MEFA Student Loan Refinancing Review: Save Thousands
Updated: Oct 18
Now that President Biden has announced his plan for $10,000 in federal student loan forgiveness, many Americans will again seriously consider student loan refinancing as an option for their remaining loans.
Many student loan borrowers are familiar with the largest refinancing lenders, like SoFi and CommonBond, but don't realize that there are other, smaller lenders out there too. One such example is MEFA, the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority.
This article will review refinancing with MEFA.
MEFA refinancing at a glance
$10,000 up to your remaining balance
Minimum credit score
Starting at 4.50%
7, 10, 15 years
Student Debt Destroyer Rating
What is MEFA?
The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority was created in 1982 by the MA state legislature to help offer low-cost college financing to families and students that wish to attend college.
Today, they offer both private student loans, as well as student loan refinancing for those that already have federal or private loans with another lender.
MEFA refinancing eligibility
To be eligible to refinance your student loans with the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, you'll need to meet a variety of financial and demographic requirements. Financially, you'll need to:
Have a credit score of at least 670
Earn at least $24,000 annually
Meet lender specific debt-to-income requirements
In addition to these criteria, you'll need to be a United States citizen or full-time resident. Finally, you will need to have paid your outstanding student loans for at least 12 months and have never been in student loan default.
Other than this, there are no geographic restrictions, as MEFA is available to borrowers in any of the nation's 50 states. Finally, make sure that you've met the following formalities:
No bankruptcies or foreclosures in the previous five years
Have made at least six months of consecutive and complete payments on the loans you are refinancing
Have used your loans to finance a college education at an eligible degree-granting institution
MEFA refi rates and terms
MEFA currently offers refinancing terms of 7, 10, and 15 years, so those that are looking to shorten or extend their federal term both have an option available to them. Do keep in mind that, while rates are dependent on prevailing interest rate condition, you are likely to find lower rates on loans with shorter terms.
As of the end of August 2022, refinancing rates started at 4.50%.
In terms of fees, MEFA does not assess:
Monthly late fees
While it is customary in the industry to offer discounts for automated direct debit payments, unfortunately, the lender does not offer anything in terms of autopay discounts.
MEFA private loans for college students
If you're looking to take out loans to help finance either your undergraduate or graduate education, you'll want to be aware that these programs operate a little differently than MEFA's refinancing program. As of the end of August 2022, you'll find the following terms and program guidelines:
Terms of either 10 or 15 years, depending on your level of education
Undergraduate loan rates starting at 4.89%
Graduate loan rates starting at 5.74%
Of course, these lowest rates will be given to the most creditworthy borrowers, and you can borrow as little as $1,500 and up to your total cost of attendance (college expense minus any financial aid or scholarships that you have received).
To help increase the chances of securing a good interest rate, you should consider applying with a cosigner that has good credit.
Loan repayment options
Undergraduates will be able to choose between the following repayment options:
Immediate: Full payments begin on day 28 of next month following the final loan disbursement
Interest-Only: Interest payments begin on day 28 of next month following final disbursement
Deferred: Payments won't begin for six months after student is no longer a full-time student
Deferred with Co-Borrower Release: Same as "Deferred" repayment, but cosigners can be released following 48 consecutive timely and full payments.
Those taking on graduate loans can opt to select either the interest-only or deferred options. You can learn more at mefa.org.
Pros and cons to MEFA student loans and refis
There are some notable tradeoffs, both positive and negative, in working with a smaller lender like MEFA as opposed to a more national lender such as Earnest or Laurel Road. Below are the benefits.
1. No late fees assessed
It is always nice to see a lender on the market that does not assess anything in terms of late fees. While there are other repercussions to missing payments or making them late, at least an extra financial burden will not result.
2. Deferral options on undergraduate and graduate loans
In another rarity, especially among the various private lenders on the market, MEFA offers generous deferment options on their student loans, up to 5 years for undergrad loans and up to 3 years on graduate loans.
Here are a couple of things we'd like to see MEFA improve upon.
1. No variable rate loans
Generally, variable rate loans don't have a place in our repertoire because they can present some risk to borrowers. Still - it is nice to have them available as an option should the need arise.
MEFA borrowers will need to opt for fixed-rate loans, or commit to working with another lender altogether.
2. No rate check without a hard credit inquiry
If our first con sounded like we were nit-picking a little, that's fair. But not here. MEFA is one of the only lenders that we've come across, along with Discover Student Loans, that conducts hard credit inquiries in order to qualify you for borrowing.
These credit inquiries are usually conducted after you're quoted a preliminary rate offer and decide to formally apply. By not offering any quotes off soft credit pulls, you'll be at a disadvantage as it pertains to comparison rate shopping. Refinancing loans are not included in this.
3. No deferment programs for refinanced loans
Unfortunately, the lender does not offer anything as far as formal deferment or forbearance programs on refinancings. And while this is oftentimes expected when refinancing or taking out loans with a private lender, some lenders, like Discover, have started to buck that trend somewhat.
Just keep this in mind in the event that you lose your job, have an accident, etc.
MEFA customer service
One of the differentiators in using MEFA for either original loans or refinancing loans is their customer service. Available by phone at (800) 266-0243 or via email a firstname.lastname@example.org, the lender has excellent reviews on sites like Trustpilot.
Many of the more recent reviews mention the lender's detailed webinars that contain information about the loan and refinancing process.
Just check out their review profile below.
Are MEFA loans right for you?
We've come across MEFA loans a number of times in the past with our readers, and we've found that they tend to be a good option for those that, for whatever reason, need to take out private student loan debt. Their status as a non-profit undoubtedly impacts our opinion, since their competitive rates and deferral options help them steer clear of the borderline predatory lending schemes that some lenders partake in.
More specifically, we like MEFA as an option for those who value customer service and being treated like a human being.
Private student loan tips and tricks
Over the past couple of years, we've connected with and helped many student loan borrowers. And what we've found is that many have fears about taking private loans or refinancing with a private lender like MEFA. To help alleviate these concerns and help you gauge whether working with a private lender may be for you, we recommend you walk through this checklist:
Have you exhausted your federal loan options? Generally, federal loans are superior to their private counterparts, both in terms of interest rates and flexibility. This said, most borrowers will be better off not taking any private loans until they no longer qualify to take out any other federal loans.
Do you need a cosigner? MEFA does allow cosigners on your loans, and if you are unlikely to qualify on your own, you may consider using one. And even if it is not required per se, you may still qualify for better financing.
And now, a couple of refinancing specific items.
Have you compared interest rates? Have you simply decided to choose MEFA because they are a lender in your area of Massachusetts? You'll likely want to complete more due diligence and at least compare their rate and term options with other private lenders. We think that using marketplaces such as Splash Financial, LendKey, and Credible can be really helpful for rate checking in bulk.
Do you have more student debt than your annual income? We've found this barometer to be a quick test to help you decide whether refinancing with MEFA - or any lender - makes sense for you. Those that earn less in a year than they have outstanding in student debt generally have a better chance at saving money by refinancing, but it still largely depends on the interest rate you receive.
Download our student loan calculator
Whether you are considering MEFA to finance your education or refinance existing loans, our student loan calculator is guaranteed to help you. Our calculator is completely free, and is the most comprehensive tool of its kind. It will help you find the best forgiveness or repayment strategy to help you get out of debt as quickly as possible.
And if you're considering refinancing, we've built in a special section designed to help you determine if it makes financial sense for your unique situation,
It just may save you thousands of dollars!
Check out our refinancing lender guides
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