BEST OF

5 Best Parent Loans for College: Parent PLUS and Private

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

Cecilia ClarkSep 7, 2021

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Parent PLUS loans are federal student loans that are issued to parents. Parents looking to borrow money for their child's education 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.

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: Parent PLUS and Private

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

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Federal Parent PLUS Loan

Min. Credit Score

None

Fixed APR

6.28 - 6.28%

Variable APR

N/A

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.

Read Full Review

Our picks for

Private parent loans for college

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

Mid-600's

Fixed APR

3.50 - 12.60%

Variable APR

1.13 - 11.23%
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website


Variable APR

1.13 - 11.23%

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.

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

10 to 15 years

Disclaimer

Lowest rates shown include the auto debit. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: The 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. It may be suspended during forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. Interest is charged starting when funds are sent to the school. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. Payments may be required during the grace/separation period depending on the repayment option selected. 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 variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised APRS assume a $10,000 loan to a borrower who attends school for 4 years and has no prior Sallie Mae loans. Advertised APRs are valid as of 07/22/2021. Loan amounts: 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. Examples of typical transactions for a $10,000 Smart Option Student Loan with the most common variable rate, fixed repayment option, 6-month separation period, and two disbursements: For a borrower with no prior loans and a 4-year in-school period, it works out to a 6.88% APR, 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $136.17 and one payment of $66.85 for a total loan cost of $18,314.28. Loans that are subject to a $50 minimum principal and interest payment amount may receive a loan term that is less than 10 years. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan.

Read Full Review

Advantage Education Loan Parent Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Advantage Education Loan Parent Loan

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

3.75 - 6.99%

Variable APR

N/A

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

Read Full Review

RISLA Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
RISLA Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

680

Fixed APR

3.64 - 5.46%

Variable APR

N/A

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

Read Full Review

ISL Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
ISL Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

670

Fixed APR

4.60 - 7.40%

Variable APR

3.51 - 6.14%

Variable APR

3.51 - 6.14%

Key facts

Best for low-interest loans with consumer-friendly features, like a generous forbearance policy.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders offer.

  • No late fees.

Cons

  • 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 or co-signers: 759.

  • Minimum income: No minimum income.

  • Loan amounts: $1,001 or $2,001, based on residency and school location, up to cost of attendance minus other aid received.

Available Term Lengths

10 or 15

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.

The interest rate for federal direct PLUS loans is 5.28% for 2020-21. There is also an origination fee of 4.228%, which is deducted from each loan disbursement.

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.

» 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 September 7, 2021

To recap our selections...

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

Further reading