Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).
A little-known way to eliminate college debt is to appeal to your boss for a compensation package. “Some midsize companies cannot pay the kinds of salaries that a large corporation can, but they may be inclined to offer lower wages in exchange for a onetime payout toward your loan,” says Manuel Fabriquer, the president of College Planning ABC, a consulting firm in San Jose, California. Why? “It costs them less in salary payments in the long run.” (Those in fields that require a special degree, like tech, finance, and nursing, are most likely to receive this benefit.)
The information provided on this page is updated as of 11/21/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
If it turns out that you do need to borrow to pay for college, rest assured you are not alone. According to the Sallie Mae “How America Saves for College 2019” study, more than half of families borrow to cover college costs. In the 2018-19 academic year, parent income and savings only paid $7,801 (on average) for college costs which in total averaged $26,226.
The best private student loans will have interest rates of LIBOR + 2.0% or PRIME - 0.50% with no fees. Such loans will be competitive with the Federal PLUS Loan. Unfortunately, these rates often will be available only to borrowers with great credit who also have a creditworthy cosigner. It is unclear how many borrowers qualify for the best rates, although the top credit tier typically encompasses about 20% of borrowers.
Fixed interest rates will stay the same for the life of the loan but usually start our higher. Variable interest rates, on the other hand, fluctuate over time according to the market rate, but typically start our lower. There is no right answer to which is the best private student loan rate type; it really depends if you think interest rates will generally increase or decrease in the future.

Also be aware that many private student lenders require a cosigner, usually a parent or other relative who would take over responsibility for the loan if you stop payments for any reason. That also means your payment activity impacts their credit score, so if you do sign up for a loan with a cosigner it is important to both of you that you pay on time.

Then the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008 increased the annual and aggregate loan limits on the federal Stafford loan starting July 1, 2008. This shifted significant loan volume from private student loan programs to federal. Private student loan volume dropped in half in 2008-09, according to the College Board's Trends in Student Aid 2009.
Not sure where to begin your search? 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 competitive rates and additional benefits which are detailed below. Of course, there are other great choices out there, but think of it as a jumping-off point as you start your research.
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Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.46% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% APR (without AutoPay). Variable rates currently from 2.31% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% (without AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.31% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.31% plus 0.75% margin minus 0.25% for AutoPay. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your credit history and the term of the loan and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.
You can pay off the principal early by making pre-payments while studying. Call your loan servicer to make sure your payments are applied to the principal and not the interest. You can make payments on federal loans while in school, but some private loans will charge you a fee for doing so. Be sure to find out which loans you can pay off without fees.
Receiving federal student loans like the Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans starts with completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You can perform the entire process online at the FAFSA website. Some loans are awarded based on your family’s financial need, so you’ll want to gather the following pieces of personal and financial information when applying:
“Some borrowers may be better off targeting the highest-rate loan for quicker repayment,” said Kantrowitz. “You can’t do that after consolidating. If the interest rate on the refi will be higher than most of the interest rates on the refinanced loans, except for one or two, you may save money by accelerating repayment of the highest-rate loans instead of refinancing.”
Direct PLUS Loans are loans made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. Eligibility is not based on financial need, but a credit check is required. Borrowers who have an adverse credit history must meet additional requirements to qualify.
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