Say, for example, you have a couple with a combined college debt of $50,000. Annually, they are making $100,000 combined in salaries. By establishing a budget with a goal of 3-years completion, they can make the necessary adjustments in their day-to-day spending to meet that goal. This budgeting might even reveal more money they can put toward diminishing the principal balance.
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.

With our Standard Repayment Plan, the plan you’ll enter if you don’t take any action, you’ll have your loans paid off in 10 years. If you can’t afford that amount or if you need or want lower payments because you haven’t found a job, aren’t making much money, or want to free up room in your budget for other expenses and goals, you should apply for an income-driven repayment plan. Your monthly payments will likely be lower than they would on the standard plan—in fact they could be as low as $0 per month—but you’ll likely be paying more and for a longer period of time. If you choose an income-driven plan, you must provide documentation of your income to your loan servicer each year (even if your income hasn’t changed) so that your payment can be recalculated. To compare the different repayment options based on your loan debt, family size, and income, use our repayment calculator.


You may have already realized that automatic online loan payments make your life easier. What you may not know is that all government and some private lenders charge a slightly lower interest rate (usually 0.25 percent less) if you make your monthly remittance this way. Over 25 years of payments, you’ll reduce your repayment period by at least a year, says Reyna Gobel, the author of Graduation Debt ($15, amazon.com). Best of all, you can sign up now, even if you’ve been repaying your loans for years.
Each federal student loan borrower is assigned to a loan servicer (some borrowers may have more than one servicer, depending on the types of loans you have). Your loan servicer is a company that collects your student loan payments and provides customer service on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. This is a FREE service. There are many companies out there who offer to help you with your student loans for a fee. Do not trust these companies. Remember: You never have to pay for help with your student loans. If you need advice, assistance, or help applying for one of our repayment programs, contact your loan servicer. They can help you for free. Just remember to keep your contact information up to date so they can reach you when they need to.
LendKey funds loans through partnerships with community credit unions and banks, but all loans remain serviced by LendKey so the bank or credit union behind the scenes is invisible to borrowers. LendKey doesn’t offer parent loans, it offers loans to students only. It also offers less flexibility for repayment while in school. But, there are no origination or prepayment fees and interest rates are quite competitive.

Not sure where to begin your search? Here’s our list, in no particular order, of some of the best private student loans offered by the top lenders. To compile it, we looked for established lenders offering competitive rates and additional benefits which are detailed below. Of course, there are other great choices out there, but think of it as a jumping-off point as you start your research.


Variable interest rates are based on either the Prime Index or the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) Index and will change periodically if the index changes. Similarly, your monthly payment will increase or decrease as the interest rate changes. Variable interest rates tend to start lower than fixed interest rates, but may increase over the life of the loan.
Loan tip#9: Since the Department of Education sets virtually no student loan borrowing standards to vet would-be borrowers, and outstanding student debt is now reported to be 1.3 trillion dollars, many bad-actors in the business of education have been for years falling over themselves attempting to gain access to this seemingly endless taxpayer funded pot of gold. Isn’t it past time that the DoED became more seriously proactive in protecting the hoards of naive student borrowers on the front-end before they fall victim to many post secondary schools that spend more on marketing than insuring that retention and graduation rates along with educational standards do not perpetuate the moral hazard of not having to perform to be enriched. The quid pro quo for schools that derive 80-90% of their revenue from these loans should not be measured arbitrarily in ever changing arcane regulations but in the firm expectation that graduation rates of 3% or even 30% (over a six year allowable tabulation period) are clearly unacceptable. Without this firm line in the sand drawn, there is no impetus for these businesses to effect positive change. Good, bad or indifferent, they know they will get a payday. Until strictly quantifiable measures are undertaken, the department’s purported advocacy for for the underserved student will continue to be gamed by some ingenuous students and many avarice colleges alike.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.45% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.89% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of November 21, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Cosigner Release: If you are approved for a student loan with a cosigner, some lenders will allow you to release the cosigner from your loan (making them no longer responsible for repayment) after you make a certain number of on-time monthly payments. If this is something that is important for you, be sure to check if the lenders you are considering offer it and how long it takes.

Capitalized interest on student loans happens when your loan servicer adds unpaid interest to your total loan balance. This makes your balance increase and then accrue even more interest. To put it simply, you pay interest on your interest and it can cause you to owe more than the amount you originally borrowed. This happens when you defer or forbear your student loans.

If you’re more about saving as much money as possible, you might want to give the debt avalanche a shot. “With this method, you throw the largest payment you can at your highest-interest-rate debt every month, while paying the minimum payments on your other debts.” By focusing on interest rates rather than the balances, you save more money overall.
College/universities may charge a credit card processing fee (or convenience fee). This is in addition to the interest charges the credit card company imposes. Many lenders waive the origination fee. For certain borrowers, this may even make private student loans an attractive option over federal loan options (such as Parent PLUS and Grad PLUS programs).
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The Annual Percentage Rates (APR) shown reflect the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.14% effective August 25, 2019.
Overview: Discover stands out, partly for its repayment flexibility. Enrolled students can either defer or begin repaying their loan right away, while graduates might qualify to postpone payments if necessary. The lender is also a top choice for borrowers who don’t have a Social Security number but do have a permanent resident or citizen cosigner. Drawbacks could include Discover’s lone 15-year repayment term option for undergrads and its lack of a cosigner release policy.
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 it turns out that you do need to borrow to pay for college, rest assured you are not alone. According to the Sallie Mae “How America Saves for College 2019” study, more than half of families borrow to cover college costs. In the 2018-19 academic year, parent income and savings only paid $7,801 (on average) for college costs which in total averaged $26,226.
“Some borrowers may be better off targeting the highest-rate loan for quicker repayment,” said Kantrowitz. “You can’t do that after consolidating. If the interest rate on the refi will be higher than most of the interest rates on the refinanced loans, except for one or two, you may save money by accelerating repayment of the highest-rate loans instead of refinancing.”
The information provided on this page is updated as of 11/21/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
Some private student loan lenders may ask you to submit documents to verify some of this information. Once approved, all lenders require you to sign a promissory note that details every aspect of the loan you’re taking out. Once you’ve accepted the loan and signed all your documents, the lender will typically send the funds directly to your school. If you requested additional funds for school certified expenses, check with the financial aid office at your school to find out how they handle those funds.

“People are borrowing twice as much as they were a decade ago because grants and scholarships are not keeping up with the escalating costs of college,” says Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of FinAid.org and FastWeb.com, free online financial-aid resources. To wit: Graduates of the class of 2011 have an average of $27,200 in debt, up from about $17,600 in 2001.

“Some borrowers may be better off targeting the highest-rate loan for quicker repayment,” said Kantrowitz. “You can’t do that after consolidating. If the interest rate on the refi will be higher than most of the interest rates on the refinanced loans, except for one or two, you may save money by accelerating repayment of the highest-rate loans instead of refinancing.”
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.

CommonBond has no application or pre-payment fees, interest rates are competitive, and co-signed loans have no origination fee. (Its medical school, dental school, and MBA loans have a 2% origination fee.) Loans are available for undergrads, grad students, and parents. Interest rates for those loans range from 3.69 to 9.74% APR with 5 to 15 year payback periods. 
First, you’ll want to take a look at what repayment options lenders offer for students while they are in school, so you can find one that fits your budget. Making payments while you are in school can help you save on interest, but you should only sign up for a payment plan you can keep up with. As long as your lender doesn’t impose prepayment penalties, you can always make additional payments when you can afford it.

Besides the interest savings, automatic payments can be a good idea to make life easier. By setting up automatic payments, you don’t have to worry about late or missed payments when paying back student loans (which matters for your credit score). Plus, you can use automatic payments in conjunction with other strategies on this list, like making payments higher than the minimum.

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.


When it comes to paying for college, sometimes you need a little extra help. If you have already exhausted savings, scholarships, grants, and Federal student aid, private student loans are the next place to look to pay the bills. While private student loans tend to charge a bit more than Federal ones, when they go to use for a valuable degree, they can be very much worthwhile.
If you decide to take out a loan, make sure you understand who is making the loan and the terms and conditions of the loan. Student loans can come from the federal government, from private sources such as a bank or financial institution, or from other organizations. Loans made by the federal government, called federal student loans, usually have more benefits than loans from banks or other private sources. Learn more about the differences between federal and private student loans. 
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