PA Forward Student Loan Refinance Review

Our Rating: C- (Compare)

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) administers PA Forward, its student loan and refinance loan program. Refinancing is available to residents of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia, or West Virginia. PHEAA operates nationally as American Education Services (AES), an education loan servicer that also works with other lenders.

Loan Limits $5,000 – $300,000
Fixed Rates 4.86% – 10.18%*
Variable Rates None
Terms 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
Min. Credit Score Unspecified

*Lowest rates always include the 0.25% interest reduction for enrolling in direct debit.

Skip to: Rates & Fees | Eligibility Requirements | Repayment Options | Consumer Reviews & Complaints | FAQ

Loan Refinancing Options
Private student loans
Private parent loans (in parent’s name only†)
Federal student loans
Federal Parent PLUS loans (in parent’s name only)

Parents may not transfer debt to a child.

PA Forward Refinance Rates & Fees

PA Forward has fixed rates between 4.89% and 10.18%. Lowest rates always include the 0.25% interest reduction for enrolling in auto-pay; borrowers may qualify for additional rate reductions (up to 0.60%).

Refinance Loan Rates
Term Fixed Rate
5 Year 4.86% – 6.95%
7 Year 5.36% – 7.45%
10 Year 5.96% – 8.05%
15 Year 6.95% – 9.04%
20 Year 8.09% – 10.18%

Additional information about PA Forward refinance rates:

  • Checking your rate with PA Forward will not affect your credit score. They will conduct a soft, not hard, credit inquiry (learn the difference).
  • PA Forward does offer a discount for setting up auto-pay: 0.25% interest rate reduction.
  • Existing PA Forward borrowers qualify for a 0.35% interest reduction.
  • Pennsylvania Commonwealth and PHEAA employees may qualify for an additional 0.25% reduction.
  • PA Forward does not offer variable rates.

Student Loan Refinancing Calculator

Based on advertised rates, use the calculator below to determine what your new monthly payment and potential savings may be if you refinance with PA Forward.

Additional Fees

Beyond interest rates, there are a number of fees a refinance lender may charge up-front or during the loan servicing period. Below is a list of these fees that PA Forward does or does not charge.

Fee Type Amount Charged
Application Fee None
Loan Origination Fee None
Disbursement Fee Undisclosed
Prepayment Penalty None
Late Payment Fee The lesser of $5.00 or 4% of the amount past due
Returned Payment Fee Undisclosed
Collection Fee Undisclosed
  1. Application fee – fee to apply for rates & approval.
  2. Loan origination fee – fee to create the new loan.
  3. Disbursement fee – fee for distributing funds to lenders to pay off loans that have been refinanced.
  4. Prepayment penalty – fee for making extra payments to reduce a refinance loan balance or pay it off early.
  5. Late payment fee – fee for making a late payment.
  6. Returned payment fee – fee for failed payments due to insufficient funds, also known as a “bounced check”.
  7. Collection fee – fee for collection activity on a defaulted debt.

Current Promotions & Offers

Refinance borrowers with PA Forward have some opportunities to reduce their interest rates through special offers from PHEAA. Borrowers who set up direct debit payments qualify for a 0.25% interest rate deduction. For borrowers with existing PA Forward loans (including PA Forward refinance loans), an additional 0.35% interest rate reduction is available. When borrowers combine these direct debit and loyalty discounts, they reduce their interest rate 0.60%.

PHEAA and Pennsylvania Commonwealth employees may be eligible for an additional 0.25% interest rate reduction; when combined with other discounts, employee borrowers can reduce their interest rate by a total of 0.85%.

PA Forward Refinance Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for refinancing with PA Forward, all borrowers must meet the criteria below.

  • Citizenship Requirement: U.S. citizenship or permanent residence.
  • Income Requirement: none although there is an unspecified maximum debt-to-income ratio.
  • Credit Score Requirement: borrowers must meet credit requirements that include an unspecified minimum FICO score.
  • Graduation Requirement: undisclosed.
  • Location Requirement: either the borrower or the co-signer must live in one of the following states: Pennsylvania, Deleware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia, or West Virginia.

Additional restrictions apply for specific individuals and loans.

  • Loans must be in repayment to qualify for PA Forward refinancing.
  • Loans of $5,000 or more qualify for 5-, 7-, or 10-year repayment periods. In order to qualify for a 15-year repayment period, loans must total at least $10,000; loans of $20,000 and more qualify for up to 20 years in repayment.

PA Forward Student Loan Repayment Options

Lenders vary greatly on the benefits and options provided to borrowers during the loan servicing period. Additionally, benefits may only be available on a case-by-case basis. PA Forward offers some relief options.

Deferment & Forbearance

PA Forward refinance loans may be eligible for deferment or forbearance under some conditions. While servicer AES includes a number of possible circumstances for deferment and forbearance on its website, it does not specify which of these may be available with PA Forward refinance loans.

Condition Coverage
Returning to grad school Deferment, 36 months
Disability rehabilitation Query AES
Active military duty Query AES
Involuntary unemployment Query AES
Economic hardship Query AES
Natural disaster Query AES
Temporary hardship Query AES

Additional Options

PA Forward may offer other opportunities for relief or contract modification.

  • Co-signer release may be available after 48 consecutive on-time payments (excluding deferment and forbearance time); borrowers must also provide proof of income and pass a debt-to-income calculation and credit check in order to qualify their loans for co-signer release.
  • Death / disability discharge is available in the unfortunate circumstance that a borrower passes away or suffers total permanent disability.
  • Students who return to school at least half-time may qualify for 36 months of In-School deferment.
  • Borrowers may apply to change their payment due dates, selecting any monthly date between the 1st and the 28th. It takes up to two (2) billing cycles for to implement the change.

PA Forward Reviews, Complaints & Lawsuits

Beyond our own findings, our team also collected the most genuinely insightful customer experiences we could find, including any instances of legal action against the company in which the details became public.

PA Forward Online Reviews

Customer reviews from public forums are useful for their value as unedited, uncensored, and unsolicited user experiences. Unfortunately, we could not locate any customer experience posted on third-party sites that referred directly to PA Forward or private refinancing through AES/PHEAA.

With no PA Forward or refinance user reviews available, this section instead includes samples of AES and/or PHEAA customer reviews we found on public forums. Note that these reviews are unverified, may include inaccuracies, and may provide outdated information (about rates, bonus offers, etc.).


“The most deceitful loan company. They’re reporting a balance to creditors, but when I log in, there’s no billing statements, nothing owed. They’re impossible to get in touch with as well to rectify this.”@autumnalissajones on WalletHub, 10/4/2023


“My loans were forgiven back in 2020 with the wrong payment count, despite a dozen well documented and supportive interactions with the PHEAA Office of Consumer Advocacy (ombuds), FSA, basically every escalation option available. Nothing worked and I was resigned to the fact that I was not going to ever be refunded the correct amount and I could say goodbye to my $1,352.44.

Last fall I received the $25 “sorry for the trouble” check from PHEAA. Finally turned in my review request and they are going to give me the rest of my refund! From three years ago! Fedloan mea culpa here, just because it feels so good: https://imgur.com/a/dDaeZDP”LeeleeMc on reddit, 4/19/2023


“I have 2 loans through AES (American Educational Services. As of February my balance was around $9k. Today I received a check in the mail saying “refund” for $11k!!!!!! WTF.

I log in to check my loan balance and now it’s $16k, like seriously WTF!!!

What the heck am I supposed to do? Pie in the sky answers are welcome 😉 I’m seriously considering a vacay…”rwmarrie on reddit, 3/2/2022


There is an unclaimed profile for PHEAA.org on TrustPilot.com with zero (0) reviews while AES has an unclaimed profile on ConsumerAffairs.com (1.0 of 5 rating).

PA Forward CFPB Complaints

As consumer finance companies, student loan refinancing lenders fall under the jurisdiction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a federal agency. As part of their mission, the CFPB allows consumers to log official complaints. These complaints are publicly available on the CFPB official website.

Since March 3, 2012, consumers have submitted 15,791 complaints about PA Forward’s administrating company, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency d/b/a American Education Services (AES/PHEAA) to the CFPB. This is an average of one (1) complaint every 6 ¾ hours, which is over 165 times faster than than the average daily complaint rate among reviewed lenders. Among the 8,180 complaints with narratives, 165 (2.02%) specifically reference student loan refinancing and one references PA Forward.

In 2023, AES/PHEAA received 448 complaints, which is equivalent to:

  • 34.7% of the number of complaints in an average year.
  • one (1) complaint for every $779,406 of operating revenue.
  • one (1) complaint for every two (2) employees.

The allegations made in these complaints are unverified, are not necessarily representative of all consumers’ experiences with PA Forward, and may contain outdated information (about rates, bonus offers, etc.). Note that a lender with a large customer base is likely to also have a higher number of complaints when compared with smaller lenders.

Line Graph: Consumer Complaints About AES/PHEAA, public complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, including years 2012 (346), 2013 (320), 2014 (450), 2015 (533), 2016 (1,528), 2017 (2,371), 2018 (2,267), 2019 (2,205), 2020 (1,565), 2021 (1,745), 2022 (1,984), and 2023 (448)

Below we’ve included three (3) of the most recent, relevant complaints (as of this writing) in which the consumer consented to sharing their details.


Complaint 6858685
4/18/2023
Arkansas

“My private student loan with AES has been traumatic experience in my early adult years where this company worked against my best interest to incur interest while I was still in school and strong armed me while I was struggling to refinance this loan at a XXXX % variable interest rate for 30 years. Resulting in my already paying XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX dollars over the original amount. Once I pushed my career to a point that I could get a handle on this loan I was able to refinance I did so with a company I trusted and for years actually paid down the principal of this loan. Then I found out that AES bought that company and I’m stuck with them again. It is not even the full first day that AES owns this loan AGAIN that they are already spamming my email saying I’m delinquent without even first sending notice that they have this loan.”


Complaint 6028338
9/28/2022
Iowa

“Received email on XX/XX/2022 from American Education Services with faulty and misleading information including IN BOLD or HIGHLIGHTED text that makes the message appear super misleading, faulty, and fraudulent about student loan forgiveness and then directs consumers to apply to re-finance their student loans at what would most likely be MUCH HIGHER INTEREST RATES with HIGHER monthly payments.”


Complaint 5796462
7/21/2022
Pennsylvania

“Refinanced two loans back in 2008. Noticed wrong information on webpage a few years later including wrong schools attended. Told company said they would fix. This has gone on numerous times with no corrections. As a result I am questioning that Ive been paying consistently for 14 years and only have paid off {$9000.00} off my XXXX loan. Interest payments vary every month but {$20.00} or so and it makes no sense. I am consistent with payments. They ignore communications and I dont know what to do. I still owe AES {$30000.00} after all these years. Something isnt right.”


For a full list of complaints made against AES/PHEAA and PA Forward in the CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database, click here.

PA Forward Lawsuits

The PA Forward program has not been named in any legal action. Its parent company, PHEAA, has faced a number of lawsuits from the 2010s onward, many having to do with its role as administrator for the U.S. Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Only the most significant legal action of the last decade is detailed here.

Note that while this information is updated regularly, ongoing legal action is subject to change.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. PHEAA

Case No. 1:24-cv-00756-JPW. On May 6, 2024, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a complaint to a U.S. District Court that accused AES/PHEAA violating the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, stating AES/PHEAA “ignored student loan borrowers seeking payment relief, including during the COVID-19 national emergency”. The complaint stipulates a total of $5.15 million in penalties, including $3 million to affected consumers.[1][2]

This case is ongoing.

New York v. PHEAA

Case No. 1:19-cv-9155. On October 3, 2019, the New York Attorney General sued the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency d/b/a FedLoan Servicing and American Education Services (“PHEAA”) on behalf of the People of the State of New York.[3]

The suit alleged PHEAA violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act and New York General Business Law and accused PHEAA of “failures as the PSLF servicer… undermined the goals of the PSLF program and created financial hardship for many of these dedicated public servants.”

PHEAA settled in March 2022, agreeing to audit over 300,000 student loan accounts at individual request and reimburse borrowers as needed; failure to do so incurs a penalty of up to $10,000 for each materially affected account. The settlement explicitly states that “PHEAA neither admits nor denies allegations of wrongdoing”.[4][5]

Massachusetts v. PHEAA

Case No. 1784CV02682-BLS2. On February 28, 2018, Prior to the New York suit, Massachusetts’ Attorney General filed a complaint calling PHEAA “unfair and deceptive” in its administration of the PSLF program. The lawsuit accused PHEAA of misinforming borrowers, making account errors, failing to process federal borrowers’ income-driven repayment applications, and demanding repayment for TEACH Grants (which are not loans and do not require repayment).[6]

While a February 2021 settlement does not require PHEAA to pay any penalties, it does stipulate that failure to reimburse affected borrowers will result in a $10,000 fine for each student loan account concerned (approximately 200,000 accounts according to the suit).[7]


Frequently Asked Questions

These are the most common questions consumers have about student loan refinancing with PA Forward.

  • Is PA Forward good for refinancing student loans?
    Refinancing with PA Forward is best for borrowers with existing PA Forward loans because they can reduce their interest rates by an additional 0.35%.
  • Does PA Forward require a minimum credit score to qualify for student loan refinancing?
    PA Forward does require a minimum credit score but does not specify what that minimum is.
  • Are PA Forward loans federal?
    PA Forward loans are not federal. PA Forward has no affiliation with the federal government or the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Does PA Forward charge a prepayment penalty?
    There are no penalties for early payments or repaying a loan in full before its term is over.
  • Does checking your rates with PA Forward hurt your credit score?
    For its prequalification process, PA Forward performs a soft credit check, which will not hurt your credit score. If you proceed with an application, however, PA Forward will perform a hard credit check that may affect your credit score.
  • Is PA Forward a bank?
    PA Forward is not a bank; it is a program implemented by quasi-state agency that operates nonprofit and for-profit education financing services.
  • Can I refinance a PA Forward loan?
    You can refinance PA Forward student loans, student loans from another private lender, and federal loans. There is no limit to the number of times a borrower may refinance with PA Forward. Note, however, that every new line of credit requires a hard credit check that may affect your FICO score.
  • Can I refinance just some of my loans with PA Forward?
    Yes, you can refinance some, all, or just one of your qualifying student loans with PA Forward. You may choose to refinance your private loans only or refinance private and federal loans together.
  • Can I refinance loans that have already been refinanced?
    Yes, you can refinance loans as many times as you want with PA Forward. Note that each time you refinance, you will have to submit a new application; every application requires a hard credit check that may affect your credit score.
  • Can my spouse and I refinance our loans together with PA Forward?
    No, PA Forward does not allow spouses to combine debt.
  • How long does it take to refinance with PA Forward?
    PA Forward does not disclose a timeline from prequalification to signing; it estimates one week between final disclosure and disbursement. The first repayment is due 30 to 60 days following disbursement.
  • Can I cancel my refinance loan with PA Forward?
    PA Forward offers refinance borrowers who wish to cancel a full refund up until 90 days after disbursement.
  • Who services PA Forward refinance loans?
    American Education Services (AES) services PA Forward loans.
  • Does PA Forward offer a grace period?
    PA Forward does not offer a grace period but may honor an existing grace period.
  • How often do variable rates change?
    PA Forward does not offer variable rates on refinance loans.
  • Can I get any special rates or discounts with PA Forward?
    PA Forward offers a 0.25% interest rate reduction with direct debit payments. Borrowers with existing PA Forward loans may also qualify for an additional “loyalty” rate reduction of 0.35% (for a total 0.60% reduction when added to the direct debit discount). Finally, employees of Pennsylvania Commonwealth or PHEAA may qualify for a further reduction of 0.25% (for a total 0.80% interest rate reduction).
  • What happens if I file for bankruptcy?
    Filing for bankruptcy does not necessarily discharge PA Forward refinance loans.

Compare Student Loan Refinance Reviews

Lender Rating
RISLA A
Brazos A-
ELFI A-
Credible A-
Advantage B+
Laurel Road B+
Splash Financial B
LendKey B
Panacea Financial B
UW Credit Union B
Purefy B
SoFi B-
INvestEd B-
Mpower Financing B-
Earnest C+
PenFed C+
Yrefy C+
EDvestinU C+
SC Student Loan C+
Sparrow C+
Citizens Bank C
College Ave C
ISL C
MEFA C
SuperMoney C
Lend-Grow C
SELF Refi C
CU Student Choice C
iHelp C
Navy Federal C
BECU C
First Tech Federal C
PA Forward C-
PNC Bank C-
Nelnet Bank C-
NaviRefi D-

Sources

  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Enforcement Actions: Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, and National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts
  2. CFPB, CFPB Takes Action to Require National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts and Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency to Pay More than $5 Million for Student Loan Servicing Failures
  3. Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York (AGNY), U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Case 1:19-cv-09155
  4. AGNY, Attorney General James Secures Student Debt Relief for Thousands of New Yorkers
  5. AGNY, Case 1:19-cv-09155 Settlement Agreement
  6. Inside Higher Ed, Major Loan Servicer Settles Mass. Lawsuit
  7. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, PHEAA Settlement Agreement
  8. PA Forward Student Loans, Refinance Loan
  9. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), PA Forward Student Loans: Refinance FAQ
  10. PHEAA, Investor Information: PHEAA Financial Reports
  11. PHEAA, Pa Forward Student Loan Program Toolkit