Education Loan Finance Reviews: Student Loan Refinancing and Private Student Loans

Education Loan Finance offers dedicated customer support for student loan borrowers.
Cecilia Clark
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Last updated on April 22, 2024
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✅ Fact checked and reviewed
Karen Gaudette Brewer
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed

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Student loan ratings

Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan
Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating
The Nerdy headline:

A division of Tennessee-based SouthEast Bank, Education Loan Finance — also known as ELFI — offers student loan refinancing and private student loans for undergraduates, grad students and parents. Its refinancing loan is best for borrowers who value good customer service. Its private student loan is best for borrowers with a significant funding gap.

Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan review

2024 BEST Student Loan Refinancing for Parents
Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan
Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

4.0
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score
680
Fixed APR
4.50-14.22%
Variable APR
6.00-14.22%
on Education Loan Finance's website

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • You are assigned a student loan advisor.

Cons

  • No co-signer release available.

Best for borrowers with a significant funding gap.

Full Review

Education Loan Finance, also called ELFI, began offering undergraduate private student loans in 2015. Borrowers can choose from four repayments terms for most types of private loans — more than many other lenders.

ELFI assigns all borrowers a student loan advisor that you can contact via email, phone and text during the application process.

ELFI private student loans at a glance

  • Offers personalized rate estimates via a soft credit check.

  • No co-signer release program.

  • Late fees for payments not made within 10 days of due date.

How ELFI could improve

ELFI could improve its private student loan product by:

  • Offering a co-signer release program.

  • Lending to students in associate degree programs.

ELFI private student loan details

    • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: Yes.

    • Loan terms: 5, 7, 10 or 15 years.

    • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the school's cost of attendance.

    • Application or origination fee: None.

    • Prepayment penalty: No.

    • Late fees: Yes; 5% of the past-due amount or $50, whichever is less, if no part of payment is received within 10 days after the due date.

    Compare Education Loan Finance's range of interest rates with other private student loan lenders. Your actual rate will depend on factors including your — or your co-signer's — credit history and financial situation. To see what rate ELFI will offer you, apply on its website.

  • Financial

    • Minimum credit score: 680, for borrower or co-signed.

    • Minimum income: $35,000, for borrower or co-signer.

    • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Not disclosed.

    • Typical income of approved borrowers: Not disclosed.

    • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 55%.

    • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes, after seven years have passed.

    Other

    • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

    • DACA borrowers: Not eligible.

    • Location: Available in all 50 U.S. states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

    • Must be enrolled half-time or more: Yes, in a bachelor's, master’s or doctoral degree program.

    • Loan can be used for past due tuition: Yes, as long as they're from the current academic year.

    • Types of schools served: Any U.S. school authorized to receive federal aid. Cannot be used for community college or professional certificate programs.

    • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: Not available.

  • In-school repayment options:

    • Immediate full repayment: Make full payments as soon as the loan is disbursed, while you’re still in school.

    • Partial repayment: Pay $25 every month while enrolled in school and during the grace period. Full payment of interest and principal begins 30 to 60 days after grace period ends.

    • Interest-only repayment: Pay interest every month you’re in school and during the grace period.

    • Full in-school deferment: Yes.

    Post-school repayment options

    • Grace period: 6 months.

    • Income-based repayment option: No.

    • Academic deferment: Yes, borrowers can request to defer payments for up to three years when returning to school.

    • Military deferment: Yes.

    • Forbearance: Borrowers are eligible for up to 12 months of forbearance. Education Loan Finance will review each case individually, and decisions are at the sole discretion of the lender.

    • Co-signer release available: No.

    • Death or disability discharge available: Education Loan Finance will review each case individually.

    • Loan discharge if co-signer dies or becomes disabled: Education Loan Finance will review each case individually.

    Repayment preferences

    ELFI requires all borrowers to pay via electronic or digital transfer.

    • Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.

    • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: No.

    • Loan servicer: American Education Services, or AES.

    • In-house customer service team: Yes.

    • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.

    • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: Yes, each customer gets a personal loan advisor for the duration of the student loan process.

    • Average time for approval: Typically 2 to 3 business days.

Before applying for an ELFI student loan

You can apply for an Education Loan Finance student loan on its website. But before taking out an ELFI loan or any other private student loan, exhaust your federal student loan options first. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to apply.

Compare your private student loan options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, look at lenders’ repayment alternatives and the flexibility they offer to borrowers who struggle to make payments.

If you aren’t eligible for an ELFI student loan

If Education Loan Finance denies your student loan application, the lender will let you know why. Depending on the reason, you may want to consider other lenders or, if you haven’t already, try applying with a co-signer.

If you don’t have access to a co-signer — or still aren’t eligible with one — consider lenders that don’t require co-signers or specialize in bad or no credit student loans.

STUDENT LOAN RATINGS METHODOLOGY

Our survey of more than 29 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing includes the top 10 lenders by market share and top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.

We consider 40 features and data points for each financial institution. Depending on the category, these include the availability of biweekly payments through autopay, minimum credit score and income requirement disclosures, availability to borrowers in all states, extended grace periods and in-house customer service.

The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

Compare private student loans
Lender
Fixed APR
Min. credit score
Variable APR
Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student LoanSallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan
4.5
Check rateon Sallie Mae's website
on Sallie Mae's website
4.50- 15.49%
Mid-600's
5.37- 15.70%
Check rateon Sallie Mae's website
on Sallie Mae's website
College Ave Private Student LoanCollege Ave Private Student Loan
Check rateon College Ave's website
on College Ave's website
4.29- 16.39%
Mid-600s
5.59- 16.85%
Check rateon College Ave's website
on College Ave's website
Ascent Credit-based Student LoanAscent Credit-based Student Loan
4.29- 15.96%
Low-Mid 600s
6.23- 16.09%
Custom Choice LoanCustom Choice Loan
Check rateon Monogram's website
on Monogram's website
4.43- 14.04%
600
5.38- 15.56%
Check rateon Monogram's website
on Monogram's website
Education Loan Finance Private Student LoanEducation Loan Finance Private Student Loan
Check rateon Education Loan Finance's website
on Education Loan Finance's website
4.50- 14.22%
680
6.00- 14.22%
Check rateon Education Loan Finance's website
on Education Loan Finance's website

Education Loan Finance Student Loan Refinance review

Education Loan Finance Student Loan Refinance

4.5
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score
680
Fixed APR
5.48-8.69%
Variable APR
5.28-8.99%
on Education Loan Finance's website

Pros

  • You are assigned a student loan advisor.

  • You can refinance parent PLUS loans in your name.

Cons

  • Payment postponement isn’t available for borrowers who return to school.

  • The minimum amount to refinance is more than many lenders require.

  • No co-signer release available.

Best for borrowers who value good customer service.

Full Review

ELFI is a good student loan refinancing option if you value customer support. ELFI pairs customers with a dedicated, highly trained student loan advisor. You can call, text or email your advisor to ask questions throughout the refinancing process.

Only consider ELFI if your finances are stable. The lender doesn’t offer as many flexible repayment options as some other lenders, and if you need a co-signer to qualify, there's no way to release that individual from the loan without refinancing again.

Elfi student loan refinancing at a glance

  • Offers personalized rate estimates via a soft credit check.

  • Borrowers can refinance their parents' PLUS loans.

  • Borrowers can’t postpone payments if they return to school.

How ELFI could improve

Education Loan Finance could improve by offering additional programs such as:

  • Co-signer release.

  • Academic deferment.

  • Refinancing for applicants whose highest level of education is an associate degree.

  • Allow bi-weekly payments via autopay.

ELFI student loan refinancing details

    • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: Yes.

    • Loan terms: 5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years.

    • Loan amounts: $10,000 up to your total outstanding loan balance.

    • Can transfer a parent loan to the child: Yes.

    • Application or origination fee: No.

    • Prepayment penalty: No.

    • Late fees: Yes; 5% of the past due amount or $50, whichever is less, if no part of payment is received within 10 days after the due date.

    Compare Education Loan Finance's range of interest rates with other student loan refinance lenders. Your actual rate will depend on factors including your — or your co-signer’s — credit history and financial situation. To see what rate Education Loan Finance will offer you, apply on its website.

  • Financial

    • Minimum credit score: 680.

    • Minimum income: $35,000 per year.

    • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Not disclosed.

    • Typical income of approved borrowers: Not disclosed.

    • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 55%.

    • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes, after at least 7 years have passed.

    Other

    • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

    • Location: Available to borrowers in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

    • Must have graduated: Yes, must have at least a bachelor’s degree.

    • Must have attended a school authorized to receive federal aid: Yes. It must be nonprofit school on Education Loan Finance’s approved schools list.

    • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: Did not disclose.

    • Academic deferment: No — borrowers cannot defer payments if they return to school.

    • Military deferment: Yes, borrowers can postpone payments while they’re on active military duty.

    • Forbearance: Yes, borrowers may postpone payments for up to 12 months if they’re experiencing a hardship such as a financial or medical issue. Education Loan Finance will review each case individually, and decisions are at the sole discretion of the lender.

    • Co-signer release available: No. You must apply to refinance again without your co-signer.

    • Death or disability discharge: Education Loan Finance will review each case individually.

    • Loan discharge if co-signer dies or becomes disabled: Education Loan Finance will review each case individually.

    Repayment Preferences

    • Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.

    • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: No.

    • Loan servicer: MOHELA or American Education Services (AES).

    • In-house customer service team: Yes.

    • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.

    • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: Yes, each customer gets a personal loan advisor for the duration of the refinancing process.

    • Average time from approval to payoff: 5-7 business days.

  • Education Loan Finance offers its borrowers the following perks:

    • Referral bonus: Earn $400 for every person you successfully refer to Education Loan Finance, and they’ll get $100. To get the bonus, the person you refer must apply and be approved within 90 days of registering with Education Loan Finance. There’s no limit to the number of people you can refer.

Before refinancing with ELFI

Before deciding on a student loan refinance lender, compare multiple student loan refinance options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, compare lenders’ repayment options and the flexibility they offer borrowers who are struggling to make payments.

If you aren’t eligible to refinance with ELFI

If Education Loan Finance denies your refinance application, the lender will let you know why. Depending on the reason, you may want to consider other lenders or need a co-signer.

NerdWallet recommends prequalifying with multiple refinance lenders before you apply. This will let you know which lenders you may be eligible with, without affecting your credit.

STUDENT LOAN REFINANCE RATINGS METHODOLOGY

Our survey of more than 29 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing includes the top 10 lenders by market share and the top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.

We consider 41 features and data points for each financial institution. Depending on the category, these include the availability of biweekly payments through autopay, minimum credit score and income requirement disclosures, availability to borrowers in all states, extended grace periods and in-house customer service.

The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

Find the Right Student Loan

Private student loansStudent loan refinancingCalculate monthly paymentsGraduate school loansStudent loan interest rates

Frequently asked questions

  • Education Loan Finance, or ELFI, is a nonprofit division of SouthEast Bank. ELFI has been around for 25 years and has successfully refinanced more than $1.6 billion in student loans as of March 2021.

  • ELFI does not offer co-signer release on any of its private student loans. If you want to release a co-signer from an ELFI loan, you'll need to qualify to refinance it in your own name.

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