Best of

10 Best Student Loans for Community College of July 2020

Cecilia ClarkJune 29, 2020

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.

If you need help paying for community college, apply for free financial aid first, then use federal student loans before turning to private lenders.

If you need student loans for community college, max out federal loans first. Private loans should be your last resort, after using grants, work-study, some personal savings, employer assistance and federal student loans.

While community colleges provide some of the best value in higher education, full-time students must still cover about $8,000 in living expenses per year, according to the College Board. Here are lenders that can help you fill that gap, as well as tips for affording community college and shopping for loans.

Summary of Best Student Loans for Community College of July 2020

LenderNerdWallet Rating Fixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

2.75 - 4.30%

N/A

None

Read review
SoFi Private Student Loan

SoFi Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on SoFi's website

4.73 - 11.46%

1.30 - 10.00%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on SoFi's website

Ascent Private Student Loan

Ascent Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Ascent's website

3.62 - 14.50%

2.73 - 13.01%

540

Check Rate

on Ascent's website

RISLA Private Student Loan

RISLA Private Student Loan

3.64 - 5.46%

N/A

680

Read review
Advantage Education Private Student Loan

Advantage Education Private Student Loan

3.75 - 6.99%

N/A

Does not disclose

Read review
College Ave Private Student Loan

College Ave Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

3.99 - 12.99%

1.24 - 11.98%

Mid-600s

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

LendKey Private Student Loan

LendKey Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on LendKey's website

4.74 - 11.85%

1.25 - 9.44%

660

Check Rate

on LendKey's website

CommonBond Private Student Loan

CommonBond Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on CommonBond's website

5.45 - 9.74%

3.31 - 9.29%

660

Check Rate

on CommonBond's website

Discover Private Student Loan

Discover Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Discover's website

4.84 - 12.39%

1.59 - 10.99%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Discover's website

Earnest Private Student Loan

Earnest Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

4.00 - 12.78%

1.24 - 11.44%

650

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Fixed APR

2.75 - 4.30%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

None


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best first option for all student loan borrowers.

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.

  • Undergraduate interest rate fixed at 4.53%, while grad students get higher 6.08% rate.

Available Term Lengths

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

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
Ascent Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Ascent's website

Ascent Private Student Loan

Ascent Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

3.62 - 14.50%

Variable APR

2.73 - 13.01%

Min. Credit Score

540

Check Rate

on Ascent's website


Variable APR

2.73 - 13.01%

Key facts

Best for student who don't have a co-signer.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders.

  • You can make biweekly payments via autopay.

  • For co-signed option, multiple in-school repayment options are available, including interest-only, flat-fee and deferred.

  • For non-co-signed future-income based option, no co-signer or credit history is required.

Cons

  • Fewer repayment term lengths than other lenders for fixed-rate loans.

  • Non-co-signed future income-based option is available only to college juniors, seniors and graduate students.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose for co-signed option. For non-co-signed future income-based option, Ascent emphasizes future earnings over income or credit score.

  • Minimum income: $24,000 for the co-signed and non-co-signed credit-based option. Income is not considered for the non-co-signed future income-based option.

  • Loan amounts: For co-signed option, $1,000 minimum to $200,000 over the lifetime of a borrower. The amount for each loan period cannot exceed the total cost of attendance. For non-co-signed option, $1,000 to $20,000.

  • Non-co-signed future income-based borrowers must also meet satisfactory academic performance requirements with a 2.9 GPA or higher.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 for cosigned option or 10 or 15 for non-co-signed option

Disclaimer

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Richland State Bank (RSB), Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 07/07/2020 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 2.00% (for undergraduate future income-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentStudentLoans.com/Rates . 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student borrowers must have a minimum credit score. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner.
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 students who may need wiggle room on payments in the future.

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

Advantage Education Private Student Loan

Advantage Education Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

3.75 - 6.99%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for nontraditional or part-time students.

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

Disclaimer

Read Full Review
Earnest Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Earnest Private Student Loan

Earnest Private Student Loan

Fixed APR

4.00 - 12.78%

Variable APR

1.24 - 11.44%

Min. Credit Score

650

Check Rate

on Earnest's website


Variable APR

1.24 - 11.44%

Key facts

An option for borrowers who want flexible repayment.

Pros

  • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

  • No late fees.

  • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

Cons

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

  • Loans aren't available in Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire, Texas and Virginia.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 758.

  • Minimum income: $35,000.

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

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Read Full Review

Can you go to community college for free?

More and more states have passed laws making community college tuition-free for residents. Several schools and cities also offer programs that make public college more affordable.

Be aware, though, that some programs require you to exhaust federal and state grants first, so you should still fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA. You may also have to pay for living expenses like rent, food and transportation and school expenses like a computer, books and fees.

How to shop for a community college student loan

  1. Use grants first. Fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1, when it opens, to get access to financial aid like the Pell Grant. These grants cover much of the cost of community college for students with low incomes and don't need to be repaid. The FAFSA will also give you access to state and school grants.

  2. If you need loans, choose federal loans first. These offer lower interest rates than private loans and come with the option to tie the payments to your income after you leave school. That can help you avoid falling behind on payments. The FAFSA will qualify you for federal loans. Some community colleges do not participate in the federal loan program.

  3. Build good credit, or add a co-signer, when applying for private loans. If you need to make up for a gap in financial aid, private loans are your last stop. Students with good credit, generally a score of 690 or higher, will get the lowest interest rates. Students under age 21 often don’t have the credit history required to get a private loan in their own names. Use a co-signer to qualify or to get a better rate; alternatively, search for private loans you can get without a co-signer.

  4. Make sure your school is eligible. Some lenders will make loans to students pursuing associate degrees at four-year schools only. When exploring your options, make sure your community college is on the private lender’s list of eligible schools.

  5. Compare loan features. When shopping for a private loan, compare offers to get the lowest student loan interest rate you qualify for. Note whether the lender will postpone payments in case you have difficulty affording them — known as forbearance — and for how long. Prioritize lenders that will let you release the co-signer after a period of time so they are not responsible for the debt.

  6. Opt for a fixed interest rate. Fixed interest rates are a safer bet than variable interest rates because they won’t increase over time.

  7. Watch the bottom line. Use a student loan calculator to see how much you’ll owe per month after borrowing for multiple years.

Last updated on June 29, 2020

Further reading.

What Is Trade School?

By Teddy Nykiel

Alternatives To College: What Are My Options?

By Teddy Nykiel & Anna Helhoski