Ascent Student Loans: 2020 Review

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Ascent is an online lender that offers private student loans to undergraduate and graduate students. Competitive interest rates, generous hardship programs and several incentive programs make it a strong contender in the student loan space.

But it’s an especially good option if you don’t have a co-signer. In some cases, Ascent approves borrowers without a co-signer or credit history. If you’re thinking about applying for a private student loan, here’s what to know about Ascent.

Ascent features

If you need to take out a private loan to pay for school, it can be difficult to qualify without a co-signer. But you may qualify with one of Ascent’s three student loans:

  • Co-signed credit-based student loan: If you have a creditworthy co-signer, then you may qualify for this type of loan. Ascent will pull your credit and your co-signer’s credit during the application process.
  • Non-co-signed credit-based loan: Even without a co-signer, you may qualify for a loan if you have at least two years’ worth of credit history.
  • Non-co-signed future income-based loan: Juniors, seniors and graduate students may qualify for a loan based on factors other than credit. Ascent will consider your school, degree program and potential salary after graduation.

Students seeking undergraduate, graduate, medical, business, law and dental degrees can apply for loans, but the maximum you can borrow depends on your credit. If you have sufficient credit, then you may borrow up to $200,000 total. But juniors and seniors who take out a future income-based loan may only borrow up to $20,000 per year.

Ascent’s variable and fixed rates start low, though rates on its upper bound are a bit higher than other lenders offer. Loan terms range from five to 20 years, depending on the type of loan, and you can choose from four flexible repayment plans.

Ascent also offers incentive programs — including a cash back graduation reward and a referral bonus — and generous deferral and forbearance options. You can defer payments while in school and up to 36 months after graduation, depending on the type of loan, and during other eligible periods. And if you experience financial hardship while repaying the loan, you may be able to suspend payments for up to 24 months total.

Ascent student loan snapshot

Loan types
Undergraduate, graduate, medical, dental, business, law
Loan amounts
$1,000 to $200,000 (aggregate)
Interest rates
Undergraduate: 2.71% to 12.99% variable APR, 3.53% to 14.50% fixed APR (with autopay)
Graduate: 3.67% to 12.42% variable APR, 4.57% to 13.44% fixed APR (with autopay)
Repayment terms
5 to 20 years
Grace period
9 to 36 months
Co-signer required?
No

Pros and cons of Ascent student loans

Before applying for an Ascent student loan, it’s best to be aware of both the benefits and drawbacks of this lender.

Pros

  • Flexible co-signer options. Unlike with many other lenders, undergraduate and graduate students may qualify for a loan without a co-signer and with no credit history. Depending on the loan, eligibility may be based on credit or future income. If you take out a loan with a co-signer, you can remove them from the loan after you make 24 consecutive on-time payments.
  • Low loan amounts available: Ascent sets its minimum loan amount at $1,000. This is good if you only need a small amount of money to fill in the gaps of your education costs.
  • Generous deferment and forbearance: You may be able to pause payments if you’re enrolled in school, you’re accepted into a residency program or you’re called up for military service. Temporary forbearance options are available, too. You may be able to suspend payments for up to 24 months total throughout the life of the loan.
  • Cash back graduation reward: Borrowers who earn their degree within five years and authorize automatic payments are eligible for a one-time payment equal to 1 percent of the original loan balance.

Cons

  • Fewer repayment terms. Compared to other lenders, Ascent offers fewer repayment terms for fixed-rate loans.
  • Limited income-based eligibility. Juniors and seniors may qualify for a non-co-signed loan based on their future income. But freshmen and sophomores won’t qualify for this type of loan.

Ascent student loan requirements

To qualify for an Ascent student loan, you must be the age of majority in your state and a U.S. citizen. If you’re not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, then you may qualify if you have a creditworthy co-signer who meets those requirements. Ascent’s other loan requirements depend on whether you have a co-signer.

If you’re applying with a co-signer, Ascent will pull both your credit and the co-signer’s credit during the application process. According to an Ascent representative, Ascent typically requires a credit score of 540 for the borrower and 620 for the co-signer. Plus, your co-signer will need to show proof that they earn at least $24,000 per year. You’ll need to be enrolled in school at least half time.

Independent borrowers applying for the non-co-signer credit-based loan will need at least two years’ worth of credit history and a credit score of at least 680, according to an Ascent representative. You’ll also need to be enrolled at least half time. But borrowers applying for loans based on their future income must be enrolled full time or graduating within the next six months.

Who is this loan good for?

Ascent loans are a good option for borrowers with a creditworthy co-signer, independent borrowers who have at least two years’ worth of a credit history or upperclassmen who qualify for a loan based on their future income.

However, if you’re a freshman or sophomore and you lack a co-signer and enough credit history, you might not qualify for one of Ascent’s loans. The lender also doesn’t offer refinancing loans or student loans for parents, which limits your options.

Interest rates and terms

Borrowers with credit-based loans can get a 0.25 percent interest rate discount after setting up automatic payments. That discount rises to 2 percent if you take out a loan based on your future income and set up autopay. Below are Ascent’s interest rates by loan type. All rates include an automatic payment discount.

Loan product Variable rate Fixed rate
Undergraduate non-co-signed 2.71% to 12.99% APR 3.53% to 14.50% APR
Undergraduate co-signed 2.71% to 12.99% APR 3.53% to 14.50% APR
General graduate school 3.67% to 12.42% APR 4.57% to 13.44% APR
Law school 3.67% to 12.42% APR 4.57% to 13.44% APR
Dental school 3.67% to 12.42% APR 4.57% to 13.44% APR
Medical school 3.67% to 12.42% APR 4.57% to 13.44% APR
MBA 3.67% to 12.42% APR 4.57% to 13.44% APR

Fees and penalties

Ascent doesn’t charge any origination, application or disbursement fees for its student loans or parent loans. There’s also no penalty for paying off your loan early. However, borrowers may be charged fees for late payments and returned payments.

What are repayment terms and grace period for Ascent?

Ascent’s repayment terms vary by loan type, but all student loans come with a grace period of at least nine months.

Undergraduate borrowers with a variable-rate loan can choose repayment terms of five, seven, 10, 12 or 15 years. But the only repayment term options for fixed-rate loans are five, seven, 10 or 12 years. Undergraduate borrowers without a co-signer who choose a fixed-rate loan are limited to a 10-year repayment period. After graduation, borrowers can defer payments for up to nine months.

All graduate loans offer repayment periods of seven, 10, 12 or 15 years for a variable-rate loan and seven, 10 or 12 years for a fixed-rate loan. Medical and dental students have an additional 20-year repayment option for variable-rate loans. MBA, law and general graduate students have a nine-month grace period, while dental students and medical students can defer payments for up to 12 or 36 months, respectively.

Repayment options include:

  • Deferred: Borrowers don’t have to make principal or interest payments while they’re enrolled at least half time in school and during the grace period.
  • Interest-only: Borrowers can choose to make interest payments while enrolled at least half time in school.
  • $25 minimum repayment: Borrowers can pay at least $25 a month while enrolled at least half time. This helps reduce the balance you have to pay down after graduation.
  • Graduated repayment: Borrowers start with lower payments after graduation. Payments slowly increase over time until the loan is paid off.

Customer service

Ascent’s student loans are funded by Richland State Bank, which received an A+ rating by the BBB, and they’re serviced by Launch Servicing.

You can contact Ascent’s customer service department at 877-216-0876 Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST and Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST. The company’s email address is help@ascentprogram.com.

For questions about an existing loan, such as payment, deferment or forbearance information, contact Launch Servicing. You can reach the customer service department at 877-354-2629 every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST. The company’s email address is customerservice@launchservicing.com.

How to apply for a loan with Ascent

Borrowers can apply for an Ascent student loan entirely online. The application process takes about five minutes if you have all of your information handy. Here’s what the process looks like when applying for a loan through Ascent:

  1. Fill out the online application. You’ll need to answer questions about the school you plan to attend, the degree you’re seeking, any financial aid received, citizenship status, the amount you want to borrow and expected enrollment status and graduation date. Be prepared to provide your Social Security number.
  2. Receive your preliminary decision. Based on whether you plan to add a co-signer and the type of interest rate you prefer, Ascent will give you an interest rate estimate.
  3. Accept your offer. If you feel that the loan terms are affordable, accept the loan and choose a repayment plan.
  4. Upload your required documents. You and your co-signer (if applicable) will need to sign loan documents and upload them to the portal.
  5. Wait for Ascent to review your documents. It may take Ascent one to two business days to review the information. Then the lender will contact your school to certify the loan. The certification process varies by school, so Ascent recommends asking your school how long its certification process takes.

What to do if your application gets turned down

If your application is turned down, call the customer service department and ask for clarification. The lender can tell you why you didn’t qualify and might suggest applying again with a qualified co-signer.

If you go this route, make sure the co-signer understands their responsibilities. They’re legally responsible for making payments if you fall behind, and any missed payments could impact both of your credit histories. If you don’t have a co-signer, you can boost your approval chances by improving your credit scores and increasing your income.

Also shop around with multiple lenders. Compare interest rates, loan terms, loan amounts and repayment options. Getting a low interest rate and keeping fees to a minimum can save you thousands over the life of a loan. You may be able to find a better deal with other private student loan lenders, such as CommonBond, Earnest and SoFi.

How Bankrate rates Ascent

Overall Score 4.5
Repayment Options 4.6
Affordability 4.0
Customer Experience 4.0

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the lender’s website for the most current information.