When it comes to taking out student loans, there are plenty of banks eager to lend to you. But student loan program iHelp is one of the few services that connects you with community banks.
Unlike big banks, community banks reinvest money back into the towns they serve. When you support a small bank, you’re also supporting local families, jobs, and small businesses. Plus, community banks factor in more than just your credit score when they consider you for a loan. They look at your individual circumstances and make “relationship banking” a priority.
If you’re looking to borrow or refinance your student loans, check out this iHelp review to see if it’s right for you.Visit iHelp
iHelp review: For people who prefer community banks
iHelp is an online service that connects borrowers with student loans from community banks. Through iHelp, you can apply for a private student loan or refinance your existing private and federal student loans.
It’s easy to apply for a loan through iHelp. You can complete the entire process online, plus you can check right away whether you meet income requirements. If you don’t, you’ll need to apply with a cosigner.
iHelp also shows you upfront what your interest rate on a private student loan will be. Depending on your credit, you could get one of four possible interest rates. Instead of waiting weeks, you’ll have a sense of your interest rate before you even apply.
Refinanced student loans, on the other hand, work a little differently. If you apply for student loan refinancing, you could get a range of interest rates depending on your credit score. The stronger your credit history, the lower rate you’ll get.
Note that most interest rates you’ll find through the iHelp program are not the most competitive in the student loan lending space. Because each loan comes from a community bank, it won’t necessarily have the lowest rate.
That being said, community banks offer perks like flexible repayment plans and great customer service. Plus, they’re especially transparent when it comes to eligibility requirements, interest rates, and fee structures.
The iHelp program opens the door for student loan borrowers, but iHelp is not actually a lender or loan servicer. Instead, it’s a service brought to you by the Independent Community Bankers of America and the Student Loan Finance Corporation (SLFC).
iHelp manages the application process and connects you with local banks. After you choose a loan, a community bank provides funds. Finally, the SLFC will service the loan and manage your repayment plan.
iHelp started as a marketplace for private student loans before it later introduced its iHelp student loan refinance program. At first, only borrowers in certain states could borrow through the iHelp platform. Today, the program operates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Private iHelp student loans
You can take out private loans through the iHelp program starting at $1,000 (or $3,000 if you’re a student in Georgia). iHelp also sets a student debt limit of $100,000 for undergrads and $150,000 for grad students. This includes all your student loan debt, not just your iHelp student loans. For example, if you already have $70,000 in student loans as an undergrad, you won’t be able to take out more than $30,000 through iHelp.
Most undergrads will have to apply with a cosigner, as iHelp requires at least three years of positive credit history. Plus, all its student loans are school-certified, so your college will need to review and approve the loan amount. Before applying, make sure your college or university falls on the list of iHelp’s eligible schools.
Refinanced iHelp student loans
iHelp also connects college graduates with their “consolidation loans” (i.e., refinanced loans). When you refinance your student loans, you combine some or all of your existing student loans into one new loan with different terms.
If you have strong enough credentials (or apply with a cosigner who does), you could get a much lower interest rate than what you have now. Both federal and private student loans are eligible for refinancing. Note that if you refinance federal loans, you lose access to federal programs such as income-driven repayment.
That being said, iHelp offers flexible repayment options for refinanced loans. Its graduated repayment plan lets you make interest-only payments for a set amount of time. You might also be able to temporarily pause your payments by putting your loans into forbearance.
To refinance your student loans through iHelp, you must have graduated from an eligible school. Depending on your education level, you can refinance up to $150,000 (undergrad) or $250,000 (grad). For terms, you can choose a 10-year fixed rate, 15-year fixed rate, or 20-year variable rate.
To be eligible for the iHelp student loan refinance program, your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio cannot exceed 45 percent. If you’re not sure where your DTI falls, use our debt-to-income calculator to find out.
Using the iHelp online platform
iHelp’s online platform won’t blow you away with its design, but it is relatively easy to use. You can check your rates in under a minute with iHelp’s instant preapproval process. All you have to do is provide a few basic pieces of information.
Applying for a private student loan
Here’s what the preapproval form looks like for borrowers who want to take out a private student loan. If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements, you’ll need a cosigner who does.
After filling out the above form, iHelp will run a soft credit check to see if you qualify. This soft credit inquiry won’t affect your credit score. If you pre-qualify, your next step is to submit a full application with your or your cosigner’s information.
After you finish the application, iHelp will send a request to your college to certify the loan amount. Once it’s approved, the funds will be sent directly to your school.
Since these are private student loans, interest starts accruing from the date of disbursement. If you can afford to, you might benefit from paying off the interest while you’re still a student. If you wait until the grace period ends, you’ll have a lot more interest to pay off.
Applying for student loan refinancing
As with a private student loan, you can go through an instant pre-application process for a refinanced student loan. Here’s what the form looks like.
After you submit the form through iHelp, you can review loan offers. If you find one you like, select it and move on to the full application. You’ll need to enter your:
- Personal information
- Employment information
- Two personal references
- List of student loans for consolidation
In terms of documents, you’ll provide proof of employment, such as pay stubs or a job offer letter. You’ll also upload detailed loan statements for all the loans you wish to refinance.
After submitting your application, keep paying your current student loans until you have approval.Apply for iHelp
iHelp interest rates and fees
On a private student loan, you could qualify for one of four interest rates, depending on your credit score. When it comes to a refinanced loan, interest rates vary depending on your (or your cosigner’s) creditworthiness. After you apply, iHelp looks at factors such as your income, credit score, and history of debt repayment to assign an interest rate.
Private student loan rates
For private students loans, iHelp relies on the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). The LIBOR is a worldwide benchmark that banks use for certain loan types. All of iHelp’s private student loans have variable rates, so you rate could fluctuate along with the LIBOR.
Depending on your profile, you’ll get one of the following annual percentage rates:
- LIBOR + 2.50% (3.53% APR)
- LIBOR + 4.50% (5.41% APR)
- LIBOR + 5.75% (6.54% APR)
- LIBOR + 8.50% (8.98% APR)
There are no origination or repayment fees on private student loans you take out through iHelp.
Student loan refinancing rates
For refinanced student loans, you have a choice of three loan repayment terms: 10, 15, or 20 years. Here are the options and interest rate ranges for each, according to the iHelp website.
- 10-year fixed with rates that range from 4.75% to 8.00%
- 15-year fixed with rates that range from 5.50% to 9.00%
- 20-year variable with rates that range from LIBOR + 2.50% to LIBOR + 8.50%
As with private student loans, refinanced loans have no supplemental fees.
iHelp eligibility requirements
Unlike many other lending marketplaces, iHelp is very transparent about its eligibility requirements. It tells you exactly what income you or your cosigner need to apply.
Rules for private student loans
Here are the eligibility requirements for taking out a private student loan with one of iHelp’s partner community banks. You must:
- Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Be enrolled at least half-time in an eligible school
- Meet your state’s legal age requirement for borrowing
- Have at least three years of positive credit history
- Meet other credit requirements, including no bankruptcy for the past seven years, no open collections in the past two years, and no history of student loan default
- Have an annual income of $18,000 or greater for the past two years
Note that if you don’t meet the income or credit requirements, you can apply with a cosigner who does.
Requirements for refinanced student loans
If you wish to refinance your student debt, you’ll need to:
- Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Have graduated from an eligible school
- Meet the legal age requirements of your state
- Have at least two years of positive credit history and meet other credit expectations
- Have an annual income of at least $24,000 for the past two years
- Have a debt-to-income ratio lower than 45 percent
You’ll notice the income requirement is $6,000 higher than the one for taking out a loan.
More about iHelp
iHelp is the online program that connects you with community banks. It manages your application and checks your qualifications, but your actual loan will come from a community bank. The Student Loan Finance Corporation (SLFC) will service your repayment plan.
SLFC has been disbursing and servicing student loans for over 30 years. The company, along with all its partner banks, has a reputation for attentive customer service. This kind of support is one reason many borrowers prefer community banks over national ones.Learn More
iHelp contact info
Have questions that weren’t answered in this iHelp review? Head to the iHelp website to live chat with a customer support representative or send a direct message. You can also call 800-645-7404 or email email@example.com.
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