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The best in student loans for 2022

The Bankrate Awards

The best student loan lenders of 2022

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You deserve the best student loan lender

Bankrate Awards - Student Loans video

Bankrate's Hanneh Bareham highlights the Best Student Loan Lenders of 2022

A college education is one of the most valuable investments you can make in your (or your child's) future, but it's also one of the most expensive. If you need to borrow money for school, it's critical to find a lender that will be affordable and easy to work with for the decade or more it may take to repay your loans. With every lender offering different loan types, repayment options, rates and fees, knowing where to start is half the battle.
 
Our team of student loan experts took the guesswork out of comparing lenders and chose the best options as Bankrate Award winners. We curated a list of the top student loan lenders using a scoring system that focuses on the things that matter most, like competitive rates, few fees and flexible repayment options. The winners make paying for college a little less stressful, whether you're getting your bachelor's degree, going to law school or attending a technical boot camp.
 
Here are the winners for the 2022 Bankrate Awards for Best Student Loans.
How we picked these lenders
  • Bankrate scored 17 student loan lenders in three categories: repayment options, affordability and customer experience.
  • Lenders were evaluated based on their APR ranges, number of repayment terms, grace period lengths and customer service options.
  • For the categories below, we selected winners that scored highly across the board and also featured unique perks for each type of borrower.

Best for refinancing

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Earnest

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Highlights Low minimum APRs Ability to skip a payment Unique eligibility requirements

Earnest uses a unique underwriting process when it comes to its refinance loans: Instead of relying only on creditworthiness for approval, it also looks at factors like your savings, education and earning potential. If cash is tight, you can also choose to skip one payment every 12 months and make it up at the end of your repayment period.

  • 36 months of deferment for borrowers who return to school
  • Term options from five to 20 years
  • Offers the choice of monthly or biweekly payments
The best refinancing lender was selected based on the lowest APRs and the greatest selection of term lengths. Bankrate also considered other repayment flexibilities, such as deferment and forbearance options.

Best private lender

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SoFi

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Highlights Zero fees Exclusive member benefits Multiple rate discounts

SoFi's low rates and wide selection of repayment options make it a good choice for many students, from undergraduates to law students. Its member benefits are a standout feature, with perks like a $400 discount on ACT and SAT prep courses, resume-building tools, career coaching and an unemployment protection program. Plus, SoFi offers a mobile app, which is rare for lenders.

  • Low minimum APRs
  • Access to unique educational tools and resources
  • Covers up to the full cost of attendance
The best private lender had to score highly across the Bankrate scoring criteria, which included evaluations of lenders' repayment options, affordability and customer service. Bankrate also evaluated APR ranges to find lenders with the lowest interest rates.

Best for parents

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College Ave

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Highlights Flexible repayment terms Exceptionally low rates Covers full cost of education

College Ave's parent loans are ideal for parents looking for more flexibility with their loan funds. Parents can choose to have $2,500 of their loan sent directly to their bank account instead of to the school to assist with collegiate costs like books and supplies. Plus, parents can choose between three payment options while their child is in school: interest-only payments, interest payments plus a set amount or full principal and interest payments.

  • 11 loan term options
  • Variable rates starting at just over 1 percent
  • $2,500 disbursed directly to the borrower
The winner for the best parent loans had to score highly in Bankrate's metrics for repayment options, affordability and customer service, as well as offer low APRs. Bankrate also evaluated lenders' repayment options for parents.

Best for undergraduate students

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Discover

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Highlights No fees Multiyear approval Three in-school repayment options

Discover offers undergraduates unique rewards, such as a cash reward for earning good grades. Students can also take advantage of Discover's multiyear loan option, which lets you remain prequalified for future loans while pursuing your degree, saving you paperwork when it comes time to request more funding.

  • Loan amounts from $1,000 to full cost of attendance
  • Ability to prequalify for multiple years of funding
  • Unique rewards program
The winner for the best student loan for undergraduates had to score well across the Bankrate scoring criteria: repayment options, affordability and customer experience. To select a winner, Bankrate also evaluated APR ranges and unique eligibility requirements for undergraduates, such as the ability to apply without a co-signer or receive funding for multiple years.

Best for graduate students

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Ascent

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Highlights Graduation rewards Generous forbearance Progressive repayment option

Ascent offers graduate school loans for business school, medical school, dental school, law school, Ph.D. programs and more. Graduate students can benefit from extended in-school deferment periods — up to 48 months for some degrees — and long grace periods. Ascent offers up to 24 months of forbearance during the life of the loan, and borrowers may request a progressive repayment option that starts monthly payments low and gradually increases them over time.

  • Repayment terms of up to 20 years for some degrees
  • Grace period of nine to 36 months
  • $200,000 aggregate borrowing limit
The best lender for graduate students was assessed based on the lowest APR range and the highest borrowing limits. Bankrate also considered repayment options and grace periods for graduate students.

Best for boot camps/vocational programs

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Sallie Mae

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Highlights Autopay discount High maximum loan amount Covers many programs

Borrowers in need of funding for unique certification or trade programs will likely have better luck with Sallie Mae than with other lenders — it covers things like culinary school, technical certificate courses and professional training. Borrowers can benefit from low rates and up to 100 percent coverage for tuition, meals, travel, supplies and more. 

  • Grace period of six months after leaving school
  • Competitive rates
  • Loan amounts from $1,000 to full cost of attendance
For the best loans for boot camps and vocational programs, Bankrate evaluated lenders based on low rate ranges and long grace periods. In the event of a tie, lenders were selected based on their overall score in Bankrate's scoring criteria, which includes repayment options, affordability and customer experience.
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