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When you graduate with your bachelor’s degree or advanced degree, refinancing your student loans can be an attractive option. It might give you a lower interest rate, plus an easier path to repayment.
But what if you didn’t graduate? You might not qualify for refinancing.
Although it’s one of the most common questions about student loan refinancing, it’s also easy to overlook. In fact, two of our readers recently messaged our support team to say they only learned about this requirement after dropping out.
One of our readers said he’d recently shopped around with multiple refinancing companies. He learned he was ineligible for refinancing despite having a steady income.
“I [chose] to leave [school] and don’t have much desire to go back, considering I secured a full-time job in one of my fields of interest,” he wrote. “But I’ve got $49,000 lurking over me because of leaving. [Is] there anything that’ll help me out?”
Not all refinancing companies require you to graduate
First, the bad news: Most student loan refinancing companies work exclusively with borrowers who earned their diplomas.
CommonBond, for example, says it accepts applicants who graduated from one of 2,000-plus selected universities and graduate programs. Another company, Earnest, allows applicants to refinance only if you’re one semester short of graduating.
Now the good news: There are a few refinancing companies that are willing to refinance the loans of college dropouts. Citizens Bank, for example, doesn’t require you to have a degree. But you do have to meet the following requirements:
- You’re no longer enrolled in school.
- You have at least $10,000 in federal or private student loans to refinance.
- You’ve made 12 full on-time payments before applying to refinance.
You must also satisfy traditional refinancing requirements, including having a Social Security number and proof of income. You’ll need a student loan cosigner if you’re not yet the age of majority in your state, which could be 18 or 21 depending on where you live.
So take the time to shop around and consider quotes from lenders that don’t require you to have a diploma hanging on your wall.
3 creative alternatives to student loan refinancing
There are plenty of reasons to consider refinancing your student loans. But if you’re ineligible without a degree, here are a few creative solutions for scoring similar repayment rewards.
1. Consolidate your federal student loans into one monthly payment
If you have multiple federal loans and are desperate for the simplicity of making one loan payment to one servicer, consider a Direct Consolidation Loan.
Your interest rate won’t decrease with this type of loan. It’ll be a rounded-up average of your existing rates. But you’ll have all your loans in one place.
By consolidating your federal student loans, you could lose out on benefits that were specific to your original loans. If you made qualifying payments toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, for example, you’d have to start from scratch.
2. Switch to a repayment plan with a lower monthly payment
A Direct Consolidation Loan could lower your monthly payment by extending your repayment term. Alternatively, you could switch to an income-driven repayment plan for your federal loans.
Under an Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan, for example, your monthly payment would be 10% or 15% of your discretionary income. You can use StudentLoans.gov’s Repayment Estimator to see which plan would decrease your monthly payment the most.
Remember: Lowering your monthly payment means you’re lengthening your repayment term. And the longer your term, the more interest you’ll pay over time.
Our IBR calculator tells the story. Say you have $35,000 in loans at an average interest rate of 5.70%. Switching from the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan to a 25-year IBR plan would shrink your first month’s payment from $383 to $86. But you would also pay $9,312 more in interest over time.
Although you can’t lower the monthly payments of private loans so easily, you could talk to your lender about deferment or forbearance. These measures allow you to pause your repayment if you lose a job or experience another economic hardship.
Even if you qualify for deferment or forbearance, remember that interest will continue to grow while you delay making payments.
3. Look for flexible cosigner release options
You might be drawn to refinancing your private loans to release a supportive cosigner. Be aware that you don’t have to refinance to accomplish the feat.
College Ave, for example, offers cosigner release on student loans. It requires you to make 24 on-time payments. Ask your lender about its criteria.
More than 40% of first-time students attending four-year schools fail to graduate within six years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. So if you didn’t earn a diploma, you can bet that you’re not alone.
Examine your refinancing options with flexible private student loan companies. If you don’t find the loan terms you’re seeking, consider alternatives, such as altering the payment plan on your federal loans or pausing your monthly payments. You don’t need a degree to make the right decision.
If you have a student loan question you’ve been waiting for an answer to, contact our customer support team. Your question might end up in this column.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Rates (APR)||Eligible Degrees|
|Get real rates from up to 4 Lenders at once
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
|2.56% - 7.40%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.57% - 6.32%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.58% - 8.12%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.80% - 7.02%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.54% - 6.65%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.90% - 8.34%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|