Six years after starting school your son or daughter has a Master’s degree from a top-notch university such as Brown, Duke, or Gonzaga. Years of hard work and reaching for their best has paid off as your offspring has landed a plum position with a research company in the Dallas area. That $50,000 per year starting salary certainly is competitive but your adult child has one big problem: student loan debt in the neighborhood of $106,000! Yes, school is done but much debt remains; enough so that it could take a full 20 years to retire his or her obligations.

Nobody wants to be saddled with too much debt, unfortunately, many university graduates are faced with that proposition. Eventually, additional types of loans will need to be considered including loans for a new car or a first home; having student loan debt on top of it all of that can make it very difficult to make payments on that new car or house.

There are some options you need to know about at this point in the student loan repayment game. These options include:

A Direct Consolidation Loan – Yes, chances are your adult child’s student loans are through a variety of lenders making it difficult to juggle different payment due dates throughout the month. Thankfully, you can consolidate these loans into one payment to just one lender saving the hassle of sending out multiple payments throughout the month.

Variable Repayment Plans – Unlike the standard student loan, borrowers can elect to repay their student loans by choosing a variety of repayment plans. If you consolidate your loan through the U.S. Department of Education, you have as many as four repayment plans available to you. These plans include a standard repayment plan where your repayment amount stays fixed for ten years; an extended repayment plan where the monthly bill is lower but the repayment period is longer from 12 to 30 years; a graduated repayment plan where you have 12 to 30 years to repay your loan and where payments bump up every two years; and an income-contingent repayment plan that is based upon your salary and can be spread out for as long as 25 years.

Of course, former students must know that if they choose a student loan consolidation loan at any time during their 180 day grace repayment period that starts upon their graduating from school, then the repayment on the consolidated student loan must begin at once. Therefore, if you are considering consolidating your loans you may want to time it so that you are either ready to make your first payment ahead of time or have the consolidated loan kick in after your grace period has expired. Yes, you may have to make payments to a variety of lenders until that happens, but once the consolidated student loan has been approved then you will only have to make one monthly payment.

So, who is eligible for a government student loan consolidation? Well, if you have at least one Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) or Direct Loan that is in its grace, deferment, repayment, or default status than you are eligible for this type of loan. In addition, you can consolidate a PLUS loan, a Perkins loan (provided that you also have a direct loan or FFEL loan too), and you can even consolidate some health professional loans.

Finally, in many cases, you are allowed to change your repayment plan options as time goes by. Perhaps the standard repayment plan was working well for you, but you since married and had a child. You may find that mortgage payments are putting enough of a squeeze on your finances, therefore an income-contingent repayment plan may be the best choice for you at this time. Regardless, you have some options available to you when you select a direct consolidation loan, options that several different student loans may not have made available to you.

So, should you consider consolidating your student loans? That answer is “yes” if you are looking for more options than what you have available to you now and you are looking to save money, reduce your hassles, or extend your repayment period. Please visit the U.S. Department of Education’s student loan site at LoanConsolidation.Ed.Gov to learn more about the options which are currently available to you.

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