The student loan debt in the United States is reaching critical proportions. As of December 2017, there are 45 million borrowers that owe a total of over $1.41 trillion. The average college graduate leaves school with over $31,333 of debt – and 11.5% of student borrowers are currently delinquent on their loans.

In order to avoid defaulting on their loans during difficult financial times, many students refinance their loans to lower their monthly payment. If you couldn’t finish school, however, you might be wondering if it’s still possible to refinance your loans. The short answer is yes – but there are things you need to know before going to your current loan company or servicer and asking to do so.

What Does Refinancing Mean?

Student loan refinancing is when you renegotiate the interest rate and terms of your existing loan. This effectively lowers your monthly payment, consolidates multiple loans into one payment, and saves you money each month. The downside is that lowering the monthly payment usually means a longer repayment schedule – and more money paid over the course of the loan.

How to Refinance Your Loan Without a Degree

If you don’t have a college degree, it can be difficult to refinance your student loan debt, as lenders will see you as a bigger risk than someone who finished school. In fact, Citizens Bank is the only lender that currently offers refinancing to non-graduates. In order to apply, you must already be in “repayment mode” with your loans, and cannot still be enrolled in school. The standard criteria of being a U.S. citizenship, resident alien, or have permanent resident status apply as well, and you’ll need to be able to prove you have steady income.

How Does Student Loan Consolidation Work?

The minimum amount you can refinance with Citizens Bank is $10,000, and you need to have made at least 12 on-time payments to your current lender or servicer. You can get a custom rate quote from Citizens with a ‘soft inquiry’ credit check. After approval you'll be able to refinance both federal and private loans into one affordable payment.

To get a lower interest rate, you’ll also want to have a good credit score – at least 640. Your debt-to-income ratio is a critical part of the underwriting process as well. It might sound like a lot of hoops to jump through, but if you didn’t graduate, your options are a lot more limited.

Options for Federal Student Loan Borrowers

While you can refinance your federal loan debt as well as private student loans, you might want to look at other options within the federal system first – especially if your application for a refinance was denied.  There are several different types of repayment programs, including two that will use a percentage of your disposable income as your payment. Your payment amount is capped, and as you get promoted or your income increases, the amount of your payment will increase as well.

Other options for federal borrowers include forbearances and deferments, which can suspend your payments from 12 months to 3 years depending on the hardship and individual situation. You may also be able to consolidate your loans, which can help with payment amounts.

While there might be limited refinancing options available to you as a non-graduate, there’s still hope if you are having trouble making your monthly payments. You can check out Citizens Bank’s refinance product at their website.