Top 6 Private Student Loans Available

Top 6 Private Student Loans Available |

Private student loans for college are worth considering if you don’t have enough federal financial aid to pay for your tuition and other costs. But before you sign anything, you’ll want to shop around for the best private student loans.

To start your search, consider these six borrowing options. They’re our favorites, based on rates and features outlined below:

Read on to learn more about each of these lenders and how to choose the right lender for your college loans.

Here’s our list, in no particular order, of some of the best private student loans offered by the top lenders. To compile it, we looked for established lenders offering the best student loan rates and additional benefits, which are detailed below.

Each of these reputable lenders offers the ability to view your potential rate while submitting only to a soft credit check, which won’t ding your credit report. Of course, there are other great choices out there, but think of our list as a jumping-off point as you start your research.

And whether you go with one of these or find another student loan lender that’s a better fit for you, make sure to shop around so you can get the best deal available for your situation.

Top 6 Private Student Loans Available

1. College Ave

Overview: This online-only lender, which was founded by former Sallie Mae executives, distinguishes itself with increased flexibility. Borrowers can expect greater in-school and post-school repayment options than what’s found elsewhere. Also, students and parents alike will appreciate perks, such as no fees and low rates, in spite of the slow path to cosigner release available at College Ave.

Details:

  • Fixed rates from 2.99% to 12.99% and variable rates from 0.99% to 11.98%.
  • Loans from $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance.
  • Student and parent loan options.
  • Available to undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Accessible for international students with a valid Social Security number (SSN) who apply with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosigner.

What to like:

  • No application, origination, or prepayment fees.
  • Interest-rate reduction if you set up automatic payments with College Ave.
  • Student repayment options of five, eight, 10, or 15 years.
  • Option for students to make full, interest-only, or flat payments while in school or to defer payments until after graduation.
  • Parent repayment options of five to 15 years.
  • Option for parents to make full, interest-only, or interest-plus payments while their student is in school.
  • Up to $2,500 can be deposited into a parent’s bank account to pay for student’s education costs.

What to keep in mind:

  • Students are required to apply with a cosigner — with the minimum credit score requirement set at 660.
  • Potential qualification for cosigner release isn’t available until more than half the scheduled repayment period has elapsed.
  • Repayment protections like forbearance aren’t clearly defined.

 

2. Sallie Mae

Overview: With a best-in-class cosigner release policy, Sallie Mae could be your top choice. The longest-running lender of the bunch, it also offers no fees, low rates, and unique perks like study support and credit score tracking, all free of charge. One drawback is the borrower’s inability to select the length of their repayment term.

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Details:

  • Fixed rates from 4.25% to 12.59% and variable rates from 1.13% to 11.23%.
  • Loans from $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance.
  • Available to undergraduate and graduate students — even part-timers — as well as parents borrowing on behalf of students.
  • Available for private K-12 education, career training certificate courses, dental and medical school and/or residencies, other health profession loans, MBA loans, and bar study fees.

What to like:

  • No origination fee or prepayment penalty.
  • Interest-rate reduction if you set up monthly payments by automatic debit with Sallie Mae.
  • Three repayment options to choose from: deferred, fixed, or interest-only while you’re in school and during your grace period.
  • Borrowers receive free tutoring for school or study resources through Chegg.
  • Borrowers can apply for co-signer release after graduation and when 12 on-time principal and interest payments have been made (without having used hardship forbearance or a modified repayment plan during that time).
  • Pause your loan repayment for up to 12 months using forbearance.

What to keep in mind:

  • Repayment terms of five to 15 years are available — but you can’t choose your specific term.

 

3. Earnest

Overview: This student loan refinance company began offering some of the best private student loan options in April 2019, and it’s a competitive lender for undergraduate and postgraduate students alike. Unlike most lenders, Earnest considers additional criteria, including savings history and career trajectory, when determining your interest rate. On the downside, if you need to apply with a cosigner to be eligible or to lower your rate, the online-only lender doesn’t offer a path to cosigner release.

Details:

  • Fixed rates from 2.99% to 12.78% and variable rates from 0.99% to 11.44%.
  • Loans from $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance.
  • Available to undergraduates and to graduate students pursuing law, medical, business, or other eligible degrees.
  • Accessible to noncitizen students who have a valid SSN and a creditworthy cosigner.

What to like:

  • No origination, disbursement, prepayment, or late payment fees.
  • A 0.25% interest rate reduction if you set up monthly payments via automatic debit.
  • Repayment terms of five, seven, 10, 12, or 15 years.
  • Four repayment options to choose from while you’re in school and during your grace period: deferred fixed, interest-only, or full payments.
  • Borrowers receive a nine-month grace period before entering repayment.
  • Borrowers can skip a payment once per year (although this comes at the cost of interest accruing).
  • Deferment is available for borrowers in the military.

What to keep in mind:

  • You may not get to choose from all of the five repayment term possibilities, depending on your application.
  • Cosigners on undergraduate loans must have an income of at least $35,000 and a credit score above 650, and they can’t be released from the loan.
  • Loans are not available in Nevada.

 

4. Ascent

Overview: If you have trouble finding a cosigner during your search for the best private student loans, don’t forget to include Ascent among your lender considerations. The online company makes independent loans available to certain students (more on the criteria below) and at the same interest rates offered to borrowers who do apply with a guarantor. Ascent also borrows a couple of features from federal loans that you may or may not appreciate, including entrance counseling and a graduated repayment option that (as the name implies) would see your monthly dues increase gradually over time.

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Details:

  • Fixed rates from 3.24% to 12.94% and variable rates from 1.85% to 11.35%.
  • Loans from $1,000 up to 100% of your school’s cost of attendance with an aggregate maximum of $200,000.
  • Available to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at least half-time.
  • Accessible to DACA students and other noncitizen students who apply with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosigner.

What to like:

  • No application fee or prepayment penalty.
  • Interest-rate reduction (0.25%) if you automate your monthly payments.
  • Repayment terms of five, seven, 10, 12, or 15 years — with a graduated repayment plan available upon leaving school.
  • Three in-school repayment options for qualifying borrowers: deferred payment, fixed $25 payments, and interest-only payments.
  • Expansive deferment and forbearance options in cases of returning to school, serving in the military, working a residency or internship, and experiencing hardship.
  • Receive a 1% cashback bonus upon graduation.
  • Earn a $525 referral bonus when your peer borrows from Ascent.

What to keep in mind:

  • To qualify for the non-cosigned loan, you must:
    • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
    • Be upperclassmen or graduate students.
    • Have a 2.9 or better GPA.
    • Have two or more years of credit history and meet the minimum credit score requirement or have a previous year minimum income with a satisfactory debt-to-income ratio (a 540 credit score is sufficient for a cosigned loan)
  • Not all schools are eligible for Ascent loans.
  • Borrowers and cosigners are required to take a federal loan-like “financial wellness” course as part of the application process.
  • Two years of timely and full payments are required to release your cosigner (if one is attached to your loan agreement).

 

5. Discover

Overview: Discover stands out, partly for its repayment flexibility. Enrolled undergraduate students can either defer or begin repaying their loan right away, while graduates might qualify to postpone payments if necessary. The lender offers lower interest rates than does MPOWER Financing, another option for non-citizen students. Drawbacks could include Discover’s lone 15-year repayment term option for the undergraduate loan and its lack of a cosigner release policy.

Details:

  • For undergrad loans, fixed APRs from 3.49% to 11.59%¹ and variable APRs from 1.12% to 10.22%¹.
  • Loans from $1,000 to up 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance (including tuition, housing, books, and more) minus other financial aid. Aggregate loan limits apply. (Exemption: Students in residency)
  • Available for undergraduate, graduate, law school, and MBA students as well as students seeking a professional degree or residency.

¹ Lowest APRs shown for Discover undergraduate loans are available to the most creditworthy applicants and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

What to like:

  • No application, origination, prepayment, or late payment fees.
  • Interest-rate reduction if you set up monthly payments by automatic debit.
  • Prequalify for future loans using the bank’s multiyear borrowing option.
  • Four repayment options to choose from while you’re in school and during your grace period: deferred fixed, interest-only, or full payments.
  • Various deferment and forbearance options are available — details are available on their website.
  • Receive a cash award for getting a 3.0 GPA or higher².
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What to keep in mind:

  • The repayment term of 15 years for the undergraduate loan — you don’t get to choose a term, like with other lenders.
  • Borrowers can apply with a cosigner, but a cosigner release is not offered.

 

6. SoFi

Overview: SoFi is better known for student loan refinancing, but like Earnest, it launched a private student loan offering in 2019. You could prequalify and check your rate within minutes without affecting your credit. SoFi’s no-fee loans are worth considering, but be aware that half-time enrollment status is an eligibility factor.

Details:

  • Fixed rates from 4.13% to10.66% and variable rates from 1.12% to11.23%.
  • Loans from $5,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance.
  • Available to undergraduate students, as well as graduate students pursuing law, business, or other eligible degrees — and parent borrowers.
  • Accessible to noncitizen students who apply with a qualified cosigner.

What to like:

  • No origination, disbursement, prepayment, or late payment fees.
  • Interest-rate reduction (0.25%) if you set up monthly payments by automatic debit, plus an additional discount (0.125%) if you or your cosigner are already a SoFi member.
  • Repayment terms of five, seven, 10, or 15 years.
  • Four repayment options to choose from while you’re in school and during your grace period: deferred fixed, interest-only, or full payments.
  • Borrowers who lose their job while in repayment could qualify for up to 12 months of forbearance, awarded in three-month spans.
  • SoFi members are also eligible to benefit from the company’s other services, including career coaching and wealth management.

What to keep in mind:

  • Cosigner release is only available after making two years’ worth of on-time payments.

 

Choosing the best student loan for you

A variety of factors differentiate the best private student loans. The main ones to focus on are interest rates and fees.

The amount of money you take out on your private school loans is only the beginning. Give yourself the best chance of maintaining a manageable level of debt by keeping your rates and fees as low as possible.

As you review different interest rates, remember that you can apply for more than one loan to see which one will give you your best deal. There are two ways you can do so without your credit score taking a hit:

  • Many private student loan lenders do a soft pull on your credit, which enables you to see what you might be approved for without negatively impacting your credit score.
  • If you were to file a formal application with more than one lender, you could avoid dinging your credit by rate shopping within a two-week window.

Besides looking for offers for the best private loans for college, also look for beneficial perks. For example, some lenders offer college students a lower rate for good grades. Others provide the ability to release your cosigner.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of options, use a monthly payment calculator to estimate what your regular dues might be.
– studentloanhero

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