You can consolidate an FFELP Loan to a Direct Loan, and it’s not too late to qualify for loan forgiveness. The U.S. Department of Education is giving all borrowers until May 1, 2023, to consolidate loans made through the Federal Family Education Loan Program and Federal Perkins Loan into a Direct Consolidation Loan to gain eligibility for the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Waiver & Account Adjustment.
The IDR Waiver is a powerful, one-time opportunity to get credit towards the 240 or 300 monthly payments needed for IDR forgiveness and the 120 qualifying payments required for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
You can consolidate or “convert” an FFELP Loan to a Direct Loan, no matter your credit score, account status, or even if you don’t have another federal student loan to include in your consolidation application.
You can only consolidate an FFELP Loan to a Direct Loan if you’re not in default and your wages are not being garnished. During the pandemic, the federal government stopped all collection efforts on delinquent student loan debt. So you should be able to consolidate your FFEL Loans even if you were being garnished before the pandemic started.
Is it too late to consolidate an FFEL Loan to a Direct Loan?
It’s too late to consolidate privately-held FFEL Loans to a Direct Loan so you can qualify for the PSLF Waiver and President Biden’s student debt cancellation plan. But you still have time to consolidate to reap the benefits of the IDR Waiver. This program gives you retroactive credit for any prior loan payments and time spent in deferment or forbearance towards a 20 or 25-year repayment plan forgiveness.
The PSLF Waiver ended on Halloween, and the White House scaled back eligibility for Presiden Biden’s relief plan the same day six Republican-led states sued the president to block his student loan forgiveness program from taking effect.
The Biden administration first said that borrowers whose federal student loans were guaranteed by the government but held by private lenders would be eligible for the one-time forgiveness action if they consolidated their debt into the Direct Loan Program. But the day after a legal challenge in Missouri was filed, the department reversed course and, in doing so, sacrificed hundreds of thousands of borrowers with privately-held student loans.
According to the Federal Student Aid website, StudentAid.gov, privately held federal student loans must have been combined before Sep. 29 to be eligible for the president’s debt relief plan.
Should I consolidate my FFEL Loans into a Direct Loan?
Consolidate your FFEL Loans into a federal Direct Consolidation Loan if you want to take advantage of the pandemic-related forbearance that has stopped payments and canceled interest on federal student loans for the past two years. President Biden recently extended the payment pause until next summer to give time for the Supreme Court justices to decide whether the Education Department can broadly cancel student loans.
Consolidating FFEL Loans into a new Direct Consolidation Loan also makes sense if you want to get your loans forgiven sooner.
How to convert FFEL Loans to Direct Loans?
You can start the consolidation process to “convert” an FFEL Loan to a Direct Loan on StudentAid.gov. Once you log in with your FSA ID, click “Loan Repayment” and “Consolidate My Loans.” Set aside about 30 minutes to complete the consolidation application.
Enter the loans you want to consolidate. You can include all of your federal student loan debt or just your loans made through the FFEL Program.
Choose a student loan servicer. A loan servicer is a company hired by the Education Department to handle the billing and other services on your account. The servicer you choose will work with you on repayment options and help you with other tasks related to your federal student loans.
Choose a repayment plan. You can choose an IDR plan like income-based repayment or one that pays your loan balance fully. If you’re consolidating to get your loans forgiven, choose one of the income-driven repayment options.
Read the promissory note and repayment terms before submitting the form online. Continue making your student loan payments as usual until your loan servicer confirms consolidation is complete.
Contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243 if you have questions about student loan consolidation. You can also schedule a time to speak with me.
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Consolidating FFEL Loans into a Direct Loan may be the best option for you to take advantage of better repayment and forgiveness options. Although the window is quickly closing, there is still time to consolidate student loans before May 1, 2023. Taking the time to consolidate now could make all the difference for paying off your student loan debt.
It’s important to understand all the options available and the potential consequences of consolidating your loans. If you are considering consolidation, schedule a time to speak with me to help guide you through the process — or do it for you. That way, you can make sure you get the right solution for your financial future.