Raising my hand with consolidation questions

I’m a sucker for breaking the awkward silence. If a professor waited long enough after asking a question in college, I would always pipe up. Well, if I kind of knew the answer.

I asked y’all for questions about student loan consolidation, and so far you haven’t asked any! Well, the awkward silence is getting to me—so I’m going to raise my hand and ask (as well as answer) questions that I’ve been asked in the past.

What exactly is consolidation?

Consolidating means taking out one new student loan that combines your other student loans. Your consolidation loan lender will pay off the loans you are combining, so you’ll have one new loan for the total amount. BTW, when people talk about student loan consolidation, they’re usually referring to federal loan consolidation. Some lenders also offer options for private loan consolidation.

Am I eligible?

If you have federal student loans—no matter which lender holds them—you can consolidate them with any lender. Here are the federal loans that I’m talking about:

  • Federal Family Education Loan Program loans (Stafford, PLUS, SLS, and Consolidation Loans)
  • Federal Direct Loan Program loans (Stafford, PLUS, and Consolidation Loans)
  • Federal Insured Student Loans (FISL)
  • Federal Perkins Loans
  • Health Professions Student Loans (HPSL)
  • Nursing Student Loans (NSL)

And yes, you read that right. If you already have a federal consolidation loan and take out another federal loan (say you go back to school after a couple years to get a master’s degree), you can "reconsolidate" and add more federal loans.

You can also consolidate a single Federal Stafford or Federal PLUS loan if you want to lock in the rate.

Why should I consolidate?

Consolidation offers a couple key benefits:

  • You might see a lower payment each month—which can help when you’re trying to manage other monthly payments while paying back your loan.
  • Instead of making several payments, you’ll only have to make one.
  • Your loan will have a fixed interest rate—this is a big one, especially if you have variable-rate federal loans. The next questions tell you why.

What kind of rate will I get?

For federal loan consolidation the rate is an average of the rates on all the loans you are consolidating, rounded to the nearest one-eighth of a percent. But it won’t get higher than 8.25%. Speaking of rates …

When should I consolidate?

This is an important question right now because students with variable-rate federal loans will see an interest-rate increase on July 1, 2007. If you have a federal loan that was issued before July 1, 2006, you’re in this boat. These loans also increase by 0.60% when your grace period ends, so it’s better to consolidate while in grace.

Why shouldn’t I consolidate?

In some situations, there may be a better option to ease your loan repayment—like different payment options.

Also, you need to be aware of the disadvantages of consolidation. Since you might be extending your repayment term, you could end up paying more interest in the long run. And, it’s possible you might lose any borrower benefits you’ve been reaping on your loans.

Here’s a good checklist Click here to learn about third-party website links that walks you through your decision.

What else should I know about consolidation?

  • You can’t "unconsolidate" your loans. Once you consolidate, your old loans don’t exist anymore—your consolidation lender paid them off.
  • Until your lender tells you your consolidation is complete, you need to continue making payments on all your separate loans.

OK, now that the silence is broken, is there anything else that you’re wondering? If so, raise your hand.

This entry was posted in Consolidation, Federal loans, Lenders, Paying, Post-college, Preparing, Private loans, Refinancing, Student loans, Wells Fargo Bank. Bookmark the permalink.

53 Responses to Raising my hand with consolidation questions

  1. Jen says:

    if I can’t unconsolidate, will another student loan company agree to buy my part of the student loan and seperately buy my ex-husbands part of the loan so we no longer have this joint debt? I’m remarried and this is a nightmare! If we can’t unconsolidate, they should at least agree to send two seperate but duplicate bills since we are no longer married, but they will only send them to my ex. Direct Loans has been a thorn in my side for the past three years because of this…HELP!

  2. Barbara Raus says:

    Hi Jen — Once you consolidated you and your ex-husband became jointly and severally liable for the total amount of the consolidation loan regardless of future marital status. The loan can’t be separated by any lender. One solution that may be an option is for each of you to take out a consumer loan (personal loan, home equity loan, etc. depending on your assets) to pay off your part of the loan. However, this might not make financial sense if you have a better rate on your consolidation loan than you’d get on a consumer loan.
    Have you tried talking with Direct Loans or received any feedback from them about your situation?

  3. jennifer says:

    i’m having the same issue! i really want out of this with him – i have no problem paying my student loans back, but i don’t want to pay for HIS education!

  4. Regina says:

    I’m in the same situation; only the bill comes to me. He pays me monthly just fine, but it shows up on my credit! His amount is 3x mine so it makes the payoff date 2029!!! Of course, Sallie Mae offers no solution. Surely they are asked about this all the time. It would be great if we could get two separate loans with them again in order to keep our low interest rate!

  5. Barbara Raus says:

    I didn’t mention it before, but I wanted to clarify that spousal consolidations are no longer possible.
    So while the advice for those of you in this situation right now isn’t ideal, it’s good to know that people won’t find themselves in that predicament in the future.

  6. overcharged says:

    Is there a way to renegotiate
    for a lower interest rate on your private consolidated loans? I find it appalling for a lender to charge 16% on a private loan when the govenment only charges 8%

  7. Amy says:

    I’m in the same situation. My ex and I have been divorced for over 10 years and we consolidated with Direct Loans. Same thing, I signed on the 1st line and thus all this debt (including his law school loan debt) shows up on my credit rating. We have only agreed to pay the minimum and thus have not even hit the principal – it just plain ol’ sucks.. . I’ve written my congressmen in both New York and Florida to no avail. I am happy for those that will not enter into this situation in the future but what is Congress doing for those of us living the nightmare from signing a loan agreement in the past. I would like for all of those in the same situation to post so we can at least unite and get our legislature to address the issue. . . they do work for us you know! I will try to get another e-mail address so that we can work together to right this wrong!! Who’s with me?

  8. James says:

    I am in the same situation with a joint spousal consolidation loan with Sallie Mae. My ex and I have been divorced for six years and has been very irresponsible about making the payment every month. In our divorce decree we had it stated that we are each responsible for a portion of the debt, therefore if one of us does not abide by the decree the other could file contempt of the court order. I am in the process of going through the motions with my attorney now because I have had enough.

    It’s really a shame that something cannot be done by the government or that Sallie Mae will not agree to renegotiate our debt into two separate loans.

    James in NH

  9. Randy in MS says:

    I am in the same situation. I am paying back my loans under the income contingent method and my income has gone up quite a bit but the loans go up at a exponential rate. They are getting almost too much to handle but the ex, that was ordered to pay half pays nothing. Here is my view. My income is significant and so is my new wife. Together our income will make the student loan payment unmanagable, probably $2,500 per mo. My ex makes very little money and was ordered to pay half. It is not fair for me to shoulder all the burdon and pay her loans nor is it fair for her to pay half with payments based on my income…why don’t the courts do something????

  10. Tiffany in TN says:

    I am hunting down answers to my problems as well and found my way to this post. Although my husband and I are still married I am hopeful that there is a way to help our situation as well. Years ago we consolidated with a spousal consolidation loan, after which time my husband returned to school. We now have three payments out each month: one to our consolidated, and two others for his new loans. We can’t afford all of these payments and want to consolidate into one easier combined monthly payment. I was sad to find today that spousal consolidations no longer exist, although I understand why. For my situation, we are stuck! We cannot consolidate the three together, at least I haven’t found anyone that will allow it yet. Our current company no longer consolidates at all. Any advice? P.S. I’m going back to school in a few months but should not have any additional loans added in. However, we just purchased a house and I found out that the consolidated loans are in MY name. Hello? Just because my name was in the first signature box!

  11. jessica says:

    I find myself in this situation with a twist… my spousal consolidation is an absolute mess…. first of all my estranged ex husbandis five states away, we have five children together that he is supposed to pay child support for… never does it. every once in awhile he will get a meager little job, but will never be responsible enough to pay it all … not to mention the 38,000.00 in student loans. so i am left to pay it all myself while trying to support myself and my kids. if i apply for a deferment then he also has to qualify for the same deferment. so frustrating considering he will not talk to me on the telephone, and basically doesn’t care either way about any money matters. since the state takes 1/2 of his wages for the child support debt, it makes no difference to him if this loan goes into default because they won’t get any money from him at all. they will take my wages, and my tax refund for the next ten years to pay it back. I would qualify for an income sensitive repayment which would be manageable for me,but HE also has to qualify….*sigh* most of the debt was from loans in my name, but these loans supported our family while i was in school. help i don’t know what to do.

    • Christie says:

      Hell on Earth! Have a joint consolidated loan with ex from 12 years ago. He wont pay any payments (which had a lot to do with a divorce), so debt has tripled. I can’t afford even the minimum payment on my own with our two kids. I would qualify for public service or income based payments, but ex wont qualify b/c he makes 3x my salary. I can’t get any help from any programs because he would have to qualify. This is a nightmare!!! My health suffers from the stress. I tell my kids they better never take out student loans. They are evil and they are going to kill me. I have called everyone, wrote to state and federal representatives, and guess what, no one cares enough to do anything.

      • Dana says:

        Hi Christie – Sorry to hear of your situation. I’d recommend you talk with your loan servicer as they will be able to give you the most accurate details concerning your loan and what options maybe available to you.

  12. Ryan says:

    I am in the exact situation here…Remarried with a joint consolidated loan with my ex-spouse. This has been a nightmare for years…to makes things worse I am not eligible for Public Loan Forgiveness under the CCRAA because of this joint loan, even though I work in government service. Are there any forums, websites, etc where I can join other with this issue to work towards a solution?

  13. Tina says:

    I’m in the same situation. Thought consolidation was a good idea, got a divorce (in 1997!!), ex was supposed to pay per our divorce decree, he didn’t, we went into default, etc. We did work together to get out of default but I had to babysit him every step of the way to get there. We’re now in forbearance because he isn’t working. Our loan is DOUBLE the original size because of all of this. I really just want to find a way to be responsible for half and him be responsible for half and go on my merry way!

  14. Angela says:

    It is UNBELIEVABLE how many people across the country have the same issue! This is disgusting that Sallie Mae or the government won’t do something about ex-spouses being able to unconsolidate their debt. What’s amazing is that they would probably get more money being paid back because the responsible people trying desperately to find an answer want to move on with their lives and get this debt paid. I too had the the courts separate our student loan debt, sent it to Sallie Mae with the judge’s blessing only to be told that it can’t be done. I’m so glad that this can’t happen any more to unsuspecting couples, however, SOMETHING MUST BE DONE to those of us who are stuck in this hell!!!!!!

  15. Christy says:

    I have an education award that will pay off a nice lump sum of my loan. I wanted to pay a part of the unsubsidized portion of the loan but my lender says the payment will be equally dispersed between the two portions of the loan, even though the subsidized portion is much larger than the unsubsidized portion…the lender told me the federal law forbids the lender to pay off only the unsubsidized portion, that the federal law mandates they evenly divide my education grant between the two portions, despite the fact that the subsidized portion is larger. If I sell my loan to another lender, could they then apply my whole education award to the unsubsidized portion of the loan…these laws really favor the lender versus the student who is in debt and just trying to scrape by…

    • Barbara Raus says:

      Hi Christy – Student loan payments are generally applied first to any outstanding fees and charges, then to outstanding interest, and finally to the principal balance. Once you’ve consolidated your loans, they become a single loan and have a single promissory note. The principal balance may be part subsidized and part unsubsidized, but it’s one loan and the payments are applied to the whole loan. This does apply to any prepayments going directly to the principal balance as well. That’s going to be the situation with any lender. Plus, there are only certain reasons you can “reconsolidate” and it might end up costing you more in the long run since the interest rate would be rounded up to the nearest 1/8 of a percent.

  16. Debby says:

    I am in the same situation. I just got a divorce in July of ’09 and am already having problems with my ex not paying. I put it in the divorce papers that we are each responsible for half the loan.
    This last month I noticed he wasn’t paying his half and found out that he lost his job. So now we are having to defer the loan for him while I continue to pay my half. Its crazy that there is nothing that can be done about this….and it has only just begun! HELP!

  17. Keena says:

    I am in the same situation. My ex husband doesnt pay, and it goes on my credit report. And he puts the loans in forbearance without my agreement and the amount of the loan keeps going up. I have been paying on these loans for 8 years and have gotten no where. Is there any groups or online/offline resources that are available?

  18. Cassie says:

    My husband consolidated some of his student loans, but did not consolidate the Perkins loans that he had with the others. Is there anyway that he can add the Perkins loans to the consolidated loan?

    • Barbara Raus says:

      Cassie – Generally, borrowers leave Perkins loans out of their Federal Consolidation loan because they tend to have a lower interest rate and different repayment terms. Technically, your husband could reconsolidate his consolidation loan with the Perkins loans, however, that loan would have an interest rate that was the weighted interest rate of the loans included rounded up to the nearest 1/8 of a percent. So, he’d probably be paying more interest over time.

  19. Jessica says:

    Same here, only my husbands name was in the first box, and then he changed all his log in information at the lender, and I can’t even access the loan. On top of that I have a protective order against him, and we aren’t allowed ANY communications, so I am totally in the dark. Obviously, if they have made these illegal, than they recognize the problem. There has to be something we can do.

  20. Jessica P says:

    My husband and I jointly consolidated FFEL loans 5 years ago. And now we want to take advantage of the PSFL, but cannot because Direct loans won’t accept our jointly consolidated loan.
    So if we hadn’t consolidated (which cut our payment in half and made it affordable), then we’d be eligible for the IBR’s PSFL and could have our loan forgiven after 10 years instead of 25 years…
    We didn’t know the govt would create such a great PSLF forgiveness program at the time – - wish they could still include us even though we are consolidated together already!

    • Anonymous says:

      Amen!! I just spent 2 hours on the phone with Direct Loans trying to make this POINT to them. My husband I jointly consolidated (and are still very happily married) our college loans in 2004…had someone told me that the forgiveness program would be avail for certain professions, we would’ve have never done it. THis is insane, unjust, and just WRONG. WE are being penalized for something we had no control; over. Shouldn’t there be a “grandfather” clause?

  21. Recy N. Hamilton says:

    I cosigned loans for my son, not knowing how difficult it is to work with Wells Fargo. I didn’t know anything about the loans being due, until I got a late notice in the mail. I have been trying to make payments, and to get the loans consolidated, but all I get are phone calls and no help. Thanks Wells Fargo.

    • Barbara Raus says:

      Recy – I’m sorry to hear that you’re not having a positive experience. Would you email us through our Ask the Expert tool (the link is on the right-hand side of the page) with a few more details about the account, your son’s name, etc., so we can look into the situation and help you resolve the issue?

  22. Sheila H says:

    Same exact situation!!! Paying for my ex’s and my consolidated loan. My name is first so it all falls to me. He won’t pay it. The gov’t needs to open their eyes to this loophole that many of us got stuck in!!! It isn’t right to do this. Every other thing can be seperated but not a student loan…give me a break!

  23. Ken H. says:

    Barbara, I hope you can answer me as my situation is VERY similar except for one slight difference. When I requested the copy of the Promissory note that was supposedly “signed” by my wife and I back in 2004…I received a copy, and the signature is NOT MINE. My wife wrote in my signature – does not look ANYTHING like what is on my Drivers License. All that small print about “you are just as liable, and by signing this you agree to …etc” and it is not MY SIGNATURE. Do I have a case to seperate the loans?? Just pay my portion? It is basically a contract NOT signed by me. Does the loan company have a loop hole with this as well? Will I STILL somehow be held responsible with proof it is NOT my signature?

    Thanks – Ken

    • Barbara Raus says:

      Ken – If you believe that there was identity theft or fraud committed in connection with the application, you should contact your lender. They can help you understand the process they have in place for those situations.

  24. Lisa E. says:

    Wow it is unfortunate to see so many others who are going through the same personal hell I am. Does anyone know of any current legislation pending or being written to address unconsolidating student loans? The income based repayment plans seem to offer no relief in our divorced situation either. There has to be a way for lenders to separate the loans.

  25. Lara M. says:

    Same situation here. I’ve been paying both my share and his for a couple years now. The total I’ve paid for him is getting close to $20K and it has exhausted my savings.

    I’m contacting attorneys to see if we can garnish his wages or something. He’s the primary name and social security number on the loan, so it’s hard to even get the lending agency to TALK to me about it!

  26. Dalton says:

    I consolidated with my now ex-wife in 2004. Per the divorce decree, I am responsible for the debt and would love to take her off of the debt entirely, but can’t. This affects me because I’m more than eligible for IBR, but having her on it makes it more difficult to get done.

  27. Dan says:

    I have been divorced since 2005. We have both done well so far at paying the portions of the loan we are reasonsible for, but this is a tough commitment to make for the next 20+ years with someone I no longer share a life or finances with. You never know what unexpected hardship life can bring–lost job, health problems, even death–and it is very troublesome to think that, even with the best of intentions, one of us could get stuck with the full loan amount if something happened to the other. Even if I were to have financial problems which forced me into bankruptcy, the student loan would not change due to the “jointly and severally liable” condition in the law and contract. I realize we signed the contract as such, but there should be some kind of exemption in cases of divorce. Perhaps if we petitioned our congressmen and congresswomen in an organized manner, they will see how many people are affected by this and it would encourage them to make a change in the legislature. I am not sure, however, whether or not Congress can trump the terms in a promissory note. . .

  28. Lynn says:

    We were divorced (finally) in April 2010. During the separation we did a forebearance. Then the judge ordered him to pay our consolidated loan. This was my settlement. He’s $60k arrears on child support (never paid a dime) and this loan is not been paid on for 2 years now. What good it a decree? I wish someone had an answer!

  29. Leslie says:

    Same for me. Divorce decree says we are each responsible for a percentage, but if he doesn’t pay – then what? File for contempt? That would cost hundreds and probably get me nowhere. So far, it looks like the best option is for each of us to take out personal loans and pay off our respective percentages individually. However, we filed bankruptcy before the divorce – so who is going to extend a loan to me so soon after a bankruptcy? This blog has been very helpful. I like the idea about writing to Congress. Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated, and if I come up with anything else I will post. Thanks!

  30. Danielle says:

    I have a bit of a different question. I’m a recent graduate that had to ask my parents for help paying for college. I have loans in my name and my mother has a Parent Plus loan that I consolidated with another student loan she had. To me it looks like her loan became just an unsubsidized consolidated loan. I know I couldn’t get the Parent Plus Loan transferred into my name but now that it is consolidated and doesn’t say that its a Parent Plus Loan, is there a way I could get it consolidated with my other student loans? I’m really trying to find some way to get this out of her name, Thanks!

  31. Laura Davis says:

    Well i also have a spousal loan, i did not tknow this for 11 years until they moved it to a new lender when I took a loan for my grad school. 11 years ago I consolidated only my loans and in community property state my husband at the time, even though we would be divorcing in 2 months, had to sign that he was aware of the line of credit I was applying for , this was only my debt, only my student loans , he has never had any ! Some how they made it into a spousal loan. But interesting enough, i was able to defer with out him and forebare without him as well for 11 years until this moving of the loan now they will not defer while i am in school and direct loans says they will not fix what was obviously a huge error. My ex husband has no resonsibility to these loans they were only mine and now I have this ugly loan I can do nothing with and he is responsible for it too. oh he is gonna be mad when I find him to notify him ugh and no one will help. I understood spousal loan to be his and her loans together not hers and throw his name on them . wow!! any ideas HELP!

  32. Jennifer says:

    In our divorce decree, my ex figured what his loan would cost with interest. We agreed upon the amount and went before a judge. Well, according to the Judge we could not just throw that amount into the decree without “labeling” it. So it was labeled as Alimony! Now I have to claim his school payment as my income on EVERYTHING! Even child support… I don’t have the money to revise the decree, but he gets away with it anyway. Need to unconsolidate!!!

  33. Amy Myers says:

    I signed a spousal consolidation for my ex-husband and my student loans. The debt has been sold 4-5x, the new lender has my ex husband’s name only on the loan. When I call to talk to them, they eventually let me speak and tell me that i am the co-signer. Do you know, can I legally request proof of loan ownership documents? Showing how our names appear on the new “sold” loan?

    • Barbara Raus Barbara says:

      Amy, have you requested a copy of the promissory note? That would be a first step to see what exactly is listed for the agreement. Those terms shouldn’t change when the loan is sold.

  34. Allen says:

    I am in the same situation as most of you. I just found out last month that I was in a spousal consolidation with my ex-wife. The only reason I found out was a notice of default, because the loan is 120+ days past due. I have called Dept. of Ed. repeatedley and they wont let me put a forbearance on the account because my ex-wife has to agree to the forbearance. She will not contact Dept. of Ed nor do I want to contact her!! Please help!!! I have requested documentation from Dept of Ed. about the loan, but really need a forbearance to work these details out. What should I do. I don’t understand why she doesn’t care that it goes into default, she has more to loose than me, she has 2 kids that are not mine, and I would think she gets a pretty hefty refund check, any suggestions would help me!!Thanks – Allen

  35. Tiffany says:

    I am going thru the same thing! I’ve been divorced 3 yrs. My ex was supposed to pay the loan. I realize what I signed @ 21yrs old thinking I’d always be married. I’m trying to pay the loan and Direct Loans won’t send me any information or allow me to put it in my name but they are reporting it on my credit report. He now has it deffered…ugh!!!!

  36. Jenn says:

    I am in a spousal consolidation with my husband, and we are trying to find out why we are unable to refinance our student loan. We no not want to default on our loan, but we would like to be able to lower the payment. Sallie Mae has told us that there is no way for them to help us. That is just crazy! Due to the economic downturn we are not making the same amount of money we used to. If we cannot lower the payment I fear that we may default. It is ridiculous that they would have a paying customer (of 10 years) default on their loan rather than working to help them. I understand that we signed the joint consolidation, but I do not see anywhere in our promissory note that refinancing would not be an option or that we would not qualify for forgiveness programs (we both qualify for the PSLF). Who can help us with this without ruining our credit by defaulting?

    • Dana says:

      Hey Jenn – I’d recommend you talk with your loan servicer. They will be able to give you the most accurate details concerning your situation. If Wells Fargo is your loan servicer, please call our Loan Specialists at 1-800-658-3567 to discuss your options.

  37. Jen says:

    My ex of 8 years has masters and law degree loans of 200,000 plus. I consolidated in my measly $10,000 aa degree loan when we were married. Now he makes great money as attorney but never seems to have enuf money to pay the student loan. It shows on my credit report and prob will show until the day i die. Its a crime that i cant unconsolidate my portion.

    • Dana says:

      Hey Jen – it’s unfortunate to hear of this news. In a situation like this, we recommend that you contact your current service provider and inquire on any options that maybe available to you.

  38. Dotti says:

    Is it possible for my husband and I to consolidate our 3 student loans? I have one, he has two. Our total debt is around $40,000 and our monthly payment is almost $700.00. Any advice would help. He works and I stay home with our 2 children. Money is tight.

  39. Donna says:

    I have a spousal consolidated loan with my ex husband too. The divorce decree states that he is responsible for the whole loan repayment. We have been divorced for 10 years and I haven’t heard anything about it since then until recently when it was bought out by another lender. All of a sudden it is on my credit report and affecting my score; I couldn’t get a lower interest rate on my car loan because it shows on my credit even though it is his responsibility and has never been there before. It is in deferment but he will never pay this loan back. He let it slip that his house is paid off; could I take him back to court and force him to take out an equity loan and pay the whole $40,000 loan off (mind you only 14,000 is mine; 10,000 is interest from the past 10 years of deferment!)

  40. Apryl says:

    Is it true if you go back to college to earn another degree, Sallie Mae will separate your student loan?

    • studentloandown says:

      Hey Apryl- I’d recommend you contact Sallie Mae concerning your question. They will be able to give you the most accurate details.

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