The 10 Best Private Student
Loan Providers of 2021

Private student loans are a viable alternative for students who have exhausted their options for federal student loans. While nearly 45 million students in the US use loans, it’s essential to weigh all your options before taking on debt.

This guide examines the difference between federal and private loans and reviews the best private student loan providers of 2021.

What Is the Difference Between Private and Federal Student Loans?

Whereas the government offers federal student loans, private lenders offer private student loans. Federal and private student loans have different interest rates, requirements, and conditions.

Federal student loans charge less interest than private loans, but the loan amount is often less. Students applying for a federal loan don’t need a credit history, and the funds are often subsidized, meaning that the government will pay the interest.

For private lenders, on the other hand, the lender will do a credit check, and you can expect significantly higher interest rates. If you have a great credit score, you can apply for a lower interest rate.

At a Glance: Top 10 Private Student Loan Providers of 2021

Lender Max. Loan Amount Min. Credit Score
Ascent $200,000 550
Citizens Bank $350,000 (depending on your degree) 680
College Ave $350,000 (depending on your degree) 630
CommonBond $500,000 660
Discover Bank $150,000 630
Earnest $500,000 650
Education Loan Finance None 680
EDvestinU $200,000 750
Laurel Road None 660
Sallie Mae None 720

How Do I Apply for a Private Student Loan?

To apply for a private student loan, you should enroll in an accredited school, determine how much you want to borrow, and choose a loan provider. You must meet the loan provider’s financial, academic, age, and country requirements.

Some private student loan providers require that you have someone with good credit cosign your loan application. This request is to reduce your risk as a borrower.

Top 10 Private Student
Loans of 2021

Top Private Student Loans

Whether you’re attending one of the top five online colleges or somewhere slightly less prestigious, the following private student loan providers can help you.

You should be able to find a loan with the right interest rate, repayment terms, acceptability requirements, and discount options to accommodate your situation.

Ascent

Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Medical, Business, Law, Dental
Variable APR: 2-13%
Fixed APR: 3-14%
Available Term Lengths: 5-15 years

Your application for an Ascent student loan will receive an answer within three to five working days. For financial hardship, you can apply for temporary forbearance or deferral, for a maximum of three months.

The interest rates for undergraduate degrees at a fixed interest rate are between three and 14 percent. At a variable rate, the interest is two to 13 percent. For graduate degrees at a variable rate, you can expect to pay between four to 12 percent in interest. At a fixed rate, your interest should be around five to 14 percent.

Ascent Loan Eligibility

Ascent Cosigned Credit-Based Loan. You must apply with a creditworthy cosigner, and attend a qualifying school with at least 50 percent of a full course load.

Ascent Non-Cosigned Credit-Based Loan. You must attend a qualifying school full-time and achieve a grade point average of at least 2.90. You must also be a US citizen or permanent resident.

Ascent Pros

Ascent accommodates students without cosigners, and the interest rates are highly competitive. There’s a lot of flexibility in terms of loan options and repayment plans.

At 550, the minimum credit score requirement for borrowers and cosigners is also relatively low compared to other lenders. Students are also eligible for a one-percent cash-back reward and have a chance to win a $60,000 scholarship.

Ascent Cons

Non-US citizens aren’t eligible for these student loans. Only full-time students can apply for the non-cosigned credit-based loan.

Students without cosigners can expect stricter repayment options. Fixed interest rates are unavailable for 15-year loans.

Citizens Bank

Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Parent Loans, Refinancing
Variable APR: 2-11%
Fixed APR: 4-11%
Available Term Lengths: 5-20 years

The interest rates for private student loans at Citizens Bank range between two and 11 percent at a variable interest rate. At a fixed interest rate, these figures change to four and 11 percent.

Sometimes, Citizens Bank can approve your application immediately. Otherwise, it will take three to five working days. For financial hardship, students can apply to have their fees deferred until six months after graduation.

Citizens Bank Loan Eligibility

Undergraduate and Graduate Student Loans. You must be a US citizen or apply with a creditworthy cosigner who is a US citizen or permanent resident. You must also be enrolled in a half-time program at an eligible school, have a good credit score, and have no prior student loans.

Parent Loan Refinancing. You must be a US citizen or a permanent resident, have at least $10,000 in student loans to refinance and be the primary borrower or cosigner of the loan.

Student Loan Refinancing. You must be a US citizen or permanent resident with $10,000 in student loans. If you have an associate degree or no degree, you must make 12 qualifying payments after leaving school.

Citizens Bank Pros

After your freshman year, you can apply for funding for the subsequent years of your studies. Annually, before releasing the funds, Citizens Bank will do a credit check to ensure you still meet its criteria.

After settling your monthly payment for 36 consecutive months, you can apply to release your cosigner of their obligations. If you’re a customer of Citizens Bank, you receive a 0.25 percent discount.

Citizens Bank also accommodates international students. Its Bar Exam loans for law students and residency loans for medical students are also more affordable than many personal loans.

Citizens Bank Cons

Citizens Bank has no option to see if you’re pre-qualified for a loan. It also has outdated systems compared to newer providers of student loans.

College Ave

Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Parent Loans, Dental, Law, Medical, MBA, Refinancing
Variable APR: 1-12%
Fixed APR: 3-13%
Available Term Lengths: 5-15 years

The entire application process is online, and College Ave takes ten working days to respond and transfer the funds. College Ave also has multiple forbearance and loan deferment solutions available.

The forbearance and deferment solutions are valid for terms of three or six months at a time and can be renewed up to a total period of 12 months. Once your forbearance or deferment period hits 12 months, you can’t apply for it again.

For undergraduate degrees, the fixed interest rates vary between three and 13 percent, whereas the variable interest rate ranges between one and 11 percent. However, graduate students pay fixed interest rates of four to 11 percent and variable interest rates of two to 10 percent.

College Ave Loan Eligibility

Undergraduate and Postgraduate Student Loans. You must be a US citizen to apply without a cosigner. Permanent residents may apply if they have a cosigner. You must also be attending a qualifying school and be at least a half-time student.

Student Loan Refinancing. You must be a US citizen or a permanent resident who has graduated from a Title IV program.

College Ave Pros

College Ave has a flexible repayment policy for both you and the person who cosigns your loan. After passing the halfway mark of your repayment period, you can apply to release your cosigner.

Other pros include a six-month grace period, the option to apply without a hard credit check, and transparency. You can easily find information about College Ave loans and scholarships.

College Ave Cons

Compared to other lenders, College Ave’s forbearance and deferment periods are short.

CommonBond

Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, MBA, Medical, Dental, Refinancing
Variable APR: 1-12%
Fixed APR: 4-9%
Available Term Lengths: 5-15 years

The interest rates for undergraduate and graduate degrees are the same. Students can expect a rate from one to 12 percent for variable interest loans and from four to nine percent for fixed interest loans.

You can complete the application online and expect a response within five working days. CommonBond offers students the option of forbearance for up to 24 months.

CommonBond Loan Eligibility

Private Student Loans for Undergraduates and Graduates. You should have an income of more than $35,000 annually or apply with a co-signer. Your course load must be at least half-time at an accredited school. International students can apply but they must have a cosigner who is a US citizen or permanent resident.

Student Loan Refinancing. You must be a US citizen or permanent resident who has graduated from a qualifying program.

CommonBond Pros

CommonBond has a very generous forbearance program. It offers students financial aid for financial distress, natural disasters, and COVID relief.

You can check if you qualify for CommonBond’s private student loans without doing a hard credit check. Students have access to free loan mentoring too.

CommonBond Cons

CommonBond requires a cosigner on most of its private student loans and the monthly payments can get very high.

Discover Bank

Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, MBA, Parent Loans, Health, Law, Bar, Residency Consolidation
Variable APR: 1-12%
Fixed APR: 4-13%
Available Term Lengths: 15 or 20 years

For graduate loans, the variable interest rate varies between two and 11 percent. The fixed interest rates are between four to 12 percent. For undergraduate loans, the rate varies between one and 12 percent for variable interest and four and 13 percent for fixed interest.

It takes about 15 minutes to get a private student loan at Discover. However, it can take up to five weeks to receive the payment. Discover offers students multiple repayment options, including forbearance, reduced payment, extended payment, and hardship support.

The forbearance options are for a maximum of 12 months. The hardship solutions temporarily reduce your interest rate for six months.

Discover Bank Loan Eligibility

Undergraduate and Graduate Loans. You must be enrolled half-time in a bachelor’s degree or associate degree program at an accredited school. US citizens and residents can apply without a cosigner, but international students must have one. Students also need to pass the credit check.

Residency Loan. Students should either have already graduated from medical school within the last 12 months or be completing their final term in a graduate program for health professionals. This loan is available for US citizens, residents, and international students. Non-US students must have a cosigner.

Bar Exam Loan. Either you must have graduated from law school within the last six months, or you must be completing your last year in a graduate law program. US citizens and residents can apply. International students with creditworthy cosigners can apply too.

Parent Loan. You must be a US citizen or permanent resident, and you’ll have to pass the credit check. The student needs to be enrolled half-time in an accredited associate or bachelor’s degree program.

Consolidation Loan. Only US citizens or permanent residents can apply for this loan and must have a US-based address. You should also have a reliable income with a positive repayment history and only $150,000 in student loan debt.

Discover Bank Pros

There are countless repayment options available, making it easier to settle the $1.7 trillion in student debt American students owe. Discover gives its borrowers cash-back rewards for excellent grades too.

The application process is quick. Discover also offers grace periods for either six or nine months.

Discover Bank Cons

Unfortunately, Discover doesn’t offer a cosigner release.

Students can’t pre-qualify for private student loans either, and you can only choose one repayment term. For undergraduates, the term is 15 years, and for graduates, it’s 20 years.

Earnest

Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Business, Law, Medical, Refinancing
Variable APR: 2-6%
Fixed APR: 3-6%
Available Term Lengths: 5 to 20 years

The variable and fixed interest rates for all Earnest private student loans are in the same ballpark. The variable interest rates start at one percent, and the fixed interest rates start at three percent.

After applying for a student loan, Earnest takes about five working days to respond. Earnest offers forbearance solutions too, for a maximum of 12 months.

Earnest Loan Eligibility

Student Loan Refinancing. You must be a US citizen or a permanent resident, and either be enrolled for less than half-time or in the final semester of your program. You must be employed and the current borrower. You’re required to refinance at least $5,000, or $10,000 if you’re in California. Your debt must be from a Title IV accredited school in the US, and it must be from your education.

Parent PLUS Refinancing. Same as above.

Cosigned Student Loan. The consigner and student must live in the United States but cannot live in Nevada. College freshmen, sophomores, and juniors should be enrolled full-time. Seniors and graduates must be enrolled half-time. Your cosigner must have three years of credit history, a minimum salary of $35,000, and no bankruptcies.

Independent Undergraduate Student Loan. Same as above, except you don’t need a cosigner.

Independent Graduate Student Loan. Same as above.

Earnest Pros

Earnest gives students an option to skip one payment every 12 months. You can customize your monthly repayment and loan terms too.

Without committing to a hard credit check, you can check if you qualify for a private student loan. Unlike most private student loan lenders, Earnest considers non-traditional factors when reviewing a student’s loan application.

Earnest Cons

If you’re not a US citizen, Earnest won’t lend to you. There is neither a cosigner release solution nor in-person help available.

Education Loan Finance (ELFI)

Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Refinancing, Law, MBA, Health Care
Variable APR: From 1%
Fixed APR: From 4%
Available Term Lengths: 5-15 years

The variable interest rates start from one percent, and fixed interest rates start from four percent. You can complete the application online, and ELFI will assign a personal loan advisor to you straight away.

To aid students with financial restrictions, EFLI has a deferred repayment option.

Education Loan Finance Eligibility

Independent Student Loan. You have to be a US citizen or permanent resident, and you must be enrolled at least half-time in a qualified bachelor’s program. You should have an adequate credit score, 36 months of credit history, and a minimum annual income of $35,000.

Cosigned Student Loan. Same as above, except your cosigner must be the one to meet the eligibility requirements for residency status and credit history.

Student Loan Refinancing. You must meet the same nationality, income, and financial requirements as for the Independent Student Loan. The only difference is that you need to have a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved secondary school.

Parent Loan. The student must be enrolled at least half-time in a bachelor’s program or higher. The borrower and cosigner must both be US citizens or residents.

Education Loan Finance Pros

The convenience and expert help of a personal financial advisor is a great bonus for students. Students can also pre-qualify for their ideal loan, and the repayment options are very flexible.

The interest rates from ELFI are lower than many of its competitors. ELFI also doesn’t have a maximum loan cap, making it possible to cover all your tuition fees.

Education Loan Finance Cons

ELFI doesn’t have a cosigner release option. The minimum loan amounts are quite high at $10,000 for private student loans and $15,000 for parent loans.

You can’t use ELFI for refinancing if you haven’t graduated from college.

EDvestinU

Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Refinancing
Variable APR: 2-4%
Fixed APR: 4-6%
Available Term Lengths: 5-20 years

You can apply online and expect a response from EDvestinU within seven to 10 business days. Students in financial distress can apply for economic hardship, forbearance, or deferment.

For graduate and undergraduate loans, the variable and fixed interest rates are similar. Students can expect fixed interest rates of four to eight percent, and variable interest rates of two to seven percent.

EDvestinU Loan Eligibility

Independent Student Loan. You should have a minimum salary of $30,000 and have a positive credit score. International students, US citizens, and permanent residents enrolled in a Title IV or non-profit school can apply. You must be enrolled at least half-time in your degree program.

Cosigned Student Loan. You must meet the same academic and nationality requirements as for an Independent Student Loan. Your cosigner must meet the same financial requirements.

Refinancing Student Loan. Besides using your student loans at a Title IV school, you need to be a US citizen or permanent resident.

EDvestinU Loan Finance Pros

Students don’t need a degree to refinance loans at EDvestinU. You can check if you qualify for a loan without a hard credit check.

EDvestinU offers students with financial distress various repayment options, and the interest rates are remarkably low. You can also release your cosigner after 36 months.

EDvestinU Loan Finance Cons

EDvestinU handles the forbearance and deferment options case by case, and its maximum loan amount is lower than most lenders.

Laurel Road

Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, Refinancing
Variable APR: 2-7%
Fixed APR: 3-8%
Available Term Lengths: 5-20 years

For undergraduate loans, the variable interest ranges between two and six percent. The fixed interest is between three and six percent. However, for graduate loans, the variable interest is between four and seven percent. The fixed interest rates are between four and eight percent.

Students can complete the application online, and Laurel Road should respond within seven business days. Laurel Road has a significant number of repayment options available, from full deferment to interest-only payments.

Laurel Road Loan Eligibility

Independent Postgraduate and Graduate Loans. You should be a US citizen or permanent resident, enrolled half-time at an accredited school, and have a good credit rating.

Cosigned Student Loan. Same academic and nationality requirements as above. Your cosigner must prove they can support your studies and have a good credit report.

Refinancing Student Loan. You must be a US citizen or permanent resident with a four-year degree from a Title IV school.

Refinancing Parent Loan. The student must have attended a Title IV school. You also need to have a good credit record and a reliable income.

Laurel Road Loan Finance Pros

You don’t have to do a hard credit check to see if you qualify. The refinancing loans also accommodate medical and dental residents.

There are countless repayment options available. Laurel Road doesn’t have a maximum cap on its student loans, so it can cover 100 percent of your educational costs.

Laurel Road Loan Finance Cons

Not all programs and schools qualify for a loan from Laurel Road. You also can’t postpone your payment if you return to school.

Sallie Mae

Loan Types: Undergraduate, Graduate, MBA, Medical, Dental, Law, Health, Bar, Medical Residency, Parent Loans, K-12 Loans
Variable APR: 1-11%
Fixed APR: 4-13%
Available Term Lengths: 5-15 years

Sallie Mae can approve your online application within 15 minutes if they have all the required information. For students experiencing financial hardship, Sallie Mae offers forbearance for up to 12 months.

The variable interest rates for undergraduate loans are one to 11 percent. For fixed interest rates, it’s four to 13 percent. However, for graduate loans, the variable interest rates are two to 12 percent. For fixed interest rates, it’s five to 12 percent.

Sallie Mae Loan Eligibility

Independent Postgraduate and Graduate Loans. You must be a US citizen or a permanent resident, attend an accredited school, and have a stable income with a positive credit report.

Cosigned Student Loan. Same nationality and academic requirements as above. However, your co-signer must meet the nationality and financial requirements.

Parent Loans. The student must enroll in a qualifying school and must either be a US citizen or resident. Borrowers and cosigners must also be US citizens or residents and have a reliable income and good credit.

Sallie Mae Pros

Students have access to online tutoring and credit score tracking. Sallie Mae accepts part-time learners, and you can apply for a loan whether you’re in a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctoral program.

Students can also release their cosigners after just 12 months.

Sallie Mae Cons

No pre-qualification is available. There are also many fees and penalties, such as late fees and returned payment fees.

How to Choose the Right Private Student Loan Online

When choosing a private student loan lender, you need to consider and compare various factors. These factors include the maximum loan amount, the minimum credit score, the nationality requirements, the cosigner requirements, and other eligibility factors.

If you meet the eligibility requirements, be sure to read all the terms and conditions before applying. Doing this will ensure you’re aware of any fees, requirements, borrower protections, and penalties beforehand.

Ask your potential student loan provider as many questions as possible to make an informed decision.

Should I Get A Private Student Loan?

The best time to get a private student loan is when you’ve already maxed out on your subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans.

This is because federal loans are cheaper, and the eligibility requirements aren’t as strict as private student loans. Private student loans also have limited financial relief options, lack repayment flexibility, and have shorter forbearance and deferment periods.

However, there are several advantages to private student loans. These advantages include higher loan amounts, better interest rates with a cosigner, a greater diversity of student loan types, and a faster application process. Private student loans are also friendly to international students and to those who need to refinance previous educational costs.

Although the best private student loans for bad credit are hard to find, research goes a long way toward sussing out good deals with flexible terms. If you find a private student loan that looks good on paper, just make sure you fully understand the agreement and have a repayment plan.

Every student should be able to afford higher education, and private student loans help make that ideal a reality.

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