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Best student loan rates in February 2024

Feb 14, 2024
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Bankrate's ranking of the best student loan lenders analyzes interest rates, terms and features to help you start your search. It's also a resource for how to decide which student loan is best for you and what to know before applying.

A student loan is a type of borrowed money designed to cover the costs of college such as tuition, fees, books, supplies and housing. There is currently more than $1.7 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the United States, held by 42 million borrowers. Even though it's a common form of debt, choosing the right loan for your needs is a big decision.

Students can choose federal or private student loans to help pay for school. It's usually best to start with federal student loans, which have an interest rate of 5.50 percent for undergraduate students for the 2023-24 school year. However, while private student loans have fewer borrower protections, they can fill in any funding gaps and typically have a wider range of repayment terms. Private student loan rates typically range anywhere from 4.5 percent to 17 percent.

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Filters
Fixed APR from

4.11- 15.44%

Loan amount

$1k- No Max

Fixed APR from

4.13- 15.46%

Loan amount

$2k- No Max

Fixed APR from

4.39- 14.66%

Loan amount

$1k- $100K

Fixed APR from

4.48- 13.29%

Loan amount

$1k- $350K

Fixed APR from

4.50- 15.49%

Loan amount

$1k- No Max

Fixed APR from

4.56- 8.34%

Loan amount

$1k- No Max

Fixed APR from

5.35- 7.95%

Loan amount

$2k- No Max

Fixed APR from

8.42- 13.01%

Loan amount

$1k- $100K

Lender conversion and compensation impacts how, where and in what order products appear in the above table

The Bankrate guide to choosing the best student loans

When shopping for a student loan, look for a competitive interest rate, flexible repayment terms that meet your needs, generous hardship options and minimal fees. Lender details presented here are current as of Dec. 7, 2023. Check the lenders’ websites for updates.

The top lenders listed below are selected based on factors such as APR, loan amounts, fees, credit requirements and broad availability. Our methodology section at the bottom of the page has more information. Below, you can also find information about when to choose federal or private loans, how to find a competitive interest rate and how to compare lenders to find the best deal for your circumstances. You can also prequalify with the private lenders recommended on this page.

What are current student loan interest rates?

Current interest rates on private student loans vary based on where the loan originates, the type of interest rate and the creditworthiness of the borrower. Federal student loans, aside from Perkins loans, disbursed after July 1, 2006 have fixed rates. The interest rates shown for these types of loans apply to those disbursed between July 1, 2023 and June 30, 2024.

LOAN TYPE FIXED APR
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (undergraduate borrowers) 5.50%
Direct Unsubsidized Loans (graduate and professional borrowers) 7.05%
Direct PLUS Loans (parents and graduate and professional borrowers) 8.05%

What are interest rates for federal student loans?

Federal student loan rates change each year. Your rate depends on when you took out your loan.

LOAN FIRST DISBURSED UNDERGRADUATE DIRECT SUBSIDIZED LOANS UNDERGRADUATE DIRECT UNSUBSIDIZED LOANS GRADUATE OR PROFESSIONAL DIRECT UNSUBSIDIZED LOANS DIRECT PLUS LOANS
July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024 5.50% 5.50% 7.05% 8.05%
July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023 4.99% 4.99% 6.54% 7.54%
July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022 3.73% 3.73% 5.28% 6.28%
July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021 2.75% 2.75% 4.30% 5.30%
July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020 4.53% 4.53% 6.08% 7.08%
July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019 5.05% 5.05% 6.60% 7.60%
July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018 4.45% 4.45% 6.00% 7.00%
July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017 3.76% 3.76% 5.31% 6.31%
July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016 4.29% 4.29% 5.84% 6.84%

Compare student loan interest rates in February 2024

LENDER BEST FOR VARIABLE APR FIXED APR LOAN TERM LOAN AMOUNT MIN. CREDIT SCORE
Ascent Loans without a co-signer 6.17%-16.11% (with autopay) 4.13%-15.46% (with autopay) 5-20 years $2,001-$400,000 Not specified
Citizens Bank Multiyear approval 6.38%-14.28% (with autopay) 4.48%-13.29% (with autopay) 5-15 years $1,000-$350,000 depending on program Not specified
College Ave Quick application process 5.59%-16.65% (with Autopay) 4.11%-15.44% (with Autopay) 5-15 years $1,000-100% total cost of attendance (maximum $150,000 for some degrees) Not specified
Earnest Flexible repayment terms 5.62%-16.20% (with autopay) 4.42%-15.90% (with autopay) 5-15 years $1,000-100% total cost of attendance 650
Sallie Mae Part-time students 6.37%-16.70% (with autopay) 4.50%-15.49% (with autopay) 10-15 years $1,000-100% total cost of attendance Not specified
SoFi Loans without fees 5.99%-14.70% (with autopay) 4.44%-14.70% (with autopay) 5-15 years $1,000-100% total cost of attendance 640

For more information on private student loan rates, check out our page on private student loans.

*The minimum amount is $2,001 except for the state of Massachusetts. Minimum loan amount for borrowers with a Massachusetts permanent address is $6,001.

Ascent: 2024 Bankrate Awards winner for best student loan for bootcamps and vocational programs

Min. credit score:
Not disclosed
Fixed APR From:
4.13% –15.46%
Loan amount:
$2,001– $400,000
Term lengths:
5 to 20 years
Min. annual income:
Not disclosed
Overview: Ascent offers undergraduate and graduate private student loans in all 50 states. Borrowers without a co-signer have their own loan option, which is a rarity in the private student loan space. If you don’t have a co-signer, you may be able to qualify for a loan based on your school, graduation date, major and cost of attendance. The lender also offers a longer-than-average period of forbearance, which is a hardship program that allows you to temporarily stop making payments.

Why Ascent is best for students without a co-signer: Ascent is one of the only lenders to give undergraduates the chance to qualify for a student loan based on future income rather than credit score, removing the need for a co-signer.

Best student loan for multiyear approval

Min. credit score:
640
Fixed APR From:
4.48% –13.29%
Loan amount:
$1,000– $350,000
Term lengths:
5 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
Not disclosed
Overview: Citizens Bank offers private student loans to undergraduate students, graduate students and parents. Citizens Bank will run a hard credit inquiry when you apply and will let you know if you qualify for the multiyear loan program. If approved, you can request funds in subsequent years without supplying additional income documentation or going through hard credit checks, so the process is faster. 

Why Citizens Bank is best for multiyear approval: Borrowers can get approved for multiple years of student loans without needing to go through a hard credit check every time, which is convenient if you know that you'll need funding every year.

Best student loan for quick application process

Min. credit score:
Not disclosed
Fixed APR From:
4.11% –15.44%
Loan amount:
$1,000– $300,000
Term lengths:
5 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
Not disclosed
Overview: College Ave is an online lender that offers private student loans to undergraduate students, graduate students, parents and students attending community college and career programs.

Why College Ave is best for a quick application process: College Ave has a simple online application that only takes a few minutes to complete, and borrowers can accept terms and e-sign documents immediately after approval.

Earnest: 2024 Bankrate Awards winner for best student loan for parents

Min. credit score:
650
Fixed APR From:
4.42% –14.30%
Loan amount:
$1,000– $500,000
Term lengths:
5 to 20 years
Min. annual income:
$35,000
Overview: Earnest is an online lender that funds private student loans to undergraduate and graduate students and offers unique repayment options. Earnest's grace period is nine months long, which is three months longer than what most lenders offer. Borrowers are also allowed to skip one payment every 12 months.

Why Earnest is best for flexible repayment terms: Borrowers can pick their loan term, which ranges between five and 20 years. Plus, once every 12 months, borrowers can choose to postpone a payment.

SoFi: 2024 Bankrate Awards winner for best student loan for borrowers with good credit

Min. credit score:
640
Fixed APR From:
4.99% –14.05%
Loan amount:
$1,000– $500,000
Term lengths:
5 to 20 years
Min. annual income:
Not disclosed
Overview: SoFi is an online lender that offers private student loans for undergraduate students, graduate students and parents. Among its perks, SoFi says that it doesn’t charge any fees, which cuts down on the overall cost of borrowing.

Why SoFi is best for no fees: It's standard for lenders to charge late fees or nonsufficient funds fees, but SoFi does away with even these fees. Of course, it's still not a good idea to miss payments, but SoFi's no-fee policy provides a nice buffer.

Types of student loans

Students have several options for student loans depending on their degree program:

  • Federal undergraduate loans: U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens can qualify for federal student loans, regardless of credit score or whether they have a co-signer. Undergraduates may have the option of Direct Unsubsidized Loans or Direct Subsidized Loans, the latter of which is offered only to students with financial need.

  • Federal graduate loans: Graduate students can qualify for federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans or Direct PLUS Loans. Unsubsidized loans are cheaper, but PLUS Loans have higher loan amounts.

  • Private undergraduate loans: Borrowers who have taken out the maximum in federal student loans may choose to look for private student loans. In many cases, these loans may also be the only viable option for international students looking to study in the U.S., since these students don't qualify for federal aid.

  • Private graduate loans: Many private lenders offer loans for graduate study, including loans tailored to students attending law school, business school, medical school and more.

  • Student loan refinancing: If you took out a student loan in the past but want to change your repayment term or interest rate, you may choose to refinance. Refinancing pays off your old loans in exchange for a new loan.

Federal vs. private student loans

Federal student loans are offered by the U.S. Department of Education, while private student loans are offered by banks, credit unions and private lenders. It's almost always best to start your search with federal student loans.

The biggest difference between federal and private loans is in the rates and eligibility requirements. Private lenders base your rates on your credit score, with a poor credit score leading to higher rates. Federal student loans, on the other hand, offer every borrower the same rate for each type of loan. The average interest rate on a private student loan can range from around 4 percent to 15 percent, while federal loans charge 4.99 percent, 6.54 percent or 7.54 percent, depending on the loan type.

Federal loans have borrowing limits, so borrowers will often turn to private lenders to finance their remaining academic costs. While private loans can often finance up to the total cost of attendance, they don't offer as many ways to customize your repayment plan. 

Most private student loans also don't offer many opportunities for loan forgiveness. Any federal student loan forgiveness options don't apply to private debt. 
FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PRIVATE STUDENT LOANS
Interest rates 5.50% to 8.05% for 2023-24 4.39% to 16.99% fixed, 4.98% to 16.99% variable
Fees 1.057% to 4.228% origination fee Varies by lender
Borrowing limits $31,000 total for dependent undergraduates, $57,500 total for independent undergraduates, 100% total cost of attendance for graduates 100% total cost of attendance with many lenders
Qualification requirements Must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen and be enrolled at least half time Varies by lender; often must have good credit and consistent income
Benefits Income-driven repayment plans, robust deferment and forbearance, no minimum credit score Low interest rates for good-credit borrowers, often zero fees, lender-specific perks
Drawbacks Potentially higher interest rates than private loans offer for borrowers with good credit, loan amount caps for undergraduate borrowers Credit check required, high rate caps, fewer borrower protections

Student loan interest information

The amount you borrow with a student loan is not the only amount you'll have to pay back. Interest charges can add significantly to the overall cost of your loan.

How student loan interest works

When you apply for a student loan, you'll be offered an interest rate. This interest rate is an extra percentage of your loan amount that you'll have to pay each month.

With federal loans, this rate is the same for all borrowers and is determined by the federal government each year. With private loans, this rate is determined by your credit score, income and more. The most affordable private student loans go to students in good financial health with high credit scores.

Learn more: How the Fed rate changes impact student loans

Prospective borrowers can usually choose between a fixed and a variable interest rate. Fixed interest rates remain the same over the life of the loan, while variable rates change based on market trends. Federal student loans are always fixed, while private student loans can be either fixed or variable.

Learn more: Fixed vs. variable student loan rates

How student loan interest is calculated

While browsing interest rates, you can calculate your student loan interest to estimate how much you will pay each month. Here's how to do it:

    1. Find your daily interest rate: Divide your annual interest rate by the number of days in a year (365).
    2. Determine your daily interest accrual charge: Multiply your daily interest rate by your principal balance.
    3. Calculate your monthly payment: Multiply your daily interest by the number of days in your billing cycle.

If you have $10,000 in student loans and a 6 percent interest rate, with a 30-day billing cycle, a little over $49 of your first month's payment would go toward interest.

You can also calculate how much interest you'll pay over the life of your student loan by using a student loan calculator.

Learn more: How to calculate student loan interest

Student loan news updates

Following the pandemic-related pause, federal student loans began accumulating interest again on Sept. 1, 2023 and payments resumed in October. 

Early in his presidency, Biden revealed a sweeping student loan forgiveness plan that would cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers under a certain income threshold. This original student loan forgiveness plan was rejected by the Supreme Court, but the Biden administration continues to pursue forgiveness options.

Currently, the Biden administration is working with the U.S. Department of Education on a plan that would provide the following

  • Up to $10,000 in relief to borrowers whose federal student loan debt balance has grown due to interest.
  • One-time loan forgiveness to undergraduate-only borrowers whose loans entered repayment 20 or more years ago and any other borrowers whose loans entered repayment 25 or more years ago. 
  • Benefits to borrowers who are eligible but have not signed up for forgiveness under various federal plans, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
  • Further relief to borrowers whose schools were shuttered or otherwise penalized by the department for leaving students with unaffordable debts or providing a subpar value.

Additionally, the administration has worked to reform and improve federal programs such as PSLF to provide overdue relief to borrowers, as well as forgive the loans of borrowers whose schools have shuttered. On Dec. 4, the Department of Education announced the cancellation of an additional $5 billion in federal student loan debt, bringing the total amount of debt canceled under the Biden administration to $132 billion.

How the Fed rate hikes impact student loans

In an attempt to cool inflation, the Federal Reserve raised rates 11 times from early 2022 to late 2023. Observers say a final hike is possible, though no longer inevitable. The federal funds target range is now 5.25-5.5 percent, which is the highest target in 22 years.

While the Fed decisions won’t impact federal student loans for the 2022-23 school year — those are already set in stone — they could impact new private student loans and refinancing. They also impact the rates on Federal student loans for the 2023-24 school year. 

The Fed rate has the biggest influence for borrowers with private student loans with a variable interest rate. If you have an existing loan, now might be the time to refinance into a fixed rate. If you’re taking out a new private student loan, it may be wise to choose a fixed rate from the start.

What to know about the FAFSA

The FAFSA is the only way to get federal student loans, which is why all eligible students should fill out the form if they anticipate needing to borrow money for college.
  • When does the FAFSA open? The FAFSA opens on Oct. 1 every year. For the 2023-24 school year, the FAFSA opened on Oct. 1, 2022.
  • When is the FAFSA due? The federal deadline for the FAFSA is June 30 for the award year you need funding. For the 2023-24 school year, the FAFSA is due on June 30, 2024. However, some states and colleges have earlier deadlines.
  • Who is eligible to apply for the FAFSA? U.S. citizens, eligible noncitizens and DACA recipients can fill out the FAFSA. However, only U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens can receive federal financial aid.
What happens if you make a mistake on your FAFSA? If you've experienced a serious financial event since submitting the FAFSA or your personal details have changed, you are able to update your FAFSA after the fact.

FAQ about student loans

Methodology

To find the best student loans, Bankrate first looked at lenders that have a national reputation and serve borrowers across the U.S. We then narrowed down the field based on APR ranges, loan options and loan amounts to ensure that the lenders offered competitive loans for a variety of borrowers. Lenders that offered loans for undergraduates, MBA students, medical students and more, for example, scored higher than those offering just one type of loan.

To determine the final rankings, we then evaluated eligibility requirements and any standout features that make a loan uniquely suited to a variety of needs — for instance, the ability to apply for multiple years of school or receive cash rewards upon graduation.