Fixed interest rates will stay the same for the life of the loan but usually start our higher. Variable interest rates, on the other hand, fluctuate over time according to the market rate, but typically start our lower. There is no right answer to which is the best private student loan rate type; it really depends if you think interest rates will generally increase or decrease in the future.
We’ve updated our Top 10 List of student loan tips for students preparing to graduate and enter “the real world.” Many students are looking at their student loans more closely now than they ever have before, and wondering how they will handle the burden. Our tips can help young people keep payments affordable, avoid fees and extra interest costs, and protect their credit rating.
You can compare private student loan options on our site. Keep in mind there are a number of popular private student loan names you may see and hear, and it is bound to be confusing. Sometimes the names will be generic, and other times the name will refer to a specific lender’s program or brand name. The name of the student loan program is not as critical as an understanding of how the particular loan terms work, or how they may impact you. To give you a quick primer on some of the most popular private student loan names you may encounter, see the list below.
If you or your child graduated before July 1, 2006, it pays to roll multiple federal loans into one—you’ll lock in an interest rate that’s lower than what you’re paying on each separate loan. Earned a diploma since then? All federal student loans now carry fixed interest rates, so there’s no financial benefit to consolidating. (And it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to combine any variable private loans.) Nevertheless, if you have trouble keeping track of payment deadlines and have been hit with late fees on occasion, go ahead and consolidate. (For more information, go to SimpleTuition.com.) You’ll save some dough by doing so.

If you or your child graduated before July 1, 2006, it pays to roll multiple federal loans into one—you’ll lock in an interest rate that’s lower than what you’re paying on each separate loan. Earned a diploma since then? All federal student loans now carry fixed interest rates, so there’s no financial benefit to consolidating. (And it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to combine any variable private loans.) Nevertheless, if you have trouble keeping track of payment deadlines and have been hit with late fees on occasion, go ahead and consolidate. (For more information, go to SimpleTuition.com.) You’ll save some dough by doing so.

One final thought concerning the use of private student loans: get a strong understanding of the interest rates as well as the loan’s other terms and conditions. Most lenders offer you a choice between a variable or fixed APR (annual percentage rate), so be sure to read up on the differences between the two interest rate options. Keep in mind that the rates advertised may not necessarily be the rates you qualify for based on your creditworthiness — or that of a qualifying cosigner.
Fixed rates currently run from 4.99 to 10.49% APR. LendKey is able to offer better than average rates because of the unique funding model. Credit unions are not for profit financial institutions, so they tend to offer more favorable rates and fees for all available products. With LendKey in the middle, you get a simple, high-tech experience with the savings and community power of a credit union.

Private student loan volume is expected to return to the 25% annual growth rate unless there is another increase in federal loan limits or an expansion of the availability of federal student loans. For example, the proposal for expanding Perkins loan funding from $1 billion a year to $8.5 billion a year will cause a significant decline in private student loan volume. But so long as federal loan limits do not increase every year, private student loan volume will continue to grow at double-digit rates.


If you or your recent grad has this type of loan—which makes up 15 percent of total U.S. education debt—this may seem like an odd move. After all, the interest rates on variable private loans (given by banks and credit unions) are currently lower than the fixed rates on federally backed and private loans. But historically this situation is unusual, and if the economy improves, interest hikes are probable in the near future. “Rates could climb 5 to 6 percent over the next four years, making your monthly burden unmanageable,” says Kantrowitz. That’s why it’s wise to unload these balances as soon as possible. If you can, pay twice the required amount until you have eliminated this debt and make only the minimum monthly contribution toward your fixed-rate federal loans, since those rates cannot increase.


As a general rule, students should only consider obtaining a private education loan if they have maxed out the Federal Stafford Loan. They should also file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which may qualify them for grants, work-study and other forms of student aid. Undergraduate students should also compare costs with the Federal PLUS Loan, as the PLUS loan is usually much less expensive and has better repayment terms.
A little-known way to eliminate college debt is to appeal to your boss for a compensation package. “Some midsize companies cannot pay the kinds of salaries that a large corporation can, but they may be inclined to offer lower wages in exchange for a onetime payout toward your loan,” says Manuel Fabriquer, the president of College Planning ABC, a consulting firm in San Jose, California. Why? “It costs them less in salary payments in the long run.” (Those in fields that require a special degree, like tech, finance, and nursing, are most likely to receive this benefit.)
Key information to understand student loans includes being aware of the annual and cumulative loan limits, interest rates, fees, and loan term for the most popular private student loan programs. Often the interest rates, fees and loan limits depend on the credit history of the borrower and co-signer, if any, and on loan options chosen by the borrower such as in-school deferment and repayment schedule. Loan term often depends on the total amount of debt.
As you can see, federal student loans have many benefits, including fixed interest rates and student loan forgiveness programs. Because of those benefits, it often makes sense to prioritize paying off private student loans first if you have multiple student loans. You’ll need to know you know how much you owe and make a personalized plan for your situation.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
No matter who the lender is, private student loan applicants may need a cosigner, especially undergraduates or students who don’t have a credit history or steady income or meet the age of majority for their state of residence. However, a cosigner is not required in order to apply. Even if you have an established credit history, a cosigner may improve your ability to get approved, enable you to secure a lower interest rate, and speed up the credit decision process. Student borrowers that meet these requirements on their own do not need a cosigner (but may still choose to apply with a cosigner).
There are several ways to have your student loans forgiven, such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which applies to qualifying loans after 10 years of payments. You can work for a government agency, non-profit organization or other qualifying organizations. Your state may also offer some repayment assistance in which they repay part of your loan, but you need to work in an area in which the state needs assistance.
Refinancing replaces multiple student loans with a single private loan at a lower interest rate. You can choose a new loan term that’s shorter than the one you originally received. That may increase your monthly payment, but it will help you pay the debt faster and save money on interest. You’ll also have just one bill to pay, rather than multiple.
Next, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report, which outlines your expected family contribution. The form will automatically be forwarded to the schools listed on your application. The financial aid offices of those institutions will send you a financial aid award letter outlining the aid package they will offer. It’s your job to compare those offers and choose the school that best fits your future goals and family budget.
There is a narrow window (billing cycle of between 21-25 days) to avoid interest charges if balances are paid in full. Loans may be deferred until after graduation, or interest-only payment may be made during school. If you don't pay the interest, it will be added (capitalized) to your loan balance following the grace period, at the start of repayment.
For eligible Associates degrees in the healthcare field (see Eligibility & Eligible Loans section below), Lender will refinance up to $50,000 in loans for non-ParentPlus refinance loans. Note, parents who are refinancing loans taken out on behalf of a child who has obtained an associates degrees in an eligible healthcare field are not subject to the $50,000 loan maximum, refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for more information about refinancing ParentPlus loans.

6 Ascent Student Loans are funded by Richland State Bank (RSB), Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 11/01/2019 and include a 0.25% discount applied when a borrower in repayment elects automatic debit payments via their personal checking account. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details.
The APRs for variable rate loans, if listed, are only the current APRs and are likely to change over the term of the loan. Borrowers should be careful about comparing loans based on the APR, as the APR may be calculated under different assumptions, such as a different number of years in repayment. All else being equal, a longer repayment term will have a lower APR even though the borrower will pay more in interest.
There is a narrow window (billing cycle of between 21-25 days) to avoid interest charges if balances are paid in full. Loans may be deferred until after graduation, or interest-only payment may be made during school. If you don't pay the interest, it will be added (capitalized) to your loan balance following the grace period, at the start of repayment.
The most expensive college in the United States—Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville, New York—charges $44,220 a year for tuition. And that doesn’t include fees and room and board, which can cost an additional $14,000. Even more disturbing is that the annual cost of a college education has risen by 130 percent in the past 20 years, according to the College Board. As a result, Americans have racked up about $1 trillion in education debt from both federal and private student and parent loans.

Comparisons based on information obtained on lenders' websites or from customer service representatives and are based on student loans where students are the primary borrower as of October 2019. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Terms and Conditions. Aggregate loan limits apply.

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