Our goal is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Although we receive compensation from our partner lenders, whom we will always identify, all opinions are our own. Credible Operations, Inc. NMLS # 1681276, is referred to here as "Credible."

When you’re counting up the costs of attending college, don’t forget about interest. If you have to borrow to pay for your tuition or living expenses, you’ll need to eventually pay back every penny you borrowed, plus interest.

Federal student loans today have interest rates between 4.99% and 7.54%, depending on the type of loan. Private student loans can come with even higher rates.

But you may have options for lower-interest loans, or even a loan with no interest at all.

Here’s where to look for interest-free student loans:

Where to find interest-free student loans

Interest-free student loans are rare, but can be found from some nonprofit organizations, charitable foundations, or religious institutions. Since you’re not paying any interest, these loans can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan and reduce your monthly payment.

A student loan calculator can show you just how powerful these programs are. A $20,000 student loan paid back over 10 years at a 5% interest rate will require you to pay $212/month, and pay nearly $5,500 in interest over the life of the loan. At a 0% interest rate, your monthly payment is just $167 and you would avoid interest altogether.

Eligibility for these loans varies, and some are location specific. Each interest-free student loan program also has maximum amounts you may be able to borrow.

Tip: It’s best to start your search locally. Your high school guidance counselor or college financial aid office may be able to point you toward interest-free loans you may qualify for.

Just like scholarships and grants, interest-free student loan programs are extremely competitive. Programs open to students across the United States include:

Who is eligible for an interest-free loan?

Every interest-free loan program has its own criteria for who qualifies. Some are based primarily on merit, while others are based heavily on financial need.

Since each program is so different, it’s hard to determine any hard-and-fast rules. Read the qualification criteria carefully before applying for an interest-free loan program. But you can expect to encounter a few of the following requirements to be considered:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • Residency in a particular U.S. state or city
  • Strong academic credentials on a high school or college transcript
  • Financial need, as determined by completing the FAFSA
  • Plans to study a particular subject
  • Essay composition
  • In-person interview

Many programs are limited to students in one particular geographic area, such as a state or metropolitan area. For example:

Others are based on particular interest groups. For example, the Military Officers Association of America offers an interest-free student loan program for children of active-duty or retired military officers.

Again, your guidance counselor or financial aid office may be the best resource for finding interest-free loan programs you may qualify for.

FAFSA and federal student loans

To qualify for an interest-free student loan, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, (FAFSA). This form can also make you eligible for a wealth of education financing options from the federal government.

Some of these are free. Many universities use the FAFSA to offer scholarships and grants for students with financial need. The federal government also offers Pell Grants to students with significant financial need. These grants are currently just under $7,000/year, and do not need to be repaid.

You may qualify for other types of federal student aid, as well. One example is federal work-study, where you take a part-time job at your university or a local nonprofit. You’ll receive a paycheck just like any other employee, with the money helping you meet your higher education expenses. Work-study jobs have a host of protections, including a prohibition on being required to work during your class time.

Federal student loans are not interest-free. You’ll generally need to pay a fixed interest rate that’s set at the time you take out your loan. The rate varies based on the type of loan you choose. Currently, federal student loan interest rates are:

  • 4.99% for undergraduate students taking out Direct Subsidized Loans or Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
  • 6.54% for graduate or professional students with Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
  • 7.54% for graduate or professional students or parents of undergraduate students taking out Direct PLUS Loans.
Important: Through June 30, 2023, the interest rate on federal student loans is 0%, part of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current litigation surrounding the student loan forgiveness plan. Required loan payments are also temporarily suspended.

While you do pay interest, federal student loans have a number of benefits you won’t find in other loan programs. Generally, you’re not required to start repaying your federal student loans until you graduate or leave school. You also may qualify for an income-driven repayment plan, where your monthly payment is capped at a certain percentage of your disposable income. And with subsidized loans, the government pays the interest accrued while you’re enrolled in school or in forbearance.

Keep Reading: How to Apply for FAFSA 2022-23: Deadlines, Tips, and FAQs

Additional options for college expenses

Paying for higher education can feel overwhelming, plenty of options do exist. If you aren’t able to qualify for an interest-free student loan, you may consider one of these two common ways to finance your college or university expenses.

Private student loans

Private student loans are available from banks and other lenders, and often used to cover gaps in higher education expenses not covered by federal student loans or other financial aid. These loans can have fixed or variable interest rates, set based on your credit score. If you have a limited credit history, you may be required to have a parent or family member cosign the loan, agreeing to be equally responsible for paying it back.

Private student loans generally do not have income-driven repayment plans, and you’ll be responsible for paying interest as soon as the loan is disbursed. But they can come with a couple of benefits: many private lenders allow you to defer loan payments until after you graduate. And you may qualify for a lower interest rate than on federal student loans if you have excellent credit.

The companies in the table below are Credible’s approved partner lenders. Whether you’re the borrower or cosigner, Credible makes it easy to compare rates from multiple private student loan providers without affecting your credit score.

LenderFixed Rates From (APR)
Variable Rates From (APR)


Credible Rating
Credible lender ratings are evaluated by our editorial team with the help of our loan operations team. The rating criteria for lenders encompass 78 data points spanning interest rates, loan terms, eligibility requirement transparency, repayment options, fees, discounts, customer service, cosigner options, and more. Read our full methodology.
4.62%+10 5.74%+10
  • Fixed APR: 4.62%+10
  • Variable APR: 5.74%+10
  • Min. credit score: Does not disclose
  • Loan amount: $2,001 to $400,000
  • Loan terms (years): 5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 20
  • Repayment options: Full deferral, fixed/flat repayment, interest only, academic deferment, military deferment, forbearance, loans discharged upon death or disability
  • Fees: None
  • Discounts: 0.25% to 1.00% automatic payment discount, 1% cash back graduation reward
  • Eligibility: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or DACA student enrolled at least half-time in a degree-seeking program
  • Customer service: Email, phone
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Cosigner release: After 12 on-time principal and interest payments
  • Loan servicer: Launch Servicing, LLC


Credible Rating
Credible lender ratings are evaluated by our editorial team with the help of our loan operations team. The rating criteria for lenders encompass 78 data points spanning interest rates, loan terms, eligibility requirement transparency, repayment options, fees, discounts, customer service, cosigner options, and more. Read our full methodology.
4.99%+1 4.89%+
  • Fixed APR: 4.99%+1
  • Variable APR: 4.89%+
  • Min. credit score: 720
  • Loan amount: $1,000 to $350,000
  • Loan terms (years): 5, 10, 15
  • Loan types: Any private or federal student loan
  • Repayment options: Full deferral, full monthly payment, interest only, immediate repayment, academic deferment, military deferment, forbearance, loans discharged upon death or disability
  • Fees: Late fee
  • Discounts: Autopay, loyalty
  • Eligibility: Available in all 50 states (international students can apply with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosigner)
  • Customer service: Email, phone, chat
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Cosigner release: After 36 months
  • Loan servicer: Firstmark Services


Credible Rating
Credible lender ratings are evaluated by our editorial team with the help of our loan operations team. The rating criteria for lenders encompass 78 data points spanning interest rates, loan terms, eligibility requirement transparency, repayment options, fees, discounts, customer service, cosigner options, and more. Read our full methodology.
4.49%+2,3
4.49%+2,3
  • Fixed APR: 4.49%+2,3
  • Variable APR: 4.49%+2,3
  • Min. credit score: Does not disclose
  • Loan amount: $1,000 up to cost of attendance
  • Loan terms (years): 5, 8, 10, 15, 20
  • Repayment options: Full deferral, full monthly payment, fixed/flat repayment, interest only, immediate repayment, academic deferment, forbearance, loans discharged upon death or disability
  • Fees: Late fee
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and be making satisfactory academic progress.
  • Customer service: Email, phone
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Cosigner release: After 24 months
  • Loan servicer: College Ave Servicing LLC


Credible Rating
Credible lender ratings are evaluated by our editorial team with the help of our loan operations team. The rating criteria for lenders encompass 78 data points spanning interest rates, loan terms, eligibility requirement transparency, repayment options, fees, discounts, customer service, cosigner options, and more. Read our full methodology.
3.65%+ 5.46%+
  • Fixed APR: 3.65%+
  • Variable APR: 5.46%+
  • Min. credit score: Does not disclose
  • Loan amount: $1,000 to $99,999 annually ($180,000 aggregate limit)
  • Loan terms (years): 7, 10, 15
  • Repayment options: Full deferral, immediate repayment, interest-only repayment, flat/full repayment, academic deferment, military deferment, forbearance, loans discharged upon death or disability
  • Fees: None
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Available to borrowers in all 50 states. Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Cosigner release: After 36 months
  • Loan servicer: American Education Services
  • Min. income: Does not disclose


Credible Rating
Credible lender ratings are evaluated by our editorial team with the help of our loan operations team. The rating criteria for lenders encompass 78 data points spanning interest rates, loan terms, eligibility requirement transparency, repayment options, fees, discounts, customer service, cosigner options, and more. Read our full methodology.
7.52%+7 6.89%+7
  • Fixed APR: 7.52%+7
  • Variable APR: 6.89%+7
  • Min. credit score: 750
  • Loan amount: $1,000 to $200,000
  • Loan terms (years): 7, 10, 15
  • Repayment options: Full deferral, full monthly payment, interest only, immediate repayment, academic deferment, loans discharged upon death or disability
  • Fees: Late fee
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and have a minimum income of $30,000.
  • Customer service: Email, phone
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Cosigner release: After 36 months
  • Loan servicer: Granite State Management & Resources (GSM&R)


Credible Rating
Credible lender ratings are evaluated by our editorial team with the help of our loan operations team. The rating criteria for lenders encompass 78 data points spanning interest rates, loan terms, eligibility requirement transparency, repayment options, fees, discounts, customer service, cosigner options, and more. Read our full methodology.
4.37%+8 5.86%+8
  • Fixed APR: 4.37%+8
  • Variable APR: 5.86%+8
  • Min. credit score: 670
  • Loan amount: $1,001 up to cost of attendance
  • Loan terms (years): 5, 10, 15
  • Repayment options: Full deferral, full monthly payment, interest only, immediate repayment, academic deferment, forbearance
  • Fees: Late fee
  • Discounts: Autopay, reward for on-time graduation
  • Eligibility: Must be an Indiana resident or a U.S. citizen attending an eligible Indiana school
  • Customer service: Email, phone, chat
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Cosigner release: After 48 months
  • Loan servicer: American Education Services


Credible Rating
Credible lender ratings are evaluated by our editorial team with the help of our loan operations team. The rating criteria for lenders encompass 78 data points spanning interest rates, loan terms, eligibility requirement transparency, repayment options, fees, discounts, customer service, cosigner options, and more. Read our full methodology.
4.89%+ N/A
  • Fixed APR: 4.89%+
  • Variable APR: N/A
  • Min. credit score: 670
  • Loan amount: $1,500 up to cost of attendance less aid
  • Loan terms (years): 10, 15
  • Repayment options: Full deferral, interest only, immediate repayment, academic deferral, forbearance
  • Fees: None
  • Discounts: None
  • Eligibility: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and be making satisfactory academic progress.
  • Customer service: Email, phone
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Cosigner release: After 48 months
  • Loan servicer: American Education Services (AES)


Credible Rating
Credible lender ratings are evaluated by our editorial team with the help of our loan operations team. The rating criteria for lenders encompass 78 data points spanning interest rates, loan terms, eligibility requirement transparency, repayment options, fees, discounts, customer service, cosigner options, and more. Read our full methodology.
4.509 - 14.83%9 5.37%9 - 15.709
  • Fixed APR: 4.509 - 14.83%9
  • Variable APR: 5.37%9 - 15.709
  • Min. credit score: Does not disclose
  • Loan amount: $1,000 up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance
  • Loan terms (years): 10 to 209
  • Repayment options: Full deferral, fixed/flat repayment, interest only, academic deferment, forbearance, loans discharged upon death or disability
  • Fees: Late fee, non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Also available to non-U.S. citizen students (including DACA students) attending a school located in the U.S. who apply with a qualifying cosigner.
  • Customer service: Phone, chat
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Cosigner release: Borrowers can apply after graduation, 12 consecutive on-time principal and interest payments, and meeting certain credit requirements.
  • Loan servicer: Sallie Mae
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Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available | 10Ascent Disclosures | 1Citizens Disclosures | 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 7EDvestinU Disclosures | 8INvestEd Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures

Learn More: How to Qualify for Financial Aid

Personal loans

Personal loans are a flexible form of financing that can help you make ends meet while you’re enrolled in college. These loans are typically borrowed as a lump sum and paid back at fixed interest rates and paid back over a period of three to seven years. You won’t need to put up any collateral since you qualify for a personal loan based strictly on your credit history.

You can use a personal loan for most types of expenses, though many personal lenders restrict you from using your loan money for tuition. But you may be able to use personal loans to help pay for living expenses, transportation, and other costs you incur while in school.

About the author
Andrew Dunn
Andrew Dunn

Andrew Dunn is an award-winning mortgage and finance writer with a decade of experience covering the industry with articles published at Fox Business, LendingTree, Credit Karma, Axios Charlotte, and more.

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