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Part-Time Student Loans: Compare Options for 2019

Anna HelhoskiMay 28, 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.

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan
Check Rate

on Department of Education's website

Check Rate

on Department of Education's website

Fixed APR

4.53-4.53%

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 other lenders.

Cons

  • You pay an origination fee.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • No credit check or minimum income is needed to borrow.
  • Loan amounts: $5,500 year one, $6,500 year two, $7,500 year three and thereafter, up to a total of $31,000

Available Term Lengths

  • 10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.
Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Fixed APR

5.49-11.85%

Variable APR

4.25-11.35%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Pros

  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.
  • Borrowers can access online tutoring and free credit score tracking.
  • Provides above-average customer support compared with other lenders.

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.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 748.
  • 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: 1 Lowest rates shown include the auto debit discount. 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 05/28/2019 and assume a $10,000 loan to a freshman with no other Sallie Mae loans. Borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae. The rate reduction 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. This benefit may be suspended during periods of forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. 2 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. 3 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 8.88% fixed APR. It works out to 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $162.06 and one payment of $120.23, for a Total Loan Cost of $20,680.37.

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

Fixed APR

5.94-11.96%

Variable APR

5.04-10.93%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

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.
Read full review

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
RISLA Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on RISLA's website

Check Rate

on RISLA's website

Fixed APR

3.64-5.59%

Min. Credit Score

680

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.
  • Loan forgiveness options for medical interns and nurses.

Cons

  • Fixed-rate loans available only to Rhode Island residents or those who attend school there.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 748.
  • Minimum income: $40,000.
  • Loan amounts: $7,500 to $250,000, depending on the highest degree earned.

Available Term Lengths

  • 5, 10 or 15 years

Summary of Part-Time Student Loans: Compare 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

4.53-4.53%

N/AN/A
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

5.49-11.85%

4.25-11.35%

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

4.53-4.53%

N/AN/A
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

5.49-11.85%

4.25-11.35%

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

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 May 28, 2019

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Part-Time Student Loans: Compare Options for 2019