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4 Part-Time Student Loan Options for 2019

Anna HelhoskiOctober 15, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Your enrollment status — half time or less than half time — will determine what student loan options you have.

Summary of Part-Time Student Loan Options for 2019

LenderFixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Check Rate

on Department of Education's website

4.53-6.08%

N/A

None

Check Rate

on Department of Education's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

4.74-11.35%

3.12-10.54%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

5.94-11.96%

5.04-10.93%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

RISLA Private Student Loan

RISLA Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on RISLA's website

3.64-5.59%

N/A

680

Check Rate

on RISLA's website

LenderFixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Check Rate

on Department of Education's website

4.53-6.08%

N/A

None

Check Rate

on Department of Education's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

4.74-11.35%

3.12-10.54%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

5.94-11.96%

5.04-10.93%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

RISLA Private Student Loan

RISLA Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on RISLA's website

3.64-5.59%

N/A

680

Check Rate

on RISLA's website

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan
Check Rate

on Department of Education's website

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan
Fixed APR 
4.53-6.08% 

Variable APR 
N/A 

Min. Credit Score 
None 

Check Rate

on Department of Education's website


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Federal direct loans offer generous repayment flexibility and among the lowest fixed interest rates you’ll find. They’re also available to borrowers without a co-signer or credit history.

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.

  • Subsidized loans do not collect interest while in school or during deferment.

  • Lower interest rates compared with private lenders.

Cons

  • You pay an origination fee.

Qualifications

  • No credit check or minimum income is needed to borrow.

  • Loan amounts for undergraduates: $5,500 year one, $6,500 year two, $7,500 year three and thereafter, up to a total of $31,000

  • Independent students and graduate students have higher loan limits.

Available Term Lengths

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

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 
4.74-11.35% 

Variable APR 
3.12-10.54% 

Min. Credit Score 
Does not disclose 

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website


Variable APR

3.12-10.54%

Key facts

Sallie Mae offers flexible repayment options including its interest-only repayment option in school and during the grace period and a rate that is 1% lower than the traditional deferred repayment option. Borrowers can defer payments while enrolled in school, even while attending less than half time.

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 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 4.74% - 11.35% APR and Variable 3.12% - 10.54% 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 09/25/2019 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 8.44% fixed APR. It works out to 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $156.04 and one payment of $118.97, for a Total Loan Cost of $19,962.73.

Read Full Review
Wells Fargo Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan
Fixed APR 
5.94-11.96% 

Variable APR 
5.04-10.93% 

Min. Credit Score 
Does not disclose 

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website


Variable APR

5.04-10.93%

Key facts

Wells Fargo offers generous forbearance and repayment options like short-term payment relief, grace-period extension and loan modification. Borrowers also get individual attention with an assigned, dedicated student loan advisor. Borrowers can defer payments while in school even while attending less than half time.

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

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

  • Forbearance of 6 months is less than most lenders.

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
RISLA Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on RISLA's website

RISLA Private Student Loan

RISLA Private Student Loan
Fixed APR 
3.64-5.59% 

Variable APR 
N/A 

Min. Credit Score 
680 

Check Rate

on RISLA's website


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

RISLA is one of the only private lenders that offers income-based repayment, allowing borrowers to pay a maximum of 15% of income per month and earn forgiveness after 25 years. Undergraduate borrowers must be enrolled for at least one credit per semester to qualify for deferment, while graduate borrowers must be enrolled at least half time.

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

  • Loans available only to Rhode Island residents or those who attend school there.

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

A caveat for part-time students

Each school determines its own full-time or part-time status. Typically, full-time status means you’re enrolled in at least 12 credit hours per semester. Half-time status means enrolling in six credit hours per semester. Taking fewer than six credit hours would be considered less than half time.

One big challenge part-time students face is that they may need to make payments while still in school. It will depend on your enrollment status and your lender.

  • Federal student loans: Repayment will begin if you fall below half-time status.
  • Private student loans: Check with your lender. Many will require repayment to begin if you fall below half-time status, but a few will allow you to defer payments even if you take just one class per semester.

If you have existing student loans you took out as a full-time or half-time student and transition to less than half-time enrollment, you may need to begin repaying those loans while you’re in school. Check with your lender or servicer.

How to shop for part-time student loans

  1. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. It’s the key to grants, scholarships, work-study, and federal student loans. Your cost of attendance is lower, since you attend one or two classes per semester. You may not qualify for need-based aid. But federal loans are still available to you. You can borrow an amount up to your total cost of attendance.
  2. Build credit or find a co-signer before you apply for a private student loan. While undergrads generally don’t have the credit history required to get a loan without a co-signer, students over the age of 21 might. You’ll have the best shot at a private loan with competitive interest rates if your credit score is 690 or above. Strengthen it before applying for a loan by fixing errors on your credit report, paying all bills on time and using as little of your credit limit as possible. Otherwise, you’ll need to find a co-signer who can qualify to take out the loan with you.
  3. Compare private lending options. Attending college less than half time will limit your private student loan options, but there are a few lenders who offer loans for less than half-time enrollment. Compare private loan offers to get the lowest interest rate you qualify for. Note whether the lender will postpone payments in case you have difficulty affording them, and for how long. Find out if there are origination, prepayment or late fees, and how easily you can reach the lender by phone, email or live chat if you encounter a billing or customer service issue.
  4. Opt for a fixed interest rate. Given the choice, a fixed interest rate is a safer bet than a variable interest rate. It won’t increase over time.

Keep an eye on the bottom line. Use a student loan calculator to see what kind of payment you’ll face after borrowing for multiple years.

Last updated on October 15, 2019

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Part-Time Student Loan Options for 2019