Education Loan Finance (ELFI) has long offered personal loan advisors for its student loan refinancing customers. Now it’s making them a key feature of its private student loan offering, launched in August 2019.
If you’re a student or parent comparing borrowing options, consider the full context of ELFI’s loans, which we’ll delve into below.
ELFI, a subsidiary of Tennessee-based SouthEast Bank, is now lending to undergraduate and graduate students as well as to parents.
Borrowers and cosigners must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents with at least a 680 credit score to qualify. The student must also be attending an approved school at least half-time and pursuing at least a bachelor’s degree.
If you’re eligible, here are some ELFI features to expect:
- Check your rate without affecting your credit score
- Choose a fixed or variable interest rate
- Select a loan term spanning 5 to 15 years (for students) or 5 to 10 years (for parents)
- Borrow from $10,000 to 100% of your cost of attendance
- Pay no application, origination or prepayment fees — although there’s a penalty for late payments (the lesser of $50 or 5% of the amount due)
- Select from four repayment methods: Make interest-only, fixed or full payments while enrolled, or defer repayment until after your six-month grace period
- Work with a personal loan advisor through your application process
- Get a limited form of forbearance due to financial hardship, as detailed in your loan agreement
The interest rate of a student loan is key because it determines how much interest you’ll have to repay on the principal amount you borrow. With strong credit, you could score a low rate.
Fortunately, ELFI has unveiled its student loan product with competitive interest rates. Fixed rates start at 4.99%, and variable rates go up from 3.95%.
All ELFI borrowers are required to make electronic payments, so there’s no additional rate discount from enrolling in autopay.
Aside from simple rates, here are other positives of ELFI student loans.
Easy application process
If you’re shopping around for a private student loan, you’ll be glad to hear that you can check your rate with ELFI without harming your credit. The lender promises a quote within minutes of inputting basic information about yourself and your borrowing needs.
If ELFI provides rates (and other terms) that beat those of competitors under your consideration, you could go about designing your ideal loan with the lender. You might select a fixed or variable rate as well as a specified repayment term length.
To complete the application process, which would result in a hard inquiry on your credit report, you’d need to upload photos or screenshots of required documents, including:
- Government-issued ID
- Previous month’s pay stub
- Previous year’s IRS Form W-2
If you have a cosigner, they would also be required to provide these documents.
Personal loan support
If completing your application online isn’t as intuitive in your case, you could always call ELFI. It has a reputation for its customer service and currently holds a 4.8 out of 5 star rating based on nearly 600 reviews posted on independent review site Trustpilot.
The inclusion of a personal loan advisor only helps ELFI’s case. Much like a personal banker supporting your student loan needs at a brick-and-mortar bank, ELFI’s advisors promise to help you during the application process and beyond.
Just be aware of the following facts:
- Many newer online-only lenders make similar promises of top-notch customer service.
- Company employees like ELFI advisors won’t be as objective with their advice as when consulting your parent or financial aid counselor.
- Your point of contact could change once you borrow, as American Education Services manages the repayment of ELFI customers.
Surveying your lender options is critical because not all lenders will serve your unique needs. ELFI, for example, might sound perfect on the surface, but it doesn’t provide every perk imaginable.
Strict eligibility requirements
It might not take long to find that ELFI is not a fit for you, particularly if you don’t meet its list of borrowing criteria. Borrowers and cosigners need at least a 680 credit score, plus a minimum income of $35,000 and at least three years of credit history.
Even if you meet those thresholds, other factors (see below) could stall out your application. On the plus side, many ELFI competitors could fill in where the lender is lacking.
|ELFI’s requirements||Competitor to consider|
|Residency status||Must be a citizen or permanent resident||If you’re an international student, check out MPower Financing|
|Loan amount||Must borrow a minimum of $10,000||If you’re borrowing four figures, review College Ave, which set its minimum borrowing amount at $1,000|
|Degree program||Must pursue at least a bachelor’s degree at an eligible four-year institution||If you’re pursuing an associate’s degree or attending a non-degree program, take a look at Sallie Mae|
|Attendance||Must attend class at least half-time||If you’re a part-time student, consider Wells Fargo|
No cosigner release available
ELFI doesn’t require undergraduates to acquire a cosigner before applying for a student loan. Undergrads and other students with thin credit files, however, will probably need a cosigner, who agrees to assume responsibility for repayment should the need arise.
Unfortunately, ELFI won’t allow you to release your cosigner once your loan is in motion. If removing your cosigner from your loan agreement before zeroing your balance is a priority, consider applying with Sallie Mae. It offers the fastest path to cosigner release, as you just need to make 12 months of prompt payments before you can go it alone.
With competitive interest rates — particularly for professional students — and a free and easy preapproval process, ELFI is certainly worth considering as a potential lender.
Just be sure you meet the online company’s eligibility requirements, such as needing to borrow at least $10,000 for your next year of school. Also, ensure you won’t miss out on a better cosigner release program elsewhere.
Remember that the overall loan should suit you best. If it doesn’t, keep shopping around. Not even the most helpful personal loan advisor should keep you from moving along.
If you’re still in the market, check out our best five lenders of 2019.