Education Loan Finance Review: ELFI Student Loans and Refinancing



In 2020, students left college with an average of $28,400 in loans. For millions of people, student loans and high interest rates are a significant burden, and many struggle to keep up with their payments.

If you have a balance higher than $15,000 and are considering student loan refinancing, Education Loan Finance (ELFI) is worth a look. While its refinancing eligibility criteria are more strict than some competitors, the low interest rates could help you save money each month or overall.

Education Loan Finance student loan refinance review

Education Loan Finance is a student loan refinancing and consolidation program run by SouthEast Bank, a financial institution based in Tennessee. The company, which also lends private student loans to undergraduates, was designed to simplify repaying your loans by combining them into one easy payment.

After you graduate from school, Education Loan Finance helps to make your education more affordable. Many students leave school with a mix of private and federal loans, with multiple payments and different due dates. By refinancing, you can combine them into one easy payment, with one due date.

Education Loan Finance student loan refinancing is a good fit for graduates with their own loans, as well as parents with federal parent PLUS loans or private loans. As a graduate, you may also refinance your mom or dad’s parent PLUS loans into your name (if you can qualify on your own, without a cosigner).

Education Loan Finance student loan refinance review: The basics

Here are some other features you can expect with Education Loan Finance student loan refinance:

  • Fixed and variable interest rates
  • Prequalify and receive a rate quote — without harming your credit
  • No application or origination fees or prepayment penalty
  • Refinance at least $15,000, with maximum loan amounts depending on your creditworthiness
  • Eligibility requirements include a 680 credit score and a minimum income of $35,000
  • Repayment terms of 20 years (for former students) and 5, 7 or 10 years (for parent borrowers)
  • Up to 12 months of forbearance available for borrowers in a financial hardship (awarded on a case-by-case basis)
Rates ● Student loan refinancing rates: Fixed : 2.73% – 5.99% and Variable: 1.86% – 6.01%
● Parent loan refinancing rates:Fixed :2.43% – 5.99%and Variable:1.86% – 9.55%
Basics ● Prequalify and check rates without affecting your credit
● Refinance your loans starting at $15,000 — the maximum amount you may borrow depends on your eligibility
● Fixed rates and variable rates are available
Eligibility ● 680 credit score required
● Minimum income requirement of $35,000
● Credit history of at least 36 months
● Have a minimum of $15,000 in student loan debt
● Graduate from a Title IV nonprofit college or university with at least a bachelor’s degree
● Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
● Be a legal adult
● Meet debt-to-income ratio requirements
Applying ● Option to apply with a cosigner
● No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties
● Late fees: 5% or $50 (whichever is less)
● Returned payment fee: $30
Repayment ● No prepayment penalties
● Typically take 30 to 45 days to pay off original loan
● Repayment term options: 20 years
● Does not offer cosigner release
● Serviced by Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) and American Education Services (AES)
Support ● ELFI offers temporary economic hardship forbearances for up to 12 months, but eligibility is decided by the lender
● Forgiveness offered on a case-by-case basis in the event of a borrower’s death or permanent disability, though eligibility requirements are not publicly outlined

What to like about Education Loan Finance refinance for student loans

There are some significant benefits to refinancing your loans with Education Loan Finance.

Competitive interest rates — and few fees

Education Loan Finance’s interest rates vary depending on the type of loan you want. If you apply for a fixed-rate loan and are approved, the offered loan’s interest rate could range from 2.73% – 5.99%.

For a variable-rate loan, the starting APR (annual percentage rate) can range from 1.86% – 6.01%. After that, the APR may increase with market changes.

ELFI bakes the industry-standard autopay discount into your awarded interest rate automatically, as the lender requires all borrowers to make payments electronically.

In addition, with Education Loan Finance, borrowers are never charged most student loan fees, such as for application, origination or prepayment. For late payments, however, you may be charged 5% of the late amount or $50, whichever is less. If a payment must be returned for any reason, you could be charged $30.

Potential borrower savings

If you have good credit or have someone willing to act as a cosigner, refinancing your debt with Education Loan Finance can help you save a lot of money.

For example, say you had a $20,000, 10-year loan at 7.00% interest. Over the length of your repayment, you’d pay back a total of $27,866. Because of the relatively high interest rate, you’d pay over $7,800 just in interest charges, according to our monthly payment calculator.

If you refinanced and qualified for a 10-year loan at 4.50% interest, the difference is dramatic. Over the length of your loan, you’d repay just $24,873. By taking a few minutes to submit your refinancing form, you’d save nearly $3,000.

Such arithmetic allows the average ELFI customer to save $22,500 over their repayment, according to the company’s data.

Use our student loan refinancing calculator to estimate how much you can save.

What you need to begin the refinancing process with Education Loan Finance
● To apply to refinance your loans with ELFI, you’ll need to verify your financial information, including your income and the size of your current student loans. You’ll also have to verify basic personal information such as your Social Security number, what school you graduated from and your degree.

Transparent application process

The highlight of Education Loan Finance’s application is its transparency. You can confirm your eligibility and potential rate within minutes and without subjecting your credit report to harm. Not all lenders prequalify borrowers this way.

If you elect to file a formal application with ELFI, you will have to submit to a hard credit check, which could temporarily ding your credit score.

During the formal application process, you’ll need to provide the following documents:

  • Recent pay stub or proof of employment
  • W-2 form from the most recent tax year (tax returns if you’re self-employed)
  • Government-issued ID
  • Bank account information (to set up Education Loan Finance payments)
  • Current billing statement or student loan payoff letter for each debt included in your refinancing application

Reliable customer service

Like with other student loan refinancing companies, Education Loan Finance won’t directly manage your repayment. It contracts federal loan servicers Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) and American Education Services (AES) to do just that.

At first blush, you might be reluctant to work with federal loan servicers, but MOHELA has among the best servicer track records. While the lender was listed on the latest Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaint report listing out student loan lenders with the most complaints about federal student loans, it had significantly fewer complaints than other organizations on the list, like Navient and Nelnet.

In contrast, the parent company of AES, Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), settled a class-action lawsuit in February 2021 for unethical and illegal practices related to its handling of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program; this was the end result of a suit filed by the attorney general of Massachusetts in 2017. New York state’s attorney general filed a similar suit on this matter in 2019.

Education Loan Finance customer service also has other notable positives going for it:

  • Each customer is assigned their own Student Loan Advisor
  • The company’s management team claims three-plus decades of student loan refinancing experience

Speaking of experience, in January 2020, the company announced it has surpassed $1 billion in refinanced student loans, thanks to its approximately 14,500 customers.

Referral bonus program

Besides the benefits of refinancing, Education Loan Finance offers other benefits, too, like its student loan referral program. If you refer a friend, you get $400, and your buddy will get $100. (You get the money as a check to use as you want.)

To top it off, there’s no limit to how many people you can refer. You can post a referral link on your social media pages, personal website and other sources to get the word out and earn cash.

What to keep in mind about Education Loan Finance refinance for student loans

There are some drawbacks to student loan refinancing that you should keep in mind, particularly if you have federal student loans.

Stiff eligibility requirements

Education Loan Finance works with borrowers across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, but that’s where its accessibility starts to shrink.

To qualify for refinancing with Education Loan Finance, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt, be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and have obtained your degree (bachelor’s degree or higher) from an approved postsecondary institution.

While Education Loan Finance won’t publicly cite a specific number, they do say that applicants should have a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio that shows you can pay back the loan.

ELFI is clear about thresholds for other financial factors, including:

  • Minimum income: $35,000
  • Minimum credit score: 680
  • Minimum credit history: 36 months

If you don’t qualify for a loan based on your own credit, income or DTI ratio, you may need to find a cosigner.

Alternatively, you could find a lender with less stringent requirements.

Don’t have $15,000 in loans to refinance? LendKey will refinance as little as $2,000 worth of debt
Not a citizen? Prodigy Finance is among lenders assisting international borrowers
Don’t have a bachelor’s degree? EdVestinU works with borrowers who didn’t graduate or hold an associate’s degree
Don’t have income of at least $35,000? SoFi has no minimum income requirement
Don’t have a credit score of 680? Earnest sets its threshold at 650

Missing features found elsewhere

Beyond inaccessible eligibility standards, Education Loan Finance doesn’t provide some perks that you’ll find available from other lenders.

The good news is that you could find these features by signing on with a competitor.

Options not available at ELFI Alternative lender
Spousal consolidation loans Splash Financial
Cosigner release (if you apply for refinancing with a cosigner) Laurel Road
Discharge due to borrower’s death (ELFI reviews each case individually) College Ave

Lose out on federal programs

When you refinance, you’re replacing your federal loans with one private loan. That means you lose out on certain federal benefits — these include such as access to income-driven repayment plans, the ability to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness and forbearance and deferment options. That can make it more difficult to manage your loans later.

Forbearance and forgiveness support is vague

Some lenders offer debt forgiveness in the case of a borrower’s death or permanent disability — however, ELFI does not guarantee this. Should you, as the original borrower of a loan, die or experience permanent disability before the debt is repaid, ELFI may discharge the loan — but there’s also the chance it may file a claim against your estate if you have one.

ELFI also offers forbearance for up to 12 months if a borrower experiences financial hardship. However, like with loan forgiveness, this on a case-by-case basis and ELFI doesn’t publicly outline forbearance qualifications.

How Education Loan Finance student loan refinance compares

Even if you think ELFI may be a good fit for you to refinance loans, it’s still wise to compare other lenders to make sure you’re getting the best benefits and rates.

Education Loan Finance Laurel Road Earnest
SLH rating 4.19/5 4.63/5 4.5/5
Products ● Student loan refinancing
● Parent PLUS loan refinancing
● Student loan refinancing
● Parent PLUS loan refinancing
● Medical resident refinancing
● Student loan refinancing
● Parent PLUS loan refinancing
Eligibility requirements ● 680 credit score
● Minimum income of $35,000
● Have at least $15,000 of student debt to refinance
● Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
● 660 credit score
● No minimum income requirement
● Citizenship or permanent residency
● Bachelor’s or advanced degree
● Associate degree-holders must be working in certain healthcare fields
● 650 credit score
● No minimum income requirements
● No degree necessary (or if you’re one semester from your degree)
Interest rates Variable starting at 1.86% and fixed starting at 2.73% Variable starting at 1.89% and fixed starting at 2.50% Variable starting at 1.74% and fixed starting at 2.99%
Minimum loan amount $15,000 $5,000 $5,000
Repayment terms available 20 years Up to 20 years Up to 20 years
Apply with a cosigner Yes Yes No

Is refinancing student loans with Education Loan Finance right for you?

If you have a good credit score and are saddled with a large amount of student debt, you may want to consider what Education Loan Finance has to offer.

Although there are some drawbacks to consider before submitting your application, refinancing your loans with Education Loan Finance could help you save money or pay off your debt faster. But it’s always a good idea to compare offers from multiple student loan refinancing companies to ensure you get your best possible offer.

To learn more about your options, you can start by exploring our student loan refinancing marketplace.

How to apply for refinancing with Education Loan Finance

It’s a straightforward and simple process to apply to refinance a loan with ELFI. Before applying for a loan, it may be easiest to gather the required documentation ahead of time to make the process go smoother.

  • To start, you’ll need to provide basic information about yourself, including your name and address. You’ll also need to fill in your student loan balance and estimated pretaxed annual income. ELFI will run a soft credit inquiry to provide you an estimate, but it won’t affect your credit score.
  • Next, you’ll need to choose what refinance plan you want. Pay careful attention to APRs and monthly payments based on possible terms.
  • You’ll then be asked to verify information by providing the necessary documentation, such as W-2s. Once that’s complete, ELFI will perform a hard credit check to determine your final rate — which may temporarily impact your credit score.
  • Once you’ve officially signed for the loan, ELFI will work with your original lender to pay off your student debts.

Education Loan Finance student loans review

With competitive interest rates — particularly for professional students — and a free and easy preapproval process, ELFI is certainly worth considering as a potential lender in the student loan space.

Education Loan Finance student loans are a good fit for borrowers and cosigners who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents with at least a 680 credit score to qualify. The student must also be attending an approved school at least half-time and pursuing at least a bachelor’s degree.

Education Loan Finance student loans reviews: The basics

If you’re eligible, here are some ELFI features to expect:

  • Check your rate without affecting your credit score
  • Choose a fixed or variable interest rate
  • Select a loan term spanning 5 to 15 years (for students) or 5 to 10 years (for parents)
  • Borrow from $1,000 to 100% of your cost of one academic year of attendance
  • Pay no application, origination or prepayment fees — although there’s a penalty for late payments (the lesser of $50 or 5% of the amount due)
  • Select from four repayment methods: Make interest-only, fixed or full payments while enrolled, or defer repayment until after your six-month grace period
  • Work through your application process with an ELFI Student Loan Advisor
  • Get a limited form of forbearance due to financial hardship, as detailed in your loan agreement
Rates ● Undergraduate loans
● Graduate loans
● Parent loans
Basics ● Prequalify and check rates without affecting your credit
● Borrow as little as $1,000 and as much as your cost of attendance for one academic year
● Autopay discount automatically included in interest rate
● Fixed rates and variable rates are available
Eligibility ● Student and cosigner must be U.S. citizens or permanent resident
● Student or cosigner must have minimum credit score of 680
● Student must be enrolled in school at least half time in a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate program
Applying ● Option to apply with a cosigner
● No application, origination or prepayment fees
● Late payment fees are the lesser of $50 or 5% of the amount due
Repayment ● Standard six-month grace period
● No prepayment penalties
● Three in-school repayment options, as well as full deferment
● Repayment terms for students: 5, 7, 10, 15 years
● Repayment terms for parents: 5, 7, 10 years
● No cosigner release; however, borrowers can refinance their loans without a cosigner
Support ● Education Loan Finance offers economic hardship forbearances, but the requirements for qualifying aren’t publicly shared
● Forgiveness offered only the case of the primary borrower’s death (cosigners won’t be held responsible for balance)

What to like about Education Loan Finance student loans

If you qualify for an ELFI student loan, there are many perks that borrowers can benefit from.

Easy application process

If you’re shopping around for a private student loan, you’ll be glad to hear that you can check your rate with ELFI without harming your credit. The lender promises a quote within minutes of inputting basic information about yourself and your borrowing needs.

If ELFI provides rates (and other terms) that beat those of competitors under your consideration, you could go about designing your ideal loan with the lender. You might select a fixed or variable rate, as well as a specified repayment term length.

To complete the application process (which would result in a hard inquiry on your credit report), you’d need to upload photos or screenshots of required documents, including:

  • Government-issued ID
  • Previous month’s pay stub
  • Previous year’s IRS Form W-2

If you have a cosigner, they would also be required to provide these documents.

Personal loan support

If completing your application online isn’t as intuitive in your case, you could always call ELFI. It has a reputation for its customer service and currently holds a 4.9 out of 5 star rating based on over 1,800 reviews posted on independent review site Trustpilot.

The inclusion of its Student Loan Advisors only helps ELFI’s case. Much like a personal banker supporting your student loan needs at a brick-and-mortar bank, ELFI’s advisors promise to help you during the application process and beyond.

Just be aware of the following facts:

  • Many newer online-only lenders make similar promises of top-notch customer service.
  • Company employees like ELFI advisors won’t be as objective with their advice as when consulting a parent or financial aid counselor.
  • Your point of contact could change once you borrow, as American Education Services manages the repayment of ELFI customers.

Very few fees

ELFI allows for borrowers to skip out on most fees. The lender doesn’t charge origination or application fees, and borrowers can pay off their loan early without worrying about a prepayment penalty.

On the other hand, borrowers should still keep in mind that ELFI does charge late fees. If a borrower is late on a payment, they’ll have to pay $50 or 5% of the amount due, whichever is less. If a payment is returned, the borrower may also be charged a $30 fee.

Can’t find a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or permanent resident cosigner? Prodigy Finance is among lenders assisting international student borrowers
Not attending an eligible degree-granting school? Check out options for nondegree-seeking student loans
Not attending classes at least-half time? There are lenders with part-time student loan options

What to keep in mind about Education Loan Finance student loans

Despite having a long list of benefits, there are still several things ELFI borrowers should keep in mind before signing for a student loan.

Strict eligibility requirements

It might not take long to find that ELFI is not a fit for you, particularly if you don’t meet its list of borrowing criteria. Borrowers and cosigners need at least a 680 credit score, plus a minimum income of $35,000 and at least three years of credit history.

Even if you meet those thresholds, other factors could stall out your application. On the plus side, many ELFI competitors could fill in where the lender is lacking.

No cosigner release available

ELFI doesn’t require undergraduates to acquire a cosigner before applying for a student loan. Undergrads and other students with thin credit files, however, will probably need a cosigner, who agrees to assume responsibility for repayment should the need arise.

Unfortunately, ELFI won’t allow you to release your cosigner once your loan is in motion. If removing your cosigner from your loan agreement before zeroing your balance is a priority, consider applying with Sallie Mae. It offers the fastest path to cosigner release, as you just need to make 12 months of prompt payments before you can go it alone.

Doesn’t lend to international students

Unfortunately, if you’re an international student, you may not be eligible for a loan with this lender. ELFI specifies that both students and their cosigners must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and provide proper documentation when applying for a loan.

If you’re an international student, you may consider loans from lenders like MPOWER that not only work with borrowers who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents, but also help them with scholarships, job placement and immigration.

How Education Loan Finance student loans compare

Even if you think ELFI might be the student loan lender for you, it doesn’t hurt to compare this lender to others on the marketplace.

Education Loan Finance CommonBond CitizensBank
SLH rating 4.13/5 4.19/5 4.31/5
Loans for… ● Undergraduate and graduate students
● Parent loans
● Undergraduate and graduate students
● MBA students
● Dental students
● Medical students
● Undergraduate and graduate students
● Parents
Interest rates Variable starting at 1.30% and fixed starting at 3.20% Variable starting at 3.80% and fixed starting at 3.74% Variable starting at 0.00% and fixed starting at 3.47%
Ability to prequalify without affecting credit Yes No No
Borrowing amount $1,000 $0 $1,000
In-school repayment options 3 3 3
Repayment terms 5, 7, 10 years 5, 10, 15 years 5, 10, 15 years
Cosigner release available No — though borrowers can take their cosigner off the loan if they refinance Yes — after 24 months of timely payments (and meeting other criteria) Yes — after 36 months of timely payments (and meeting other criteria)

You’ll very likely be better off if you shop around beyond a few lenders. Make sure you learn all about the best options for your specific needs.

Are Education Loan Finance student loans right for you?

ELFI student loans can be a good option for borrowers looking to cover the entirety of their expenses for an academic year. This lender may also be a good choice for those who have a good credit score — or, if not, a cosigner with a good credit score. However, ELFI has stricter criteria for qualifying for a student loan than other lenders.

Because ELFI allows potential borrowers to prequalify for a loan, they can compare ELFI’s offer to other lenders. To compare other lenders, visit our student loan marketplace for private loans and to learn about your options.

How to apply with Education Loan Finance

ELFI makes applying for a student loan a simple, straightforward process.

  1. First, users will have to create an account with ELFI and provide their name and address.
  2. Once they create an account, they’ll need to specify whether they want to take out a student loan or refinance their current loans. Users will then need to specify if they’re a student, parent or cosigner.
  3. Once they’ve completed the initial information section, users will have to provide information like where they plan to go to school, income and credit score.
  4. After you’ve supplied all the required information, you’ll have to choose what type of loan plan you want, paying special attention to details such as APR rates, loan terms, and amounts.
  5. Once your loan plan has been chosen, ELFI will verify your information with the school. If you’re approved for a loan, you (and your cosigner) will need to officially accept the loan. ELFI will then forward the school your funds.

How to contact Education Loan Finance

If you have questions about your loan, you can contact ELFI in several ways:

Frequently asked questions about Education Loan Finance student loans

If you didn’t find your question answered in our Education Loan Finance reviews, see the following FAQs:

Is Education Loan Finance legit?

Yes – ELFI is a trustworthy company. It will not only work with you to find a private student loan to fund your postsecondary education, but can also help you refinance your current student loan debt for a lower rate. This will depend on factors such as your credit score and annual income.

Does ELFI offer cosigner release?

Unfortunately, unlike some other student loan lenders, ELFI doesn’t offer borrowers cosigner release. Borrowers can take their cosigner off their student loans if they refinance them, however.

Is ELFI student loan refinance right for you?

Whether an ELFI student loan refinance is right for you depends on a lot of factors. To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and meet the income and credit score requirements. Even if you qualify for a refinance loan with ELFI, it may not hurt to shop around and compare loan plans with other lenders.

Methodology for ratings

To come up with our shield rating for student loan refinancing lenders and companies/private student loan lenders and companies, Student Loan Hero asks hard questions — 20 of them, in fact. These questions span three categories: Accessibility, Rates & Terms and Repayment Experience. That’s because we want to judge financial institutions on their products and services from start to finish — when our users are shopping around, filing applications and paying down their debt. A top-rated lender, for instance, has inclusive eligibility criteria, allows you to prequalify and check rates without harming your credit score and is supportive as you face monthly payments.

The answers that we get to our 20 questions — either from the lenders themselves or by combing through their fine print — determine their overall rating. We score answers consistently, sometimes awarding partial points, to ensure that you can make equal comparisons between all lenders that we put under the microscope.

Student Loan Hero isn’t paid for conducting these reviews, and lenders don’t have a say in their content. The goal with our reviews and ratings, along with everything else we do, is to give our users the most comprehensive and up-to-date information available to make the best decisions according to their borrowing needs.

Student Loan Hero has independently collected the above information related to Education Loan Finance (ELFI) student loans, which is current as of February 2022, unless otherwise noted. None of the financial institutions named has either provided or reviewed the information shared in this article.