RISLA Student Loans: 2021 Review

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The Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) is a private student loan company operating in all 50 states. RISLA sets itself apart from most other lenders in the private student loan space by offering income-based repayment and partial loan forgiveness options. It’s a particularly good option for borrowers who live in Rhode Island — while anyone can apply for a RISLA loan, people who live, work or went to college in Rhode Island may qualify for the lowest interest rates.

RISLA features

RISLA offers undergraduate, graduate, parent and refinancing loans. Its private student loans have two types of repayment options: immediate and deferred. Repayment on immediate loans starts 15 days after the loan is disbursed, while deferred repayment begins six months after the borrower leaves school. This gives you a little more flexibility in how you make payments, although it is fewer repayment options than many other private lenders offer.

One of RISLA’s standout features is its multiyear loan option. Through this program, eligible borrowers have the chance to easily reapply for a student loan after their first year without filling out an entirely new application. If you need money for the second year, just contact RISLA and say how much you need for tuition and other expenses. If the information for you and your co-signer hasn’t changed, your loan will be extended.

RISLA has other perks as well. Borrowers who complete an internship may be eligible for up to $2,000 in loan forgiveness, and nurses who work 20 hours a week or more in a licensed health care facility in Rhode Island may have their interest rate reduced to 0 percent for 48 months. RISLA also offers an income-based repayment program for eligible borrowers.

RISLA student loan snapshot

Loan types Undergraduate, graduate, parent, refinancing
Loan amounts Private loans: $1,500 to $45,000 ($150,000 lifetime maximum)
Refinancing loans: $7,500 to $250,000
Interest rates Private loans: Starting at 3.99% fixed APR (with autopay)
Refinancing loans: 3.19% to 5.59% fixed APR (with autopay)
Repayment terms Private loans: 10 or 15 years
Refinancing loans: 5 to 15 years
Grace period 6 months
Co-signer required? No

Pros and cons of RISLA student loans

RISLA could be a particularly good choice for borrowers who live or attend school in Rhode Island, but it’s not the right lender for everyone. Consider its benefits and drawbacks before applying.

Pros

  • Co-signer release option: Qualifying students can request that RISLA release a co-signer on private student loans after 24 months of consecutive on-time payments. Many other student loan lenders have a much longer waiting period, and some don’t offer co-signer release at all. Note that this option isn’t available for RISLA’s refinancing loans.
  • Income-based repayment option. Borrowers have access to income-based repayment, which will reduce payments to 15 percent of a borrower’s discretionary income. This is a rarity among private lenders; typically this option is only available through the federal government.
  • Multiyear loan option: With RISLA, you can submit one application and be approved for multiple years of school. Each year you need funds, you’ll simply provide the amount you’re requesting without a full application.
  • Partial loan forgiveness: Borrowers can have up to $2,000 in student loans forgiven when they complete an internship.

Cons

  • High income requirements: For any of RISLA’s loans, you or your co-signer must earn at least $40,000 annually to qualify.
  • Few repayment options: RISLA’s private student loans have only two repayment terms, and your repayment period is determined by whether you choose immediate or deferred repayment. Its refinancing loans also limit your choice to five, 10 or 15 years.
  • No variable-rate loans: Some borrowers may prefer a variable interest rate on student loans, especially in a low-rate environment. However, all of RISLA’s loans come with fixed interest rates.

RISLA student loan requirements

In order to qualify for a private student loan from RISLA, you must:

  • Be enrolled full time, half time or less than half time.
  • Have a yearly income of at least $40,000 (or have a co-signer who does).

You or your co-signer must also pass a credit check, although RISLA does not disclose its minimum credit score.

If you’re applying for a refinancing loan, you’ll need to meet credit, liquidity and debt-to-income requirements. You or your co-signer must also have a minimum annual income of $40,000. However, unlike many other lenders, RISLA does not require you to have a degree in order to refinance your loans.

Who is this loan good for?

Students who are looking for unique student loan benefits should consider RISLA. It’s one of the only private lenders to offer income-based repayment, which is typically only available with federal loans. RISLA is also a good choice for borrowers who want to refinance their student loans but who have not earned a degree.

Interest rates and terms

For RISLA’s deferred loans, interest accrues while the borrower is in school. This interest is capitalized, meaning it will be added to the principal balance once the repayment period begins. Borrowers can also choose to make interest-only payments to decrease the amount that is capitalized.

RISLA provides a 0.25 percent interest rate discount when you set up automatic payments directly from the RISLA portal. Automatic bill pay from your bank will not count as autopay. The rates listed below include this discount.

Loan product Variable rate Fixed rate
Undergraduate student loans N/A Starting at 3.99% APR
Graduate student loans N/A Starting at 3.99% APR
Parent loans N/A Starting at 3.99% APR
Student loan refinancing N/A 3.19% to 5.59% APR

Fees and penalties

RISLA does not charge origination fees, application fees, service fees, prepayment penalties or other upfront fees. It does have a late payment fee, returned check fee and default fee, though it doesn’t specify the amount.

What are repayment terms and grace period for RISLA?

Only RISLA student loans with deferred repayment have a grace period. The first bill for all immediate repayment loans will be issued 15 days after the loan is disbursed, while the deferred repayment plan gives borrowers six months after leaving school to begin making payments. All RISLA parent student loans have immediate repayment.

Deferred student loans have a 180-month term, while the term for immediate repayment loans is 120 months. Student loans taken out by parents also have an 120-month term. Borrowers refinancing loans can choose a five-, 10- or 15-year term.

RISLA offers in-school deferment for borrowers who go back to grad school and forbearance for borrowers experiencing financial hardship, for a total of 12 months over the life of the loan. In addition, it currently has a COVID-19 forbearance program that provides three months of relief for struggling borrowers.

Customer service

Borrowers can contact RISLA’s customer service department by calling 800-758-7562 for private student loans or 866-268-9419 for student loan refinancing. You can also email customerservice@risla.com.

How to apply for a loan with RISLA

To apply for a student loan through RISLA, you’ll need to submit your address, contact information and Social Security number. RISLA will conduct a credit check to determine if you qualify. The credit check will reveal your credit score, previous loan history and debt-to-income ratio. RISLA may also request a pay stub or tax return to verify that your annual income is above $40,000.

You should receive an initial approval within one day, with final approval within two business days of submitting your verification documents.

What to do if your application gets turned down

If you don’t qualify for a student loan through RISLA, you should contact the company and ask for an explanation. You or your co-signer may have a poor credit score, a low income or a high debt-to-income ratio.

No matter the reason, it’s always best to compare RISLA’s offerings with those of other private lenders. Shop around with a few other companies to find the best student loan rate and offerings that you qualify for.

How Bankrate rates RISLA

Overall Score 3.8
Repayment Options 3.8
Affordability 3.5
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.

Written by
Zina Kumok
Contributing writer
Zina Kumok has been a full-time personal finance writer since 2015. She’s a three-time nominee for Best Personal Finance Contributor/Freelancer at the Plutus Awards and a two-time speaker at FinCon, the premier financial media conference.