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In the U.S., college students leave school with an average student loan debt of $39,351 — but in some cases, you might only need to take out a small student loan to fully cover your education costs.
For example, maybe you’ve received a large amount of federal financial aid and need just a bit of extra money to cover leftover expenses.
Here’s what you should know about small student loans and where to find them:
- 8 best student loans offering small loans
- Student loan limits for the 2023-2024 school year
- How to take out a small student loan
- Taking out a student loan with bad credit
- Other ways to pay for college
- Small private student loans can help fill in funding gaps
8 best student loans offering small loans
If you decide to take out a small private student loan, it’s important to consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for your needs.
Here are Credible’s partner lenders that offer small student loans:
|Lender||Fixed Rates From (APR)||Variable Rates From (APR)||Loan amounts||Loan terms (years)|
|4.53%+10||6.16%+10||$2,001* to $400,000||5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 20|
|4.99%+1||6.37%+||$1,000 to $350,000 (depending on degree)||5, 10, 15|
||5.59%+2,3||$1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance||5, 8, 10, 15, 20|
|4.43%+||5.39%+||$1,000 to $99,999 annually |
($180,000 aggregate limit)
|7, 10, 15|
|4.6%+8||7.64%+8||$1,001 up to 100% of school certified cost of attendance||5, 10, 15|
|5.35%+||N/A||$1,500 up to school’s certified cost of attendance less aid||10, 15|
|4.50%9 - 15.49%9||6.37%9 - 16.70%9||$1,000 up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance||10 to 20|
your credit score. 100% free!
Minimum loan amount: $2,001
If you have fair credit, Ascent could be a good option for a small student loan: You can borrow $2,001 to $400,000 (depending on whether your credit is tested) with repayment terms from five to 20 years (depending on your loan type).
Additionally, borrowers can get a rate discount of 0.25% to 2% by signing up for autopay as well as earn a 1% cashback reward if they graduate within five years.
Minimum loan amount: $1,000
Citizens offers private student loans from $1,000 up to 100% of your school’s cost of attendance (aggregate limits might apply). If you already have an account with Citizens, you could get a 0.25% loyalty rate reduction — plus another 0.25% off your rate if you sign up for autopay.
Minimum loan amount: $1,000
With College Ave, you can borrow $1,000 up to your school-certified cost of attendance (minus any other financial aid you’ve received) with terms from five to 15 years (depending on your degree).
If you’re taking out a parent loan with College Ave, you also have the option to receive $2,500 of the loan directly — allowing you to control your child’s spending on expenses like books, computers, or dorm supplies.
Minimum loan amount: $1,000
The Custom Choice Loan is available from $1,000 to $99,999 annually ($180,000 aggregate limit) with a three- or five-year term. If you graduate with at least a bachelor’s degree, you could get a 2% principal reduction on your loan.
Minimum loan amount: $1,000
If you (or a cosigner) have excellent credit, you might qualify for a private student loan from EdvestinU. You can borrow $1,000 up to 100% of your school’s cost of attendance ($200,000 aggregate limit) with terms from seven to 15 years.
You could also get a 0.25% rate discount by signing up for automatic payments.
Minimum loan amount: $1,001
INvestEd offers student loans to borrowers living or attending school in Indiana. You can borrow $1,001 up to 100% of your school’s cost of attendance (minus any other aid you’ve received) with terms from five to 15 years.
Minimum loan amount: $1,500
The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) works only with borrowers attending public or nonprofit universities — for-profit schools aren’t eligible. With MEFA, you can borrow $1,500 up to your school-certified cost of attendance.
Undergraduate students can choose between a 10- or 15-year term while graduate students are limited to only 15-year terms.
Minimum loan amount: $1,000
Sallie Mae offers private student loans from $1,000 up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance with repayment terms from 10 to 20 years (depending on your degree).
If you have a cosigner, you can apply to release them from the loan after making just 12 consecutive, on-time payments — much less time compared to several other lenders.
Student loan limits for the 2023-2024 school year
Both federal and private student loans come with student loan limits that determine the maximum amount you can borrow. But if you only want a small student loan and are approved for a higher loan amount, you’re free to accept just the amount you want — you don’t have to take the full amount you’re offered.
Here are the limits you can expect for the 2023-24 school year:
|Loan type||Interest rates||Loan amounts|
|Direct Subsidized Loans||Fixed rates: 5.50%||$3,500 to $5,500 per year|
|Direct Unsubsidized Loans||Undergrad: 5.50%|
Graduate and professional: 7.05%
|Dependent undergrad: $5,500 to $7,500 per year ($31,000 total limit)
Independent undergrad: $9,500 to $12,500 per school year ($57,500 total limit)
Graduate and professional: $20,500 per year ($138,500 total limit)
|Direct PLUS Loans||Fixed rates: 8.05%||Up to your school’s cost of attendance minus any other financial aid received|
|Private student loans||Fixed rates from (APR):
Variable rates from (APR): 5.39%+
(with Credible partner lenders)
|Up to your school’s cost of attendance minus any other financial aid received (depending on the lender)|
- Fed Loan Rates for ‘21-22 School Year: What You Should Know
- How to Get Student Loans for Past-Due Tuition
How to take out a small student loan
If you’re ready to take out a small student loan, follow these four steps:
- Fill out the FAFSA. If you need to pay for college, your first step should be completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your school will use your FAFSA results to determine what federal student loans and other federal financial aid you’re eligible for.
- Apply for scholarships and grants. Unlike student loans, college scholarships and grants don’t have to be repaid — which makes them a great way to cover education costs. There’s no limit to how many you can get, so it’s a good idea to apply for as many scholarships and grants as you can.
- Take out federal student loans. If you need to borrow for school, it’s usually best to start with federal student loans as they come with federal benefits and protections — such as access to a variety of repayment options and forgiveness programs. After you’ve filled out the FAFSA, your school will send you a financial aid award letter detailing what federal student loans and other federal financial aid you qualify for. You can then decide what aid — and how much — you’d like to accept.
- Use private student loans to fill in the gaps. Once you’ve exhausted your scholarship, grant, and federal student loan options, private student loans can help you fill any financial gaps left over. These loans can range from as little as $1,000 up to your school’s cost of attendance (depending on the lender).
Learn More: Is My College Housing Covered by Financial Aid?
Taking out a student loan with bad credit
You’ll generally need good to excellent credit to qualify for a private student loan. While there are several lenders that offer student loans for bad credit, these loans tend to come with higher interest rates compared to good credit loans.
If you don’t meet private student loan requirements on your own, applying with a cosigner might help you get approved more easily. Even if you don’t need a cosigner to qualify, having one could get you a lower interest rate than you’d get alone.
No matter which type of student loan you get, it’s important to consider how much that loan will cost you in the future. This way, you can be prepared 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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Other ways to pay for college
Student loans aren’t the only way to pay for college. Here are a few other options to consider that could help you keep your student loan debt low:
- Check if a 529 plan was opened for you. A 529 plan is a type of college savings account that helps parents save on taxes while putting away money for their child’s education. If your parents (or even your grandparents) have a 529 plan for you, you can use the money for your qualified education expenses. Keep in mind that a 529 plan held by your parent could affect your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) that’s calculated by the FAFSA — meaning you might not be offered as much financial aid.
- Start at a community college. Attending a community college can be much less expensive compared to a traditional four-year school. To help keep your costs low, it could be a good idea to start at a community college, then transfer to a four-year school to finish your degree.
- Enroll in a work-study program. After filling out the FAFSA, you might have the option to sign up for a work-study program. Jobs offered through these programs generally don’t pay very much, but they can help you cover small costs while also adding to your resume.
- Get a job. Another alternative is to get a job that can help you pay for expenses while you’re taking classes. Just be sure to find something that won’t interfere with your coursework.
Small private student loans can help fill in funding gaps
A small private student loan can fill in funding gaps after you’ve exhausted your scholarship, grant, and federal student loan options. For instance, a small student loan could help you pay for college textbooks, fees, or living expenses.
Just be sure to borrow only what you need so you can keep your future costs as low as possible.
A small private student loan could also be a good choice for covering your costs if you run out of money during the semester or find yourself facing unexpected expenses. Unlike federal student loans, you can apply for a private loan at any time while you’re enrolled in school.
If you decide to take out a private student loan, remember to consider as many lenders as you can to find the right loan for your needs. Credible makes this easy — you can compare your prequalified rates from multiple lenders in two minutes.full Credible rating lender methodology. Learn about Credible’s mission and promise to our readers.