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I briefly thought about that but decided against it. I'm simply not comfortable with the risk. What if you became unemployed? Student loans can be deferred; HELOCs can't. Even if there was no deferral, I'd much rather default on a student loan than on my house.

I agree. My accountant's been hinting that my wife and I should do that in a couple of years once we build some more home equity / pay down some of the student loan balance. His thinking is that as our income (presumably) grows we would get more of a benefit, tax-planning-wise, since we could write off all the interest on the HELOC whereas our joint income may phase us out of part or all of the student loan interest deduction.

I have resisted this advise for several reasons:

1) the loss of protections and attachment of the home discussed above;

2) my wife would now become a joint debtor on the student loan debt (since the house, and presumably any HELOC, would be in our joint names);

3) our home's value might be re-assessed in the process and we would have to pay higher property taxes (though I admit I'm not knowledgable about the HELOC process compared to a second mortgage and am not sure if this occurs), and;

4) the interest rate on any HELOC would probably be the same, if not higher than, the rate on my student loans.

The only benefit I could see to doing this would be using a HELOC for private-lender loans which are variable-rate. You could lock in a fixed, low rate on those with a HELOC and assure yourself of deductibility of interest. But you would have to forego the protections the loans come with.
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