8 Best Private Student Loans Available

Private loans for college are worth considering if your federal student aid allotment isn’t enough to cover your tuition and other costs. Private school loans offer flexible interest rate options and repayment terms, and sometimes extra benefits as well.

But before you sign anything, it’s important to know what you’re looking for and to choose the best private student loans for college. After all, not all lenders are created equal.

As you compare private student loans, you could consider these eight options — 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.

What to look for in a private student loan

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 the best deal. There are two ways you can do so without your credit score taking a hit:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 determine what your regular dues might be.

8 top private student loans

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.

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.

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 a slow path to cosigner release.

  • No application or origination fee
  • No fee for paying off the loan early
  • Interest-rate reduction if you set up automatic payments with College Ave
  • Student and parent loan options
  • Available to undergraduate and graduate students
  • Loans from $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Student repayment options of 5, 8, 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 5 to 15 years
  • Option for parent to make full, interest-only, or interest-plus payments while student is in school
  • Up to $2,500 deposited into parent’s bank account to pay for student’s education costs
  • Fixed and variable rates

Additional information

    • Potential qualification for cosigner release is based on the following:
      • Creditworthiness
      • If more than half the scheduled repayment period has elapsed
      • If most recent 24 consecutive payments were made on time and didn’t include any forbearance or workout programs for hardship reasons
      • If borrower has earned in income more than twice the outstanding balance on their College Ave loan for the previous two years
      • If borrower has no reported late payments on their credit report in the past 24 months

VISIT COLLEGE AVE

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.

  • No origination fee
  • No fee for paying off the loan early
  • Interest-rate reduction if you set up monthly payments by automatic debit with Sallie Mae
  • Available to undergraduate and graduate students, 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
  • Loans from $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Repayment terms of 5 to 15 years
  • 3 repayment options to choose from: deferred, fixed or interest-only while you’re in school and during your grace period
  • Fixed and variable rates

Additional information

    • Borrowers can apply for cosigner 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).
    • Borrowers and cosigners receive free FICO credit score tracking.
    • Borrowers receive free tutoring for school or study resources through Chegg.

Visit SallieMae

3. Earnest

Overview: This student loan refinance major added a private student loan offering in April 2019, and it’s a competitive option 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.

  • No origination, disbursement, prepayment or late payment fees
  • A 0.25% interest-rate reduction if you set up monthly payments via automatic debit
  • Available to undergraduates and graduate students pursuing a law, medical, business or other eligible degree
  • Loans from $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Repayment terms of 10, 12 or 15 years — borrowers with a cosigner could also select a five-year or seven-year term
  • Four repayment options to choose from while you’re in school and during your grace period: deferred, fixed, interest-only or full payments
  • Fixed and variable rates

Additional information

  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Deferment available for borrowers in the military.
  • Loans aren’t available in Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas or Virginia.

Visit Earnest

4. CommonBond

Overview: With private loans for college, MBAs and other graduate degrees, online-only lender CommonBond rounds out our list. It is upfront about its federal loan-like origination fee and makes up for it with flexible terms across the board, including four different in-school repayment options.

  • 2% origination fee
  • No application fee
  • No fee for paying off the loan early
  • Interest-rate reduction if you set up automatic monthly payments with CommonBond
  • Available to undergraduate students, as well as MBA candidates and other graduate students
  • Loans for up to 100% of the school’s cost of attendance
  • Student loan repayment options of 5, 10 or 15 years
  • Fixed and variable rates
  • 4 different repayment plans for students, all of which come with a six-month grace period: deferment until after college or grad school, fixed monthly payments of $25 during school, interest-only payments during school or full monthly payments for the duration of the loan

Additional information

    • Applicants must apply with a creditworthy cosigner (excluding MBA students, who aren’t required to have a cosigner to apply).
    • Student borrowers can apply for cosigner release after paying on the loan for two years.
    • Students dealing with economic hardship after graduation can apply for up to 12 months of forbearance.
    • Every time a loan is funded, CommonBond funds a loan for a student in need.

Visit CommonBond

5. Citizens Bank

Overview: With no-fee loan options for students and parents, Citizens Bank sets itself apart by offering multiyear approval. You can apply once for multiple years of financing for your degree. That could come in handy whether you’re an underclassman, or a graduate or professional student staring down a long road to graduation.

  • No application or origination fee
  • No fee for paying off the loan early
  • Interest-rate reduction if you already have an account with Citizens Bank
  • Interest-rate reduction if you set up automatic payments
  • Student and parent loan options
  • Available to undergraduate and graduate students
  • Loans from $1,000 to $295,000, depending on your degree
  • Student repayment options of 5, 10 or 15 years
  • Option for students to make full or interest-only payments while in school, or to defer payments until after graduation
  • Parent repayment options of 5 or 10 years
  • Fixed and variable rates
  • Multiyear approval so you can set up borrowing for future semesters

Additional information

    • Applicants will most likely need good credit or a qualified cosigner to be approved.
    • Potential qualification for cosigner release is based on creditworthiness and whether there have been 36 consecutive on-time principal and interest payments.

VISIT CITIZENS BANK

6. SunTrust

Overview: With four student loan options, SunTrust serves undergraduate, graduate and professional borrowers attending school at least half-time. It awards good borrower behavior with interest rate and principal balance discounts that could help you save money. Keep in mind, however, that the big-bank lender doesn’t offer a prequalifcation process — you must apply and submit yourself to a hard credit check in order to receive your potential interest rate.

  • No application, origination or prepayment fees, although there are late payment fees
  • Apply with or without a cosigner
  • Interest-rate reductions of 0.25% each for enrolling in autopay and paying from a SunTrust bank account
  • Additional discounts for graduating and making prompt payments
  • Borrow from $1,001 to $65,000 or $95,000, depending on your loan type
  • Student repayment options of 7, 10 or 15 years, depending on your loan type
  • Option for students to make full, interest-only or flat payments while in school or to defer payments until after graduation
  • Fixed and variable rates
  • Release your cosigner after three years of full and on-time monthly payments
  • In-school refinancing is available via SunTrust

Additional information

    • U.S. citizens and permanent residents can borrow any of SunTrust’s four student loan options, while international students are limited to its Union Federal Private Student Loan
    • Parents and permanent residents of Iowa and Wisconsin aren’t eligible for SunTrust student loans
    • American Education Services manages the repayment of SunTrust loans

Visit SunTrust

7. PNC

Overview: Thanks to its no-fee, low-interest rate loans for a variety of students, PNC is potentially one of your best lending options. While the bank encourages you to apply with a cosigner to score a lower rate, you could release your cosigner after four years of timely payments. You might be less attracted to PNC’s loan limits — unlike other lenders, it doesn’t allow you to borrow up to 100% of your school’s cost of attendance.

  • No application or origination fees
  • No fee for paying off the loan early
  • Interest-rate reduction of 0.50% if you set up monthly payments by automatic debit
  • Available to undergraduate and graduate students, plus professional students who are enrolled, working in residency or are studying for their bar exam
  • Loans from $1,000 up to $50,000 for undergrads, and $1,000 to $65,000 for graduate students
  • Repayment terms of 5, 10 and 15 years
  • Three repayment options to choose from: deferred, interest-only or full payments while you’re in school and during your grace period
  • Defer your repayment for six months after leaving school and also while on active military duty
  • Postpone payments for up to two months at a time via forbearance
  • Fixed and variable rates

Additional information

  • Borrowers can apply for cosigner release after making 48 full and prompt payments and passing a credit check.
  • Borrowers can learn about repayment using a free resource called GradReady

Visit PNC

8. Discover

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.

  • No application, origination or late payment fees
  • No fee for paying off the loan early
  • Interest-rate reduction if you set up monthly payments by automatic debit
  • Available for undergraduate, graduate, law school and MBA students as well as students seeking a professional degree or in residency
  • International students with a permanent resident or citizen cosigner are also eligible to borrow
  • Prequalify for future loans using the bank’s multi-year option
  • Loans from $1,000 to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Repayment term of 15 years for undergraduate loans (20 years for graduate and professional school loans)
  • Four repayment options to choose from while you’re in school and during your grace period: deferred, fixed, interest-only or full payments
  • Defer your repayment for six months after leaving school and for up to three years while on active military duty or working in public service or healthcare residency program
  • Postpone payments for up to 12 months via forbearance
  • Fixed and variable rates

Additional information

  • Borrowers can apply with a cosigner, but cosigner release is not offered.
  • Receive a one-time cash award for getting a 3.0 grade point average or higher, plus a 2% rebate on your loan amount upon graduation

Visit Discover

Is a private student loan right for you?

When you consider whether a private lender is right for you, remember that even the best private student loans for college don’t come with the same protections as federal loans.

Federal student loans offer income-driven repayment plans, deferment and forbearance, as well as forgiveness program options. Some private school loans do offer hardship options in case your income hits a snag, but not all have this.

Also, private loans for college — much like federal direct unsubsidized loans — start accruing interest immediately. This contrasts with subsidized federal student loans, for which the Department of Education will pay the interest until you graduate.

Keep in mind, too, that you’ll likely need a cosigner. That’s because private student loan offers are based on your creditworthiness, and most college students are too young to have much of a credit history.

If you do get a loan with a cosigner, make sure all your payments are on time. If not, your cosigner will be responsible — and missing payments or going into default can damage their credit as well as yours.

If you see tough financial times ahead, reach out to your lender immediately to find out if you can adjust your repayment plan. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Plus, the sooner you handle the situation, the better your chances of a good outcome.

Like all financial tools, private loans for college can be a lifesaver if you use them wisely. They are best used as a backup when you can’t get enough federal student loans to cover your tuition and other education costs. In that case, private student loans can be a great way to finish off the funding for your education.

Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.

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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.

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

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.


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