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Student loans: 5 steps to pay down your debt

Student loans aren't far from your mind if you've graduated. Now comes the hard part: paying for the education that you’ve just completed. Where to begin? Collect all your loan paperwork and then follow these five smart steps to paying off your student loans.

3. Weigh consolidation

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    Occupy Wall Street demonstrators protest against the rising national student debt in Union Square, in New York in this April 2012 file photo. Consolidating outstanding loans can make repayment easier, but you can't lump public and private loans together.
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Loan consolidation can make repayment easier: You have a single loan to repay vs. many. Your interest rate will be a weighted average rate of the loans you are consolidating. But students beware; you cannot consolidate federal loan debt and private loan debt. And if there’s a chance you’ll work in a field where loan forgiveness is possible, those loans eligible for forgiveness shouldn’t be part of your consolidation options.

Say, for example, you took out a Perkins loan that is eligible for forgiveness. If you consolidate that Perkins loan (federal) with your Stafford or direct loans, you lose your ability to have the loan forgiven. It is no longer a Perkins loan.

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