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A few questions regarding an outstanding loan balance held by Sallie Mae...

I consolidated undergrad and grad loans in 2001 - current interest rate is ~7%. I have been in forebearance off and on over the last 5 years or so but only now am I making payments in earnest with eyes toward paying this balance down. With this new motivation to pay off some principal (and not insignificant interest) comes the realization that the interest rate is actually rather high and that I am apparently 'trapped' in both this rate as well as having Sallie Mae as loan administrator. A few things seem fundamentally in question here...

i. What is the legality around these fixed rates? I mean, any homeowner is eligible to refinance if rates go down. Hell, one can even refinance credit card debt. What gives?

ii. Isn't it fundamentally in the worst interest of the SallieM customer (students and former students) that this behemoth of a company is forced to maximize profits (shareholders demand it) - when the customer is not allowed to go elsewhere to seek out another lender's services. As such, why do people even consider Sallie?

I'm confused, and perhaps a bit naive here - but any insight is appreciated.

Also, any advice on dealing with this seemingly insurmountable (to me) student loan debt of 44k (outside of paying on time) - say, wrt getting rate lower - or any other strategies to mitigate the psychological stress that this debt imparts.

Thanks.
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