Many or all companies we feature compensate us. Compensation and editorial
research influence how products appear on a page.
Student Loans

ELFI Student Loans and Refinancing Review

Updated Sep 29, 2023   |   23-min read

ELFI’s refinance student loan is best for transferring Parent PLUS loans to the child

  • Private student loans and refinancing available for undergrads, grad students, grads in specialty programs, and parents.
  • Exceptional customer service assigns a student loan advisor to each applicant for guidance and to answer questions. 
  • No cosigner release is available, but cosigners may be released through refinancing.
  • Stringent eligibility and high minimums for some loan products could be limiting for potential borrowers.

About ELFI

Education Loan Finance (ELFI) is a division of Tennessee-based SouthEast Bank established in 2015. Founded on the principle of assisting students in financing their higher education, ELFI aims to empower borrowers with the resources necessary to pay off their student loans. 

ELFI offers private student loans and student loan refinancing options, but it goes beyond providing loans by offering personalized service. ELFI assigns a dedicated student loan advisor to each applicant to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge they need to manage their student loans.

ELFI’s private student loans are open to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as parents. The company’s student loan refinancing is available to college graduates and parents with a minimum of $10,000 in student loan debt who meet ELFI’s credit and eligibility criteria.

Our take on ELFI’s private student loans

Type of student loanBest forEditorial rating
UndergraduateNone3.9/5
GraduateNone4.1/5
ParentNone4.2/5

Our take is based on hours of meticulous editorial research into each of these types of student loans. No two companies earn the same best-for designation. ELFI’s ratings are solid, but it didn’t clinch any best-for designations.

We’re impressed with ELFI’s level of customer service and the variety of loans available, but its stringent eligibility criteria and lack of a cosigner release policy hindered its competitiveness. Other lenders we reviewed offered more flexibility in these areas, earning them higher accolades.

Based on undergraduate loan ratings

Read more about our picks for the best private student loans here.

Rates, terms, and more

ELFI’s private student loan terms, features, and rates are similar across its undergraduate, graduate, and parent loans. 

This includes the fixed and variable APRs, the in-school repayment plans, and the absence of cosigner release. All these common features are listed below:

  • Fixed rates (APR): From 4.48
  • Variable rates (APR): 4.9818.00
  • Rate discounts: Autopay discount is integrated into the approved interest rate 
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – 100% of school-certified costs
  • In-school repayment plans: Immediate principal + interest, interest-only, $25 fixed, or deferred
  • Repayment terms: 5, 7, 10, or 15 years
  • Grace period: 6 months
  • Repayment assistance: Forbearance up to 12 months for financial hardship or medical difficulty
  • Cosigner release: None
  • Fees: No application or origination fees, and no prepayment penalty. Fees for late or returned payments are assessed.
  • Unique features: When you apply, you’ll get a student loan advisor, an expert who walks you through the application process and answers questions.

Health care, law school, and MBA student loans

ELFI’s specialized graduate loan offerings for health care, law school, and MBA students come with a slight twist. 

They share most of the common features we mentioned above, but their minimum loan amount is $10,000—higher than many lenders’ minimums for their specialized loans (College Ave, for example, has a $1,000 minimum).

TermDetail
Loan amounts$10,000 – 100% school certified costs

Parent loan

ELFI’s parent loans also follow the shared terms, with the exception of fewer repayment terms:

TermDetail
Repayment terms5, 7, or 10 years

Tennessee Lending Program for Teachers and Nurses 

As a Tennessee-based program, ELFI offers a specialized product for those studying in a nursing or teaching undergraduate or graduate program in the state, called the Tennessee Lending Program for Teachers and Nurses. 

These loans have terms and features distinct from ELFI’s standard private student loans, including fixed rates only and one repayment term of 10 years. 

TermDetails
Loan amountsUndergraduate: $1,000 – $10,000

Graduate: $1,000 – $15,000
Repayment terms10 years

Who’s eligible for ELFI private student loans?

To be eligible for ELFI private student loans, borrowers must meet specific criteria. These can vary by loan type, but the majority remain consistent. 

ELFI advises borrowers to consider cosigners for their loans. ELFI doesn’t offer specifics on how many borrowers have a cosigner, but a creditworthy cosigner can increase your chances of loan approval and help you secure a lower interest rate.

Let’s delve into the requirements for each type of loan ELFI offers:

Undergraduate eligibility requirements

RequirementDetails
CitizenshipBorrower and cosigner must be U.S. citizen or permanent resident without conditions and with proper evidence of eligibility
State of residenceAll 50 states and Puerto Rico
Minimum ageThe borrower and cosigner must be at least the age of majority at the time of loan application
Enrolled schoolMust be enrolled at an eligible school. Check the list here.
Enrollment statusAt least half-time in a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree-granting program

Must meet your school’s satisfactory academic progress (SAP) guidelines
Minimum credit score680

Minimum credit history of 36 months

Additional factors, such as financial history, credit history and debt-to-income ratio, factor into approval
Minimum income$35,000

Graduate, health care, law school, and MBA student loan eligibility requirements

These loans share the same eligibility requirements as the undergraduate loans, except students must be enrolled in the specific degree program at an eligible school. 

For example, you must be pursuing a master’s or doctorate degree to obtain a graduate loan or a law degree for a law school loan.

Parent loan eligibility requirements

Parent loan eligibility also follows the general undergraduate loan requirements, but the borrower must meet additional qualifying dependent requirements. 

Parent loan requirementsDetails
Relationship to studentThe borrower must be the mother, father, stepmother, stepfather, adoptive mother or father, foster mother or father, grandmother or grandfather, brother or sister, half-brother or half-sister, stepbrother or stepsister, aunt or uncle of the dependent student
Residency requirementDependent student (including prospective students) must have shared a “principal place of abode” (a place of residence) with borrower for more than half of the taxable year
Age of dependentThe dependent student is younger than the borrower and (a) has not turned 19 before the end of the calendar year in which the loan is made, or (b) is a student that has not turned 24 in the same period
Financial supportThe dependent student has not provided more than half of their own support during the calendar year the loan is made
Citizenship of dependentUnless the dependent student is adopted, the dependent student is a U.S. citizen, national, or resident , or a resident of a country contiguous to the U.S.

Tennessee Lending Program for Teachers and Nurses eligibility requirements

The Tennessee Lending Program for Teachers and Nurses also has unique eligibility requirements. The details that differ from the other private student loans are below.

RequirementDetails
Enrolled schoolThe student must be enrolled as an undergraduate junior or senior year or graduate student in an eligible program at one of these institutions:

Lee University – Cleveland, TN

Tennessee Technological University – Cookeville, TN

University of Tennessee – Chattanooga, TN

Tennessee State University – Nashville, TN

University of Tennessee – Knoxville, TN

Bryan College – Dayton, TN

Johnson University – Knoxville, TN
Income requirementsYour income cannot exceed 80% of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s median family income for the county where you attend school for the following colleges:

Lee University – Cleveland, TN (Bradley County)

University of Tennessee – Chattanooga, TN (Hamilton County)

Tennessee Technological University – Cookeville, TN (Putnam County)

How do you repay private student loans from ELFI?

Repaying private student loans from ELFI depends on the terms you choose and the type of loan. Whether it’s an undergraduate, graduate, or parent loan, ELFI offers varied repayment terms to meet different financial circumstances. 

When does repayment begin?

A crucial factor in determining when repayment begins is the selected in-school repayment plan. ELFI provides options that allow for borrowers to make payments while in school or defer them until after graduation. 

If you elect to make payments while in school, in-school payment amounts begin shortly after your loan funds are disbursed and continue through the six-month grace period after graduation or leaving school. 

If you choose to make less than full principal-plus-interest payments while in school, full payments begin after the grace period.

Here are the in-school repayment options ELFI offers:

In-school repayment optionsDetails
Immediate repaymentFull payments (principal and interest) begin shortly after the loan is disbursed
Interest-only repaymentInterest-only payments are due while in school and during the grace period
Fixed repaymentMake fixed $25 payments while in school and during the grace period
Deferred repaymentNo payments are due while in school or during the grace period (interest continues to accrue)

How long does repayment last?

The length of repayment hinges on the repayment term you choose and the loan type. You’ll select a repayment term when you apply, and ELFI will allow you to pay off the loan early without a prepayment penalty. 

The repayment term chosen can affect the monthly payments and total costs, with a longer term leading to lower monthly payments but a higher total loan cost due to accrued interest.

The following table shows the repayment terms for each type of ELFI student loan:

Type of loanRepayment term
Undergraduate loans5, 7, 10, or 15 years
Graduate loans5, 7, 10, or 15 years
Parent loans5, 7, or 10 years
Tennessee Lending Program10 years

Are there repayment assistance programs?

Repayment assistance programs can support borrowers who face financial difficulty in meeting their loan obligations. They aren’t uncommon among student loan lenders, providing flexible options to reduce or postpone payments. 

However, these programs could increase the cost of the loan due to accrued interest and may hurt your credit if not managed appropriately.

ELFI offers one repayment assistance program to borrowers—forbearance for up to 12 months. This allows borrowers to postpone payments during financial hardship or medical difficulties.

Remember, each program’s suitability will depend on the borrower’s unique financial situation. We advise discussing these options with ELFI to understand their implications.

Our take on ELFI’s refinance student loans

Type of student loanBest forEditorial rating
Student loan refinancingPersonalized support4.8/5
Parent loan refinancingPersonalized support4.8/5

Our evaluation is based on comprehensive editorial research into student loan refinance products. Each company earns a unique best-for designation, ensuring no two companies share the same title. 

We deem ELFI’s refinance student loans best for personalized support because all borrowers are assigned a Student Loan Advisor that can help them throughout the application process.

This unique benefit, paired with competitive rates and high-quality customer service, earns ELFI a high rating. 

Read about our top picks for student loan refinancing here.

Rates, terms, and more

With its competitive rates and unique features, ELFI stands strong in the student loan refinance market. Below are the details of the terms it offers for its student loan refinance product:

TermDetails
Fixed rates (APR)Starting at 5.08%
Variable rates (APR)5.28% – 9.95%
Rate discountsAutopay discount is integrated into the approved interest rate
Loan amountsFrom $10,000
Repayment terms5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years
Repayment assistanceUp to 12 months forbearance for financial hardship or medical difficulty
Cosigner releaseNot available on new loans, but cosigners can be released when refinancing a loan
FeesNo application or origination fees

No prepayment penalty

Late fee of 5% or $50 (whichever is less)

$30 for returned payments
Unique featuresPersonal Student Loan Advisor for application process

$400 referral program

Parents can transfer Parent PLUS loans to student

Students can consolidate several private student loans and parent loans into one loan with parent as cosigner

Who’s eligible to refinance student loans with ELFI?

The path to refinancing student loans with ELFI is clear as long as you meet certain requirements. Accepting and recommending cosigners, ELFI caters to a diverse range of borrowers. Here’s a rundown of the eligibility criteria:

RequirementDetails
CitizenshipMust be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien without conditions and with proper evidence of eligibility.
AgeMust be at least the age of majority at the time of loan application.
State of residenceAll 50 states and Puerto Rico
Graduation statusMust have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from a Title IV U.S.-domiciled not-for-profit college or university.
Minimum credit score680 and at least 36 months of credit history
Minimum income$35,000

How do you repay ELFI refinanced student loans?

Repaying a refinance student loan from ELFI is a clear-cut process. However, repayment terms can vary, depending on factors such as loan type and individual financial circumstances. This variability allows for a tailored approach to meet different borrowers’ needs.

When does repayment begin?

The commencement of loan repayment depends on the specific terms of the refinanced loan. Borrowers have flexibility in selecting their repayment plan and term, but certain factors lie outside their control. 

For example, the initial disbursement of the loan can influence when the first payment is due. According to ELFI, it can take 30 to 45 days for your new loan to pay off the loans you’re refinancing.

How long does repayment last?

Repayment options range from five to 20 years, and the borrower chooses the term when applying.

Longer terms typically result in lower monthly payments but increase the total amount paid over the life of the loan due to the accumulation of interest. However, ELFI offers the flexibility to pay off loans early without penalty, providing an opportunity to save on interest costs.

Are there repayment assistance programs?

Repayment assistance programs, designed to offer financial relief to borrowers under hardship, are a common feature among student loan lenders. ELFI’s assistance program allows up to 12 months forbearance for financial hardship or medical difficulty. 

These programs can affect the overall cost of the loan and the borrower’s credit but offer a lifeline in times of need. Interest continues to accrue and is added to the loan balance once the forbearance period ends. 

Does ELFI offer unique refinance student loans?

ELFI recognizes that borrowers come with unique circumstances and needs. Hence, it offers a parent loan refinance option, designed for parents who have taken out loans to finance their child’s education. This product helps streamline multiple loans into one convenient payment, potentially at a lower rate.

This refinance option comes with unique features and benefits, allowing parents to ease their financial burden and achieve their financial goals. Here are the details of this loan:

TermsParent refinance loan
Loan amountsFrom $10,000, no maximum for well-qualified borrowers
Repayment terms5, 7, or 10 years

Eligibility for the parent refinance loan is the same as ELFI’s student refinance loan. Note that the parent must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from a Title IV U.S.-domiciled not-for-profit college or university.

How can ELFI improve its student loans?

ELFI has several areas for improvement:

The stringent eligibility criteria may pose a challenge for some borrowers.

For example, to be eligible for ELFI’s refinancing, borrowers must have graduated from an eligible school with at least a bachelor’s degree. 

For enhanced accessibility, consider:

  • Citizens Bank, the best large bank student loan refinancing lender, offers refinancing after just 12 qualifying payments post leaving school, allowing options for those with an associate degree or no degree.

The high minimum loan amount of $10,000 for specialty grad degrees and for refinancing could be limiting for some borrowers

For more lower borrowing and refinancing amounts, check out:

  • College Ave, the best overall private student loan lender, offers loan amounts starting at $1,000 and refinancing amounts at $5,000, providing more flexibility for borrowers looking to refinance smaller loan amounts.

ELFI lacks a cosigner release option. 

This feature allows borrowers to remove a cosigner from their loan once they meet certain credit and payment criteria. 

If cosigner release is a priority, consider:

  • Sallie Mae, the best private student loan lender for cosigners, allows cosigners to be released from its student loans after 12 on-time payments.
  • LendKey, the best for student loan refinancing working with a community bank or credit union, offers this option after 24 on-time payments.

How have ELFI student loans evolved over the years?

ELFI has grown and adapted since its inception to better meet the needs of borrowers. 

  • December 2015: The company was launched, steered by a senior management team with more than 30 years of experience in the student loan industry. The initial focus was to offer student loan refinance products nationwide through an automated, state-of-the-art online loan origination system.
  • September 2019: ELFI expanded its product line to include private student loans for undergraduates, graduate students, and parents. This expansion broadened the company’s reach, allowing it to serve a wider range of clients and meet diverse financing needs.
  • June 2022: ELFI introduced a lending program in June 2022 for Teachers and Nurses in Tennessee. This program exhibits ELFI’s dedication to supporting essential professions and fostering community development.

Is ELFI a reputable lender?

SourceRatingNumber of reviews
Trustpilot4.9/52,100
BBBA+ rating0

Data collected July 31, 2023

When it comes to evaluating the reputation of a lender, customer reviews offer a wealth of insights. On Trustpilot, a platform that empowers consumers with an open platform for sharing reviews, ELFI shines with a nearly perfect score of 4.9 out of 5 stars, based on more than 2,100 reviews. 

The predominant theme among these reviews is the smooth application and loan servicing process, with many customers specifically lauding the assistance of the assigned loan advisor.

ELFI’s lack of reviews or complaints on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) site is not necessarily a negative. While ELFI is not BBB-accredited, it maintains an A+ rating. 

BBB accreditation does not guarantee a business’s reliability or performance—it just means the company meets certain standards and is willing to resolve customer complaints.

Does ELFI have a customer service team?

When it comes to loan management and repayment, ELFI relies on third-party loan servicers, specifically American Education Services (AES) and the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA)

After accepting a loan, the borrower sets up an account with the designated loan servicer, which handles all matters related to monthly payments and loan management. This integrated process ensures that borrowers receive professional support throughout the loan life cycle, whether for private student loans or refinancing.

ELFI also maintains an in-house customer service team to assist with the loan application process and answer queries. Here’s how to get in touch with the ELFI customer service team:

  • Call or text: 1-844-601-ELFI (3534)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Chat on ELFI’s website
  • Fax: 865-670-3701
  • Hours (Eastern time):
    • Monday – Thursday: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
    • Friday: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
    • Saturday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Mailing address: 12700 Kingston Pike, Farragut, TN 37934

How to apply for an ELFI student loan

Compared to other student loan companies, ELFI’s application process for student loans is straightforward and user-friendly. It’s online, minimizing paperwork, and your assigned student loan advisor assists you at every stage. 

Below is a guide to navigate the application process:

  1. Collect necessary documents: You’ll need pay stubs from the last 30 days (if employed) and a government-issued identification. If you have a cosigner, they should provide similar documents.
  2. Prequalify for a loan: This initial step requires a soft credit check, which doesn’t hurt your credit score. However, remember prequalification does not guarantee the final loan offer.
  3. Submit your application online: Complete the application process in minutes.
  4. Wait for school certification: ELFI sends your loan information to your school for verification. The school verifies your enrollment, academic progress, and financial aid package.
  5. Accept your loan terms: Once your loan amount is certified, complete your application by accepting your loan terms.
  6. Funds are sent to your school: ELFI will send the funds to your school on your behalf.

Remember, a cosigner is not a requirement, but it can enhance your chances of obtaining a loan, especially if you have limited credit history and income. We advise starting your application before the beginning of an academic year or semester.

How to apply for ELFI refinancing

Refinancing your student loan with ELFI is a speedy process compared to some other forms of loans. This process also happens online, and approval can take as little as one business day. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Collect necessary documents: Gather your recent pay stub or proof of employment, government-issued identification, and account information for electronic payments. You’ll also need a current billing statement or payoff letter for each eligible loan.
  2. Complete the online application: You can finish the application in a few minutes.
  3. Wait for approval: The lender will review your information. In some cases, you may find out whether you’re approved within one business day, provided you’ve submitted all the required documentation.
  4. Wait for loan disbursement: If approved, it often takes 30 to 45 days for your loan provider to receive payment and apply it to your account. Remember to continue making payments on your current debt until you receive a disbursement notification.

Just as with student loans, prequalification won’t affect your credit score, but ELFI will conduct a hard credit inquiry when you submit the application.

What if I’m denied a student loan from ELFI?

In the event of a student loan application denial from ELFI, ELFI provides applicants with a reason, enabling them to understand where they fell short.

While ELFI doesn’t state whether you can reapply after a denial, improving upon the factors that led to the rejection may increase your chances in a future application. 

For instance, if your credit score was a problem, consider measures to boost it before reapplying. If insufficient income was the issue, a cosigner with a stable income might strengthen your next application.

You may want to explore other lending options. Numerous lenders in the market cater to different borrower profiles, and one of them might be a better fit for your financial situation. Here are a few resources to aid you in your search:

ELFI FAQ

Does ELFI offer private or federal student loans?

ELFI specializes in private student loans and student loan refinancing. ELFI does not offer federal student loans. Remember, private student loans and federal student loans come with distinct terms and conditions, so it’s wise to understand the differences before choosing the best option.

Does applying with ELFI hurt my credit?

Applying for a student loan with ELFI involves a soft credit check during the prequalification stage, which doesn’t affect your credit score. 

However, once you submit your loan application, ELFI performs a hard credit inquiry. Hard inquiries can reduce your credit score by a few points, but this effect often diminishes over time.

Does ELFI require a cosigner?

ELFI does not require a cosigner for its student loans or refinancing, but a cosigner could improve your chances of approval, especially if you have limited credit history or income. A cosigner might also help you secure a lower interest rate. It’s recommended, but not required.

Does ELFI allow cosigners to be released?

ELFI does not have a program in place to release cosigners from their obligations on a loan. If a cosigner is part of the loan agreement, they are obligated for the life of the loan.

What can ELFI student loans be used for?

ELFI student loans are intended to cover education-related expenses. These include tuition, fees, room and board, textbooks, and other supplies necessary for education. 

For private student loans, the lender sends funds to the school upon loan approval and certification. The school will return any excess funds to the borrower to use for other education-related costs.

How long does it take to receive funds from ELFI?

The length of time it takes to receive funds from ELFI depends on the type of loan and the timely submission of required documents. 

Once a student loan application is approved and the school has certified the amount, funds are typically disbursed to the school at the beginning of each academic term. 

For student loan refinancing, it could take 30 to 45 days for your previous loan provider to receive the payment and apply it to your account.

Is ELFI responsible for paying off my current student loans?

When you refinance your student loans with ELFI, it pays off your current student loans. After refinancing, you then make payments to ELFI or its designated loan servicer. 

This process is contingent on you providing accurate and current payoff information during the application process.

Can ELFI student loans be forgiven?

As a private lender, ELFI’s student loans are not eligible for federal forgiveness programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Teacher Loan Forgiveness

However, if you have federal student loans and are considering refinancing with ELFI, ensure you won’t require these forgiveness options. Refinanced loans are not eligible for such programs.

How we rated ELFI student loans

We designed LendEDU’s editorial rating system to help consumers identify companies that offer the best financial products. Our experts spend hours researching these companies each year to ensure our ratings are fresh and accurate.

Our most recent evaluation compared ELFI to several lenders across a number of factors, including rates, repayment terms, customer reviews, and benefits. We weighted, scored, and combined these factors to produce a final editorial rating. This rating is expressed on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest possible score. We round all ratings to the nearest tenth decimal place.

Student loanBest forOur rating
UndergraduateNone3.9/5View rates
GraduateNone4.1/5View rates
ParentNone4.2/5View rates
Student loan refinancingPersonalized support4.8/5View rates
Parent loan refinancingPersonalized support4.8/5View rates