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ELFI Student Loans Review

Ben Luthi
ELFI student loans review
ELFI student loans review

Finding the right lender to help finance your education or refinance your existing student loans with can feel like a daunting task. With so many options available, you want to make sure you get the best deal while also setting yourself up for success with your student loan repayment plan.

Education Loan Finance (ELFI) is one of the many student loan companies to consider. In this ELFI student loan review, you’ll learn about the lender, what sets it apart from the rest, and whether it’s the right path forward for you.

ELFI student loan review: Company overview

ELFI is owned by Tennessee-based SouthEast Bank, and unlike some other student loan companies, which also offer other financial products and services, it only specializes in private student loans and student loan refinancing.

ELFI was launched by SouthEast Bank in 2015, and by 2022, it has surpassed $2 billion in student refinance loans. The lender also offers a variety of in-school student loans for undergraduates, graduates and even their parents.

For both in-school and refinance loans, ELFI offers competitive interest rates and some features that aren’t available with all lenders. But there are also some drawbacks that may make you think twice.

ELFI private in-school loans

If you’re still in school or you’re a parent with a college-aged child, ELFI provides a few different student loan options from which you can choose. While it’s generally best for students to exhaust their allotment of federal student loans before they resort to private student loans, the latter can help if you still have a gap after you’ve used up all of your financial aid.

Benefits of ELFI private student loans

Many of the benefits you get as an ELFI borrower are also available with other private lenders, but this lender also has some solid features that can set itself apart from some of the alternatives:

  • If you don’t have any other options to receive federal loans and other forms of financial aid, a private student loan from ELFI can help you avoid falling short on tuition and other educational expenses.

  • The lender offers a low minimum loan amount, which can come in handy if you don’t need much funding to bridge the gap.

  • Unlike some lenders, ELFI is transparent about its eligibility requirements, so you know what to expect up front.

  • You can get a cosigner if your credit history isn’t good enough to qualify on your own.

  • The lender offers four different repayment options to give you more control over your payoff plan.

Unique features of ELFI private student loans

As previously mentioned, a lot of private student loan companies offer some of the same features and benefits. However, there are some private student loan companies that set themselves apart from the others.

For ELFI, that includes its four repayment options, including:

  • Immediate: You’ll start making full principal and interest payments within 30 to 60 days of loan disbursement. This could be worth considering if you’re a parent and don’t need an in-school deferment.

  • Interest only: You can make interest-only payments while you’re in school to avoid having ELFI capitalize the accrued interest and add it to your loan balance upon graduation.

  • Fixed: You can opt to make $25 monthly payments while you’re in school and during your six-month grace period after you leave school, then full payments of principal and interest after that. This could be good if you want to limit the impact of interest capitalization, and depending on how much you borrow, it could even pay down some of the principal while you’re in school.

  • Deferred: This is the standard repayment option for most student loans — you won’t make any monthly payments as long as you’re enrolled in school at least half time.

Additionally, the lender will assign you a student loan advisor who will help you throughout the entire loan process.

Other key features to know about ELFI private student loans

As you compare private student loan companies, it’s crucial that you take the time to look at each feature, not just the interest rate. Here are some of the features you’ll find with an ELFI student loan:

  • Loan minimum: You can borrow anywhere between $1,000 and the cost of attendance for your school.

  • Interest rates: As with other private student lenders, ELFI offers both fixed and variable interest rates. In general, it’s best to go with a fixed rate on a private student loan because the interest rate doesn’t change over the life of your loan. Since you’ll be paying off your loans for up to 15 years after you graduate, a variable rate could fluctuate and potentially cost you a lot more in the long run.

  • Repayment terms: If you’re an undergraduate or a graduate student, you can choose anywhere between five and 15 years. However, parent loans are only eligible for repayment terms ranging from five to 10 years.

  • Forbearance: As with its refinance borrowers, ELFI may offer up to 12 months’ worth of forbearance if you’re struggling to keep up with your payments.

  • Cosigner release: While you can apply with a cosigner to improve your chances of getting approved with an affordable rate, ELFI doesn’t offer a cosigner release program. In other words, you’d need to refinance your loans on your own after graduation to remove your cosigner.

  • School deferment: ELFI doesn’t offer deferment if you return to school.

Who should take out private student loans with ELFI?

ELFI private student loans are available to college students and their parents in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, so you don’t have to worry about being disqualified based on your state of residence. If you want a good interest rate, you’ll typically need a good credit score or a cosigner who has one.

Here are the eligibility requirements the lender provides:

  • Citizenship: Both you and your cosigner (if applicable) must be U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens without conditions.

  • Age: Both you and your cosigner must be the age of majority in your state of residence when you apply.

  • Enrollment: You or your child must be enrolled at least half time in a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree program at an eligible school.

  • Income: You or your cosigner must earn at least $35,000 annually.

  • Credit score: You or your cosigner must have a credit score of 680 or higher, as well as a credit history of at least 36 months.

For parent loans, there are additional requirements, specifically to prove that the student is dependent on you as the borrower.

For starters, you must be the mother or father, stepmother or stepfather, the adoptive mother or adoptive father, the foster mother or foster father, the grandmother or grandfather, the brother or sister, the half-brother or half-sister, the stepbrother or stepsister, or the aunt or uncle of the dependent student.

Additionally, you must meet the following criteria:

  • The dependent student (including prospective students) shared a principal place of residence with the borrower for more than half of the taxable year.

  • The dependent student is younger than the borrower and (a) has not turned 19 before the end of the calendar year in which the loan is made, or (b) is a student who has not turned 24 in the same time period.

  • The dependent student has not provided more than half of their own support during the calendar year in which the loan is made.

  • Unless the dependent student is adopted, the dependent student is a citizen of the U.S., a national of the U.S., a resident of the U.S., or a resident of a country contiguous to the U.S.

If you’re not certain about your eligibility, the good news is that you can get prequalified with the lender with no hard credit check.

How to compare ELFI private student loan interest rates

As with refinancing, it’s crucial that college students and parents take their time to shop around and compare interest rates before they apply with ELFI (or any other lender, for that matter).

You can compare rates and other features with each lender individually, or you can use an online comparison tool to help you. The important thing is that you know what you’re comparing.

For instance, lenders typically offer lower upfront rates on variable rate loans, so don’t get duped by a lower offer if it’s a fixed rate loan you’re looking for.

Also, many lenders offer discounted rates if you already have a relationship with them or if you set up automatic payments. If those factors apply to you, make sure you incorporate these discounts into your comparison.

Finally, while interest rates are generally the most important factor, don’t forget other features, such as cosigner release and eligibility requirements. You should also look up ELFI student loan reviews and reviews for other lenders online to get a sense of what the customer experience is like and what options are available if you can’t pay.          

This process can be time-consuming, but it’s critical to ensure that you get the best offer that you’re eligible for based on your financial situation and credit history.

ELFI private student loans: The bottom line

ELFI offers competitive interest rates and features for both college students and parents alike. The flexible repayment options can make it easier for you to develop the right payoff strategy, and the transparent eligibility requirements make it easy to know whether or not you’ll qualify without spending time on an application.

However, ELFI’s lack of a cosigner release program makes it less appealing than some of its competitors if you need a cosigner to get approved. The student loan will show up on their credit report as long as the loan is still outstanding, and if you want to remove the cosigner after you graduate, you’ll have to refinance the debt with another lender.

Take your time to understand what ELFI offers and what you can expect from other lenders in order to choose the lender that best fits your needs.

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