Many people who are overwhelmed by student loan debt hope that bankruptcy may offer a solution to their problem. However, if you declare bankruptcy, you still must pay your student loans back. One of the only ways you can get out of paying your student loans is in the event of your death, or if you qualify for certain student loan forgiveness programs. 
Compare offers from multiple lenders including banks, credit unions and online lenders to find the lowest interest rate. Depending on the lender, you may be able to choose a fixed or a variable interest rate. A fixed rate stays the same throughout the life of a loan. A variable rate may start out lower than a fixed rate, but could increase or decrease over time depending on economic conditions.

After those two options, you should consider federal student loans. These typically have lower interest rates, better benefits, more protections for borrowers, and access to a wider variety of repayment plans. There are, however, federal student loan limits, so you may not be able to cover the rest of your education costs with them. In this situation, most students will turn to private student loans.


Lowest rates shown include the auto debit discount: Fixed 4.74% - 11.35% APR and Variable 2.75% - 10.22% APR. Interest rates for Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options are higher than interest rates for the Interest Repayment Option. You're charged interest starting at disbursement, while in school, during your separation/grace period, and until the loan is paid in full. The repayment option that is selected will apply during the in-school and separation/grace periods. When you enter principal and interest repayment, Unpaid Interest will be added to your loan's Current Principal. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan. Advertised variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised APRs are valid as of 11/25/2019 and assume a $10,000 loan to a freshman with no other Sallie Mae loans. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: Borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction benefit. This benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month and may be suspended during periods of forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. Loan amounts: $1000 up to 100% of the school certified expenses: Loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received as certified by the school. Sallie Mae reserves the right to approve a lower loan amount than the school-certified amount. Repayment term of 5 to 15 years: This repayment example is based on a typical Smart Option Student Loan made to a freshman borrower who chooses a fixed rate and the Fixed Repayment Option for a $10,000 loan, with two disbursements, and a 8.44% fixed APR. It works out to 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $156.04 and one payment of $118.97, for a Total Loan Cost of $19,962.73.
It takes a while to qualify for a cosigner release, 36 on-time payments to be exact. Fixed interest rates range from 6.45 to 12.05% and variable rates go from 6.42 to 12.02% APR. Like with most student lenders, you can get a 0.25% rate discount with automatic payments. Citizens charges no origination or pre-payment fees of any kind. You should never have to pay an extra fee to pay off your student loans early, but those types of lenders don’t make it on this list.
No matter who the lender is, private student loan applicants may need a cosigner, especially undergraduates or students who don’t have a credit history or steady income or meet the age of majority for their state of residence. However, a cosigner is not required in order to apply. Even if you have an established credit history, a cosigner may improve your ability to get approved, enable you to secure a lower interest rate, and speed up the credit decision process. Student borrowers that meet these requirements on their own do not need a cosigner (but may still choose to apply with a cosigner).
“People are borrowing twice as much as they were a decade ago because grants and scholarships are not keeping up with the escalating costs of college,” says Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of FinAid.org and FastWeb.com, free online financial-aid resources. To wit: Graduates of the class of 2011 have an average of $27,200 in debt, up from about $17,600 in 2001.
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).
You’ll have a hard time finding a private student loan from a bank, credit union or online lender if you have bad credit. Federal student loans don’t require borrowers to demonstrate creditworthiness, so they’ll be your best option. If you’ve already hit your limit on federal loans, you may be able to get a private student loan if you apply with a co-signer who has solid credit — typically scores in the high 600s or better.
Refinancing replaces multiple student loans with a single private loan at a lower interest rate. You can choose a new loan term that’s shorter than the one you originally received. That may increase your monthly payment, but it will help you pay the debt faster and save money on interest. You’ll also have just one bill to pay, rather than multiple.

The primary cardholder is responsible for the debt. There is no cosigner release option. Cosigners may be released after a series of qualifying, on-time monthly payments. This varies by lender. Cosigners may also be released via student loan refinancing. And this includes the option to transfer debt from the parent to the student (through select partners). Eligibility is based on credit an income verification.


As you can see, federal student loans have many benefits, including fixed interest rates and student loan forgiveness programs. Because of those benefits, it often makes sense to prioritize paying off private student loans first if you have multiple student loans. You’ll need to know you know how much you owe and make a personalized plan for your situation.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.

If you’re a recent grad looking for a job, bring this up during salary negotiations. Be willing to take a lower salary and to commit to staying at the job for a specific time period in exchange for a payment toward your schooling. If you’re a veteran employee, raise the subject at your annual review by saying, “I’ve been a loyal employee for [insert time period], and I look forward to continuing to grow and learn here. As part of my compensation, can you put [insert amount] toward my loan?”


If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.
With our Standard Repayment Plan, the plan you’ll enter if you don’t take any action, you’ll have your loans paid off in 10 years. If you can’t afford that amount or if you need or want lower payments because you haven’t found a job, aren’t making much money, or want to free up room in your budget for other expenses and goals, you should apply for an income-driven repayment plan. Your monthly payments will likely be lower than they would on the standard plan—in fact they could be as low as $0 per month—but you’ll likely be paying more and for a longer period of time. If you choose an income-driven plan, you must provide documentation of your income to your loan servicer each year (even if your income hasn’t changed) so that your payment can be recalculated. To compare the different repayment options based on your loan debt, family size, and income, use our repayment calculator.
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