The 20 Most Common Questions About Student Loan Refinancing

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Student loan refinancing can save you money while simplifying your monthly payments. But before applying, make sure you understand the ins and outs of the process.

Read on for the most common questions to ask when refinancing your private and federal student loans. Whatever your situation, you’ll learn whether refinancing is right for you.

General student loan refinancing questions

What is student loan refinancing?
What’s the difference between refinancing and student loan consolidation?
Can I refinance both private and federal loans?
Who are the best lenders for refinancing?
Will refinancing save me money?
What are the benefits of refinancing my student loans?
What are the risks of refinancing?

How to qualify

How do I qualify for refinancing?
Will browsing student loan refinancing offers hurt my credit score?
What’s the difference between a fixed and variable interest rate?
What interest rates can I get?
What are my options for repayment terms?
Are there any limits to how much student loan debt I can refinance?
Is there a fee to refinance my student loans?

Special situations

Is there a penalty if I pay back my student loan early?
Can I defer my refinanced student loan if I go to grad school?
Can I refinance during a student loan grace period?
Can I assume responsibility for my parents’ Parent PLUS loans through refinancing?
What if I didn’t go to a Title IV school?
Can I refinance if I didn’t graduate from college?

Student loan questions to ask when refinancing

What is student loan refinancing?

Student loan refinancing refers to the process of taking out a new loan to pay off your current loans. The refinanced student loan will have a different repayment plan and interest rate. Rather than sending off multiple monthly payments, you’ll send just one to a single lender. Most lenders allow you to refinance both private and federal student loans.

What’s the difference between refinancing and consolidation?

The terms “student loan refinancing” and “student loan consolidation” are often used interchangeably. But there’s a big difference between private student loan refinancing and federal student loan consolidation.

When you refinance, you take out a new student loan with a private lender. Ideally, the new loan has a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying. You can refinance both private and federal loans. Your new refinanced loan will be private, meaning you’ll no longer have federal loans.

With federal consolidation, you take out a Direct Consolidation Loan from the government. You can only consolidate federal loans, not private ones. Your new interest rate will be an average of all your loans, meaning your interest rate won’t go down. Consolidation simplifies your monthly payments and it allows you to choose a longer repayment term up to 30 years. But this won’t save you money on interest.

Can I refinance both private and federal student loans?

Yes, you can refinance private and federal student loans. Note that refinancing federal loans means you’ll no longer have access to federal student loan programs, as you’ll learn more about below.

Who are the best lenders for student loan refinancing?

The best lenders will offer low interest rates and excellent customer service. We have six favorite lenders based on their competitive offers and how they treat their customers.

Before choosing a lender, compare offers for the best one. Applying for an offer only takes a few minutes and this preliminary check will not affect your credit score. Only after you choose a lender and submit documents will the lender run a hard credit check.

Will refinancing save me money?

People often refinance student loans to save money. By lowering their interest rate, they spend less on interest over the life of their loans. But you’ll only save money if you qualify for an interest rate that’s significantly lower than what you currently have.

If you have an average weighted interest rate higher than 6%, you could benefit from refinancing. If your loans already have an average interest rate lower than 6%, you might not see much savings.

What are the benefits of refinancing my student loans?

Student loan refinancing has several main benefits. First, you simplify your monthly payments. Some borrowers have to keep track of several loan servicers and monthly payments. After you refinance, you’ll only have one lender and one monthly payment.

Second, refinancing allows you to choose a new repayment term. If you can handle the monthly payments, you could shorten your repayment term and pay your loan off faster. Or you could choose a longer repayment term with lower monthly payments (though with this strategy you may pay more in interest over the life of your loan).

Finally, student loan refinancing may get you a lower interest rate. Student loans accrue interest on a daily or monthly basis. If you lower your interest rate significantly, you could save money over the life of your loan.

What are the risks of refinancing?

If you refinance federal student loans, you’ll no longer have access to federal protections. These protections include income-driven repayment plans and forgiveness programs. If you’re worried about losing your income or are working toward federal loan forgiveness, refinancing may not be the right choice for you.

That being said, some private lenders offer flexible repayment plans if you’re struggling to make monthly payments. Before choosing a lender, find out how they help borrowers who hit a rough financial patch.

How to qualify for student loan refinancing

How do I qualify for refinancing?

When you apply for student loan refinancing, lenders look at your income, debt-to-income ratio, and credit history, among other things. Lenders set their own requirements. SoFi, for instance, requires a credit score of 650 or above and has no income minimum. LendKey wants borrowers to have a credit score of 680 and income of at least $24,000.

Applying with a cosigner can also help you qualify. A cosigner will be responsible for the loan if you don’t pay it back. Some lenders release your cosigner after a set period of on-time monthly payments.

Will browsing student loan offers hurt my credit score?

You can apply for preliminary student loan refinancing offers without any effect on your credit score. Most lenders ask that you provide a few pieces of basic information, such as your name, salary, college, and total loan amount.

Once you choose a lender, you’ll submit an official application. You’ll provide a lot more information, as well as supporting documents like loan statements. At this point, the lender will run a hard credit check to finalize your offer.

What’s the difference between a fixed and variable interest rate?

Lenders offer both fixed and variable interest rates. Fixed interest rates remain the same over the life of the loan. Variable interest rates can change periodically. While they tend to start out lower than fixed rates, they may increase over time.

A variable interest rate may not be worth the risk if you have several years of repayment ahead of you. But if you’re looking to pay your loan off fast, you don’t have to worry as much about the ups and downs of a variable rate.

What interest rates can I get?

Interest rates vary by lender. SoFi, for instance, offers fixed interest rates between 3.90% and 7.98% and variable interest rates between 2.47% and 6.99%. The interest rate you qualify for will largely depend on your creditworthiness.

What are my options for repayment terms?

Most lenders offer five, 10, 15, and 20-year repayment plans. A few also offer seven-year plans. Note that if you tack extra years onto your loan, you might end up paying more in interest overall.

Are there any limits to how much student loan debt I can refinance?

Most lenders set a minimum and maximum for how much student loan debt you can refinance. SoFi and CommonBond have a minimum of $5,000, for example, and Citizens Bank sets its minimum at $10,000.

Maximum limits also vary by lender. SoFi has no maximum and CommonBond refinances up to $500,000. Citizens Bank refinances up to $90,000 for undergraduate student loans and up to $250,000 for graduate student loans.

Is there a fee to refinance my student loans?

You shouldn’t have to pay a fee for refinancing your student loans. Check with your lender of choice to make sure it doesn’t charge an origination fee when it disburses your new student loan.

Special refinancing situations

Is there a penalty if I pay back my loan early?

Reputable lenders do not charge a prepayment fee. Check with your lender before refinancing to make sure it does not charge a fee for paying back your loan ahead of schedule.

Can I refinance during my grace period?

Some lenders allow you to refinance your student loans during the six-month grace period after graduation. However, you’ll still need the income and credit score to qualify (or you’ll need to enlist the help of a cosigner). Carefully read over the terms of the new loan so you know when to start sending payments.

Can I defer my student loan if I go back to grad school?

Policies vary by lender, but several allow you to put your refinanced student loan into deferment. Deferment pauses your monthly payments, but it doesn’t stop interest from accruing. If you think you might need deferment in the future, speak with lenders about their policies before refinancing your student loans.

Can I assume responsibility for my parents’ Parent PLUS loans through refinancing?

Several lenders allow you to take over Parent PLUS loans from your parents. As long as you meet eligibility requirements, you’ll be able to assume responsibility for these loans.

What if I didn’t go to a Title IV school?

Most refinancing lenders require that you attended a Title IV school. A Title IV school is any institution that’s eligible for federal student aid. A few lenders, including Citizens Bank, don’t have this requirement.

Can I refinance if I didn’t graduate from college?

As with the Title IV requirement, most lenders require that you graduate from college. A few, including Citizens Bank, will approve your application even if you didn’t graduate.

Is student loan refinancing right for you?

Thanks to student loan refinancing, you’re not stuck with your loan servicers or interest rates. If you meet the income and credit score requirements, you could take out a new loan with more attractive terms.

Before refinancing, make sure you understand the benefits and risks. While you could save money on interest, for example, you might lose access to federal programs. If you’re concerned about losing your income in the near future, it’s likely not the best time to refinance.

But if you have a steady income and solid credit score, refinancing could be a good financial decision. Before signing on the dotted line, take the time to do the math. Our student loan refinancing calculator will show you exactly how much you’ll save or spend with a new repayment plan and different interest rate.

Student loan refinancing is beneficial to some borrowers, but not so much for others. Make sure to review these questions to ask when refinancing and see where you stand. If you’re a strong candidate, refinancing could bring you a big step closer to financial freedom.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

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 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% 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 Month/Day/Year, 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 08/21/18. 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 hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 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.


2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.

Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.


3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance:
    Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 7.979% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.470% APR to 6.990% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.470% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.30% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

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.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.

All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.


6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of November 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.29%. Variable interest rates range from 2.79%-8.39% (2.79%-8.39% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a cosigner will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.

2.47% – 6.99%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.47% – 6.97%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.51% – 8.09%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

3.02% – 6.44%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.47% – 6.71%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.79% – 8.39%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.