Looking for student loans can be daunting. On average, it costs almost $57,000 to attend four years of public college, once you factor in room and board, as well as expenses. For a private school, the average is over $100,000 for four years.

Where does a college student get that kind of money? Some of it will come from school-based aid and private scholarships, but generally, the student will need significant student loans to cover the costs. 

By carefully considering your student loan options you can make it much easier to repay your loans. There are a variety of student loans you can get, both from the federal government and from private lenders.

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Here are the best student loan options to help you afford college: 

Federal Direct Student Loans

Before you start looking at private lenders, it’s important to maximize the federal student loans available to you. They are the best student loans you can get!

Amount You Can Borrow

There are two types of federal student loans. Subsidized student loans do not begin to accrue interest until after you finish school. Unsubsidized loans begin to accrue interest right away. For both types, you can defer repayments until six months after you drop below full-time academic enrollment.

As a dependent student, you can borrow up to $5,500 in federal loans, with up to $3,500 subsidized. For the second year, you can borrow up to $6,500, with up to $4,500 subsidized. For third and following years, you can borrow up to $7,500, with up to $5,500 subsidized. 

In total for your undergraduate college career, you can borrow $31,000, with up to $23,000 subsidized. Of course, this is below the average cost of college – that’s why many students also have to take out private loans.

Interest Rates & Repayment

The interest rate on federal loans is fixed for the life of the loan, and is generally lower than private loans. You’ll also have more flexibility in choosing repayment plans, including the use of income-driven repayment plans, which private lenders do not provide. 

Finally, a federal student loan will have options for deferment in specific situations that can help you as well. 

As of 2019, the federal student loan interest rate is 4.53%. You’ll be hard-pressed to find rates that low on a private loan without a very creditworthy cosigner and making full payments while you attend school.

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Sallie Mae Student Loans

Sallie Mae is a lender that offers a wide range of student loans for undergraduates, graduate students, and parents of students. Undergraduates generally need a cosigner to qualify for a loan, but a cosigner release is available to creditworthy borrowers after finishing school and completing 12 on-time payments. 

Amount You Can Borrow

You must borrow at least $1,000 and the maximum you can borrow is the certified cost of attendance for the school you’re attending. There is no aggregate maximum, but each year must be borrowed separately, and your creditworthiness is checked each time.

Interest Rates and Repayment

Sallie Mae offers both fixed interest rates and variable interest rates. The exact rate you get will depend on your credit profile. As of 2019, the interest rate range for variable loans is 3.25% – 10.65% and fixed rates range from 4.74% to 11.35%. You can save 0.25% in interest rate by signing up for automatic payment.

The repayment terms range from five to 15 years, depending on the amount of the loan. Sallie Mae is a great choice for student loans that have a lot of flexibility and options. 

CommonBond Student Loans

Sometimes a lender uses their ability to help pay for school to help others. CommonBond combines this focus on giving back with competitive interest rates compared to other lenders. Undergraduates do need a creditworthy cosigner to apply, but a cosigner release is available for creditworthy borrowers after 24 consecutive months of on-time payments. 

Amount You Can Borrow

With CommonBond there is no minimum you can borrow, but you can only borrow up to the cost of attendance at your school. Each year must be borrowed individually. There is no aggregate maximum for your college career.

Interest and Repayment

You can space your repayment out over five, 10, or 15 years. Interest rates vary depending on your repayment term and whether you choose to make full payments during school or defer your payments until after you finish. The lowest interest rates are available for five-year loans with full payments right away.

As of 2019, variable interest rates range from 3.52% to 9.5%. Fixed interest rates are between 5.45% and 9.74%. You can get a 0.25% interest rate reduction by setting up  automatic payments.

There is also a 2% originate fee to consider. And, each loan helps children in need get a better education.

College Ave Student Loans

Looking for a loan provider that will give you a better idea of what you might qualify for before you actually apply? College Ave might be the right lender for you. They stand out because you can prequalify with a soft credit check to see how much you can qualify for and what interest rates you’ll receive.

College Ave offers student loans for undergrads, grad students, and parents of children in college. Undergraduates generally need a cosigner, but a cosigner release is available for creditworthy borrowers. 

Amount You Can Borrow

College Ave has a minimum borrowing amount of $1,000, and the maximum you can borrow each year is your school’s cost of attendance. There is no maximum for your school career except your creditworthiness. 

Interest and Repayment

College Ave has no fees for applying, origination, or early payoff. You can choose to repay the loan over five, eight, 10, or 15 years. 

You can choose a variable or fixed interest rate. As of 2019, variable rates are between 3.70% and 11.98%. Fixed rates are between 4.72% and 12.94%. You can receive a 0.25% interest rate deduction by signing up for automatic payment.

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Citizens Bank Student Loans

If you’re tired of dealing with new loan applications every year, take a look at Citizens Bank. They offer multi-year approval to help you have funding all the way through graduation, which can simplify the student loan process significantly.

An undergraduate student will generally need a cosigner to qualify, but a cosigner release is available to creditworthy borrowers after 36 consecutive full payments are made on time.

Amount You Can Borrow

Citizens has a minimum loan amount of $1,000, and the maximum depends on your degree. In general, the most an undergraduate can borrow is $100,000, as long as their combined total private and federal debt is below $150,000.

Interest and Repayment

You can repay a Citizens Bank student loan over five, 10, or 15 years. As of 2019, the variable interest rates range from 3.24% to 11.35%, and the fixed rates are between 4.72% – 12.04%. 

If you have a Citizens Bank account, you can get a 0.25% interest rate deduction. Another 0.25% deduction is available if you choose automatic payments. 

Discover Student Loans

Discover is much more than a credit card company. They offer student loans as well – and even have a 1% cashback option for loan disbursements if you have a 3.0 GPA. That’s a great incentive to hit the books! 

Discover also offers a multi-year approval option so you can get loans for your entire education all at once. One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that Discover does not offer a cosigner release. That means if someone cosigns the loan for you, they will have to stay on it for the life of the debt. 

Amount You Can Borrow

With Discover, you have to borrow at least $1,000, and the most you can borrow is the cost of attendance at your school. There is no lifetime limit for your student loans.

Interest and Repayment

Discover only offers a 15-year repayment term, so it’s a bit less flexible than other lenders. However, there are options for deferment or reduced payments in case of hardship. There are also no fees for applying, originating the loan, early repayment, or late payment.

As of 2019, the variable interest rates on student loans are between 3.37% and 11.87%. Fixed rates range from 4.74% to 12.99%. You can get a 0.25% interest rate reduction with automatic payments. 

Ascent Student Loans

For a private loan option without a cosigner, check out Ascent. This lender allows upper-class undergraduates to apply for loans by themselves. If you do end up with a cosigner, a release is available as well. 

Best of all, you can get 1% cashback at graduation if you qualify!

Interest and Repayment

You can repay an Ascent loan in 5, 10, or 15 years. As of 2019, the interest rates for a variable interest loan are between 3.63% and 12.90%, and fixed rates are 3.97% – 12.93%. This includes the available 0.25% interest rate deduction for automatic payments. 

There are flexible payment options, and there is no penalty for paying off the loan early. 


If you’d like to get a student loan through a community lender instead of a big-name bank, consider working with LendKey. 

LendKey services the loans, so the credit unions and banks stay behind the scenes. Their unique funding model allows them to offer very competitive rates.

Interest and Repayment

With automatic payment, you can qualify for variable interest rates of 4.27% – 10.79% and fixed rates of 5.36% – 10.49%. The exact amount you can borrow, and how long you have to repay the loan, varies depending on the lender you are paired with.

Having credit unions working with you means that you have a good chance to get a better rate. LendKey is a great way to access them! 

USAA Personal Loans

Unfortunately, there are no USAA student loans anymore – they were discontinued in 2016. However, military members do have the option to get a personal loan through USAA that they can use toward their education. 

These are generally short-term loans that require faster repayment than student loans, so keep that in mind. However, it can be a great way to access money if you’re in the military.

Interest and Repayment

The amount of time you have to repay, along with your interest rate, depends on the amount you borrow. 

Here’s what USAA currently offers:

  • $2,500 to $4,900, up to 36 months, rates as low as 9.49%
  • $10,000 to $14,999, up to 60 months, rates as low as 9.49%
  • $20,000 or more, up to 84 months, rates as low as 9.49% to 11.49%

Keep in mind that to qualify for the lowest interest rates and longest repayment terms, you need excellent credit. 

Personal Loans for Students and Other Options

As a student, it can be challenging to access money for school. You probably don’t have a strong credit history yet, and choosing a personal loan can mean paying very high interest rates.

You can always connect with lenders in your local area to see what they can offer. If you own anything that you can use as collateral, that is another way to get a loan.

Working to Pay For School

Many students work to help pay for school, but working in the summer and on school breaks is often not enough. If you are struggling to afford school, you might consider attending part-time and working to help pay the bills.

Another option is to take advantage of a work-study offered by the school. These are often listed in the school’s financial aid package, and you have to apply early to get a position.

Attending Community College

A lot of students choose to begin their education at a community college to save money. Before you commit to this, though, be sure that the credits transfer seamlessly to your desired school. You definitely don’t want to pay for credits you can’t use.

By attending community college you can get your general education requirements taken care of for a significantly lower cost. Then, you can transfer to your target school to finish your major. 

Consider Student Loans Carefully

With the cost of college, it’s easy to get buried under student loans and begin your professional life in a financial hole. To avoid this, be sure to consider the choices you make about loans carefully.

Focus on schools that offer generous aid and have lower prices. Be sure to fill out the FAFSA early and fully understand all of your aid. 

An education is valuable, but you can get a great one without overpaying! Want to prepare for financial freedom? Sign Up to iHuddl today here.

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