The two primary student loan lenders are either federal or private. The U.S. Department of Education provides federal student loans, while private financial institutions give private student loans.
These two types have variations in interest rates, eligibility criteria, loan modification options, and forgiveness programs.
While Federal loans offer more flexibility in terms of repayment and provide protections for borrowers.
Private student loans can be helpful if you reach the maximum federal borrowing limit and have no other options to cover your total college expenses.
To make the best decision for your higher education, explore our guide to the best loan student lenders to find the most suitable lenders who can assist you in achieving your educational goals.
Federal loans have several kinds, and we will show you which has the best offer. Similarly, there are numerous private student loan lenders, and we will recommend the best.
Read Also: Which Student Loan Is The Best Overall?
Best Student Loan Lenders in 2023
When determining which student loan lenders are best, consider their interest rates, qualifying status, application process, and loan terms.
The Best Federal Student Loans
Federal student loans are always considered the best because of their flexibility and perks like loan forgiveness.
Federal student loans are divided into;
- Direct Subsidized Loan
- Direct Unsubsidized Loan
- Direct PLUS Loans
So which is best:
Direct Subsidized Loans
This loan is for eligible undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need. The critical feature of Direct Subsidized Loans is that the federal government pays the interest on the loan during specific periods.
The grace periods include while the student is enrolled at least half-time, for a specific period after leaving school, and during deferment periods. This interest subsidy helps reduce the overall cost of the loan for the borrower.
Direct Subsidized Loans offer a fixed, lower interest rate than other types of loans, making them a more affordable option for undergraduate students.
- Available to undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need.
- The government covers the interest during specific periods, reducing overall loan costs.
- It has a fixed lower interest rate (currently 2.75%).
- No credit check is required for eligibility.
- Borrower protections include deferment options and eligibility for repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs.
- Limited eligibility for undergraduate students only.
- Loan limits may not cover the full cost of attendance.
- The origination fee adds an extra cost.
- The grace period ends, and repayment begins after leaving school.
- The time limit of the loan may not cover longer academic programs.
The best federal student loan is the Direct subsidized loan. This is because the federal government covers the interest charges while you’re in college, relieving you of the burden of paying interest during your education.
Direct Unsubsidized Loans
Unlike Direct Subsidized Loans, the borrower must pay the interest that accrues during all periods, even during school and grace periods.
Unsubsidized loans have a fixed interest rate; no credit check is required for qualification.
However, borrowing limits are based on student status (undergrad or grad) and dependency.
- Available to both undergraduate and graduate students.
- No financial need requirement for eligibility.
- Its repayment flexibility during enrollment and grace periods.
- No credit check is required for qualification.
- The borrower is responsible for accruing interest during all periods.
- Its interest rate is very high for graduate students (4.3%).
- The borrowing limits are based on student status and dependency.
- It is not based on financial need, potentially excluding some students from subsidized benefits.
Direct PLUS Loans
Direct PLUS Loans are for professional or graduate students (Grad PLUS loans) or parents of dependent undergraduate students (Parent PLUS loans).
These loans are meant to cover educational expenses that may not be fully met by other financial aid and federal loans, such as Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans.
- It is available for graduate/professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students.
- It fills the financial gap when other resources and federal loans are insufficient.
- Borrowers with adverse credit history may still qualify with a co-signer or by meeting other criteria.
- Borrowers have a grace period without making payments.
- It has less favorable terms, including higher interest rates and an origination fee.
- Interest accrues during all periods.
- Parent PLUS borrowers need to start making payments immediately.
- Parent PLUS borrowers are not eligible for income-driven repayment plans or loan forgiveness programs.
Best Private Student Loan Lenders in 2023
Private student loans are best used when you need extra money for college after you’ve borrowed the most you can get from federal picks for student loans.
These loans come from credit unions, banks, and online lenders. Unlike federal student loans, you’ll need a good credit score to qualify for private loans; hence most students will need a co-signer.
Private loans are more expensive than federal loans and offer fewer repayment options.
Here are our top picks for the best lenders in 2023:
College Ave offers competitive APR rates starting at 4.42%. They provide comprehensive coverage for up to 100% of the cost of attendance, including tuition, fees, and other expenses.
One of the significant advantages of College Ave is the flexibility they offer in repayment options.
Borrowers can choose to start repaying immediately or after completing their degree, and they can tailor the repayment duration based on their budget.
Moreover, College Ave student loans stand out among other lenders with unique features, such as an eight-year repayment term and the more common 5, 10, and 15-year terms.
They also offer an extended six-month grace period beyond the initial payment-free six months after leaving school.
- Quick and easy interest rate estimate without affecting credit score.
- International students can qualify with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer
- It has a generous period (210 days) before unpaid loans go into default.
- Relatively high APR compared to lenders
Ascent is a top choice among student loan lenders, particularly for those seeking flexible repayment terms and for international students.
They offer co-signed and non-co-signed student loans, providing more funding options for borrowers without co-signers.
Borrowers can choose a graduated repayment plan, starting with lower monthly payments and increasing over time as their income rises.
Loan terms are from 5 to 15 years, and borrowers can obtain loans from $2,001 up to the total cost of attendance, with a maximum of $200,000 per academic year.
Eligibility for student borrowers with no credit history requires a creditworthy co-signer with a minimum income of $24,000 for the present and previous year.
- Offers several payment reduction and postponement options
- Graduated repayment plan for lower initial payments
- Flexible repayment options and accessibility for international students.
- Graduation reward of 1% of the loan’s original principal balance
- You can pause payments for up to 3 months at a time, for a total of up to 24 months, when facing financial hardship
- They charge late fees
- Maximum APR above 10%
SoFi is a prominent student loan lender offering a range of options for undergraduates, graduate students, law and business students, and parents.
While SoFi is well-known for student loan refinancing, it also provides undergraduate student loans with several beneficial features.
The loan terms available for SoFi undergraduate student loans are 5, 7, 10, and 15 years, providing repayment flexibility.
Borrowers can apply from $5,000 up to the total cost of attendance.
- They don’t charge late fees
- They provide interest rate estimates available without undergoing a hard credit check.
- Flexible loan terms, ranging from 5 to 15 years
- Regardless of your program, you can take up to 12 months of total forbearance.
- Unique unemployment protection program for job loss situations
- Access to job search help through SoFi’s career team.
- Co-signer release option after 24 payments
- Interest rate discount of 0.125% if their co-signer already uses another SoFi product
- Maximum APR above 10%
Earnest is a noteworthy student loan lender offering personalized private loan options for students.
With a minimum loan amount of $1,000, the APR for Earnest student loans ranges from 5.39% to 16.20% with an autopay discount, providing a competitive interest rate for eligible borrowers.
It is important to note that the autopay interest rate reduction is available only for loans enrolled in autopay, and specific private student loan repayment programs may not be combined with this interest rate reduction.
- Personalized private loan options for students
- Competitive APR rates with an autopay discount
- No early prepayment penalties
- Option to skip one payment per year
- APR rates may vary depending on individual circumstances
5. Sallie Mae
Sallie Mae is a top contender among the best student loan lenders. One of the key advantages of Sallie Mae’s undergraduate student loans is the convenience and efficiency of the application process.
Students can apply online in minutes and receive an instant credit result, making planning and managing their educational finances easier.
Moreover, the minimum credit score requirement in the mid-600s opens up eligibility to a wide range of students.
Sallie Mae offers competitive APR rates, with fixed rates ranging from 4.50% to 15.49%. Borrowers can benefit from an autopayment discount, starting at 4.50% APR.
Additionally, borrowers can borrow up to 100% of school-certified expenses, making it easier to cover the total cost of attendance.
- It has a convenient and quick online application process
- Wide eligibility with a mid-600 credit score requirement
- Competitive APR rates with autopayment discount
- Multiple repayment options, from in-school to deferred payments
- No origination fee or prepayment penalty
- borrowers can borrow up to 100% of school-certified expenses
- Variable APR rates may be higher and subject to fluctuations
How Are Private and Federal Student Loans Different From Each Other?
Federal student loans are from the government, while banks, credit unions, or online lenders give private loans.
Also, Federal loans have fixed interest rates set by Congress, while private loans can have fixed or variable rates based on your creditworthiness. Federal loans have origination fees, but private loans usually do not.
In addition, Federal loans offer extra protections like income-driven repayment and loan forgiveness, which private loans do not have.
How Do I Apply for a Private Student Loan?
Each lender has its application requirements. Generally, you’ll need documents to prove your citizenship, identity, income, and school information.
Also, you or a co-signer must show a credit score of 600 or higher and have enough cash flow to make loan payments.
How Can I Choose a Private College Loan Online?
To choose the best private student loans, you should;
- Compare offers from different lenders to find the lowest interest rate.
- Check if the lender offers fixed or variable interest rates.
- Look for borrower protections like deferment and forbearance and different repayment options.
- Consider the loan term, where you can pay off the loan faster or have lower payments over a longer time.
How Do I Qualify for a Private Student Loan?
Each lender has requirements, but credit score and income are important factors.
Students with higher credit scores and incomes may get better rates and higher borrowing amounts.
Undergraduates may also need a co-signer if they don’t have established credit or income.
Can I Get a Private Student Loan if I Don’t Have Good Credit?
It’s challenging to get a private student loan with bad credit. Federal loans are a better option as they don’t require good credit.
If you have bad credit, you may get a private loan with a co-signer who has good credit.
Do I Need a Co-signer for a Private Student Loan?
You’ll need a co-signer to get a private student loan if you have no income, credit, or bad credit.
The co-signer should have a steady income and good credit scores. However, some lenders may allow you to apply without a co-signer based on academic performance and earning potential.
Read Also: 5 Best Student Loans For 2023
Choosing the right student loan lender is a critical decision that can significantly impact your financial future.
Whether you opt for federal or private student loans, it is essential to consider your options and weigh the benefits and drawbacks carefully.
As you navigate securing a student loan, it is crucial to be well-informed and compare offers from different lenders.
Look for lenders with low-interest rates, borrower protections, and repayment options that align with your financial goals.