Best Sites to Find Private Student Loans for College in 2020

Advertising Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We may get paid when you click a link. We strive to introduce you only to unbiased and honest recommendations; however, any opinions, analyses or reviews that may be presented are those of the author’s alone, and have not been approved or otherwise endorsed by FutureFuel.io.

Best Sites to Find Private Student Loans for College in 2020

Some may feel that private student loans should be the last resource to pay for college expenses.

Is that really the case?

While it may be true in some cases that a certain type of federal student loan would be the better choice—assuming you meet the requirements—there may be times that, despite a higher interest rate, a private loan (mostly unsubsidized loans) is the better option.

So let’s talk about the best private student loans. This can help arm you and your family with the knowledge necessary to make the wisest decision.

Private student loans may be a necessity if you have exhausted all other avenues, such as:

Factors to Look at When Choosing the Best Private Student Loans

For both undergraduate and graduate students, there are several factors that should be looked into when considering different student loan options, and only you will know what are the most important in your situation.

Here is a brief overview of things you should consider.

  › Interest Rates

Most private student loans will offer the option of fixed or variable rates, and the rate you will get is going to be based on your credit score. If you have bad credit, you should try to get a federal student loan before thinking of private loans. Federal loans, however, do not offer variable interest rates.

  › Cosigner Release

It’s understandable that a student won’t have a long and trusted credit history, so cosigners are often necessary.

A good option is a lender that will release the cosigner after a certain period.

  › Autopay Discounts

Anywhere you can save money on your loan is worth looking into. Most lenders will offer a discount if you sign up for their auto-pay arrangement.

  › Payment Options

Your student loan may come with the option to either pay your interest while in school or not. If you choose not to pay interest while in school, the amount gets tacked onto your principal.

  › Deferment

While all federal loans offer deferment while in school, not all private loans do, so take this into consideration. And note that interest still accrues during this period.

  › Forbearance

This option allows you to either reduce or suspend payments for a set time due to financial difficulties. However, the unpaid interest is added to the principal amount, even though the total cost remains the same, but this will increase your payments when deferment stops.

Best Private Student Loans for College in 2020

Please note the following list is in no particular order. Here is an overview of the loans and their basic eligibility requirements.

1. Sallie Mae

  • Online Application Form: Yes
  • Available to International Students: Yes
  • Loan Forgiveness: No

Originally known as the Student Loan Marketing Association, Sallie Mae has been operating since 1973. At its inception, it was a government entity who offered federal loans. They eventually privatized and began to offer private student loans.

Loan Limit (Aggregate): Varies depending on financial aid office

Types of Loans Offered: K-12, undergraduate student loans, graduate, parent loans, and certification programs.

Cosigner Release: Depends on the loan

Fee Structure: Sallie Mae has no origination fees, nor do they charge a penalty for paying off a loan early.

Repayment Options: Loan payments are deferred while a student is still in school and there is a 6-month grace period after graduation or if a student leaves school. Interest not paid during this time frame is added to the loan principal.

Additional Deferment Option: There is a “graduated repayment period” option that allows borrowers to make interest-only payments for one year after graduation.

In-School Repayment Option:  You can choose a repayment plan that allows you to pay $25 per month up until the end of your grace period when you will then pay at least the minimum payment. You also have the option to pay your interest monthly. In case of delayed payments, the lender may charge late fees.

Perks:

  • Free access to FICO Credit Scores for both borrowers and cosigners
  • Four months of free access to Study Starter

2. Ascent 

  • Online Application Form: Yes
  • Available to International Students: Yes (Conditionally)
  • Loan Forgiveness: Yes (Conditionally)

Ascent student loans are offered through Ascent Funding LLC. They are based out of San Diego, CA.

Loan Limit (Aggregate): $200,000

Cosigner Release: Available only after 24 consecutive automatic debit payments (2 years), and also assuming the borrowers pass the credit check and meet credit score criteria.

Fee Structure: Ascent has no origination, application, or disbursement fees. There is no penalty for early repayment.

Deferment Option: Payments can be deferred for 60 months while in school plus the usual 6 month grace period. Active military can defer payments for up to 36 months and those doing an internship or residency program are eligible as well.

In-School Repayment Option: If you choose, you can pay $25 per month up until the end of your grace period, when you will then pay at least the minimum payment. You also have the option to pay your interest monthly to save money over the life of the loan.

Forbearance: Available for up to 24 months but can only be taken in 3-month time spans.

Perks:

  • Graduation reward of 1% cashback. (Conditional)
  • 0.25% interest rate discount for enrolling in automatic payments
  • Entry into a $1,000 Ascent scholarship sweepstakes

3. Wells Fargo 

  • Online Application Form: Yes
  • Available to International Students: Yes
  • Loan Forgiveness: Yes

Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, and with offices throughout the U.S., Wells Fargo is the fourth-largest bank in the states by total assets.

Loan Limit (Aggregate): Varies depending on the type of loan

Types of Loans Offered: Undergraduate and graduate

Cosigner Release: Only after 24 or 48 months of qualifying payments

Fee Structure: Wells Fargo has no origination fees. They do have flexible repayment options so there is no penalty for paying off a loan early (through prepayments or otherwise), but they do have late payment fees.

Repayment Options: Loan payments are deferred while a student is still in school (up to 48 months) and there is a 6-month grace period after graduation or if a student leaves school. Interest not paid during this time frame is added to the loan principal.

Forbearance: For any facing financial hardship, returning to school, or on active military duty. Public volunteers are eligible for forbearance for up to three years.

Perks:

  • Anyone with a Wells Fargo consumer checking account or a previous student loan borrower is eligible for an interest rate reduction by 0.25%.
  • Anyone who has a Wells Fargo Portfolio is eligible for a rate discount of 0.50%

4. SunTrust

  • Online Application Form: Yes
  • Available to International Students: Yes
  • Loan Forgiveness: No

Originally founded in 1891 in Atlanta, SunTrust is still headquartered there. They currently operate about 1,400 bank branches and 2,160 ATMs across the southeast and Washington, D.C.

Loan Terms: 7, 10 or 15 years

Loan Limit (Aggregate): $150,000. $65,000 per year for undergraduate and $95,000 per year for graduate loans.

Types of Loans Offered: Undergraduate and graduate.

Cosigner Release: After 36 or 48 qualifying payments.

Fee Structure: SunTrust has no origination, application, or disbursement fees. There is no penalty for early repayment.

Repayment Options: Payments are deferred while still in school.

Perks:

  • Both undergrad and graduate graduates are eligible for a 2% reduction in their principal
  • Graduate business students are eligible for a 1% principal reduction.
  • If students or parents enroll in automatic payments and make 36 qualifying payments, they will see a rate reduction of 0.75%
  • SunTrust also has a $500 Off to College Scholarship that could go towards textbooks or accruing interest.

5. LendKey

LendKey is not a direct lender, instead, it is a free marketplace with many private lenders. It allows you to compare different credit unions and regional banks to find the lowest rates and best overall plan for you. Through its marketplace, you can get excellent rates of undergraduate and graduate student loans.

All loans borrowed through LendKey have specific requirements. Let’s explore:

Types of Loans Offered: Undergraduate loans, graduate loans, parent loans, student loan refinancing.

Pros of getting your loan through LendKey:

  • Forbearance of 18 months for loan terms higher than 15 years
  • Students can consider multiple lenders with a single application
  • Co-signers are accepted
  • LendKey has no origination or application fees

6. Credible

Just like LendKey, Credible is a free platform that makes it possible for you to compare lenders and rates for private student loans. This is one of the most popular student loan marketplaces.

Credible checks for which lenders you qualify, and gives you rate estimates. To access that, you just need to fill out one form, which saves you a lot of time from the loan application processes.

Let’s go over the specific requirements of the loans offered through Credible:

Types of Loans Offered: Undergraduate loans, graduate loans, parent loans, student loan refinancing.

Pros of getting your loan through Credible:

  • Compare various lenders’ offers at the with just one application form
  • Check whether you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check
  • Credible is free to use, and most of its lenders don’t charge origination, , or early payment fees. 

Discover How to Consolidate Private Student Loans

While we didn’t factor this option into the selection above, some students may want to look into student loan refinancing or consolidating private student loans. If you feel this might be something you want to do in the future, make sure the lender offers a consolidation option.

Choosing the Best Private Student Loan For College

Clearly, there’s a lot to think about when looking into student loans. And while we have listed a lengthy selection of features to consider, it is by no means an exhaustive list. What features are important to you and your family? To your unique situation? As long as a financial institution is reliable you can consider it as a viable option.

Despite the loan you will take, the first step in financing your education should be to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly called a FAFSA. The application process is fairly simple.

Be sure to do your due diligence before signing any student loan agreement.