Current Student Loan Interest Rates and How They Work

Effective July 1, the current federal student loan interest rate for undergraduates is 5.50% for new loans taken out in the 2023-24 school year.
Eliza Haverstock
Anna Helhoski
By Anna Helhoski and  Eliza Haverstock 
Updated
Edited by Des Toups

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The federal student loan interest rate for undergraduates is 5.50% for new loans taken out for the 2023-24 school year, effective from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024. Federal rates for graduate student loans and PLUS loans are higher — 7.05% and 8.05%, respectively. These rates are the highest they've been in at least a decade.

Private student loan interest rates can sometimes be lower than federal rates, but approval for the lowest rates requires excellent credit. If you have good credit, you may be able to refinance existing student loans to get a lower rate. Keep in mind that you'll lose access to borrower protections like income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs if you refinance your federal loans with a private lender.

Current student loan interest rates

Fixed

5.40% to 9.92%

Variable

4.68% to 9.47%

Fixed

5.99% to 13.78%

Variable

5.61% to 13.27%

Undergraduate

5.50%

Graduate

7.05%

PLUS (Parent, Grad)

8.05%

Rates updated monthly.

To apply for federal student loans, as well as grants and work-study, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — this FAFSA guide can help. Any student, regardless of their financial need, typically qualifies for unsubsidized student loans, and students with a financial need may qualify for subsidized loans. Subsidized loans are a better deal because the government pays the interest that accrues while you’re in school.

In addition to interest rates, federal student loans also come with fees. These fees are taken as a percentage of the total loan amount and deducted proportionally from each loan disbursement, meaning you'll receive slightly less than the amount you borrow.

Academic year

Undergraduate

Graduate

Parent PLUS, Grad PLUS

2023-24

5.50%

7.05%

8.05%

2022-23

4.99%

6.54%

7.54%

2021-22

3.73%

5.28%

6.28%

2020-21

2.75%

4.30%

5.30%

2019-20

4.53%

6.08%

7.08%

2018-19

5.05%

6.60%

7.60%

2017-18

4.45%

6.00%

7.00%

2016-17

3.76%

5.31%

6.31%

2015-16

4.29%

5.84%

6.84%

2014-15

4.66%

6.21%

7.21%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid Interest rates effective July 1 of each year.

Private student loan interest rates by lender

It’s generally best to max out your federal student loan options before taking out a private student loan. If you need one, shop around first to ensure you get the lowest rate you qualify for. If you don’t meet a lender’s credit requirements, you can apply with a co-signer who does.

Current private student loan interest rates, updated monthly:

Student loans from our partners

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan logo
Check Rate

on Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan logo

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR 

4.5% - 15.49%

Min. credit score 

Mid-600's

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae

College Ave Private Student Loan logo
Check Rate

on College Ave

College Ave

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
College Ave Private Student Loan logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR 

4.11% - 15.44%

Min. credit score 

Mid-600s

Check Rate

on College Ave

Ascent Private Student Loan logo
Check Rate

on Ascent

Ascent

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Ascent Private Student Loan logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR 

4.09% - 15.71%

Min. credit score 

Low-Mid 600s

Check Rate

on Ascent

Consider student loan refinancing if your credit score is at least in the high 600s, you have enough income to afford your debts and other expenses, and you’re comfortable giving up federal benefits like income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Before refinancing, shop around to find the lowest rate you qualify for.

Current student loan refinancing rates, updated monthly:

Lender

APR

SoFi Student Loan Refinancing

Fixed: 5.24% - 9.99% Variable: 6.24% - 9.99%

Earnest

Fixed: 5.19% - 9.74% Variable: 5.99% - 9.74%

Splash

Fixed: 5.34% - 8.73% Variable: 7.35% - 7.35%

LendKey

Fixed: 5.49% - 12.18% Variable: 5.52% - 8.7%

Education Loan Finance

Fixed: 5.48% - 8.94% Variable: 5.28% - 8.99%

Average student loan interest rate

The average student loan interest rate is 5.8% among all households with student debt, according to the Education Data Initiative, an organization that collects statistics on the U.S. education system. That includes both federal and private student loans — about 90% of all student debt is federal.

With a 5.8% interest rate on $30,000 of student loans, a borrower would pay about $9,600 in interest over 10 years.

The average student loan interest rate is higher among some groups, according to the report. For instance, the average rate is 6.3% among households where the borrower didn’t complete a college degree, and 6.6% among households with incomes less than $24,000.

If you have multiple student loans with different rates, the weighted average interest rate is the rate you'll have if you consolidate the loans through the federal government. Federal consolidation won't lower your average interest rate, but refinancing with a private lender could.

Student loan interest rate calculator

How student loan interest rates work

Student loan interest rates work differently, depending on whether the loan is federal or private. For federal loans, every borrower taking out the same type of federal loan in a given year has the same interest rate. For private loans, borrowers with higher credit scores generally qualify for lower rates and borrowers with lower credit scores get higher rates.

Federal student loans:

  • Congress sets interest rates yearly based on the 10-year Treasury note

  • Most have fees charged as a percentage of the total loan amount

  • Rates are fixed for the life of the loan

Private student loans:

  • Interest rates are typically credit-based

  • Most private lenders don't charge origination fees

  • Borrowers can choose either a fixed or variable interest rate

  • Variable rates are subject to change monthly or quarterly

Student loan interest accrues while you’re in school — unless you have subsidized federal loans — so you’ll owe more than you initially borrowed when you enter repayment. You can save on interest by:

  • Paying off interest before your grace period ends. When your student loans enter repayment, the unpaid interest will be capitalized, or added to your principal balance. Avoid costly interest capitalization by making monthly interest-only payments or paying a fixed amount — say, $25 — while you’re in school. Alternatively, pay off the interest during your grace period using graduation money or income from your first post-college job.

  • Avoiding income-driven repayment, if possible. Federal income-driven repayment plans can keep cash-strapped borrowers out of default, but they also cost borrowers more interest in the long run. If you can afford to make federal loan payments on the standard, 10-year repayment plan, do it.

  • Watching your overall financial health. Although you’ll save the most in student loan interest by paying off the loan as soon as possible, other financial goals are higher priority. Before paying extra on student debt, build an emergency fund, contribute to a 401(k) or IRA, and pay off high-interest debt such as credit cards.

Key terms in this story

Fixed interest: An interest rate that does not change during the life of a loan. All federal student loans have fixed interest rates, but private loans can offer fixed or variable interest rates. Fixed interest is the safer option because you don’t have to worry about your rate — and payment — increasing.
Variable interest: Variable interest rates can change monthly or quarterly depending on the loan contract and come with rates caps as high as 25%. Variable interest loans are riskier than fixed interest loans but can save you money if the timing is right.
Private student loan: Education funding from banks, credit unions and online lenders instead of the federal government. Private loans are best used to fill funding gaps after maxing out federal loans.

Student loan refinancing from our partners

SoFi Student Refinancing logo
Check Rate

on SoFi

SoFi

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
SoFi Student Refinancing logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR 

5.24% - 9.99%

Min. credit score 

650

Check Rate

on SoFi

Earnest Student Loan Refinance logo
Check Rate

on Earnest

Earnest

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Earnest Student Loan Refinance logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR 

5.19% - 9.74%

Min. credit score 

650

Check Rate

on Earnest

Splash Financial Student Loan Refinance logo
Check Rate

on Splash Financial

Splash Financial

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Splash Financial Student Loan Refinance logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR 

5.34% - 8.73%

Min. credit score 

650

Check Rate

on Splash Financial