Best student loans in June 2021

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2.49%

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1.88%

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2.99%

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2.25%

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2.98%

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1.99%

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2.69%

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2.24%

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2.95%

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1.90%

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2.55%

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1.89%

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2.58%

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2.39%

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2.83%

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The Bankrate guide to choosing the best student loans

Reviewed by Mark Hamrick, Bankrate senior economic analyst

As of Monday, June 21, 2021

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 May 28, 2021. 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.

Best student loan interest rates in June 2021

Lender Best For Fixed APR* Variable APR* Loan Term Loan Amount Min. Credit Score
Ascent
Loans without a co-signer
3.52%–14.5%
2.11%–12.94%
5–20 years
$2,001–$200,000
Not specified
Citizens Bank
Multiyear approval
4.18%–10.95%
1.17%–10.43%
5–15 years
$1,000–$350,000 depending on program
Not specified
College Ave
Quick application process
3.34%–12.99%
1.04%–11.98%
5–20 years
$1,000–100% total cost of attendance (maximum $150,000 for some degrees)
Not specified
CommonBond
Personalized mentoring
3.74%–10.74%
3.8%–9.36%
5–15 years
$2,000–100% total cost of attendance ($500,000 lifetime maximum)
Not specified
Earnest
Flexible repayment terms
Starting at 3.34%
Starting at 1.04%
Not specified
$1,000–100% total cost of attendance
650
Discover
Perks and rewards
See rates at Discover.com
See rates at Discover.com
15 or 20 years
$1,000–100% total cost of attendance
Not specified
Sallie Mae
Part-time students
4.25%–12.59%
1.13%–11.64%
5–20 years
$1,000–100% total cost of attendance
Not specified
SoFi
Loans without fees
4.13%–11.52%
1.07%–11.89%
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.

Summary: Student loans in 2021

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
2.5% to 9.15%
1.88% to 8.9%
Private Student Loan Rates
3.34% to 14.5%
1.04% to 12.94%
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (Undergraduate Borrowers)
2.75%
N/A
Direct Unsubsidized Loans (Graduate and Professional Borrowers)
4.3%
N/A
Direct PLUS Loans (Graduate and Professional Borrowers)
5.3%
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, 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%
July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015
4.66%
4.66%
6.21%
7.21%

Source: The Federal Register

Federal vs. private student loans

Private student loans differ from federal student loans because they’re originated by private institutions such as banks, credit unions and online lenders rather than the federal government. Private student loan interest rates are based on you or your co-signer's credit score and financial health and can be either fixed or variable. Borrowers with a good credit score could qualify for a low interest rate and competitive fees with a private loan, but those with a less-than-stellar credit score will be offered a higher rate.

Federal student loans come from the U.S. Department of Education and have fixed interest rates that are set yearly. It's recommended that you max out your federal loan potential before applying for private loans, as they come with more flexible repayment options, including customized payment plans based on your income and potential loan forgiveness. Federal loans also come with protections that private loans don't, like deferment and hardship options.

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:

How student loans could change under a Biden presidency

President Biden's proposed student loan policies could spell big changes for student loans moving forward. His proposed policies include:

  • Revising current income-driven repayment plans to no more than 5 percent of the borrower's discretionary income.
  • Doubling the value of Pell Grants.
  • Providing four years of free tuition at public universities for borrowers with household incomes below $125,000.
  • Providing two years of free community college.
  • Forgiving $10,000 of student loan debt for each year borrowers participate in national or community service, up to five years.

He has also expressed support for pandemic relief legislation that would immediately wipe out $10,000 in student loan debt for federal borrowers. In early March 2021, Biden requested that U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona oversee a legal review of his authority to do so.

Types of student loans

Loan type Eligible students Borrowing limit Interest rates Repayment term
Direct Unsubsidized Loans
Undergraduate, graduate
$5,500-$20,500 per year, depending on degree
2.75% for undergraduate, 4.3% for graduate
Standard term is 10 years
Direct Subsidized Loans
Undergraduate
$3,500-$5,500 per year
2.75%
Standard term is 10 years
Direct PLUS Loans
Graduate, parents
Total cost of attendance
5.3%
Standard term is 10 years
Private loans
Undergraduate, graduate, parents
Total cost of attendance
1.04%–14.5%
5–20 years

Perkins Loans, when offered, had an interest rate of 5 percent. The last interest rates available for FFELP Loans ranged from 5.6 percent to 8.5 percent, depending on the type of loan. Perkins Loans and FFELP Loans are no longer offered.

Details: Best student loan lenders in 2021

  • Ascent: Best student loan without a co-signer
  • Citizens Bank: Best student loan for multiyear approval
  • College Ave: Best student loan for quick application process
  • CommonBond: Best student loan for personalized mentoring
  • Earnest: Best student loan for flexible repayment terms
  • Discover: Best student loan for perks and rewards
  • Sallie Mae: Best student loan for part-time students
  • SoFi: Best student loan for no fees

Best student loan without a co-signer: Ascent

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. Check your personalized rates from Ascent today.

Perks:

  • Loan option based on future income instead of credit score.
  • Forbearance of up to 24 months over the life of the loan.
  • 1 percent cash back reward at graduation and up to $525 for each referred friend.

What to watch out for:

  • High rate caps.
  • Borrowers without a co-signer must have a GPA of at least 2.9.
Lender Ascent
APR Fixed: 3.52%–14.5% (with autopay) Variable: 2.11%–12.94% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $2,001–$200,000
Loan terms 5 to 20 years
Min. credit score Not specified
Fees None

Best student loan for multiyear approval: Citizens Bank

Overview: Citizens Bank offers private student loans to undergraduate students, graduate students and parents. Borrowers can get approved for multiple years of student loans; Citizens Bank will run a hard credit inquiry when you apply and will let you know if you qualify for the multiyear loan program. Once approved, you can request funds in subsequent years without supplying additional income documentation, so the process is faster, and Citizens will run only soft credit checks.

Perks:

  • Multiyear loan option.
  • 0.25 percent APR discount for eligible Citizens Bank accounts.
  • Funds may be used to pay for child care.

What to watch out for:

  • Not available in all 50 states.
  • Not available to students attending two-year colleges or career-training programs.
  • No firm deferment or forbearance policies.
Lender Citizens Bank
APR Fixed: 4.18%–10.95% (with autopay) Variable: 1.17%–10.43% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $1,000 to $350,000, depending on program
Loan terms 5 to 15 years
Min. credit score Not specified
Fees None

Best student loan for quick application process: College Ave

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. The lender specializes in a simple application process with an instant decision, claiming that the application process takes three minutes. Borrowers can check their potential loan terms and whether they prequalify for a loan without impacting their credit.

Perks:

  • Three-minute application process.
  • Loans available for community college and career programs.
  • $150 reward upon graduation.

What to watch out for:

  • Loan cap of $150,000 for most graduate school loans.
  • Limited eligibility information.
Lender College Ave
APR Fixed: 3.34%–12.99% (with autopay) Variable: 1.04%–11.98% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $1,000 to 100% total cost of attendance (maximum $150,000 for some degrees)
Loan terms 5 to 20 years
Min. credit score Not specified
Fees Late fee

Best student loan for personalized mentoring: CommonBond

Overview: CommonBond is an online lender that offers undergraduate and graduate private student loans. Borrowers can access generous hardship options and individualized money advice through the "money mentor" program, which helps you navigate personal finances before, during and after college.

Perks:

  • Money mentor program.
  • Hardship forbearance for up to 24 months.
  • Co-signer release after 24 consecutive, on-time payments.

What to watch out for:

  • Co-signer required for undergraduate student loans.
  • Loans not available to customers in Mississippi or Nevada.
  • Origination fee for some degrees.
Lender CommonBond
APR Fixed: 3.74%–10.74% (with autopay) Variable: 3.8%–9.36% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $2,000 to 100% total cost of attendance ($500,000 lifetime maximum)
Loan terms 5 to 15 years
Min. credit score Not specified
Fees Late fee: 5% or $10; Returned check fee: $5; Origination fee: 2% for some degrees

Best student loan for flexible repayment terms: Earnest

Overview: Earnest is an online lender that funds private student loans to undergraduate and graduate students and offers unique repayment options. Borrowers who choose a deferred payment plan get a nine-month grace period on payments after graduation, which is three months longer than what most lenders offer. Borrowers are also allowed to skip one payment every 12 months.

Perks:

  • Skip a payment once every 12 months.
  • Nine-month grace period.
  • Extremely low starting rates.

What to watch out for:

  • No student loans available in Nevada.
  • No co-signer release.
  • Credit score of 650 required.
Lender Earnest
APR Fixed: Starting at 3.34% (with autopay) Variable: Starting at 1.04% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $1,000 to 100% total cost of attendance
Loan terms Not specified
Min. credit score 650
Fees Returned payment fee: Up to $8; Florida stamp tax: 0.35%

Best student loan for perks and rewards: Discover

Overview: Discover offers private student loans to undergraduate students, graduate students and parents, and loans can cover up to 100 percent of school-certified undergraduate and graduate school costs. Discover stands out for its rewards; students who earn at least a 3.0 GPA in college or graduate school could qualify for a one-time cash reward of 1 percent on each new loan they take out. High school students who graduate with at least a 3.0 GPA could also qualify for an additional reward on their first college loan.

Perks:

  • Rewards for students who earn good grades.
  • Qualify for multiple years of student loans.
  • No application, origination or late fees.

What to watch out for:

  • No prequalification option.
  • No co-signer release.
  • Only one repayment term available for each loan type.
Lender Discover
APR See rates at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Rates
Loan amounts $1,000 to 100% total cost of attendance. Aggregate limits may apply.
Loan terms 15 or 20 years
Min. credit score Not specified
Fees None

Best student loan for part-time students: Sallie Mae

Overview: Sallie Mae offers private student loans to undergraduate students, graduate students, parents and students enrolled in career-training programs. This 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.

Perks:

  • Four months of free access to Chegg Study.
  • Loans for part-time students, students attending online or summer classes and students studying abroad.
  • Wide range of loan amounts.

What to watch out for:

  • $50 charge per loan for forbearance, with a maximum of $150.
  • Few eligibility requirements disclosed.
  • Only 12 months of forbearance available.
Lender Sallie Mae
APR Fixed: 4.25%–12.59% (with autopay) Variable: 1.13%–11.64% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $1,000 to 100% total cost of attendance
Loan terms 5 to 20 years
Min. credit score Not specified
Fees Late fee: 5% or $25; Returned check fee: Up to $20

Best student loan for no fees: SoFi

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.

Perks:

  • Member rate discount of 0.125 percent.
  • Unemployment assistance.
  • No fees.

What to watch out for:

  • No co-signer release.
  • Relatively high minimum loan amount.
  • High APR caps.
Lender SoFi
APR Fixed: 4.13%–11.52% (with autopay) Variable: 1.07%–11.89% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $5,000 to 100% total cost of attendance
Loan terms 5 to 15 years
Min. credit score Not specified
Fees None

Frequently asked questions about student loans

How do you qualify for a student loan?

Every lender has different eligibility requirements for student loans, but generally you’ll generally need to:

  • Be enrolled in an eligible school.
  • Meet age, education and citizenship requirements.
  • Use the loan for qualifying education expenses.
  • Have a good credit score and consistent income (or have a co-signer who does).
  • Maintain good grades while in school.

How do I apply for a student loan?

You can apply for a student loan through banks, online lenders, credit unions and the federal government. To apply for a federal student loan, you'll fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which opens up on Oct. 1 each year. Once you fill it out, you will be notified about your eligibility for federal student loans and other financial aid.

To apply for a private student loan, first compare a few lenders to determine which offers the best rates and terms for your needs. You can prequalify with most lenders, which lets you see your loan offer before submitting a formal application. When you've selected a lender, you can apply online, over the phone or in person, if the lender has physical locations.

Can you get a student loan with bad credit?

You can take out new student loans or refinance your existing loans with bad credit. Most federal student loans don't even check your credit, which makes them a great option for borrowers with little to no credit history. If you are applying for private loans, some lenders cater to borrowers with less-than-stellar credit, although interest rates may be higher and loan amounts smaller.

Before applying for any student loan, check for credit score requirements at each lender and get prequalified if possible.

What are the pros and cons of private student loans?

Private student loans appeal to many borrowers because of their high borrowing limits and low interest rates for good-credit borrowers. They also give you the option of fixed or variable rates, so you can choose the best plan for your budget. However, private student loans have fewer deferment and forbearance options than federal student loans, and borrowers with bad credit could see interest rates in the double digits.

Will I need a co-signer for private student loans?

Whether or not you need a co-signer for private student loans depends on your financial health. If you have poor credit or little income, a creditworthy co-signer could help you get approved or receive a better interest rate.

When is refinancing student loans a good option?

Refinancing your student loans may be a good option if you'd like to consolidate multiple loans into a single loan or if interest rates have fallen significantly since you first took out your fixed-rate loan. However, refinancing can only be done through private lenders, so you'll lose options like income-driven repayment and COVID-19 relief programs if you refinance your federal loans.

How do I refinance my student loans?

To refinance your student loans, shop around and compare a few lenders to see which one offers the best rate and repayment terms for your situation, getting prequalified where possible. When you're ready to apply, you can typically apply online, over the phone or in person. Once you're approved and have submitted the necessary documentation, the lender will pay off your existing loans, and you'll begin making your new payments.