Education Loan Finance Student Loans: 2020 Review

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Education Loan Finance — also known as ELFI — is a division of SouthEast Bank. Based in Tennessee, ELFI offers a range of student loan products for undergraduate and graduate students. ELFI products are best suited for students looking to refinance existing loans and students who need to take out a large student loan. ELFI’s private loans are only available to students attending the University of Tennessee, the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Vanderbilt University and Middle Tennessee School of Anesthesia.

ELFI is also a good option if you’re looking for a company with a charitable mission. Education Loan Finance, Inc., SouthEast Bank’s parent holding company, has been supporting higher education for 25 years. Its commitment has led to more than $20 million in scholarships and high school financial literacy curriculum.

Education Loan Finance features

Education Loan Finance offers undergraduate loans, graduate loans, health care loans, law school loans, MBA loans, parent loans and student loan refinancing. Low fees, competitive rates, a wide selection of student loan products and reliable customer service make ELFI worth considering.

One of ELFI’s more unique features is its application process, wherein each applicant receives a Personal Loan Advisor. This Personal Loan Advisor is there to guide you through the process and answer any questions along the way. Unlike with other student loan lenders, you also don’t need a co-signer to qualify.

Education Loan Finance student loan snapshot

Loan types
Undergraduate, graduate, health care, law, MBA, parent, refinancing
Loan amounts
Private loans: $10,000 to 100% of the cost of education
Refinancing loans: Starting at $15,000
Interest rates
Private loans: Starting at 1.50% variable APR and 4.50% fixed APR
Refinancing loans: Starting at 2.39% variable APR and 2.79% fixed APR
Repayment terms
Private loans: 5 to 15 years
Refinancing loans: 5 to 20 years
Grace period
6 months
Co-signer required?
No

Pros and cons of Education Loan Finance student loans

Education Loan Finance can be a great way to finance your higher education, but there are some drawbacks to be aware of. Here’s what you need to know before applying for a student loan with ELFI.

Pros

  • Few fees: You won’t be charged any application, origination or prepayment fees with ELFI.
  • Good customer service: ELFI currently has an “A+” rating on the Better Business Bureau. Plus, when you apply, you’ll be assigned your own Personal Loan Advisor.
  • No co-signer needed: Many student loan lenders require undergraduates to use a co-signer, but ELFI allows applications without one if you meet the credit requirements on your own.

Cons

  • Strict eligibility requirements: In order to qualify for a student loan with ELFI, you or your co-signer must have a minimum credit score of 680 and a credit history of at least 36 months. You must also have a minimum yearly income of $35,000.
  • High minimum loan amount: Most student loan lenders will lend as little as $1,000, which is great if you only need a small amount to fill in the gaps of your education costs. ELFI’s minimum loan amount is much higher at $10,000.
  • Limited schools: You are eligible for an ELFI private student loan only if you attend one of the following four schools: University of Tennessee, University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Vanderbilt University or Middle Tennessee School of Anesthesia.

Education Loan Finance student loan requirements

In order to quality for an ELFI student loan, you and/or your co-signer must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Be enrolled in an approved bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree program.
  • Be at the age of majority at the time of application.
  • Be enrolled at least half time at the University of Tennessee, the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Vanderbilt University or Middle Tennessee School of Anesthesia..
  • Have a credit score of at least 680, at least 36 months of credit history and a minimum income of $35,000.

In order to qualify for ELFI student loan refinancing, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Be at the age of majority at the time of application.
  • Have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher at the time of application.
  • Have received an approved degree from an approved postsecondary school or institution.
  • Have a credit score of at least 680, at least 36 months of credit history and a minimum income of $35,000.

Who is this loan good for?

An ELFI student loan is a solid choice for students attending Tennessee schools who have a trusted co-signer or an established financial history. It’s also a good option for students who need higher loan amounts and who value one-on-one customer service.

Interest rates and terms

ELFI offers both variable and fixed interest rates on all of its student loan products. ELFI doesn’t offer any specific discounts, claiming that autopay discounts are already rolled into its pricing. Its variable-rate loans are subject to an 18 percent rate cap.

Here are the ranges for all of the loan products that it offers:

Loan product Variable rate Fixed rate
Undergraduate student loans Starting at 1.50% APR Starting at 4.50% APR
Graduate student loans Starting at 1.50% APR Starting at 4.50% APR
Health care student loans Starting at 1.50% APR Starting at 4.50% APR
Law school student loans Starting at 1.50% APR Starting at 4.50% APR
MBA student loans Starting at 1.50% APR Starting at 4.50% APR
Parent loans Starting at 1.50% APR Starting at 4.50% APR
Student loan refinancing Starting at 2.39% APR Starting at 2.79% APR
Parent PLUS refinancing Starting at 2.39% APR Starting at 2.79% APR

Fees and penalties

ELFI charges no application, origination or prepayment fees on its refinance and private student loans. However, you can be hit with a late fee of 5 percent of the unpaid amount or $50 (whichever is less) if you fail to make your monthly payment within 10 days of the payment due date. You could also be subject to a $30 returned payment fee.

What are repayment terms and grace period for Education Loan Finance student loans?

ELFI offers five- to 15-year repayment terms on its private student loans and five- to 20-year terms on student loan refinancing. In both cases, parents have a 10-year cap.

Here are the repayment options for a private student loan:

  • Immediate: Full principal and interest payments while in school, starting 30 to 60 days after the disbursement of funds.
  • Interest-only: Interest-only payments while in school and throughout the grace period.
  • Fixed: $25 payments while in school and during the grace period.
  • Deferred: No payments will be made while in school or during the grace period. Full payments of principal and interest will begin 30 to 60 days after the grace period ends.

Customer service

ELFI gets an “A+” from the Better Business Bureau, the highest rating possible. This score takes into account customer complaints and how the company responds to those complaints. You can reach out to ELFI  through phone, email or an online contact form.

You can call or text seven days a week at 1-844-601-3534. The available hours are:

  • Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.
  • Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.
  • Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST.

You can also reach out to customer support at any time with questions at answers@ELFI.com.

How to apply for a loan with Education Loan Finance

The application process for every ELFI student loan product is completed online and can be done in a matter of minutes, according to the website. After completing the application, you’ll be assigned your own personal loan adviser to assist you with any questions you may have about the process.

In order to speed up the application process, you and your co-signer will need to have these documents on hand:

  • Pay stubs documenting the last 30 days of payment (if currently employed).
  • The previous year’s W-2 form.
  • A form of government-issued identification.

There may be additional documentation needed depending on your current income or the income of your co-signer. If this is the case, your personal loan adviser will be available to walk you through the process.

What to do if your application gets turned down

Get in touch with ELFI’s customer support if you don’t get approved for a loan to get some clarification. There’s always the possibility that there was a processing error, or it could be a financial reason.

You could have been rejected due to your income, creditworthiness or debt-to-income ratio (DTI). If you were rejected due to your financial health, there are steps you can take to improve your DTI and creditworthiness that can prevent you from being denied in future applications.

If you aren’t approved, it’s always a good idea to shop around thoroughly to research other lenders’ rates and fees.

How Bankrate rates Education Loan Finance

Overall Score 4.4
Repayment Options 4.2
Affordability 3.8
Customer Experience 4.3

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the lender’s website for the most current information.