your face is a variable APR rate, Sallie Mae
I’m considering consolidating my private student loans. I have a substantial amount of student debt, and sadly I don’t have a graduate degree to back it up. Nope, this is all the work of obtaining the dream undergraduate experience at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I wanted out of Georgia that bad. Anywho, I’ve been steeped in debt data all morning.
It all started when Credit Karma sent me a friendly little email update, “Hey! Idiot – you’ll pay a lot less if you consolidate your loans!” Loan. Consolidation. Why have I never thought about this before?! I thought to myself. I have, actually, but I looked at it when I graduated in 2008. I didn’t have the credit, the means or the know-how to even attempt the daunting task of finding the proverbial needle in the haystick within the endless amounts of garbage most of these lenders spew.
But I like Credit Karma. It has become a trusty friend, helping me build my credit, repair damage I (unknowingly) did in college and work my way into the grand ‘ole “good” credit category. For private loan consolidation, they recommend cuGrad. I recognize they’re probably partners, or cuGrad is a sponsor or has otherwise financially incentivized Credit Karma to get me to click their link. I did it anyway, thinking it’s a starting point, right?
Several hours and multiple lender websites later, I’m just totally and utterly confused.
cuGrad would take my 20 year repayment plan with the devil, er, Sallie Mae, and reduce it to 15. On the surface, it looks as though I would pay less. That all sounds great, and I got so excited I filled out the preliminary application (ding! the sound of my Credit Karma account, warning me that too many inquiries is a bad thing! But they told me to! Sigh.). I got conditionally approved, which made me proud that my credit has come so far since graduation. Then I read the fine print. You gotta just always read the fine print! I made stupid financial mistakes in college, and I blame that on a lack of access to information on how all that loan stuff works. But now? Now I’m 27, and there are no excuses. It’s time to just read the fine print.
It wasn’t actually all that fine, though – in pretty bold typeface, they spell out that they don’t do fixed interest rates. They offer variable APR rates or some yata yata. In essence, I understand this to mean my monthly payments will never be consistent, never exactly the same, down to the $.02 I know I owe Sallie Mae every month. They’ll be dependent upon the market. I know in the financial investment world (and in life…) they say when you’re young you can afford to take risks, but this is my budget we’re talking about messing with – my beloved budget!
So how much does a variable interest rate swing? By how much is it possible for my payments to change month by month? Am I looking at $10 here or there or, like, a budget demolishing $100? (Yo, I’m poor. Re: title of the blog.)
There are, of course, other options that can offer fixed rates. Most of them would involve working with a major bank – like Wells Fargo. I’d look more seriously into that if Wells Fargo weren’t the devil’s right hand man. I hate Wells Fargo. This cuGrad place is a not-for-profit thingy mabobber. That sounds more my speed.
Am I being stupid here? What’s the right path? Have you looked into private loan consolidation? And for the love of all that is neither Sallie Mae nor Wells Fargo, why aren’t there more easy-to-understand resources on these issues?! It’s 2012, and nobody can afford college. Journalists, lenders, ivory towers – get your act together and put. out. information. We’d all be more willing to sell you our souls if we knew what we were getting in return.