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If you’ve exhausted grant, scholarship, and federal student loan options, private student loans might be a good way to fill financial gaps when paying for college. Private lenders often allow you to borrow up to your school’s certified cost of attendance, which can be especially useful if you max out your borrowing limits on federal student loans.
To find the best private student loan for your needs, it’s important to compare as many lender options as you can so you can find the best option. Compare your prequalified private student loan rates from Credible’s partner lenders below.
|Lender||Fixed Rates From (APR)||Variable Rates From (APR)||Max loan amount|
(depending on degree)
||5.59%+2,3||Up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance|
($180,000 aggregate limit)
|4.6%+8||7.64%+8||Up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance|
|5.35%+||N/A||Up to school’s certified cost of attendance
(depending on school type and minus other aid received)
|4.50%9 - 15.49%9||6.37%9 - 16.70%9||Up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance|
your credit score. 100% free!
Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available | Read our full methodology | 10Ascent Disclosures | 1Citizens Disclosures | 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 11Custom Choice Disclosures | 7EDvestinU Disclosures | 8INvestEd Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures
Compare private student loan lenders
No two student loan lenders are exactly the same. Each offers unique interest rates, terms, limits, and more. Below are some of the most important details about the loans offered by Credible’s top student loan lenders, including special interest rate discounts, policies regarding cosigner release, and loan servicer.
Credible’s top student loan lenders:
- Ascent: Best for discounts
- Citizens: Best for borrowers earning graduate or professional degrees
- College Ave: Best for flexible repayment options
- Custom Choice: Best for past-due education balances
- EdvestinU: Best for borrowers with good credit
- INvestEd: Best for Indiana residents
- MEFA: Best for borrowers who prefer fixed-rate loans
- Sallie Mae: Best for cosigner release
Ascent offers two private student loans worth considering:
- Ascent Tuition Loan: Offers competitive rates to borrowers who have a cosigner
- Ascent Outcomes-Based Loan: Offers more flexible eligibility for borrowers who don’t have a cosigner
Learn More: Ascent Student Loans Review
Citizens offers student loans not only to undergraduate and graduate students, but parents taking out loans for their child’s education. Additionally, students studying in certain fields — such as law, business, and healthcare — can access loans specifically tailored to them through Citizens.
Learn More: Citizens Student Loans Review
3. College Ave
College Ave is an online lender with a simplified online application and approval process. With College Ave, you can borrow $1,000 up to your school-certified cost of attendance (minus any other financial aid you’ve received).
Additionally, you can choose from a variety of loan terms ranging from five to 15 years (depending on your degree type).
Learn More: College Ave Student Loans Review
4. Custom Choice
The Custom Choice Loan is available from $1,000 to $99,999 annually ($180,000 aggregate limit) with a 7-, 10-, or 15-year term. If you graduate with at least a bachelor’s degree, you could get a 2% reduction on your loan’s principal balance.
EdvestinU offers private student loans to undergraduate and graduate students with no fees and a wide selection of repayment terms. Additionally, you could get 0.25% off your rate if you sign up for automatic payments.
Learn More: EdvestinU Student Loans Review
INvestEd offers private student loans to students living in or attending school in Indiana. With INvestEd, you can borrow a minimum of $1,001 up to 100% of your cost of attendance (minus any other financial aid you’ve received) with terms ranging from five to 15 years.
Learn More: INvestED Review
The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) offers fixed-rate private student loans to both undergraduates and graduate students across the U.S.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to be enrolled at a public or nonprofit school to take out a loan with MEFA — for-profit schools aren’t eligible.
Learn More: MEFA Student Loans Review
8. Sallie Mae
Sallie Mae offers a range of private student loans with no fees to students and parents as well as medical, dental residency, and bar study loans. You can borrow a minimum of $1,000 up to 100% school-certified cost of attendance.
Additionally, borrowers who have a cosigner can apply for cosigner release after just 12 months of consecutive on-time payments.
Learn More: Sallie Mae Student Loans Review
Other private student loan lenders to consider
Here are more private student loan companies we evaluated. Keep in mind that these lenders are not offered through Credible, so you won’t be able to easily compare your rates with them on the Credible platform like you can our partner lenders.
(depending on degree type)
Also see: 7 Student Loans with Cosigner Release
How do I apply for a private student loan?
If you’re ready to apply for a private student loan, follow these three steps:
- Fill out the FAFSA and review federal student loans. Your first step should be completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Afterward, your school will send you a financial aid award letter detailing what federal student loans and other financial aid you qualify for. You can then choose which aid you’d like to accept.
- Apply for scholarships and grants. Unlike student loans, college scholarships and grants typically don’t have to be repaid — which essentially makes them free money for school. There’s no limit on how many scholarships and grants you can get, so it’s a good idea to apply for as many as you might be eligible for. Additionally, your FAFSA results might qualify you for school or state-based scholarships or grants.
- Use private student loans to fill the gaps. After you’ve exhausted your scholarship, grant, and federal student loan options, private student loans can help fill any financial gaps left over. Be sure to shop around and compare as many private lenders as you can to find the best option for you. Consider not only interest rates but also repayment terms and any fees charged by the lender.
If you decide to take out student loans — whether federal or private — to pay for school, it’s important to consider how much that debt will cost you in the future. This way, you can prepare for any added expenses.
You can find out how much you’ll owe over the life of your federal or private student loans using our student loan calculator below.
Enter your loan information to calculate how much you could pay
With a $ loan, you will pay $ monthly and a total of $ in interest over the life of your loan. You will pay a total of $ over the life of the loan, assuming you're making full payments while in school.
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Average student loan interest rates
Student loan interest rates vary depending on the type of student loan you get. Here’s how they work:
- Federal student loan interest rates are fixed rates set annually by Congress. Your rate on a federal student loan will depend on the type of federal loan you take out as well as your dependency status and year in school.
- Private student loan interest rates can be fixed or variable and will depend on your credit and repayment term. In general, the better your credit, the lower the interest rate you’re likely to get.
Here’s how current federal student loan interest rates compare to the average private student loan interest rates offered to borrowers who took out a private student loan through Credible during September 2023:
|Borrower type||Loan||Loan type||APR|
|Undergraduate students||Federal||Fixed rate: 5.50%|
|Graduate or professional students||Direct Unsubsidized Loan||Federal||Fixed rate: 7.05%|
|Direct PLUS Loan||Federal||Fixed rate: 8.05%|
|Borrowers with credit scores of 720 or higher||5-year loan||Private||Variable rate: 6.04% average|
|Borrowers with credit scores of 720 or higher||10-year loan||Private||Fixed rate: 7.14% average|
Learn More: Average Cost of College in the U.S.
How do you pick the best student loan?
To pick the best student loan for your needs, it’s important to consider as many options as possible. It’s usually a good idea to start with federal student loans since they come with federal benefits and protections. Then you can use private student loans to fill any gaps left over.
Here are several important factors to keep in mind as you weigh your options:
- Interest rates: Your interest rate will be one of the biggest components to determine how much you actually pay for a student loan. In general, the lower your rate, the less you’ll pay overall. Note that federal student loans come with fixed rates that are set by Congress while private student loan rates depend on the lender as well as other factors like your credit and the repayment term you choose.
- Repayment terms: Most federal student loans are automatically placed on the standard 10-year repayment plan — however, you might be able to extend your term up to 25 or 30 years if you sign up for an income-driven repayment plan or consolidate your loans. Private student loan terms generally range from five to 20 years, depending on the lender. It’s usually best to choose the shortest term you can afford to keep your interest costs as low as possible.
- Loan amounts: With most federal student loans, the amount you can borrow will depend on the type of loan you get as well as your year in school. But with a Direct PLUS Loan or private student loan, you might be able to borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance.
- Discounts: Many servicers and lenders offer discounts that can help you save money on your loan. For example, you can often qualify for a rate discount if you sign up for automatic payments.
- Fees: Some student loans come with fees that could increase your overall loan cost. For example, federal student loans charge a disbursement fee that’s deducted from your loan before you get your funds — for the current academic year, this fee is 1.057% for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans and 4.228% for Direct PLUS Loans. Private student loans can also have fees (such as origination fees), depending on the lender.
Check Out: Low-Interest Student Loans
Frequently asked questions about private student loans
Here are the answers to several commonly asked questions regarding private student loans:
- What are the different types of student loans?
- Do private student loans affect financial aid?
- How has the coronavirus pandemic affected student loans?
- Do I need a cosigner for a student loan?
- Can you get a student loan without a cosigner?
- What is the maximum amount of private student loans you can borrow?
- What are the drawbacks of private loans?
- Can you live off student loans?
- Do private student loans affect credit score?
- Is a Parent PLUS Loan better than a private loan?
- Can I get a student loan with a 600 credit score?
- Fixed rates vs. variable rates: What does this mean?
What are the different types of student loans?
There are several types of student loans you might come across, including:
- Direct Subsidized Loans: These are available to undergraduate students with financial need. The government pays all interest that accrues on subsidized loans while you’re in school and during other eligible periods of nonpayment.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These federal loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of financial need. You’re responsible for all interest that accrues on unsubsidized loans.
- Direct PLUS Loans: There are two kinds of PLUS Loan — Grad PLUS Loans for grad students and Parent PLUS Loans for parents who want to fund their child’s education. Unlike most federal student loans, PLUS Loans require a credit check.
- Private student loans: These loans are offered by private lenders and can be used for a wide variety of educational expenses. Some lenders also provide private loans specifically designed for certain programs — such as student loans for law school, MBAs, or medical school.
Learn More: How to Get a Student Loan for Online College
Do private student loans affect financial aid?
No, taking out a private student loan won’t affect your financial aid package — though how much you can borrow with a private student loan could be impacted by how much federal financial aid you’ve already received.
Your school will use your FAFSA results to determine what federal student loans and other financial aid you’re eligible for. How much aid you receive will depend on your:
- Expected family contribution
- Cost of attendance
- Dependency status
- Year in school
Your private student loans aren’t part of the financial aid calculations.
Check Out: How to Pay for College With No Money Saved
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected student loans?
Due to the pandemic, payments and interest accrual on federal student loans were suspended by the CARES Act. However, payments and interest accrual restarted after September 1, 2023. Unfortunately, private student loans weren’t eligible for this suspension. But many private lenders offered various payment assistance options to help borrowers negatively impacted by the coronavirus.
Learn More: Private Student Loans & COVID-19
Do I need a cosigner for a student loan?
This depends on the type of student loan you want to get as well as on your credit.
- Federal student loans: Most federal student loans — including both Direct and Unsubsidized Loans — don’t require a credit check or a cosigner. PLUS Loans, on the other hand, do. If you have any sort of adverse credit history, you might need an endorser (essentially the same as a cosigner) to apply with you.
- Private student loans: You’ll need good to excellent credit as well as verifiable income to qualify for a private loan. If you aren’t eligible on your own, applying with a cosigner could improve your chances. In fact, most private loans are cosigned. Additionally, having a cosigner could get you a lower interest rate than you’d get on your own.
Can you get a student loan without a cosigner?
Yes, most federal student loans are available to borrowers without the need for a cosigner.
As for private student loans, you might get approved without a cosigner if you have decent credit and income. However, applying with a cosigner could help you get approved more easily, especially if you have poor or fair credit. You might even get a better interest rate by having a creditworthy cosigner.
Learn More: Student Loans for Part-Time Learners
What is the maximum amount of private student loans you can borrow?
The maximum amount you can borrow in private student loans depends on the lender. While some lenders have specific limits, others will allow you to borrow up to your cost of attendance (minus any other financial aid you’ve received).
Additionally, private student loans sometimes have different maximums depending on where you live, the type of program you’re enrolled in, and whether you’re applying with a cosigner.
What are the drawbacks of private loans?
Private student loans offer several benefits, such as being able to apply at any time as well as higher student loan limits compared to most federal student loans. But there are also drawbacks to keep in mind, including:
- Lack of federal benefits: Private student loans don’t provide the protections of federal student loans, such as access to income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs. Any assistance options — such as deferment or forbearance — are offered at the discretion of the lender.
- Lack of repayment options: Private student loan repayment options are generally more limited in comparison to federal loans. For example, private loans don’t offer the same income-driven repayment and extended repayment plans that federal loans do.
- Immediate repayment might be required: Depending on the lender and repayment option you choose, you might have to begin repaying private student loans immediately — even when you’re in school.
Can you live off student loans?
Yes, you can use federal and private student loans to cover living expenses — such as college housing and groceries — while you’re enrolled in school.
Just keep in mind that that amount you can borrow is based on your school’s estimated cost of attendance, which could limit how much you have left over to use for living expenses.
Do private student loans affect credit score?
When you apply for a private student loan, most lenders will perform a hard credit check to determine your creditworthiness. This could cause a slight drop in your credit score — however, this effect is usually only temporary, and your score will likely bounce back within a few months.
Additionally, private student loans are reported to the credit bureaus. If you make on-time payments on your loan, you could see your credit improve over time. But if you miss payments or default on the loan, it could have a severely negative impact on your score.
Is a Parent PLUS Loan better than a private loan?
If you’re considering a Parent PLUS Loan vs. a private student loan, keep in mind that the right one for you will depend on your needs as well as your credit.
For example, a PLUS Loan might be better if you want a fixed rate as well as access to federal benefits and protections. But if you have excellent credit, you might qualify for a lower interest rate and fewer fees on a private loan than you’d get with a PLUS Loan.
Can I get a student loan with a 600 credit score?
If you have less-than-perfect credit, you might still qualify for either a federal or private student loan:
- Federal student loans: Most federal loans don’t require a credit check, which could make them a good option if you have poor credit. While you’ll have to undergo a credit check to get a federal Direct PLUS Loan, this is only to make sure you don’t have an adverse credit history — no specific minimum credit score is necessary to qualify.
- Private student loans: You’ll generally need good to excellent credit to get approved for a private loan. However, there are several private lenders that offer student loans for bad credit — though keep in mind that these typically come with higher interest rates compared to good-credit loans. You could also consider applying with a cosigner to improve your chances of approval.
Fixed rates vs. variable rates: What does this mean?
There are two types of student loan interest rates available:
- Fixed rates remain the same throughout the life of the loan. This means your monthly payment won’t ever change. All federal student loans and many private student loans come with fixed rates.
- Variable rates can fluctuate over time according to market trends and economic benchmarks. This means your monthly payment might go up in the future. Variable rates are available for private student loans — though keep in mind that some private lenders don’t offer variable rates.
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