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Best student loans in May 2022

As of May 22, 2022
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.
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Answer a few questions in two minutes or less to see which student loans you pre-qualify for. It's free and will not impact your credit score.

4.1

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

1.99%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$25k- $500k

Term: 5-25 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

4.6

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.49- 7.99%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$5k- $500k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

4.6

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

2.74%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$5k- $500k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

4.5

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.74%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$10k- $750k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site
Fixed APR From

2.74- 7.99%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$5k- $500k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site
Fixed APR From

2.15%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$5k- $500k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

660

Apply on partner site

3.9

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.74%

with Autopay
Loan Amount

$5k- $500k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

4.1

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

2.73%

Loan Amount

$15k- $500k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

4.1

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

2.69%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$5k- $300k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

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The Bankrate guide to choosing the best student loans

Why trust Bankrate?

Bankrate wants to empower readers to make smart financial decisions. We’ve been comparing and surveying financial institutions for more than 40 years to help you find the right products for your situation. Our award-winning editorial team follows strict guidelines to ensure the content is not influenced by advertisers. Additionally, our content is thoroughly reported and vigorously edited to ensure accuracy.

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. Loan details presented here are current as of March 24, 2022. Check the lenders’ websites for more current information. The top lenders listed below are selected based on factors such as APR, loan amounts, fees, credit requirements and broad availability. To learn more, read our methodology section above.

How do I choose a student loan? 

When choosing a student loan, start by looking at federal loans. More than 90 percent of outstanding student loans are federal, and for good reason: With low rates and many options for payment assistance and loan forgiveness, they're the best choice for most borrowers.

If you do look for private loans, the best way to choose a loan is to compare offers from a few lenders — a good rule of thumb is to get prequalified with at least three. Once you have offers in hand, you should choose the lender that gives you the lowest interest rate, the best repayment terms and the fewest fees.

Also consider whether the lender offers unique features. If a lender offers a long deferment period while you're doing a medical residency, for instance, it may be worth it to choose that lender over one with a slightly lower interest rate.

Compare student loan interest rates in May 2022

LENDER BEST FOR FIXED APR VARIABLE APR LOAN TERM LOAN AMOUNT MIN. CREDIT SCORE
Ascent Loans without a co-signer 4.78%–14.52% (with autopay) 1.64%–11.45% (with autopay) 5–20 years $2,001–$200,000 Not specified
Citizens Bank Multiyear approval 3.47%–9.99% (with autopay) N/A 5–15 years $1,000–$350,000 depending on program Not specified
College Ave Quick application process 3.49%–12.99% (with autopay) 1.19%–11.98% (with autopay) 5–20 years $1,000–100% total cost of attendance (maximum $150,000 for some degrees) Not specified
Earnest Flexible repayment terms 3.24%–12.78% (with autopay) 0.94%–11.44% (with autopay) Not specified $1,000–100% total cost of attendance 650
Sallie Mae Part-time students 3.75%–12.85% (with autopay) 1.62%–11.73% (with autopay) 10–20 years $1,000–100% total cost of attendance Not specified
SoFi Loans without fees 3.47%–11.16% (with autopay) 1.89%–11.92% (with autopay) 5–15 years $5,000–100% total cost of attendance Not specified
For more information on private student loan rates, check out our page on private student loans.

Best student loan without a co-signer

Min. credit score:
Not disclosed
Fixed APR From:
4.64% –14.52%
Loan amount:
$3,000–$20,000
Term lengths:
5 to 20 years
Min. annual income:
$0
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:
Not disclosed
Fixed APR From:
3.47%
Loan amount:
$1,000–$350,000
Term lengths:
5 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
$12,000
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:
3.49%
Loan amount:
$1,000–$500,000
Term lengths:
5 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
$35,000
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.

Best student loan for flexible repayment terms

Min. credit score:
650
Fixed APR From:
3.24%
Loan amount:
$1,000–$350,000
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: While Earnest doesn't disclose its range of repayment terms, it does say that borrowers can pick their loan term; plus, once every 12 months, borrowers can choose to postpone a payment. 

Best student loan for part-time students

Min. credit score:
Not disclosed
Fixed APR From:
3.75%
Loan amount:
$1,000–$500,000
Term lengths:
10 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
$0
Overview: Sallie Mae offers private student loans to undergraduate students, graduate students, parents and students enrolled in career-training programs.

Why Sallie Mae is best for part-time students: Sallie Mae is one of the only private student loan lenders that doesn’t require borrowers to attend school full- or half time, which makes it a standout option if you’re studying abroad, taking just one or two classes at a time or taking a professional certification course.

Best student loan for no fees

Min. credit score:
Not disclosed
Fixed APR From:
3.47% –11.16%
Loan amount:
$5,000–$500,000
Term lengths:
5 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
$0
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.

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, though private student loans also offer some unique perks.

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 1 percent to 13 percent, while federal loans charge 3.73 percent, 5.28 percent or 6.28 percent, depending on the loan type.

Some federal loans do have borrowing limits, so borrowers will often turn to private lenders to finance their remaining academic costs. However, 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.

FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PRIVATE STUDENT LOANS
Interest rates 3.73% to 6.28% 2.99% to 13.65% fixed, 0.94% to 11.98% 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
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

How does student loan interest work?

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 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 is student loan interest 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, you would pay a little over $49 in interest monthly.

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

What are current student loan interest rates?

Current interest rates on student loans vary based on where the loan originates, the type of interest rate and the creditworthiness of the borrower.

LOAN TYPE FIXED APR VARIABLE APR
Refinance Student Loan Rates 1.99% to 8.27% 1.74% to 8.02%
Private Student Loan Rates 2.99% to 13.65% 0.94% to 11.98%
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (Undergraduate Borrowers) 3.73% N/A
Direct Unsubsidized Loans (Graduate and Professional Borrowers) 5.28% N/A
Direct PLUS Loans (Graduate and Professional Borrowers) 6.28% N/A

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, 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%

Student loan news updates

The student loan landscape has been changing in recent months, driven by the coronavirus pandemic and forgiveness policies implemented by the Biden administration. Some current student loans trends to be aware of include:

The most valuable college majors

College is a big investment regardless of how you pay for it, and some forward-planning will help ensure that your investment pays off. A Bankrate study of the most valuable college majors found that STEM degrees have consistently high median incomes and low unemployment rates, while arts degrees rank near the bottom in terms of overall value.

Of course, there are plenty of factors that influence the value of your degree, including the cost of your school, the likelihood that you’ll need an advanced degree and the fulfillment you find in your chosen career path. A performing arts degree may not be as financially rewarding as a degree in computer engineering, but it allows many graduates to pursue their dreams and land a satisfying job after college.

If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, these five college majors at the top of our rankings are a good place to start your search:

Degree Median income Unemployment rate
1. Architectural Engineering $90,000 1.3%
2. Construction Services $80,000 1%
3. Computer Engineering $101,000 2.3%
4. Aerospace Engineering $100,000 1.9%
5. Transportation Sciences and Technologies $86,000 1.8%

FAQs about student loans

Next steps 

If you're considering financing your college education with loans, maximize your federal student loan potential before turning to private loans. When looking for the best private loan, get prequalified with a few lenders to make sure that you're getting the most competitive rates and terms. A college education is a big investment, so take some time to shop around before signing on the dotted line.