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10 Best Parent Loans for College: PLUS and Private

Anna HelhoskiJune 30, 2020

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Don’t take on debt for your child unless you’re in a strong financial position yourself.

Parent student loans are available to mothers and fathers who want to help put their kids through college. But as much as you love your child, don’t take on debt for them unless you’re in a strong financial position yourself.

Before taking out parent student loans, make sure that:

  • Your child has maxed out federal student loan options.

  • You’re saving enough for retirement.

  • You’ve paid off high-interest debt, like credit cards.

If you decide to move forward, here are our picks for the best parent student loans and information on financing your child's education.

Summary of Best Parent Loans for College: PLUS and Private

LenderNerdWallet Rating Fixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
Federal Parent PLUS Loan

Federal Parent PLUS Loan

Best for Federal loan option for parents

5.30 - 5.30%

N/A

None

Read review
Advantage Education Loan Parent Loan

Advantage Education Loan Parent Loan

Best for Private parent loans for college

3.75 - 6.99%

N/A

Does not disclose

Read review
College Ave Parent Student Loan

College Ave Parent Student Loan

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

Best for Private parent loans for college

4.39 - 12.97%

1.24 - 11.96%

Mid-600s

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

RISLA Private Student Loan

RISLA Private Student Loan

Best for Private parent loans for college

3.64 - 5.46%

N/A

680

Read review
SoFi Private Student Loan

SoFi Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on SoFi's website

Best for Private parent loans for college

4.73 - 11.46%

1.30 - 10.00%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on SoFi's website

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Best for Private parent loans for college

4.53 - 10.72%

3.39 - 10.09%

Does not disclose

Read review
Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

Best for Private parent loans for college

4.99 - 11.19%

3.95 - 10.03%

680

Read review
Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Best for Private parent loans for college

4.25 - 12.35%

1.25 - 11.15%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

Best for Private parent loans for college

4.25 - 11.95%

1.25 - 11.40%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

Brazos Parent Loan

Brazos Parent Loan

Check Rate

on Brazos's website

Best for Private parent loans for college

2.99 - 4.95%

2.92 - 4.88%

720

Check Rate

on Brazos's website

Our pick for

Federal loan option for parents

Federal parent PLUS loans have fixed interest rates and minimal fees. Parent borrowers must not have any adverse credit history to qualify.

Federal Parent PLUS Loan

Federal Parent PLUS Loan

Fixed APR

5.30 - 5.30%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

None


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Federal PLUS loans are available to parents of undergrads as well as graduate students. They are best for parents who may need the safety net they offer, and for grad students who have hit limits on lower-interest unsubsidized loans.

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers compared with private lenders.

  • All borrowers who attend a school authorized to receive federal aid can qualify.

Cons

  • May have higher interest rates compared with private lenders.

  • You pay an origination fee.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Parent PLUS loan borrowers must not have adverse credit history.

  • Borrowers with adverse credit history can still receive a parent PLUS loan by enlisting a co-signer without adverse credit history or documenting extenuating circumstances for their credit history.

  • Loan amounts: Total cost of attendance minus other financial aid.

Available Term Lengths

10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.

Disclaimer

Read Full Review

Our picks for

Private parent loans for college

Private loan options for parents and legal guardians who want to help their children pay for college.

Advantage Education Loan Parent Loan

Advantage Education Loan Parent Loan

Fixed APR

3.75 - 6.99%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Advantage Education Loans are fixed-rate loans with borrower-friendly features, such as no late fees and a generous amount of forbearance. These loans are from the nonprofit Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corp. and are available outside Kentucky, but not in every state.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Forbearance of 24 months is twice as long as most lenders.

  • Loans are available for students enrolled less than half time.

Cons

  • Loans may not be available depending on where you live or your child goes to school.

  • Fewer repayment terms than other lenders offer.

  • Estate is still responsible for the loan if the parent borrower dies.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Does not disclose.

  • Minimum income: Does not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: Minimum $1,000. Maximum depends on creditworthiness and debt-to-income ratio.

Available Term Lengths

10 years

Disclaimer

Read Full Review
College Ave Parent Student Loan
Check Rate

on College Ave's website

College Ave Parent Student Loan

College Ave Parent Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.39 - 12.97%

Variable APR

1.24 - 11.96%

Min. Credit Score

Mid-600s

Check Rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

1.24 - 11.96%

Key facts

Best for parents who want to control some of their student's spending.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Up to $2,500 can be disbursed to you directly for school-related expenses.

  • You can choose your monthly payment while the student is in school, provided it covers at least the interest.

Cons

  • No co-signer option.

  • Estate is still responsible for the loan if the parent borrower dies.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Mid-700s.

  • Minimum income: $70,000 per year.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to school-certified cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

Between 5 and 15 years.

Disclaimer

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.78% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 54 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $176.21 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $18,266.38. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.Information advertised valid as of 7/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
Read Full Review

RISLA Private Student Loan

RISLA Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

3.64 - 5.46%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

680


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for parents who want to reduce child's debt levels.

Pros

  • Income-based repayment plan available, with forgiveness after 25 years.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Partial loan forgiveness for eligible internships; interest forgiveness for qualifying nurses.

Cons

  • Fewer repayment terms available than other lenders.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 768.

  • Minimum income: $40,000.

  • Loan amounts: $1,500 to $45,000.

Available Term Lengths

10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Read Full Review
SoFi Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on SoFi's website

SoFi Private Student Loan

SoFi Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.73 - 11.46%

Variable APR

1.30 - 10.00%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on SoFi's website


Variable APR

1.30 - 10.00%

Key facts

Best for flexible repayment options and no fees.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Multiple in-school repayment options available, including interest-only and flat-fee, and deferred for undergrad and grad students.

  • Additional perks like career planning, job search assistance and entrepreneurship support available.

Cons

  • Must be a U.S. citizen.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 700+.

  • Minimum income: No minimum.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 minimum.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.73% to 11.46% annual percentage rate ("APR") (with autopay), variable rates from 1.30% to 10.00% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.51% to 11.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.08% to 10.30% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.41% to 11.67% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 0.98% to 10.21% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.73% to 11.46% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.30% to 9.88% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 6/29/20. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).
Read Full Review

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.53 - 10.72%

Variable APR

3.39 - 10.09%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose


Variable APR

3.39 - 10.09%

Key facts

Best for existing Wells Fargo customers.

Pros

  • You are assigned a dedicated student loan advisor.

  • One of the few lenders to offer loans to borrowers enrolled less than half-time.

  • More payment reduction options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.

Cons

  • Shorter length of hardship forbearance than most other lenders.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Only borrowers with existing Wells Fargo student loans are eligible.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.

  • Minimum income: No minimum.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $120,000

Available Term Lengths

15 years

Disclaimer

Read Full Review

Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.99 - 11.19%

Variable APR

3.95 - 10.03%

Min. Credit Score

680


Variable APR

3.95 - 10.03%

Key facts

Best for parents with a significant funding gap.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • You are assigned a personal loan advisor.

Cons

  • Minimum loan amount is larger than other private lenders.

  • No co-signer release available.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Not available.

  • Minimum income: $35,000.

  • Loan amounts: $10,000 up to your total cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10 or 15 years.

Disclaimer

Read Full Review
Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.25 - 12.35%

Variable APR

1.25 - 11.15%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website


Variable APR

1.25 - 11.15%

Key facts

Best for parents who want to provide study support to their child.

Pros

  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.

  • Borrowers can access online tutoring and free credit score tracking.

  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, can apply with a U.S. co-signer.

Cons

  • You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Information not available on minimum qualifying credit scores or income.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Does not disclose.

  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.

Available Term Lengths

5 to 15 years

Disclaimer

Lowest rates shown include the auto debit discount: Fixed 4.25% - 12.35% APR and Variable 1.25% - 11.15% APR. Interest rates for Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options are higher than interest rates for the Interest Repayment Option. You're charged interest starting at disbursement, while in school, during your separation/grace period, and until the loan is paid in full. The repayment option that is selected will apply during the in-school and separation/grace periods. When you enter principal and interest repayment, Unpaid Interest will be added to your loan's Current Principal. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan. Advertised variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised APRs are valid as of 06/25/2020. and assume a $10,000 loan to a freshman with no other Sallie Mae loans. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: Borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction benefit. This benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month and may be suspended during periods of forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. Loan amounts: $1000 up to 100% of the school certified expenses: Loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received as certified by the school. Sallie Mae reserves the right to approve a lower loan amount than the school-certified amount. Repayment term of 5 to 15 years: This repayment example is based on a typical Smart Option Student Loan made to a freshman borrower who chooses a fixed rate and the Fixed Repayment Option for a $10,000 loan, with two disbursements, and a 8.51% fixed APR. It works out to 51 payments of $25.00, 179 payments of $124.69 and one payment of $66.91, for a Total Loan Cost of $23,661.42.
Read Full Review
Citizens One Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.25 - 11.95%

Variable APR

1.25 - 11.40%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website


Variable APR

1.25 - 11.40%

Key facts

Best for existing Citizens Bank customers.

Pros

  • Six-month grace period extension is available.

  • Loyalty discount for existing Citizens Bank customers.

Cons

  • You must be pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Does not disclose.

  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $100,000.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Student Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.25%-11.40% (1.25%-11.01% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.25%-11.95% (4.25% - 11.53% APR)
Read Full Review
Brazos Parent Loan
Check Rate

on Brazos's website

Brazos Parent Loan

Brazos Parent Loan

Fixed APR

2.99 - 4.95%

Variable APR

2.92 - 4.88%

Min. Credit Score

720

Check Rate

on Brazos's website


Variable APR

2.92 - 4.88%

Key facts

Brazos parent loans are best for parents who live in Texas and want to finance undergraduate or graduate education for their children.

Pros

  • Borrowers can finance undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

  • Students do not have to attend college in Texas to qualify.

Cons

  • Available only to parent borrowers in Texas.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: N/A

  • Minimum income: $60,000 for co-signer or primary borrower, or $30,000 for primary borrower if applying with a co-signer.

  • Loan amounts: $10,000 up to $400,000.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years

Disclaimer

Interest rates WITH 0.25% ACH benefit.
Read Full Review

Types of parent student loans

There are two types of loans available for parents: federal direct PLUS loans and private student loans.

Federal direct PLUS loans are government loans that parents can take out to help pay for a child's college education. They have higher interest rates and fees and qualify for fewer repayment plans than federal direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans for students.

Assuming your child has exhausted federal student loan options and your finances are sound, consider a parent PLUS loan if:

  • You work for the government or a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and want to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

  • Your credit isn't strong enough to qualify for a lower rate with a private parent loan.

Interest rates for federal direct PLUS loans are fixed and set by Congress each year; they’re 5.30% for 2020-21. There is also a substantial loan fee of 4.236%, which is deducted proportionally from each loan disbursement.

Parents can also look to private loans offered by banks and online lenders. They generally don't come with fees, unlike federal parent PLUS loans. If your finances and credit are solid, you may find private parent student loans a better deal.

» MORE: Estimate monthly payments using a parent PLUS loan calculator

How to get a parent student loan

To apply for a PLUS loan, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid with your child. NerdWallet's FAFSA guide can help. Then, complete the direct PLUS loan application for parents.

You can apply for a private parent student loan directly with the lender.

Before applying for a private parent loan, shop around to find the lowest student loan interest rate you qualify for. Some lenders have a pre-qualification process that allows you to see a personalized rate before the lender does a hard credit pull.

Who pays a parent student loan?

Before taking out a parent student loan, make sure you and your child work out clear plans for repayment. The loan will ultimately be your responsibility to repay. The only way to transfer parent loans is to have your child refinance the loan in his or her name.

Last updated on June 30, 2020

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Parent Loans for College: PLUS and Private

Further reading.