MEFA Student Loans Review 2020

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The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) was created in 1982 by the Massachusetts state legislature. Its goal is to offer low-cost college financing options to undergraduate and graduate students. 

MEFA is a non-profit, self-funded, and state-chartered student loan organization. It provides financial literacy programs, offers loan discharge in the case of student death or disability, and doesn’t charge origination or application fees. MEFA allows you to borrow up to the total cost of attendance and has multiple repayment options.

Here’s what you need to know about MEFA student loans. 

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Pros

  • No fees

  • Multiple repayment options

  • Cosigner release available

  • Borrow up to the total cost of attendance

Cons

  • Loan prequalification not available

  • No autopay discount

  • Maximum deferral periods apply

  • Only fixed-rate loans available

Pros Explained

  • No fees: There are no application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties for undergraduate and graduate student loans. There are also no late fees or returned payment fees. 
  • Multiple repayment options: Depending on loan, you may have multiple repayment options to choose from, including immediate repayment, interest-only payments, deferred payments, and deferred with co-signer release. 
  • Cosigner release available: If you have a co-signer, you can apply for a co-signer release after making 48 consecutive, on-time monthly payments. 
  • Borrow up to the total cost of attendance: While some private student loan lenders have caps on how much you can borrow, MEFA allows you to borrow up to the total cost of attendance. 

Cons Explained

  • Loan prequalification not available: Many lenders offer loan prequalification tools so you can get a rate quote without submitting a full application. But MEFA doesn’t have that feature. To find out if you qualify and the interest rate, you have to apply for a loan and undergo a hard credit inquiry, which can impact your credit score
  • No autopay discount: Most lenders give borrowers a small interest rate discount when you sign up for automatic payments. MEFA doesn’t offer this benefit, so there’s no financial benefit to signing up for autopay. 
  • Maximum deferral periods apply: While you can defer payments until after you graduate or leave the program, the maximum deferral period is 60 months for undergraduate students and 36 months for graduate students. If you take longer than that to finish your degree, you’ll have to make payments while you’re in school. 
  • Only fixed-rate loans available: MEFA only offers fixed-rate loans. If you prefer a variable-rate loan, you’ll have to work with another lender. 

MEFA Student Loans Available

Student loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Students must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible non-profit college or university. 

Undergraduate Student Loans

If you’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree, you can apply for an undergraduate student loan from MEFA. The loans have competitive, fixed rates, and you can choose between a 10 and 15-year term. If you’re enrolled for the current academic year, you can use a MEFA loan for summer session expenses. 

Undergraduate loans have four repayment options: 

  • Immediate repayment: Interest and principal payments begin following disbursement. 
  • Interest-only: While you’re in school, you make payments only on the interest that accrues. 
  • Deferred: You don’t make payments until six months after graduation. 
  • Deferred with cosigner release: You don’t make payments until six months after graduation, and the cosigner can ask to be released from the loan after 48 consecutive monthly payments have been made. 
Undergraduate Student Loans
Fixed Rates 3.75% to 5.75%
Variable Rates Not offered
Loan Amounts

Minimum: $2,000 for a private school, $1,500 for a public school

Maximum: Total cost of attendance

Loan Terms 10 and 15 years

Graduate Student Loans

If you’re working toward a master’s degree, you can borrow up to the total cost of attendance with a MEFA graduate school loan. The loans have competitive, fixed rates and a 15-year term. 

MEFA graduate school loans have two repayment options: 

  • Interest-only: After the loan is disbursed, you’ll make interest payments while you’re in school. Once you graduate, you’ll make principal and interest payments. 
  • Deferred: With deferred repayment, you don’t make payments until six months after you graduate or leave the program. 
Graduate Student Loans
Fixed Rates 4.25% to 5.50%
Variable Rates Not offered
Loan Amounts

Minimum: $2,000 for a private school, $1,500 for a public school

Maximum: Total cost of attendance

Loan Terms 15 years

Loan Eligibility

To qualify for a student loan from MEFA, you must meet these requirements: 

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Enrolled at least half-time in an accredited degree-granting undergraduate or graduate program at an eligible non-profit college or university
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress as defined by your school
  • Meet MEFA’s credit standards or have a qualifying co-signer

Is Loan Prequalification Available?

MEFA does not have a loan prequalification tool. The only way to find out if you qualify for a loan and see what interest rate you’ll get is to submit a loan application. When you apply, MEFA will check your credit, which can affect your credit score. 

Loan Fees

MEFA does not charge origination or application fees. It doesn’t even charge late fees or returned payment fees.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t any penalty for missing payments. If you fall behind on your student loan payments, MEFA will report the missed payments to the major credit bureaus. The lender can also send your account to collections and take you to court. 

Loan Discounts

MEFA does not offer any loan discounts.  

Repayment Options

MEFA has four repayment plans: 

  1. Immediate repayment: Your payments begin on the 28th day of the month following your final loan disbursement. You will make payments toward both the principal and interest right away. Immediate repayment is only available for undergraduate loans. 
  2. Interest-only repayment: You begin making payments on the 28th day of the month following your final loan disbursement. Your payments only cover the interest while you’re in school. Interest-only repayment is available for undergraduate and graduate loans. 
  3. Deferred repayment: You don’t make any payments until six months after you graduate, leave the program, or reduce your hours to below half-time status. Loans must be paid off within 15 years. Deferred repayment is available for both undergraduate and graduate student loans. 
  4. Deferred repayment with cosigner release: Available to undergraduate students only, this option is the same as deferred repayment, but it also allows the borrowers to remove the co-signer from the loan after making 48 consecutive monthly payments on time. 

Rewards

MEFA does not have a referral or rewards program. 

Are Co-signers Required?

MEFA doesn’t require applicants to have a cosigner. Co-signers are eligible for release after 48 consecutive monthly payments have been made on-time as long as the borrower meets the current underwriting standards. 

The lender states that most undergraduate students will need a co-signer to qualify for a loan.

Forbearance and Loan Discharge Options

MEFA does not include specific information about financial hardship programs on its website. However, it does encourage MEFA borrowers who are unable to afford their payments to contact their loan servicer—American Education Services (AES)—to apply for modified payment terms to get some relief. 

If the student borrower dies or becomes totally and permanently disabled, the loan is discharged. 

Length of Time for Loan Approval and Disbursement

Once you submit your application, MEFA will review it and will notify you of its decision. If approved, it will ask you to log in to your account to sign the loan agreement. 

Next, MEFA will send the loan documents to your school for certification. Some schools won’t certify loans until closer to the semester start date, so the process can take several weeks to complete. Once the school certifies the loan, MEFA will disburse the funds directly to the school. 

It’s a good idea to apply for a loan well in advance to ensure you get the money you need on time.

Is Student Loan Refinancing Available?

Student loan refinancing is available for undergraduate and graduate student loans. You can choose between fixed and variable-rate loans and seven, 10, and 15-year terms. The minimum refinance amount is $10,000. 

Customer Service

MEFA’s student loans are serviced by American Education Services. Unfortunately, AES doesn’t have a stellar reputation as a loan servicer. 

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) 2019 Annual Report of the Student Loan Ombudsman, it received 2,900 complaints about private student loan companies between September 1, 2018, and August 31, 2019. Of those complaints, 180—about 7%— were about AES. A common complaint was that the servicer provided bad information about borrowers’ loans. 

If you need to reach customer service during the application process, you can email MEFA at MEFALoans@MEFA.org or call 800-266-0243 between 7:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. 

Applying for a MEFA Student Loan

You’ll need the following information to fill out an application: 

  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Current and prior addresses (if applicable)
  • Monthly income
  • Housing costs
  • Employer information

Paying for College

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, make sure you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and apply for federal, state, and institutional financial aid you’re entitled to before applying for a loan from a private lender like MEFA. 

If you reach the annual borrowing limits with federal student loans and still need money to pay for school, it’s a good idea to shop around and compare loans from multiple private lenders to find the best option for your needs.

Verdict

MEFA offers low cost, fixed-rate loans with multiple repayment options. You can borrow up to the total cost of attendance and apply for a co-signer release after making 48 consecutive monthly payments on time. 

MEFA doesn’t offer variable-rate loans, and you can’t get a rate quote without submitting a full loan application. The lender also doesn’t offer any interest rate discounts or extra benefits and doesn’t have a clear forbearance or financial hardship policy. 

Before applying for a loan, shop around and compare rates and terms from multiple private student loan lenders to ensure you get the best deal. You may find a lender that offers more flexibility and robust benefits. 

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.

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