Education Loan Finance (ELFI) Student Loans Review

A good option for students who need at least $10,000 in private student loans

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ELFI

 ELFI

Our Take

At $10,000 per academic year, ELFI has the highest minimum loan amount of any other private student loan we’ve reviewed but its interest rates are about the same as other lenders. ELFI may be a good choice for graduate students but undergraduates will definitely want to look at other options.

  • Key Takeaways
  • Pros and Cons
  • Company Overview
Key Takeaways
  • While ELFI has been refinancing student loans since 2015 it only started lending in 2019.
  • Minimum loan amount is $10,000 across all loan types and can only be used on qualified education expenses for one academic year.
  • Borrower or co-signer must have a credit score of at least 680, three years of credit history, and minimum income of $35,000.
  • ELFI does offer prequalification
  • Offers four in-school repayment options and four loan terms.
  • Every borrower is assigned a personal loan advisor to answer their questions from application through disbursement.
Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Dedicated personal loan advisor

  • Completely digital

  • Prequalification available

Cons
  • High minimum loan amount

  • No co-signer release option

  • High credit score required

Company Overview
  • Year Founded 1994
  • Official Website www.elfi.com
  • Loans Offered Undergraduate, Graduate, Parent, Refinanced
  • Customer Service: By phone: 844-601-3534 or by email: answers@ELFI.com

Education Loan Finance (ELFI) is a division of SouthEast Bank, a not-for-profit bank with more than three decades of experience in the student loan industry, created to provide lower-cost student loan options to borrowers nationwide. Known mostly for student loan refinancing, ELFI started offering undergraduate, graduate, and parent student loans in August 2019.

Pros Explained

  • Dedicated personal loan advisor – Instead of relying on customer service, you’ll have a point of contact to help you with any questions you have about your loan and its impact on your finances.
  • Completely digital – In addition to an online application, you can submit documents by taking a picture of them with your smartphone and sign paperwork electronically.
  • Prequalification available – ELFI tells you your likely interest rates and repayment terms before you make a formal application by making a soft credit inquiry, which will not affect your credit score.

Cons Explained

COVID-19 Assistance

For borrowers experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic, ELFI recommends contacting their loan servicer, American Education Services, to explore options for deferment or forbearance. The company is offering affected borrowers up to 90 days of disaster forbearance.

Education Loan Finance (ELFI) Student Loans Available

Undergraduate Student Loans

Students enrolled at least half time in a bachelor’s degree program can qualify for an undergraduate student loan from ELFI.

ELFI Undergraduate Student Loans
Variable Rate 1.50% to 10.8% APR 
Fixed Rate 4.50% to 11.19% APR
Loan Amounts $10,000 up to “the amount approved by the school for qualified education expenses for the requested academic period, which cannot be longer than one academic year.
Loan Terms 5, 7, 10 or 15 years

Graduate Student Loans

Graduate students in any field, including healthcare professions, law school, and MBA programs, are eligible for an ELFI graduate student loan.

ELFI Graduate Student Loans
Variable Rate 1.50% to 10.80% APR 
Fixed Rate 4.50% to 11.19% APR 
Loan Amounts $10,000 up to “the amount approved by the school for qualified education expenses for the requested academic period, which cannot be longer than one academic year.
Loan Terms 5, 7, 10, or 15 years

Parent Student Loans

Parents can take out a loan for both undergraduate and graduate students. ELFI doesn’t offer a 15-year term for its parent loan, but all other requirements and features are the same.

Parent loans for college are only available in 5, 7 and 10-year terms.

ELFI Parent Student Loans
Variable Rate 1.50% to 10.80% APR 
Fixed Rate 4.50% to 11.19% APR 
Loan Amounts $10,000 up to “the amount approved by the school for qualified education expenses for the requested academic period, which cannot be longer than one academic year.
Loan Terms 5, 7 or 10 years

Loan Eligibility

Students must be enrolled at least half time in a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree program to qualify for ELFI student loans. Both borrowers and cosigners need to be the age of majority at the time of the loan application and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien without conditions.

There are financial requirements as well. The borrower or co-signer must have a minimum credit score of 680, at least 36 months of credit history, and a minimum income of $35,000 per year.

Is Loan Prequalification Available?

ELFI does offer prequalification, meaning you can see your estimated rates and explore repayment options without affecting your credit.

Prequalification allows you to get a more accurate idea of the rates you could be approved for without affecting your credit score. So always take advantage of it when it's available.

Loan Fees

There are no application, prepayment, or origination fees. There is a late fee of 5% of the past due amount or $50, whichever is less, and a $30 fee for a returned check or insufficient funds.

Loan Discounts

Because borrowers are required to make payments with an electronic or digital transfer, an auto pay discount is automatically reflected in your approved interest rate.

Repayment Options

ELFI offers immediate, fixed, interest-only, and deferred repayment options with a six-month grace period on all loans.

  • Immediate Interest and principal payments begin 30 to 60 days after the loan has been funded.
  • Fixed – You make $25 monthly payments while in school and for up to six months after graduating or dropping below half-time attendance.
  • Interest-Only – You make interest-only payments while in school and for up to six months after graduating or dropping below half-time attendance.
  • Deferred – Payments begin six months after you graduate or are not enrolled at least half time.

Rewards

ELFI has a referral program for its student loan refinancing program. When you refinance using your personalized referral link, you’ll get a $400 referral bonus, and the person you referred will receive a $100 credit applied to the principal balance of their ELFI loan.

Are Co-signers Required?

If you meet financial eligibility requirements, you don’t need a co-signer for an ELFI student loan.

Forbearance and Loan Discharge Options

ELFI offers forbearance for up to 12 months due to financial hardship or medical difficulty. American Education Services, the third-party company that services ELFI student loans, states that it does offer forbearance and deferment, as well as the option to change your payment date or change payment plans to reduce your monthly payment. It will also discharge loans of borrowers who die or become totally and permanently disabled.

Is Student Loan Refinancing Available?

Graduates with at least a bachelor’s degree from an approved institution can refinance their student loans with ELFI. Parents can also refinance through ELFI, with no maximum loan amount for well-qualified borrowers.

Customer Service

You can contact ELFI’s in-house customer service seven days a week via phone or text at 844-601-3534 or by email at answers@ELFI.com.

Loan servicer American Education Services is available by phone, email, mail, or fax Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST.

Because ELFI has only been offering student loans since August 2019, there are no complaints about ELFI student loans in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s consumer complaint database. However, in 2019 there were 29 complaints regarding private loans serviced by American Education Services.

Applying for an Education Loan Finance Student Loan

The application process is completed online and can be done in as little as a few minutes. To apply, you must:

  1. Prequalify to see your rate and repayment options
  2. Apply online and select the rate and terms that fit your needs
  3. Submit pay stubs documenting the last 30 days of payment, the previous year’s W-2, and government-issued Identification for you and your cosigner (if applicable)

You should apply before the start of the academic year or semester for which you need funding.

Paying for College

Before applying for private student loans, you should exhaust all your options for federal aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you’ve explored all your options for scholarships, grants, and federal student loans and still need more funding, then a private student loan can help.

Final Verdict

ELFI makes applying for a student loan easy with its completely digital application process and dedicated personal loan advisor to help you along the way. If you’ve exhausted all your federal aid options and still need more than $10,000, then ELFI could be a great choice for you. However, if you just need a small loan to cover some extras, you’ll want to go with another lender.

Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews of student loan lenders. We collected over 45 data points across more than 15 lenders—including interest rates, fees, loan amounts, and repayment terms—to ensure that our content helps users make the right borrowing decision for their education needs.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy .
  1. American Education Services. "COVID-19 Options for Student Loan Borrowers." Accessed May 27, 2020.

  2. American Education Services. "Trouble Making Payments." Accessed June 24, 2020.

  3. American Education Services. "Loan Forgiveness and Discharge." Accessed June 24, 2020.

  4. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Consumer Complaint Database." Accessed June 24, 2020.

  5. U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid. "Complete the FAFSA Form." Accessed June 24, 2020.