Alright, internet, it's advice time! After consultation with Tracy on money matters, I have decided to consolidate most of my student loans. But, of course, this is going to be much trickier than it was with my undergraduate loans.
You see, every big bank and its brother has suspended their student loan consolidation plans as of last July, so finding a lender is much more of a pain these days. AES, the service through which I have my federal loans, has a listing of consolidation lenders, but there are all small, local Pennsylvania banks. If I were to go with a small bank lender, I'd rather do it with someplace local to where I'll be out in California.
Another option I've been investigating is the US Department of Education's Direct Consolidation Loan, which FinAid and Fastweb point to in light of the banks' suspension of consolidation programs. I am eligible to consolidate all my federal loans in this program, and I would get a decent interest rate, and right now it's my strongest lead.
But, I wanted to double check with you, internet, to see if anyone has heard more about this program? I've searched for reviews or potential horror stories (I don't want to get myself into something akin to Sallie Mae) but haven't found any. If anyone has stories or experiences with the Direct Consolidation Loans, I'd love to hear of them!