When your scholarships, grants, and federal student loans aren’t enough to cover the cost of college, it may be time to turn to a private lender.
Private student loans can help you bear the weight of tuition.
While private loans tend to be more expensive and less flexible than federal loans, they can be incredibly beneficial when you need more than your federal aid has to offer.
The key to finding the right student loan with the lowest rates and best terms is to shop around.
We’ve compiled a list of the top ten student loan companies to help get you started.
Our Top 10 Best Student Loan Companies
Here are our picks for the 10 best student loan providers:
1. College Ave
Best For: Flexible Payments
Private student loans tend to get a bad rap for their lack of flexibility when it comes to repayment, but College Ave is the exception.
College Ave prides itself on offering more accommodating repayment options than its competitors.
College Ave also stands out for being fee-free, as they don’t charge application fees or loan origination fees. They won’t penalize you for paying off your loan early, either.
The online-only lender offers loans to parents, graduate, and undergraduate students up to the full amount of the cost of attendance, and payments can be deferred until after graduation. You can also choose your term length for repayment and take advantage of interest-rate reduction if you enroll in automated payments.
College Ave’s cosigner release isn’t the quickest among the competition, but its other benefits make the company a worthwhile choice.
2. Sallie Mae
Best For: Cosigner Release
Sallie Mae is the most seasoned student lender on our list, with years of stellar service under its belt.
Known for its top-notch cosigner release, Sallie Mae offers a lot of the benefits you’re looking for, with no fees, competitive interest rates, interest-rate reduction, and unexpected perks like free credit monitoring.
They also allow you to opt to pay interest-only payments during school or defer your payments until after graduation.
Sallie Mae loans can even be applied to private school tuition, non-degree seeking programs, and study fees for bar exams.
Just keep in mind that you may not be able to choose the length of your term for repaying your student loan. All in all, Sallie Mae is a great choice for your student loans, especially for cosigners.
Best For: Roundup of Rates
Credible isn’t a student loan provider. You read that sentence correctly. Instead of acting as a lender like most of the companies on the list, Credible is a massive marketplace for student loans.
When you apply on Credible’s website, you’re really applying to all of its partners. That way, rather than going through the application process repeatedly, you can get rates from as many as eight lenders in one spot.
Credible’s partners include College Ave, Sallie Mae, Discover and other top lenders featured on our list.
Applying through Credible is quick and convenient, saving you the time and energy required to shop and apply for multiple student loans, putting all of your best options in front of you with just a few clicks.
Best For: Rewards for Good Grades
You probably recognize Discover for its credit card offers but may be surprised to learn that the company is also a leading student loan provider.
The credit card giant offers student loans with competitive fixed and variable interest rates. Discover loans are also fee-free, even if you make a late payment, which is rare in the student loan industry. They also offer interest-rate discounts if you enroll in autopay.
Unfortunately, Discover’s terms are less flexible, with only 15 and 20-year terms. They also lack a cosigner release policy, meaning your cosigners will be on the hook for the whole life of the loan.
Even with those drawbacks, Discover is a solid choice, especially if you have a high GPA. Borrowers with a 3.0 or higher get a one-time cash award equal to one percent of the loan amount.
Best For: Quick Online Application
SoFi has quickly become one of the largest companies for refinancing student loans. Unlike other companies on our list, Sofi doesn’t have any physical buildings. They are strictly online.
They make the whole process extremely simple. From the time you apply, it usually takes about 3 days until you’ll get funding. That’s much quicker than the industry standard.
Because they aren’t the traditional company with hundreds of branches, SoFi can offer lower rates without the fees piling on. As of 3/16/21, they have rates as low as 2.99% with plenty of repayment lengths and options.
One of the most common praises of SoFi (aside from the ease and speed) is the different options. They have refinancing plans to fix just about any customer out there.
Another feature which makes SoFi stand out is their Unemployment Protection. If you were to lose your job, as long as it wasn’t due to your actions, then you can apply for forbearance through SoFi.
This protection lets you apply every three months to suspend your student loan payments. You can do this every three months for 12 months. You’ll still occur the interest on the loan, but it gives you time to find a new job without having to worry about the loan.
Best For: Applicants with Strong Financial History
There are a lot of benefits to choosing Earnest as your refinance company. One of the most notable is its flexibility.
Unlike a lot of other loan companies, Earnest lets you customize the payment and loan term. You can pick anywhere between five years and 20. The other lenders out there have set plans you have to fit into.
They allow for refinancing amounts of anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000, which should fit just about anyone’s needs. They have fixed rates starting at 2.98%, as of 3/16/21, which is some of the lowest rates you’ll find on the market.
As far as fees go, you won’t find many. They don’t have any late fees, application fees, or prepayment penalty fees. Compared to other companies that nickel and dime you for every possible thing, it’s refreshing.
There is one hiccup for applicants refinancing through Earnest. They don’t allow co-signers. For some people, this could be the make or break for getting refinanced.
Earnest offsets this by looking at more than just credit history. They take a lot of factors into consideration when looking at an application.
Best For: Federal Loan Substitute
Commonbond is unique from other student loan providers on multiple levels, starting with fees. Commonbond does not charge an application fee or an early payment penalty, but it isn’t completely free of fees.
Unlike its competitors, Commonbond loans come with an origination fee of 2% of the loan amount, which is similar to that of a federal student loan.
But Commonbond also mirrors federal loans in a way that benefits you, with the most flexible repayment options on the market.
Commonbond offers four options for repayment: deferment, $25 payments or interest-only payments while enrolled, or full payments. With each of these options comes a six-month grace period, which many student loan providers don’t offer.
The online-only lender offers loans up to 100% of attendance, 5-15-year terms, fixed and variable interest rates, and cosigner release after two years of faithful payments.
Best For: Streamlined Application
Similar to Credible, LendEDU is a marketplace for student loans. The site also offers refinancing loans, personal loans, credit card offers, and more.
After a quick soft credit check (which won’t hurt your credit score), LendEDU matches you with the best loans you’re eligible for. From there you can easily apply with the lenders of your choice.
Rather than going through the hassle of multiple applications for loans you may not even be eligible for, you can let LendEDU weed through the eligibility requirements for you.
LendEDU is also a great resource to take advantage of as you navigate through the world of financial aid, reviewing lenders, and providing you with informational courses and guides.
Best For: Community Loans
LendKey takes a different approach to student loans than all the other companies featured on the list.
Neither a marketplace nor a loan provider, LendKey is a student loan servicer, one that partners with banks and local credit unions to provide low-interest loans.
Instead of working with the bank that is funding your loan, you communicate with and make payments to LendKey. LendKey’s structure allows it to offer unusually low interest rates in addition to no origination or early payment fees.
LendKey loans are only offered to students, rather than parents, though, and their repayment options are more restrictive than some.
But if the thought of partnering with a community credit union and locking in excellent rates appeals to you, you won’t go wrong with LendKey.
Best For: Low Rates with No Fees
PNC is another major financial institution with appealing student loan offers. The national bank provides students with loans for undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies, as well as refinancing.
Like its competitors, PNC’s loans come without fees and offer competitive interest rates. They also offer a cosigner release after 48 months of timely payments.
Rather than offering loans up to the full amount of tuition, PNC caps its loans at $50,000 for undergraduate students and $65,000 for graduate students.
Much like federal student loans, PNC loans come with flexible repayment options such as a 6-month grace period after graduation, deferment while deployed in the military, and 2-month forbearances.
PNC also offers a .5% discount on interest for borrowers enrolled in auto-pay, adding to its long list of benefits.
Best Student Loan Companies Honorable Mentions
Best For: Rates Without Cosigners
Less commonly known than some of its competitors, Ascent is another viable option for private student loans.
The company offers several options for undergraduate and graduate loans, with both variable and fixed-rate options and terms ranging between 5 and 15 years.
Ascent’s student loans also come with no origination fee, application fee, or fine for early repayment.
Ascent stands out for offering borrowers competitive rates without a cosigner, making it an ideal option for upperclassmen and graduate students with good credit scores.
However, if you do need a cosigner to lock in great rates, Ascent does offer a cosigner release.
Like Discover, Ascent also offers its customers a reward, giving qualifying students 1% cashback when they graduate.
Best For: Resources
Rounding out the list is another valuable marketplace: PrivateStudentLoans.com.
The site, powered by Edvisors.com, partners with reputable lenders like Sallie Mae, Commonbond, Discover, and College Ave.
A quick search of your college or university shows you what lenders are available to you and shows you key features of the loan, like the expected interest rate and any perks that come with it. From there, you can submit a quick application with the lenders on your list.
PrivateStudentLoans.com also has a helpful student loan calculator to give you an idea of what you’ll owe on various federal and private loans, along with other resources to walk you through the ins and outs of student loans.
What Student Loan Company Is Best For You?
Not all lenders are created equal, so you need to do your homework before picking a private student loan.
With the ten student loan companies above, you can bet you’ll find a loan to meet your needs.
Whether you’re looking for flexibility, low interest, or low monthly payments, there’s a lender out there for you.
Work on your credit (or line up a cosigner) and start shopping for rates today so you can finance your education tomorrow.