Note that the situation for student loans has changed due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and relief efforts from the government, student loan lenders and others. Check out our Student Loan Hero Coronavirus Information Center for additional news and details.
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There are plenty of scammy businesses that promise to magically erase your student loan debt. But, spoiler alert: They can’t.
The purpose of nonprofit credit counseling near you, however, is to truly help borrowers. So here are three potential sources of low-cost or free student loan advice that’s actually worthwhile:
The NFCC is a network of dozens of nonprofit credit counseling agencies across all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico. Although the member agencies are unique, each offers the same level of free student loan advice and support.
“The idea is to offer a holistic assessment of a consumer’s student loan repayment options,” Matt Ribe, NFCC’s general counsel and corporate secretary, told Student Loan Hero. “But to do so in the context of their broader financial picture — so understanding what their financial goals are, and also what their obligations and constraints are.”
According to Ribe, counseling sessions typically cover:
- Which loan repayment plans make the most sense for your situation
- The pros and cons of various strategies
- How repayment can fit with your other financial goals
To find a NFCC-certified student loan counselor, you can either enter your zip code in the NFCC’s agency locator or visit StudentLoanHelp.org. The latter route, Ribe explained, calls for you to create a financial profile, allowing counselors to dive right into your situation — instead of spending time gathering data.
You can then either connect with a counselor immediately or schedule an appointment for later. Most charge between $50 and $200 per session, and promise you’ll leave with a comprehensive game plan for paying back your student loans.
If that cost seems out of reach, don’t despair. Since the NFCC and its member agencies are nonprofit, Ribe noted that they can’t refuse you services because you can’t pay. So fill out your information, and if an agency determines you can’t afford its services, it’ll work with you on a fair price — which will sometimes be nothing.
“We are very proud of the service,” said Ribe. “And we hope that as many people will avail themselves of it as possible.”
If you’re seeking more than just free student loan advice, you might phone an NFCC member directly. ACCC is a national nonprofit that provides a free budget and consultation before setting you up with a debt management program that could put your repayment on the right track.
ACCC counselors could also help you evaluate your eligibility or fit for…
- Student loan forgiveness programs
- Loan repayment plans
- Deferment and forbearance
Keep in mind that these are all things you could do on your own and without opening your wallet. Still, working with a credit or student loan counselor could give you peace of mind that you’re making the right decision.
And by working with a nonprofit like ACCC, you’ll ensure you won’t have to open your wallet very wide. If you opt for a debt management plan with ACCC, for example, you would be subject to a $39 enrollment fee that could be reduced or waived based on your situation.
|Other ways to learn more about money management|
|● Free personal finance courses|
● Best personal finance podcasts
● Most helpful personal finance books
● Top personal finance accounts on Instagram
Speaking of NFCC-approved nonprofit credit counseling near you — at least virtually speaking — Credit.org could be a better fit if you have debt other than student loans or are trying to improve your credit. The independent organization’s debt coaches provide clients with a free analysis, helping you to make choices like debt consolidation or debt management or even settlement.
Unfortunately, Credit.org doesn’t offer free student loan advance: The standard fee for a loan review is $125, but many other Credit.org services, including credit counseling, won’t cost a dime.
Credit.org also stands out from other nonprofits because of its suite of free online tools, including:
- Personal finance classes and how-to videos
- Virtual workshops, seminars and other events
- Financial calculators for budgeting, saving and other aims
Free student loan advice isn’t hard to come by, but good student loan advice can be difficult to find.
To ensure you don’t fall prey to shoddy guidance or, worse, a scam, rely on NFCC-member organizations as a starting point. Agencies like ACCC and Credit.org are tried and true.
Not all nonprofits were created equal, however, so ask about their certifications and fees before signing up. You can also avoid counseling agencies that have racked up complaints by checking in with your state’s attorney general or consumer protection office.
If you’re seeking nonprofit credit counseling near you but come up empty, ask your bank or credit union about whether it offers such services. Your financial institution is just one of many places with potentially helpful advice on student loan repayment.
Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2020!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 6.66%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.09%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.34%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.97% – 8.54%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews! |
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of October 1, 2020.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of December 1, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
5 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 11/13/2020 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.97% to 8.54% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% to 8.77% Fixed APR with AutoPay.