BEST OF

7 Part-Time Student Loan Options for 2021

Students with less than half time enrollment have fewer options for student loans. And federal loans aren't on the list.

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College students who go to school part time may have difficulty finding student loans if they take less than half time schedule. Most private lenders require that borrowers attend at least half time or full time to qualify. Federal direct loan borrowers must be enrolled at least half time.

Part-time students enrolled at least half time should start by taking out federal student loans before considering a loan from private lenders. If you’re enrolled less than half time, there are a few private lending options to choose from. You’ll find these below, plus other borrowing information part-time students should know.

Summary of Part-Time Student Loan Options for 2021

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

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 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benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month.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.

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A.M. Money Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
A.M. Money Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

None

Fixed APR

7.08 - 8.85%

Variable APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A

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

  • GPA is used to determine eligibility instead of credit or a co-signer.

  • Offers a hard-to-find, temporary income-based repayment option for up to 36 months.

  • All borrowers get the same fixed rate, benchmarked to the federal PLUS loan rates.

Cons

  • Works with a limited list of schools.

  • Charges an origination fee.

  • Does not allow for bi-weekly payments via autopay.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Credit and a co-signer are not required. Approval is based on GPA.

  • Minimum income: No minimum. Approval is based on GPA.

  • Loan amounts: $2,001 up to the full cost of attendance, maximum $50,000

Available Term Lengths

10 years

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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

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

  • 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

Advantage Education Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Advantage Education Private Student 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 from the nonprofit Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corp. They're available outside Kentucky, but not in every state. You can use an Advantage Education Loan if you’re enrolled less than half-time, provided you immediately enter repayment, and for non-degree programs like certification courses.

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 if you’re enrolled less than half time.

Cons

  • Loans may not be available depending on where you live or go to school.

  • Fewer repayment terms than other lenders offer.

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

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College Ave Private Student Loan
Check rate

on College Ave's website

College Ave Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
College Ave Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

2.99 - 12.99%

Variable APR

0.99 - 11.98%
Check rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

0.99 - 11.98%

Key facts

Best for students who want to make payments while they're still in school.

Pros

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

  • More flexible repayment options than other lenders.

  • Six-month grace period extension is available.

Cons

  • You must be at least halfway through your repayment term before you can request a co-signer release.

Qualifications

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

  • Minimum income: $35,000 per year.

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

Available Term Lengths

5, 8, 10 or 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 8/9/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

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CommonBond Private Student Loan
Check rate

on CommonBond's website

CommonBond Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
CommonBond Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

660

Fixed APR

3.99 - 10.99%

Variable APR

4.13 - 9.64%
Check rate

on CommonBond's website


Variable APR

4.13 - 9.64%

Key facts

Best for students who are already planning to use a co-signer and value customer support.

Pros

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

  • You are assigned a dedicated Money Mentor.

Cons

  • Loans aren't available in Nevada and Mississippi.

  • Co-signer required.

Qualifications

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

  • Minimum income: No set minimum.

  • Loan amounts: $2,000 to the total cost of attendance. Maximum $500,000.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of0.14% effective Dec 1, 2020 and may increase after consummation.

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MPOWER Private Student Loan
Check rate

on MPOWER's website

MPOWER Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
MPOWER Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

N/A

Fixed APR

7.52 - 14.98%

Variable APR

N/A
Check rate

on MPOWER's website


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for international students and students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status.

Pros

  • Offers a hard-to-find option: non-co-signed student loans for international and DACA students.

  • Borrowers are assigned a dedicated student loan advisor.

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders offer, and borrowers can access national disaster forbearance as well.

Cons

  • Payment required while in school and during the grace period.

  • Offers only one repayment term: 10 years.

Qualifications

  • MPOWER considers future income potential but does not factor in credit scores.

  • Loan amounts: Minimum $2,001. Maximum loan is $50,000, limited to $25,000 per academic period.

Available Term Lengths

10 years

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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 March 24, 2021

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Part-Time Student Loan Options for 2021