As a general rule, students should only consider obtaining a private education loan if they have maxed out the Federal Stafford Loan. They should also file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which may qualify them for grants, work-study and other forms of student aid. Undergraduate students should also compare costs with the Federal PLUS Loan, as the PLUS loan is usually much less expensive and has better repayment terms.

The stark reality is most American students and families have to borrow money as part of the overall financing process to pay for a college education. In fact, according to the 13th Annual Project on Student Debt, “Student Debt and the Class of 2017,” published by The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) in 2018, average student loan debt among college seniors is $28,650. Moreover, approximately 15% of the debt acquired among the Class of 2017 was non-federal debt.
When it comes to paying for college, sometimes you need a little extra help. If you have already exhausted savings, scholarships, grants, and Federal student aid, private student loans are the next place to look to pay the bills. While private student loans tend to charge a bit more than Federal ones, when they go to use for a valuable degree, they can be very much worthwhile.
After completing your FAFSA, you’ll receive a financial aid award letter from the colleges you listed on the form. The timing on these letters can vary from college to college. However, if you’ve already received admissions acceptance from a college but no financial aid award letter, you can call their financial aid office to inquire about the letter’s status.
If you or your recent grad has this type of loan—which makes up 15 percent of total U.S. education debt—this may seem like an odd move. After all, the interest rates on variable private loans (given by banks and credit unions) are currently lower than the fixed rates on federally backed and private loans. But historically this situation is unusual, and if the economy improves, interest hikes are probable in the near future. “Rates could climb 5 to 6 percent over the next four years, making your monthly burden unmanageable,” says Kantrowitz. That’s why it’s wise to unload these balances as soon as possible. If you can, pay twice the required amount until you have eliminated this debt and make only the minimum monthly contribution toward your fixed-rate federal loans, since those rates cannot increase.
Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR") published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of November 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.80%. Variable interest rates range from 2.83%-11.16% (2.83%-11.01% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.40%-12.19% (4.40% - 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.


to have an outstanding balance on a Federal Student Loan received under the Direct Loan Program and not the ones under the  Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, the Stafford Loan Program, the Perkins Loan Program, the Grad Plus Loans Program, or others Federal loan programs. If you have FFEL or Perkins Loan program, you can consolidate it. Learn more about a federal student loan consolidation.
Next, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report, which outlines your expected family contribution. The form will automatically be forwarded to the schools listed on your application. The financial aid offices of those institutions will send you a financial aid award letter outlining the aid package they will offer. It’s your job to compare those offers and choose the school that best fits your future goals and family budget.
After completing your FAFSA, you’ll receive a financial aid award letter from the colleges you listed on the form. The timing on these letters can vary from college to college. However, if you’ve already received admissions acceptance from a college but no financial aid award letter, you can call their financial aid office to inquire about the letter’s status.
The only problem is that you cannot benefit from most of these student loan repayment options if you are married and filing jointly. You must be filing separately to participate in most of these repayment plans and then you are hit with penalties when filing taxes. You cannot win. I am going to be paying off my student loans until I am 72. Unfortunately, job prospects in Illinois are scarce and I am stuck working part-time in the education field and making one-fourth of the salary I should be making in my field.
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.
Overview: Discover stands out, partly for its repayment flexibility. Enrolled students can either defer or begin repaying their loan right away, while graduates might qualify to postpone payments if necessary. The lender is also a top choice for borrowers who don’t have a Social Security number but do have a permanent resident or citizen cosigner. Drawbacks could include Discover’s lone 15-year repayment term option for undergrads and its lack of a cosigner release policy.
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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