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Federal student loan interest rates depend on whether you’re a student or a parent and if you’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree or have moved on to grad school.

If you have good credit, you might qualify for a better rate on a private student loan than a federal loan. That’s particularly true if you have a cosigner. If you’ve already got federal loans, you can often qualify to refinance them at a lower interest rate with a private lender.

Here’s everything you should know about the current student loan interest rates.

In this post:

Student loan interest rates

Rates from (APR)
Student loan refinancingFixed: 3.29%+
Variable: 2.14%+
Private student loansFixed: 3.82%+
Variable: 3.02%+
Federal student loansUndergraduate: 4.53%
Graduate: 6.08%
PLUS: 7.08%
Private student loan and refinancing rates are updated monthly. Federal student loan rates are accurate for the 2019-20 academic school year.

Once you take out a federal student loan, the rate is fixed for life. But the rates offered to new borrowers are adjusted once a year to take into account the government’s borrowing costs.

Private student lenders also adjust the rates they offer when interest rates change because that affects how much it costs them to obtain the money that they lend. Private lenders tend to adjust rates more often than the federal government to stay current with market trends.

Federal student loan interest rates

Federal student loans are “one-size-fits-all” — your credit score doesn’t affect the interest rate. Everyone taking out the same type of loan during an academic year gets the same rate, which is fixed for the life of the loan. Federal loans should be the loans you pursue first since they are tied to certain benefits and typically have lower rates.

On July 1, 2019, interest rates on federal student loans to new borrowers fell for the first time in three years. The rate decrease, in effect through June 30, 2020, was the result of falling yields on U.S. Treasury notes, which fund government debt. Rates on federal student loans to undergraduates, graduate students and parents all declined by more than ½ a percentage point for the 2019-20 academic year.

Private student loan interest rates

Rates on private student loans depend on your credit score and unique circumstances. Most private lenders offer you a choice of a fixed- or variable-rate loan, and it’s important to compare rates from several lenders so you can evaluate your options.

LenderFixed Rates From (APR)
Variable Rates From (APR)Get Rates Through Credible
ascent

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3.97%+3.63%+Get Rates
Ascent review

  • Loan terms: 5 or 10 years (Ascent Tuition loan, 15-year term also available with variable-rate loans); 10 years (Ascent Independent loan, 15-year term also available with variable-rate loans)
  • Loan amounts: $2,000 minimum, up to school's cost of attendance within $200,000 cap
  • Repayment plans: Defer payments or make interest-only or $25 minimum monthly payment while in school
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% automatic payment discount, 1% cash back graduation reward Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available after 24 months of consecutive monthly on-time payments
  • Eligibility: Ascent Tuition: Minimum FICO 600 (borrower with cosigner) and 660 (cosigner). Cosigner not required for Ascent Independent loan. No minimum income or credit score requirement for borrowers with less than two years of credit history. Borrowers with two years of credit history need 680 credit score and $24,000 annual income.
  • Loan servicer: University Account Service (UAS)
citizens

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4.40%+¹3.17%+¹Get Rates
Citizens Bank review

  • Loan terms: 5, 10, 15 years
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 minimum, school’s cost of attendance up to $150,000 for undergraduates and graduate degrees; $225,000 MBA and law; $350,000 medical school and parent loans)
  • Repayment plans: Pay immediately, pay interest only, or defer payments
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% loyalty discount available (if you have another qualifying account with Citizens Bank) as well as a 0.25% automatic payment discount
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available after 36 months of consecutive monthly on-time payments
  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens or permanent residents; international students can apply with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosigner
  • Loan servicer: Firstmark Services
collegeave

View details
4.72%+2
3.70%+2Get Rates
College Ave review

  • Loan terms: 5, 8, 10, 15 years
  • Loan amounts: Up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance ($1,000 minimum)
  • Repayment plans: Make full principal and interest, interest only, or flat payments while in school; or defer payments until six months after leaving school
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% rate deduction with autopay
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available once more than half of the scheduled repayment period has elapsed.
  • Eligibility: Available to all U.S. residents attending an eligible undergraduate or graduate school
  • Loan servicer: University Accounting Service LLC
discover

View details
4.74% - 12.49%6
3.37% - 11.87%6Get Rates
Discover review

  • Loan terms: 15 years (undergraduate) or 20 years (graduate, MBA and professional loans)
  • Loan amounts: Up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Repayment plans: Defer payments until 6 months after leaving school, or make interest only or fixed monthly payments while enrolled.
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% autopay discount; good grade award (one-time cash reward for each new loan for earning 3.0 GPA or equivalent)
  • Cosigner release option: Not offered
  • Eligibility: U.S. citizen, permanent resident or international student (international students require a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident). Be 16 years or older at the time you apply
  • Loan servicer: Discover Bank
edvestinu

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4.50%+
4.09%+
Get Rates
EDvestinU review

  • Loan terms: 7, 10, 12, 15 and 20 years
  • Loan amounts: Minimum loan amount of $1,000 up to school-certified cost of attendance with $200,000 cap
  • Repayment plans: Full deferment, interest-only payments, and principal and interest payments
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.5% autopay discount
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available after 24 months of on-time payments
  • Eligibility: Borrower or cosigner (if applicable) must have a minimum income of $30,000. Must be U.S. citizen or permanent resident, admitted to or enrolled at least half-time at any title IV degree-granting college and university when applying.
  • Loan servicer: Granite State Management & Resources (GSM&R)
invested

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4.63%+3.70%+Get Rates
INvested review

  • Loan terms: 5, 10, 15 years
  • Loan amounts: Up to 100% of school certified cost of attendance (minimum $1,001)
  • Repayment plans: Full principal and interest, interest only, and full deferment
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% autopay discount; 2% principal reduction upon graduation
  • Cosigner release option: Applications accepted after 48 consecutive monthly principal and interest payments
  • Eligibility: Indiana residents enrolled in college and U.S. residents attending an eligible Indiana school
  • Loan servicer: American Education Services
mefa

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3.95%+n/aGet Rates
INvested review

  • Loan terms: 10 or 15 years
  • Loan amounts: Minimum $1,500 (public school) or $2,000 (private school). Maximum up to school’s certified cost of attendance (minus other aid received)
  • Repayment plans: Immediate, interest-only, or deferred
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: None
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available after 48 on-time payments and meeting credit requirements
  • Eligibility: U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Loan servicer: American Education Services (AES)


View details
4.74% - 11.35%9
3.25% - 10.65%9
Get Rates
Sallie Mae review

  • Loan terms: 5 to 15 years
  • Loan amounts: Up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Repayment plans: Make interest-only or fixed monthly amount while in school, or defer payments until six months after leaving school
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% autopay discount
  • Cosigner release option: Available after making 12 on-time principal and interest payments and meeting credit requirements
  • Eligibility: U.S. Citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident. Non-U.S. citizen students, including DACA students attending a school located in the U.S., are eligible to apply with a creditworthy cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident.
  • Loan servicer: Sallie Mae


View details
3.82%
3.02%
Get Rates
SunTrust Bank review

  • Loan terms: 7, 10, or 15 years
  • Loan amounts: $1,001 - $65,000 (up to $95,000 for graduate students)
  • Repayment plans: Immediate or make partial, interest-only or deferred payments while in school.
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% autopay discount; 0.25% loyalty discount; other special rewards may include principal reduction at graduation, rate reduction for on-time payments, or zero interest for six months
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release after 36 months of consecutive on-time payments
  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens or permanent resident, not available to permanent residents of Iowa or Wisconsin. Union Federal Private Student Loan available to international students with an eligible cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Loan servicer: American Education Services (AES)
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Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available | 1Citizens Bank Disclosures| 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures | 6Discover Disclosures


Citizens Bank Student Loan Rate Disclosure

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 September 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.14%. Variable interest rates range from 3.17%-11.50% (3.17%-11.35% 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.

Student loan refinancing interest rates

A growing number of lenders also offer student loan refinancing of both private and federal student loans. Refinancing allows you to adjust your interest rate and repayment term. Depending on your strategy, you may be able to lower your monthly payment or save thousands in interest charges over the life of your loan.

LenderVariable rates from (APR)Fixed rates from (APR)Check rates from multiple lenders in 2 min
advantage education loan consolidationN/A4.54%+Get Rates
Advantage review
brazos student loan refinancing3.09%+3.90%+

Get Rates
Brazos review
citizens bank student loans2.34%+¹3.45%+¹Get Rates
Citizens Bank review
college ave student loans2.74%+23.54%+2Get Rates
College Ave review
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edvestinu student loan consolidation4.97%+4.93%+Get Rates
EdvestinU review
elfi student loans2.80%+33.29%+3Get Rates
ELFI review
mefa refinancing3.65%+3.85%+Get Rates
MEFA review
penfed purefy student loan consolidation2.74%+3.48%+Get Rates
Penfed review
rhode island student loan authority refinancingN/A3.49%+Get Rates
RISLA review
sofi student loan refinancing2.14%+43.46%+4Get Rates
SoFi review
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All APRs reflect autopay and loyalty discounts where available | 1Citizens Bank Disclosures | 2College Ave Disclosures | 3 ELFI Disclosures | 4SoFi Disclosures


Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: 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 September 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.14%. Variable interest rates range from 2.34%-9.33% (2.34%-9.33% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower's 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 3.45%-9.49% (3.45%-9.49% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 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 their loan.

Check Out: The Best Student Loan Refinancing Companies

Average student loan interest rates

Because rates on federal student loans to new borrowers are recalibrated once a year, you’re likely to have different interest rates on the loans you take out each year you’re in college. When you’re taking out loans for grad school, or if you’re a parent, your rates will be higher.

Over the last 15 years, rates for federal student loans have averaged:

  • 4.79% for undergraduates
  • 6.36% for graduate students
  • 7.41% for parents and graduate students taking out PLUS loans

According to a 2017 analysis by New America, the average interest rate across all student loans was 5.8%.

Learn More: What are Average Student Loan Interest Rates?

How federal student loan interest rates are set

Federal student loan rates are set by Congress. In theory, Congress can impose rates that are as high or low as lawmakers see fit.

To take politics out of the equation, in recent years Congress has tied rates on federal student loans to the government’s cost of borrowing. Under the system that’s been in place since 2013, rates on federal student loans for new borrowers are determined by an auction of 10-year Treasury notes that is held in May.

Here’s the formula the Department of Education uses to set rates for new borrowers each year:

  • Loans to undergraduates: 10-year Treasury yield plus add-on of 2.05 percentage points
  • Direct loans to graduate students:10-year Treasury yield plus 3.6 percentage points
  • Parent and grad PLUS loans: 10-year Treasury yield plus 4.6 percentage points

Remember, once you take out a federal student loan, the rate is fixed for life — it won’t go up or down. The formula above is only used to set rates on loans taken out by new borrowers during a one-year window running from July 1 through June 30.

Congress has also set upper bounds for rates on new loans. Even if inflation soars, rates for new borrowers are capped at 8.25% for undergraduate loans, 9.5% for graduate loans, and 10.5% for PLUS loans.

How private student loan interest rates are set

Private lenders compete for business and may offer borrowers with excellent credit lower rates than the government. To make up for losses when borrowers fail to repay their loans, private lenders charge higher rates to borrowers who are assessed as risky. Your credit score, which is designed to predict the likelihood you will repay a loan, is the primary factor lenders consider when setting interest rates.

Because many students don’t have the credit history or earnings required to qualify on their own, most private student loans to undergraduates are cosigned. Even if you don’t need a cosigner to be approved, having one can help you secure a lower interest rate than you could get on your own.

Check Out: The Best Private Student Loan Lenders

Private and federal student loan fees

In addition to interest rates, it’s also important to factor in any fees that a lender charges. With private loans, any fees the lender charges must be factored into the APR.

The government charges upfront fees on all student loans, but does not provide an APR. PLUS loans carry an up-front fee that exceeds 4.2%, which is taken directly out of the loan proceeds.

If you begin repaying a PLUS loan immediately on the standard 10-year repayment plan, the up-front fee increases your APR by about a full percentage point.

But because the APR depends in part on how long you will take to repay a loan, the APR on federal student loans is not disclosed. Federal student loan borrowers may take anywhere from 10 to 30 years to repay their student loans.

Learn More: APR and Interest Rate: What’s the Difference?

About the author
Matt Carter
Matt Carter

Matt Carter is a Credible expert on student loans. Analysis pieces he’s contributed to have been featured by CNBC, CNN Money, USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

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