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Monday, March 30, 2009

The advantages and disadvantages in teaching English to Adult Learners

The advantages and disadvantages in teaching English to Adult Learners in the Current Situation in Vietnam

A brief look at the current English language teaching and learning context in Vietnam will show that the demand for English learning is very great. This is clearly seen in the multitude of institutions and centers that offer English courses as well as in the great number of learners who go to English classes. Among these learners adult learners form a big special group. Due to some of their characteristics the teaching of English to this group of adult learners has some advantages and disadvantages as follows.

The first advantage is that adult learners have some degree of extrinsic motivation. They may study English for a variety of reasons but they all do so because they want to or need to. For some students, the motivation may be in the form of integrative motivation because they wish to integrate themselves into the culture of an English-speaking country like Britain, America, Canada or Australia. For others, the motivation is instrumental in the sense that the mastery of the English language is seen as an instrument that can bring them a better job or position. When these adult students go to class with some motivation they are easier to teach than those who bring no motivation to the classroom.

The second advantage is that adult students can transfer those study skills and learning strategies they have acquired in their first language to their study of English. Unlike children and adolescents, adults are autonomous in some way. They have finished their studies or have undertaken at least some in their own language, so they must have gained some basic skills like reading, summarizing, identifying and applying formulae and information and such critical thinking skills as analyzing, synthesizing, hypothesizing, speculating, etc. Moreover, they may also have some well-established strategies for learning. Therefore, the English language teacher can make his job easier by creating conditions for adult students to reactivate these study skills and learning strategies and apply them to their study of a new language.

One more advantage is that adult learners can make use of whatever kind of knowledge they have accumulated in their own language. Again this advantage cannot be seen in other groups of learners like children and adolescents. First, adult learners have extensive experience of using a language, which is their mother tongue. Now that they start learning English, they can remember the new langue system better by making use of what they know about their own language. It is not uncommon to see learners comparing and contrasting their first language with the foreign language they are learning to find out areas in which the two languages are different or similar so that they can learn the new language more quickly. Second, adult students’ life experience, world knowledge and specialist knowledge can contribute much to their learning a foreign language. It can help them a lot when they have to read about or discuss complex or controversial topics in English. So the English teacher can engage adult learners more easily if he knows how to tap the knowledge they have gained over time.

On the contrary, there are some disadvantages to the teaching of English to adult students as well. The first disadvantage is that English learning makes a strong demand on adult learners in terms of time. As a matter of fact, it is really difficult for adult students to make time to learn English. As most institutions and centers teach English in the evening adult students have to study after work. Three one-hour-and-a-half sessions or three three-hour sessions a week seem not to add up to a lot of time but not all adult students can manage to set aside that much time for study purposes. The simple reason is that they all have their own lives to live outside the classroom or they all have other commitments in life than learning English. As a result, some students fail to invest as much time and effort in learning as they should. Of course, teachers will have difficulty in monitoring the performance and progress of those students who cannot attend class regularly.

Another factor that can interfere with or even impede adult students’ learning English is their fear of failure and frustration with lack of progress. As can be seen, some adult students are very successful professionals or have a high status at their work place. And now, at school they are just normal students coping with tasks, assignments, examinations, etc. as they have been successful in their career, they do not want to fail to achieve their desired goal of mastering English. They may therefore put themselves under unnecessary stress if they do not give themselves enough time to achieve their goals or if they set themselves unrealistic goals. Other students may be hard on themselves in a different way. For example, adult intermediate and advanced students, those who already know a lot, may find progress difficult to perceive. In this case, the teacher has more work to do: they must help these students get the level of challenge right or view success in a broader sense.

In addition, the lack of well-qualified teachers and the poor physical conditions of the classrooms at some English language schools and centers can be damaging to student motivation. Currently, in Vietnam a great number of institutions and centers provide English courses and they range form universities and their satellite centers, joint-venture centers, privately-owned centers to privately-run home-based classes. Such proliferation of schools and centers is useful in the sense that it offers students a wide variety of programs to choose from. However, because of a lack of quality control, the reality of some schools and centers may fall short of student expectations. Some teachers are untrained or inexperienced, delivering boring or uninteresting lessons; the physical classroom conditions and resources for learning are just basic. All this cannot of course supply students in general and adult students in particular with any intrinsic motivation, a crucial factor for successful language learning.

In general, this analysis of the current teaching context for adult learners of English in Vietnam in general and of the characteristics of this group of learners in particular partly reflects the increasing need for English language learning and mainly shows the advantages and disadvantages that adult students have in their English study. Both teachers and students need to be aware of these findings of the analysis so that they can find ways to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages. Only in this way can teachers deliver quality English language programs for students to benefit from.

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The goal of teachers who use the Communicative Approach is to have students become communicatively competent.

“the goal of teachers who use the Communicative Approach is to have students become communicatively competent. While this has been the stated goal of many of the other methods, in the Communicative Approach the notion of what it takes to be communicatively competent is much expanded.” State the reasons why you are for or against the above idea.
(The notion of communicative competence as expanded in the communicative approach)

In the English language teaching methods come and go but few can establish themselves firmly in the field. The Communicative Approach is one of those few exceptions it has gained much popularity since its advent in the late 1960s. Most of the value of this approach lies in the fact that it expands the notion of communicative competence in such a way that no other method is able to.

First, the Communicative Approach highlights the fact that understanding language functions is an important aspect of communicative competence. This can be clearly seen in the following comparison. The Direct Method, the Audio-Lingual Method and the Communicative Approach are similar in that they all aim at teaching language for communication. However, each of them has its own way to achieve its goal. While the Direct Method tries to establish a direct link between the target language and meaning by immersing students in a rich sample of the structural and lexical items being taught and the Audio-Lingual Method insists on mastery of structural patterns through imitation and repetition, the Communicative Approach stands out with its emphasis not only on linguistic forms and meaning but also on functions. It claims that as language is used for performing a variety of functions such as apologizing, requesting, thanking, inviting, an understanding of language functions is really necessary. Learners need to know that a function can be realized by different forms or that a form can serve different functions. What is important, learners must draw on this knowledge to choose the most appropriate form to fulfill the function intended. So, though the Communicative Approach is not the first to put forward the idea of teaching a second/foreign language for communication, it is definitely the first to advocate the learning of language functions to gain communicative competence.

The Communicative Approach emphasizes that the ability to use language appropriately is another essential aspect of communicative competence. The principle applied here is that grammatical competence and lexical knowledge are not enough to enable students to operate efficiently in the target language. They must be able to use the language appropriate to the speech event they find themselves in. Some variables that decide the appropriateness of their language use are the purpose of their interaction, the role relationships between them, the topic they are engaged in and the shared knowledge they have. In other words, by considering who they are talking to, what they are talking about, when, where, and why they are talking, speakers know what words to use. And of course, the ability to use language appropriately helps to distinguish skilled communicators from unskilled ones.

The Communicative Approach also points out that the ability to develop strategies that can ensure effective communication is an indispensable part of communicative competence. As the Communicative Approach views langue as a vehicle for communication the process of negotiating meaning receives much attention. Engaged in oral communication, speakers not only have to make themselves understood but also have to interpret the listener’s intention correctly. To do this they need to employ a number of strategies to make sure that communication can take place smoothly. These strategies cover a wide range, from initiating and maintaining communication, sharing and clarifying information to reparing, redirecting and terminating communication. Obviously, successful communicators must be able to devise strategies that suit them as well as the social context they are involved in.

It can be concluded that the concept of communicative competence as defined by the Communicative Approach is very broad indeed. It embraces three fundamental dimensions: the ability to use linguistic means to realize a variety of language functions, the ability to use language appropriately with due consideration of the social context in which communication takes place and the ability to develop strategies to manage the negotiation of meaning. This specification of communicate competence is the hallmark of the communicative Approach because it cannot be founding the theoretical framework of any other method of or approach to language teaching.

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* Are books more important than experience?
* Submit your essay
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* Các bài luận tiếng anh mẫu miễn phí - rất nhiều essay tham khảo

* Parent: - I know what life is like. If you have any sense take my advice.
Young person: - the world has changed since you were young. You don’t understand our problem today. Besides we ought to be free to do what we like.
What are your views on this argument?

* Talk about an ideal house
* A house I would like to live in
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* Talk about a trishaw rider
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* Underwater discovery
* Night market
* A fashion show
* A wedding celebration
* Fire drill
* A day at the market.
* A rainy morning
* On a rainy day
* Talk about a slow train journey.
* Talk about a cable-car ride.
* A bus ride
* A place of great natural beauty.
* A popular place in my town.
* At the bus-stop

Should all errors made by foreign language learners be corrected at any cost?

Should all errors made by foreign language learners be corrected at any cost?
(Overcorrection should be avoided at any cost)

Error correction may prove to be a difficult task to language teachers because it involves decision-making about what to correct, when to correct, how to correct and how much to correct. Several approaches to correcting student errors have been suggested. One of them holds that all errors made by learners should be corrected at any cost. On the surface, this approach seems to be of much benefit to students. However, a close examination will reveal that this approach to error correction will do students more harm than good.

The first reason that teachers will undermine students’ confidence if they correct student mistakes all the time. It is not difficult to realize the demotivating effect of this overcorrection. Perhaps there is nothing more disconcerting or intimidating to students than to be interrupted every time they make a mistake in oral practice. Distracted and discouraged in this way, they may forget what they intend to say or feel that they will never be able to say anything right. The damage that over written correction does to students is no less serious. Most students will feel a sense of failure or defeat when they see their piece of written work covered with red corrections and comments from the teacher. Only very few well-motivated students will not lose heart in this case. Thus the teacher’s over emphasis on accuracy at the expense of fluency or comprehensibility has a detrimental effect on students indeed. It goes against the principle of language teaching that part of the teacher’s job is to support and encourage students, not to discourage or demotivate them.

The second reason is that overcorrection fails to focus students on genuine errors. Apparently, teachers who tend to overcorrect think that all incorrect forms produced by learners are dangerous and need to be fixed. However, their indiscriminate treatment of student errors may backfire because students may not understand what is worth correcting. There are many kinds of errors or mistakes and if all the errors or mistakes are picked up and dealt with, students will assume that they are of equal importance. In reality, some of the inaccuracies produced by learners are just unfortunate mistakes resulting from mere confusion, from lapses of memory, from slips of the tongue or the pen, etc. Given time and help or guidance form the teacher and friends, learners can remedy these mistakes themselves. In contrast, genuine errors reflect students’ lack of knowledge about the target language. For example, they do not know what the correct form or word should be or they believe that what they are saying or writing is correct. In other words, these errors are clear indications of problem areas to students and as such they should be addressed immediately if teachers do not want them to persist and hinder learning in the long run.

The last and also the most important reason is that teachers who are in favor of constant error correction fail to realize that mistakes are a natural and important part of learning. If teachers insist on putting right anything incorrect in students’ oral and written communication, they will over time reinforce the false belief that mistakes of any type are something to be feared and should be avoided at any cost. However, in so doing, they ignore a very basic fact that even native speakers, those who are supposed to have a good, if not perfect, command of the language, make mistakes all the time. The main reason is that communication, oral or written, is a complex activity. To process the language people have to simultaneously make use of several language systems such as syntax, lexis, phonology. They also need to draw on their communicative competence to use the language appropriately. It is understandable why any instance of using the target language is quite challenging to learners. It is therefore quite unrealistic to ask learners’ speech or written work to be faultless. So teachers have to be open to the fact that mistakes made by learners are natural and inevitable. What is more important, not all mistakes are regrettable and should be condemned; they have a role to play too. As an expert in language teaching puts it, mistakes are sometimes “healthy proof that learning is taking place”. It may sound strange but it is true. A telling example can be found when students are adventurous enough to experiment with the structure or the word or the sound they have just learned instead of sticking to the safe old one. In this case the students’ brave attempt should be encouraged rather than thwarted.

In summary, error correction is an area in which teachers can offer direct service to students. However, they will do their students a grave disservice if they insist on overcorrection. The implication for foreign language teaching is that remedial work done by the teacher should highlight important mistakes to encourage students to use the correct form to improve their performance. Moreover, teachers should be sensitive enough to tolerate some errors, especially those that are evidence of learning taking place. Such an attitude to errors on the part of the teacher will have positive effects on students the most important of which is to boost their confidence and overcome their fear of making mistakes.

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One who is good at English grammar can write well in English?

Is it true that one who is good at English grammar can write well in English?
(Acquisition of good writing skills requires more than Mastery of English Grammar)

In the English language teaching writing is called a productive skill because it is concerned with the production of the language. The teaching and learning of this specific skill has provoked much discussion about the question of how to write well in English. Some people may think that a good knowledge of English grammar is sufficient to enable them to achieve a high level of competence in written English. However, this is a somewhat simplistic view. As will be analyzed below, the acquisition of good writing skills requires not just a good command of the grammatical system of English but a wide lexical knowledge, a thorough understanding of the topic given and a repertoire of organizational skills.

Apart from a good knowledge of English grammar, one needs to demonstrate a broad lexical knowledge in a good piece of writing. There is an element of truth in the fact that grammar rules help to generate sentences. However, if the writer has no real understanding of the lexis of the English language and just applies the grammatical rules mechanically, he will run the risk of producing grammatically correct but semantically inappropriate or anomalous sentences. To use the English language with clarity and precision, he needs to know what words mean literally and figuratively, what words can collocate and how words, though synonymous, are different form each other in subtle ways. Therefore, the writer’s ability to manipulate structures and his word choice are both needed for the appropriate use of language. For example, while one can write ‘Sorry, I can’t make it’ in response to a friend’s invitation he must formulate his refusal to a business partner more formally ‘I apologize I will not be able to be there.’ In other words, structural accuracy is just as important as vocabulary selection in effective writing.

Next, one needs to rely on one’s general and/or specialist knowledge to develop the topic given in depth to produce an original piece of writing. If one’s mastery of English grammar can partly help shape the form of a piece of writing, it is the ideas presented that decide the content. A good writer does not write merely to reach the word limit (within the time limit); he must write to achieve his purpose, whether to narrate a story, to describe someone or something, to discuss a topic, to inform or to persuade the reader. The best way for him to do this is to ensure that the content of his paper is excellent. He is therefore expected to exploit whatever kind of knowledge he has acquired, be it his general knowledge, his knowledge of current affairs or his specialist knowledge to come up with brilliant ideas that can attract and maintain readers’ attention. As the writer is not in direct contact with readers and cannot therefore get direct feedback from them, he cannot afford to be vague. He has to elaborate his ideas or explanations to get his message across, leaving no scope for misunderstanding or interpretation of any type. This makes an enormous demand on the writer indeed. So in his treatment of the subject assigned, the writer has to draw on the above mentioned areas of his knowledge, which are by nature different from his knowledge of English grammar, to search for worthwhile ideas and arguments.

In addition, one needs to know a number of generally called organizational skills which are essential for the production of a fine piece of writing. Viewed as a process, writing involves the following major skills. The skill of much use during the first stage is that of planning. Before starting off, the writer has to envisage how he would like to go about his writing assignment. He has to take into consideration all the resources he has at his disposal (such as time, vocabulary, language, structures, his understanding of the topic) to make a detailed plan as to how to turn out the end product: a letter, a story, s description, a report, an essay, a term paper, etc. Next comes the skill of much importance here, the skill of paragraphing. After a brainstorming session in the planning stage, the writer may have hit on many ideas and now it is time for him to select and organize those that are really relevant to the topic under discussion. The organization of ideas requires a clear understanding of the discourse structure of the target language, which is English in this case. Here the non-native writer is expected to go beyond the realm of grammar to explore the realm of discourse. For example, he needs to acquaint himself with a variety of genres or styles produced by native writers so that he knows what is expected of him when he writes in English. Besides, the skill of structuring discourse is often coupled with the skill of using liking devices. It is because ideas must not only be grouped together but also developed in logical and coherent paragraphs. Then the skills of drafting, editing and proofreading come into play. The writer has to work on his draft to revise his ideas and check for spelling and punctuation. Only when all the necessary changes have been made can the writer be sure that his end product is ready for ‘publication’.

In general, writing is not an easy skill to get native speakers of English. As can be seen above, the mastery of the skill demands different areas of knowledge such as vocabulary, world knowledge and specialist knowledge and organizational skills in addition to that of grammar. Thus a wide knowledge of English grammar is a necessary condition, not the only necessary and sufficient condition for the acquisition of the writing skill. A high level of written English can only be achieved when one puts huge efforts in building up his knowledge of the areas mentioned above.

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Federal student aid - Loan consolidation

Federal student aid - Loan consolidation

Borrowers Currently Enrolled in school can no longer Consolidate Their Loans (Federal student loan consolidation)

The Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 eliminated the provision that allowed a FFEL or Direct Loan borrower who is enrolled in school on at least a half-time basis to request to enter repayment early on his or her Stafford Loans if the lender approves. Repayment is now defined as not beginning until 6 months and one day after the date the student ceases to carry at least one-half the normal full- time academic workload, as determined by the school. Therefore, a FFEL or Direct Loan borrower who is still enrolled in school at least half-time may no longer request to enter repayment early to apply for a FFEL or Direct Consolidation Loan.

To apply for a Direct Loan Consolidation or an FFEL Consolidation the borrower must contact the lender and complete an application. Most lenders provide borrowers with the ability to apply on-line or request an application over the telephone. Once an application is completed and submitted, the lender will request information from the borrower’s other lenders or from its own system to determine the amounts outstanding on the borrowers loans. The borrower will then receive notification about the consolidation loan, normal consumer disclosures, the amount owed, and if appropriate, where to make payments.

FFEL Consolidation Loan Weighted Average Interest Rate (Federal student loan consolidation)

Consolidation loans have fixed interest rates that are based on the weighted average of the interest rates on the loans being consolidated. A lender can provide a new consolidation loan borrower with the lowest statutory weighted average interest rate for loans by using the lower of the weighted average of the interest rates on the loans being consolidated as of July 1 or the date the lender received the borrower's consolidation loan application. The lender should apply a consistent method of determining when an application is received.

Most federal education loans are eligible for consolidation, including subsidized and unsubsidized Direct and FFEL Stafford Loans, SLS, Federal Perkins Loans, Federal Nursing Loans, and Health Education Assistance Loans. PLUS Loan borrowers (parent and graduate/professional degree students) can also consolidate their loans. Private education loans are not eligible for consolidation.

To obtain a complete list of the federal student loans that can be consolidated

  • contact the Direct Loan Origination Center's Consolidation Department if you’re applying for a Direct Consolidation Loan. You can reach them by calling 1-800-557-7392. TTY users may call 1-800-557-7395. Or visit loanconsolidation.ed.gov.
  • contact a participating FFEL lender if you’re applying for a FFEL Consolidation Loan. If you do not know who your FFEL lender is, please call 1-800-433-3243 for assistance.

Eligibility rules (Federal student loan consolidation)

All FFEL and Direct Stafford Loan borrowers are eligible to consolidate after they graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment.

PLUS loans are eligible for consolidation once they are fully disbursed.

Borrowers who are delinquent or in default must meet certain requirements before they may consolidate their loans. Contact your loan holder for more information.

Eligibility Requirements:

  1. To qualify for a Direct Consolidation Loan, borrowers must have at least one Direct Loan or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) that is in grace, repayment, deferment or default status. Loans that are in an in-school status cannot be included in a Direct Consolidation Loan.
  2. Borrowers can consolidate most defaulted education loans, if they make satisfactory repayment arrangements with the current loan holders or agree to repay their new Direct Consolidation Loan under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan.
  3. Borrowers who do not have Direct Loans may be eligible for a Direct Consolidation Loan if they include at least one FFEL Loan and have been unable to obtain a Federal Consolidation Loan with a FFEL consolidation lender or have been unable to obtain a Federal Consolidation Loan with income-sensitive repayment terms acceptable to them or intend to apply for loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
  4. Borrowers who have only a Direct Consolidation Loan cannot consolidate again unless they include an additional loan.

For more details regarding Direct Loan Consolidation, click here.


Interest rate (Federal student loan consolidation)

The interest rate for FFEL and Direct Consolidation Loans is set according to a formula established by federal statute. The fixed rate is based on the weighted average of the interest rates on the loans at the time you consolidate, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of a percent. The interest rate does not exceed 8.25 percent. The consolidation rate is fixed for the life of the loan, which protects you from future increases in variable rate loans but prevents you from benefiting from future decreases in variable rates.

Borrowers with Stafford Loans issued on or after July 1, 1995, can reduce the consolidation rate by up to half a percentage point or more by consolidating before the end of the grace period.

The interest rate you would receive, however, depends on which federal student loans are being consolidated. For example, your rate would be higher if you consolidated a 5 percent Federal Perkins Loan along with a 6.62 percent Direct or FFEL Stafford Loan.

For the new interest rates in effect from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2009 for variable rate Direct Subsidized Consolidation Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Consolidation Loans, Direct PLUS Consolidation Loans, Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and Direct PLUS Loans click here.


Obtaining a Consolidation Loan (Federal student loan consolidation)

For a FFEL Consolidation Loan, contact the consolidation department of a participating lender for an application or more information. (Your parents should do the same thing if they want to apply for a FFEL PLUS Consolidation Loan.)

For Direct Loans, you (and your parents, for a Direct PLUS Consolidation Loan) can contact the Direct Loan Origination Center’s Consolidation Department at the Web site given above.

Note that if your parents want to apply for a FFEL PLUS Consolidation Loan, no credit checks are required. If they want to apply for a Direct PLUS Consolidation Loan, they are subject to a check for adverse credit history.


Repayment period (Federal student loan consolidation)

Repayment of Consolidation Loans begins within 60 days of the disbursement of the loan. The payback term ranges from 10 to 30 years, depending on the amount of education debt being repaid and the repayment option you select. Education loans not included in the Consolidation Loan are considered in determining the maximum payback period. You may elect to repay your loans under a shorter period than the maximum allowed.

All the FFEL repayment plans are available to FFEL Consolidation Loan borrowers. For Direct Consolidation Loan borrowers, most of the Direct Loan repayment plans are available, except that Direct PLUS Consolidation Loans are not eligible to be repaid under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan and might not be eligible for some discharge/cancellation benefits. Check with the holder of your loan. You can also read more about repayment plan choices in the Repaying Your Student Loan section of Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid, click here to access the publication.

  • Fees - Borrowers who consolidate will not pay any application fees or prepayment penalties.
  • Credit checks - Under FFEL Consolidation Loans, no credit checks are required, even for PLUS borrowers. Under Direct Loan consolidation, PLUS borrowers are subject to a check for adverse credit history.

Always Consider the Cost (Federal student loan consolidation)

You should keep in mind that although consolidation can simplify loan repayment and lower your monthly payment, it also can significantly increase the total cost of repaying your loans. Consolidation offers lower monthly payments by giving borrowers up to 30 years to repay their loans. So, you'll make more payments and pay more in interest. In fact, in some situations consolidation can double your total interest expense. If you don't need monthly payment relief, you should compare the cost of repaying your unconsolidated loans against the cost of repaying a consolidation loan. You also should take into account the impact of losing any borrower benefits offered under non-consolidated repayment plans. Borrower benefits, which may include interest rate discounts, principal rebates, or some loan cancellation benefits can significantly reduce the cost of repaying your loans.

Once made, Federal Consolidation Loans cannot be unmade. That's because the loans that were consolidated have been paid off and no longer exist. Take the time to study your consolidation options before you submit your application. This checklist has been designed to help you determine whether and how you should consolidate your loans.

Last updated/reviewed December 23, 2008

Material source: studentaid.ed.gov

Student Loan Consolidation

Student Loan Consolidation

Consolidation Loans combine several student or parent loans into one bigger loan from a single lender, which is then used to pay off the balances on the other loans. It is very similar to refinancing a mortgage. Consolidation loans are available for most federal loans, including FFELP (Stafford, PLUS and SLS), FISL, Perkins, Health Professional Student Loans, NSL, HEAL, Guaranteed Student Loans and Direct loans. Some lenders offer private consolidation loans for private education loans as well.

A separate page provides a comparison chart of consolidation loan discounts.

Interest Rates (Student Loan Consolidation)

The interest rate on a consolidation loan is the weighted average of the interest rates on the loans being consolidated, rounded up to the nearest 1/8 of a percent and capped at 8.25%.

For example, suppose a student has just unsubsidized Stafford Loans originated on or after July 1, 2006. These loans have a fixed interest rate of 6.8%. When they are consolidated by themselves, the consolidation loan will have an interest rate of 6 and 7/8ths of a percent, or 6.875%. So the interest rate increases only slightly.

If the borrower has a mix of loans with different interest rates, the weighted average will be somewhere in between. For example, if the borrower has $5,000 of Perkins Loans (at 5.0%) and $10,000 of unsubsidized Stafford Loans (at 6.8%), the weighted average is


$5,000 * 5.0% + $10,000 * 6.8%
------------------------------ = 6.2%
$5,000 + $10,000
This weighted average, 6.2%, is then rounded up to the nearest 1/8th of a percent, yielding a consolidation loan interest rate of 6.25%.

Note that the weighted average does not fundamentally alter the underlying cost of the loan. It preserves the cost structure by including each interest rate to the extent that it applies to part of the overall loan balance. For example, the consolidation loan in the previous paragraph says that of the $15,000 consolidation loan balance, $5,000 will be at 5.0% and $10,000 at 6.8%, yielding an equivalent interest rate of 6.2%.

If you are consolidating loans with different interest rates, the weighted average interest rate will always be in between. Don't be fooled if someone tries to suggest that this will save you money by getting you a lower interest rate. The interest rate may be lower than the highest of your interest rates, but it is also higher than the lowest of your interest rates. More importantly, the amount of interest you pay over the lifetime of the loan will be about the same.

(For the mathematically inclined, there is a slight difference due to the different shapes of amortization curves at each interest rate. In the example given above on a 10 year term, $10,000 at 6.8% has a monthly payment of $115.08 and total interest paid of $3,809.66, $5,000 at 5.0% has a monthly payment of $53.03 and total interest paid of $1,364.03. If you add these, you obtain a total monthly payment of $168.11 and a total interest paid of $5,173.69. Using the weighted average, $15,000 at 6.2% has a monthly payment of $168.04 and a total interest paid of $5,165.01. So using a weighted average yields a very small reduction in the monthly payment (in this case, 7 cents) and in the total interest paid ($8.68) due to a kind of triangle law. Of course, when you consolidate the interest rate is rounded up to the nearest 1/8th of a point, so $15,000 at 6.25% has monthly payments of $168.42 and total interest of $5,210.42, yielding a slight increase. So you pay a tiny bit of a premium for consolidation, due to the rounding up of the interest rate.

The PLUS loan interest rate loophole can reduce the interest rate on 8.5% fixed rate PLUS loans by 0.25% through consolidation.

If you were deferring the interest on an unsubsidized Stafford Loan by capitalizing it, most lenders will add the capitalized interest to principal when you consolidate. (Lenders can capitalize interest at most quarterly, but most capitalize it once when the loans enter repayment or at other loan status changes.)

No Cost to Consolidate (Student Loan Consolidation)

Aside from a slight increase in the interest rate on the consolidation loan, there is no cost to consolidate your loans. There are no fees to consolidate.

Under no circumstances pay a fee in advance to get a federal education loan or consolidate your federal education loans. There are no fees to consolidate your loans. While other federal education loans, such as the Stafford and PLUS loans, may charge some fees, the fees are always deducted from the disbursement check. There is never an up front fee. If someone wants you to pay an up front fee, chances are that it is an example of an advance fee loan scam.

Who Can Consolidate (Student Loan Consolidation)

Both student and parent borrowers can consolidate their education loans. (Students and parents cannot combine their loans through consolidation, since only loans from the same borrower can be consolidated. But they can consolidate their loans separately.)

Married students are no longer able to consolidate their loans together. This provision was repealed effective July 1, 2006. When married students consolidated their loans together, each spouse became responsible for the full amount of the loan, and the loans could not be separated if the couple got divorced. To avoid such problems in the future, Congress decided to repeal this provision as part of the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005.

Students can only consolidate their education loans during the grace period or after the loans enter repayment. (Loans that are in default but with satisfactory repayment arrangements may also be consolidated.) Students can no longer consolidate while they are still in school. (The early repayment status loophole and the ability of Direct Loan borrowers to consolidate during the in-school period was repealed as part of the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005, effective July 1, 2006.)

Parents, however, can consolidate PLUS loans at any time.

You Can Consolidate with Any Lender (Student Loan Consolidation)

Students and parents can consolidate their loans with any lender, even if all of their loans are with a single lender. (The single holder rule was repealed on June 15, 2006, as part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2006. Borrowers no longer need to exploit the single holder rule loopholes in order to consolidate with any lender.) Direct Loans can also be consolidated with any lender. This allows you to shop around for a lender that offers a lower rate or better discounts.

Most lenders require a minimum balance before they will consolidate your loans. For example, many lenders will only offer consolidation loans for borrowers with loan balances of at least $7,500. A few lenders will offer consolidation loans for balances of $5,000 or more, and the Federal Direct Consolidation Loan program has no minimum balance for consolidation loans. (Lenders may not discriminate against borrowers who seek consolidation loans on the basis of number/type of student loans, type/category of educational institution, the interest rate on the loans, or the type of repayment schedule sought by the borrower. Lenders are, however, able to discriminate on the basis of the amount of the loans being consolidated, so lenders can set a minimum balance on the loans.)

Which Loans Can be Consolidated? (Student Loan Consolidation)

Any federal education loan can be consolidated. You can even consolidate a single loan. There are, however, a few restrictions on consolidating a consolidation loan.

You can consolidate a consolidation loan only once. In order to reconsolidate an existing consolidation loan, you must add loans that were not previously consolidated to the consolidation loan. You can also consolidate two consolidation loans together. But you cannot consolidate a single consolidation loan by itself. These restrictions have been in effect since early 2006.

Note that when you reconsolidate a consolidation loan, it does not relock the rates on the consolidation loan. The consolidation loan is treated as a fixed rate loan within the weighted average interest rate formula used to calculate the interest rate on the new consolidation loan. Consolidation does not pierce the veil on previous consolidations.

The new restrictions on consolidating a consolidation loan limit your ability to use consolidation to switch lenders. Generally, you will consolidate your loans once, toward the end of the grace period or after the loans enter repayment, and then be locked into that lender for the lifetime of the loan. If you want to preserve your ability to use consolidation in the future to switch lenders, you should exclude one of your loans from the consolidation.

Repayment Plans (Student Loan Consolidation)

Consolidation loans provide access to several alternate repayment plans besides standard ten-year repayment. These include extended repayment, graduated repayment, income contingent repayment (Direct Loans only) and income sensitive repayment (FFEL only). If you do not specify the repayment terms, you will receive standard ten-year repayment.

Consolidation loans often reduce the size of the monthly payment by extending the term of the loan beyond the 10-year repayment plan that is standard with federal loans. Depending on the loan amount, the term of the loan can be extended from 12 to 30 years. The reduced monthly payment may make the loan easier to repay for some borrowers. However, by extending the term of a loan the total amount of interest paid over the lifetime of the loan is increased.

In certain circumstances (for example, when one or more of the loans was being repaid in less than 10 years because of minimum payment requirements), a consolidation loan may decrease the monthly payment without extending the overall loan term beyond 10 years. In effect, the shorter-term loan is being extended to 10 years. The total amount of interest paid will increase unless you continue to make the same monthly payment as before, in which case the total amount of interest paid will decrease.

You do not need to pick an alternate repayment plan. We recommend sticking with standard ten-year repayment, because it will save you money. The alternate repayment plans may have lower monthly payments, but this increases the term of the loan and the total interest paid over the lifetime of the loan. See our caveat about extended repayment below.

Repayment on a consolidation loan will begin within 60 days of disbursement of the loan, unless the borrower qualifies for an deferment or forbearance.

Federal education loans, including consolidation loans, do not have a prepayment penalty. So you can pay off all or part of your federal education loans without incurring a penalty. If you want to take advantage of this, be sure to include a letter with the extra payment indicating that it should be applied to reducing your principal. Otherwise, the lender may treat it as an advance payment of the next month's monthly payment.

Tools for Evaluating Consolidation Options (Student Loan Consolidation)

FinAid's Loan Consolidation Calculator can help you understand the tradeoffs of consolidating your loans. It compares the reduction in the monthly loan payment with the increase in the total interest paid over the lifetime of the loan. It also shows you the interest rate on your consolidation loan.

Despite the switch to fixed interest rates on Stafford and PLUS loans eliminating a key financial incentive to consolidate, there are still several reasons to consolidate your education loans. These include having a single monthly payment, access to alternate repayment plans, the PLUS loan interest rate loophole, and the ability to reset the 3-year clock on deferments and forbearances. But consolidation can cut short the grace period, although the grace period loophole can work around this problem. It is best to avoid consolidating Perkins loans, because you lose several valuable benefits. Beware of extending the term of your loan, as this can increase the total interest paid over the lifetime of the loan; you can stick with standard ten-year repayment.

Before consolidating, always evaluate the benefits provided by the current holder of your loans. The loan discounts offered by originating lenders tend to be superior to those offered by consolidating lenders, since consolidation loans have tighter margins. Also, if you received a fee waiver or rebate from the originating lender, you may have to repay that discount if you consolidate with another lender. It may be possible to get some of the benefits of alternate repayment plans without consolidating, such as extended/graduated repayment with a loan term of up to 25 years and a single monthly payment, if you have more than $30,000 in federal education loan debt accumulated since October 7, 1998 with the lender. (This is due to a little known provision of the Higher Education Act, in section 428(b)(9)(A)(iv), and the regulations at 34 CFR 682.209(a)(6)(ix).)

You can change the repayment schedule on your loan once per year. So consider starting off with standard ten-year repayment on your consolidation loan. You are not required to start off with extended repayment. If you find it difficult to afford the payments, you can always switch to extended repayment later.

For More Information (Student Loan Consolidation)

FinAid has a page of common questions about consolidation.

The numerous student loan loopholes are discussed in depth in other sections of the FinAid site.

FinAid also maintains a list of education lenders who offer federal and private student loans, including consolidation loans.

If your school participates in Direct Lending, you should visit the US Department of Education's Federal Direct Consolidation Loan web site.

Material source: www.finaid.org

Student loan interest rates and fees

Student loan interest rates and fees

Federal student loans

Private student loans

Federal student loans

Stafford Loan

  • The interest rate on Stafford loans first disbursed beginning July 1, 2008:
    • Subsidized Stafford loans for undergraduate students has a declining fixed interest rate.
      • July 1, 2008–June 30, 2009 the interest rate is 6%.
      • July 1, 2009–June 30, 2010 the interest rate is 5.6%.
      • July 1, 2010–June 30, 2011 the interest rate is 4.5%.
      • July 1, 2011–June 30, 2012 the interest rate is 3.4%.
      • Beginning July 1, 2012 the rate is 6.8%.
    • Subsidized Stafford loans for graduate and professional student and all unsubsidized Stafford loans is 6.8%.
  • The interest rate on Stafford loans first disbursed beginning July 1, 2006 is fixed at 6.8%.
  • The interest rate on Stafford loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 1998 but before June 30, 2006 is variable and may change on July 1 of each year but will never exceed 8.25%. The rate is based on:
    • The 91-day T-bill rate + 1.70% during in-school, grace, and deferment periods.
  • Starting July 1, 2008 the interest rate on variable rate loans is 3.61%.
    • The 91-day T-bill rate + 2.30% during repayment periods.
  • Starting July 1, 2008, the interest rate on variable rate loans is 4.21%.

PLUS loan

  • The interest rate on PLUS loans first disbursed beginning July 1, 2006 is fixed at 8.5%.
  • The interest rate on PLUS loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 1998 but before June 30, 2006 is variable and may change annually on July 1 but will never exceed 9%. The current interest rate on these variable rate PLUS loans is 5.01%.

Federal student loan consolidation

Severe legislative cuts made by Congress made federal student loan consolidation uneconomical. This, combined with the credit market deterioration, has caused us to suspend participation in the federal consolidation loan program.

  • The fixed interest rate for consolidation loans varied from borrower to borrower but is generally expected to range from 4.75% to 6.125%. Interest rates are based on the borrower's underlying loans' primary rates and do not include discounts for interest reduction benefits. Special rules apply to consolidation loans that include HEAL loans.
  • Different interest rates apply to federal Stafford, PLUS, and consolidation loans issued before July 1, 1998.

Private student loans

The following Annual Percentage Rate (APR) examples include sample rates and fees for Sallie Mae’s private student loans. The actual rates and fees applicable to your loan may vary from these numbers shown. Sallie Mae switched from a Prime Rate index to a one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) index for loans first disbursed on or after June 2, 2008. Your promissory note identifies the actual index that applies to your loan.

The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.


Annual Percentage Rate (APR) examples:
  • The APR is a variable rate and will increase if the applicable index (one-month LIBOR rate) increases. For purposes of these APR examples, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • The one-month LIBOR rate effective on January 26, 2009 is 0.50%.
  • All loan fees are capitalized (added to the loan principal).

Signature Student Loan

APR examples

Interest rate Disbursement fee Repayment fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 4%

0%

0%

$90.56

4.36%

One-month LIBOR + 14%

3%

3%

$230.64

13.79%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR rate increases. For purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $10,000 loan amount.
  • APR examples are based on a 15-year repayment of principal and interest.

Signature Student Loan for community colleges

APR examples:

Interest rate Disbursement fee Repayment fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 6.75%

0%

0%

$52.24

7.13%

One-month LIBOR + 14%

3%

3%

$94.31

14.82%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR increases. For purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $5,000 loan amount.
  • APR examples are based on a 15-year repayment of principal and interest.

Career Training Loan

APR examples:

Repayment begins at least 28, but no more than 60 days after the loan's disbursement for all repayment options.

Standard
Interest rate Disbursement fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 9.5%

0%

$94.14

10.12%

One-month LIBOR + 13.5%

5%

$122.45

15.12%

Interest-only

Interest rate Disbursement fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 9.5%

0%

$94.14

10.11%

One-month LIBOR + 14%

5%

$125.56

15.58%

Deferment
Interest rate Disbursement fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 9.5%

0%

$102.26

10.05%

One-month LIBOR + 14%

5%

$142.13

15.31%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR increases. For the purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • $8,700 loan amount.
  • All examples assume a fee of $30 for each applicant and assumes a borrower and cosigner.
  • Minimum monthly payment is $30 for standard repayment.
  • Minimum monthly payment is $10 for deferment repayment during deferment.
  • APRs based on a 15-year repayment term of principal and interest.

Continuing Education Loan

APR examples:

Repayment begins at least 28, but no more than 60, days after the loan's disbursement for all repayment options.

Standard
Interest rate Disbursement fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 11%

0%

$53.27

11.74%

One-month LIBOR + 13%

3%

$60.96

14.34%

Interest-only

Interest rate Disbursement fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 11%

0%

$53.27

11.73%

One-month LIBOR + 13.5%

3%

$62.53

14.81%

Deferment
Interest rate Disbursement fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 11%

0%

$57.99

11.64%

One-month LIBOR + 13.5%

3%

$69.68

14.61%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR increases. For the purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $4,500 loan amount.
  • All examples assume a fee of $30 for each applicant and assumes a borrower and cosigner.
  • Minimum monthly payment is $30 for standard repayment.
  • Minimum monthly payment is $10 for deferment repayment during deferment.
  • APRs based on a 15-year repayment term of principal and interest.

DENTALoans Graduate Private Loan

APR examples:

Interest rate Disbursement fee Repayment fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 4%

0%

0%

$99.16

4.23%

One-month LIBOR + 12.75%

0%

0%

$239.98

11.22%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR increases. For purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $10,000 loan amount.
  • APR examples are based on a 15-year repayment of principal and interest.

DENTALoans Residency, Relocation, and Licensure Exam Loan

APR examples

Interest rate Disbursement fee Repayment fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 4%

0%

0%

$110.20

4.41%

One-month LIBOR + 12.75%

0%

0%

$263.12

12.38%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR increases. For purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $15,000 loan amount.
  • APR examples are based on a 20-year repayment of principal and interest.

Global Health Education Loan Program

GHELP Stafford loan

Loans first disbursed July 1, 2008–August 30, 2009.

Interest rate

  • 6.8% for all unsubsidized Stafford loans
  • 6.8% for subsidized Stafford loans for graduate and professional students

Fees

Up to 2% in fees that include a 1% federal origination fee and a 1% federal default fee.

Sample GHELP Private Loan

APR examples:

Interest rate Disbursement fee Repayment fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 4%

0%

0%

$99.16

4.23%

One-month LIBOR + 14%

3%

3%

$283.15

12.61%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR increases. For purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $10,000 loan amount.
  • APR examples are based on a 15-year repayment of principal and interest.
Sample GHELP Residency & Relocation Loan

APR examples:

Interest rate Disbursement fee Repayment fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 4%

0%

0%

$110.20

4.41%

One-month LIBOR + 14%

3%

3%

$309.53

14.08%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR increases. For purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $15,000 loan amount.
  • APR examples are based on a 20-year repayment of principal and interest.

K-12 Family Education Loan

APR examples:

Repayment begins at least 28, but no more than 60 days after the loan's disbursement.

Interest rate Disbursement fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 11%

0%

$128.61

11.58%

One-month LIBOR + 13%

3%

$149.96

14.08%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR increases. For purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $12,000 loan amount.
  • All examples assume a fee of $30 for each applicant and assumes a borrower and cosigner.
  • Minimum monthly payment is $30 for standard repayment.
  • APR examples are based on a 20-year repayment of principal and interest.

LAWLOANS Bar Study Loan

APR examples:

Interest rate Disbursement fee Repayment fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 4%

0%

0%

$118.62

4.49%

One-month LIBOR + 14%

3%

3%

$240.93

15.46%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR rate increases. For purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $15,000 loan amount.
  • APR examples are based on a 15-year repayment of principal and interest.

LAWLOANS Private Loan

APR examples:

Interest rate Disbursement fee Repayment fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 4%

0%

0%

$87.97

4.40%

One-month LIBOR + 14%

3%

3%

$214.88

14.17%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR rate increases. For purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $10,000 loan amount.
  • APR examples are based on a 15-year repayment of principal and interest.

MBA LOANS Private Loan

APR examples:

Interest rate Disbursement fee Repayment fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 4%

0%

0%

$83.67

4.45%

One-month LIBOR + 14%

3%

3%

$188.63

14.82%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR rate increases. For purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $10,000 loan amount.
  • APR examples are based on a 15-year repayment of principal and interest.

Medical School Loans Private Student Loan

APR examples:

Interest rate interim Interest rate repayment Disbursement fee Repayment fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 6.25%

One-month LIBOR + 8.75%

0%

0%

$132.29

7.53%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR rate increases. For purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $10,000 loan amount.
  • APR examples are based on a 20-year repayment of principal and interest.

Medical School Loans Residency and Relocation Loan

APR examples:

Interest rate interim Interest rate repayment Disbursement fee Repayment fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 7.25%

One-month LIBOR + 8.75%

0%

0%

$175.53

8.46%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR rate increases. For purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $15,000 loan amount.
  • APR examples are based on a 20-year repayment of principal and interest.

Tutorial Financing Loan

APR examples:

Repayment begins at least 28, but no more than 60 days after the loan's disbursement.

Standard
Interest rate Disbursement fee Monthly payment amount APR

One-month LIBOR + 7%

0%

$56.55

7.50%

One-month LIBOR + 13.5%*

5%

$86.10

15.17%

APR assumptions:

  • The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is a variable rate and will increase if the one-month LIBOR increases. For purposes of this calculation, we have assumed that the interest rate does not change.
  • The APRs shown are APRs effective as of January 26, 2009.
  • A $6,100 loan amount.
  • * Example assumes a fee of $30 for each applicant and assumes a borrower and cosigner.
  • Minimum monthly payment is $30 for standard repayment.
  • APRs based on immediate repayment and a 15-year repayment term of principal and interest.
Material Source: www.salliemae.com