disadvantaged Students
  • Direct Subsidized Loans
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  • Direct PLUS Loans
  • FFEL Consolidation Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans (only under certain conditions)

Private education loans are not eligible for consolidation, but for some Direct Consolidation Loan repayment plans, the total amount of your education loan debt—including any private education loans—determines how long you have to repay your Direct Consolidation Loan. 

Direct PLUS Loans received by parents to help pay for a dependent student’s education cannot be consolidated together with federal student loans that the student received.

Refer to the complete list of federal student loans eligible for consolidation in the application.

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When can I consolidate my loans?

Generally, you are eligible to consolidate after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment.

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What are the requirements to consolidate a loan?

Here are some of the eligibility requirements for receiving a Direct Consolidation Loan:

  • You must consolidate at least one Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan.
  • The loans you consolidate must be in repayment or in the grace period.
  • Generally, you cannot consolidate an existing consolidation loan unless you include an additional eligible loan in the consolidation.
  • Under certain circumstances, you may reconsolidate an existing FFEL Consolidation Loan without including any additional loans. These circumstances are explained in the Federal Direct Consolidation Loan Application and Promissory Note.
  • If you want to consolidate a defaulted loan, you must either make satisfactory repayment arrangements (defined as three consecutive monthly payments) on the loan before you consolidate, or you must agree to repay your new Direct Consolidation Loan under the
    • Income-Based Repayment Plan,
    • Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan,
    • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, or
    • Income-Contingent Repayment Plan.

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What is the interest rate on a consolidation loan?

A Direct Consolidation Loan has a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan. The fixed rate is the weighted average of the interest rates on the loans being consolidated, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent. There is no cap on the interest rate of a Direct Consolidation Loan.

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When do I begin repayment?

Repayment of a Direct Consolidation Loan will begin within 60 days after the loan is disbursed (paid out). Your loan servicer will let you know when the first payment is due. 

If any of the loans you want to consolidate are still in the grace period, you have the option of indicating on your Direct Consolidation Loan application that you want the servicer that is processing your application to delay the consolidation of your loans until closer to the grace period end date. If you select this option, you won’t have to begin making payments on your new Direct Consolidation Loan until closer to the end of the grace period on your current loans.

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Are there different repayment plans?

Borrowers have different needs, so there are several repayment plans—including income-driven repayment plans, which base your monthly payment amount on your income and family size. You’ll select a repayment plan when you apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan. Learn about repayment plans.

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How do I apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan?

You apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan through StudentLoans.gov. You can complete and submit the application online, or you can download and print a paper application from StudentLoans.gov for submission by U.S. mail.

After you submit your application electronically at StudentLoans.gov or by mailing a paper application, the consolidation servicer you selected will complete the actions required to consolidate your eligible loans. The consolidation servicer will be your point of contact for any questions you may have related to your consolidation application.

Unless the loans you want to consolidate are in a deferment, forbearance, or grace period, it’s important for you to continue making payments on those loans until your consolidation servicer tells you that they have been paid off by your new Direct Consolidation Loan.

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Whom do I contact if I have questions about consolidation?

This depends on where you are in the consolidation process.

To ask questions about consolidating your loans before you apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan, contact the Loan Consolidation Information Call Center at 1-800-557-7392.

To request technical assistance while you are signed in and completing the Federal Direct Consolidation Loan Application and Promissory Note online, select the “Contact Us” tab in the top menu bar of StudentLoans.gov. From there, you can either complete and submit the feedback form or select “Additional Information” and contact the Student Loan Support Center at the phone number provided.

To ask questions after you have submitted your Federal Direct Consolidation Loan Application and Promissory Note, contact the servicer for your new Direct Consolidation Loan. If you submitted your application online, your consolidation servicer’s contact information was provided at the end of the online process. If you submitted a paper application by U.S. mail, your consolidation servicer’s contact information was available when you downloaded or printed the paper application.

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