6 Best Student Loans for Community College of March 2023
Apply for free financial aid first, then use federal student loans before turning to private lenders if you need help paying for community college.
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While community college is less expensive than four-year college, you may still need help covering costs. Not all private student loans are available for community college, but you still have a lot of options.
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, savings, employer assistance and federal student loans. Here are lenders that can help you fill any gaps, as well as tips for affording community college and shopping for loans.
Best Student Loans for Community College
|Lender||NerdWallet Rating||Min. credit score||Fixed APR||Variable APR||Learn more|
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan
College Ave Private Student Loan
Advantage Education Private Student Loan
Does not disclose
Navy Federal Private Student Loan
3.0/5Best for Private Student Loan
Does not disclose
Avenify Income Share Agreement
Best for Income-share Private Student Loan
EDvestinU Private Student Loan
Best for Private Student Loan
- 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.
- You pay an origination fee.
- 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 3.73%, while grad students get higher 5.28% rate
- 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.
- You must be at least halfway through your repayment term before you can request a co-signer release.
- Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Mid-700s.
- Minimum income: $35,000 per year.
- Loan amounts: $1,000 up to cost of attendance.
Does not disclose
- Forbearance of 24 months is twice as long as most lenders.
- Loans are available if you’re enrolled less than half time.
- Loans may not be available depending on where you live or go to school.
- Fewer repayment terms than other lenders offer.
- You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
- 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.
Our pick for
Private Student Loan
Does not disclose
- Forbearance of 18 months is longer than many lenders offer.
- Available only to existing Navy Federal Credit Union customers.
- Only one repayment term: 10 years.
- Payment required while in school and during the grace period.
- Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.
- Minimum income: A co-signer must earn $15,000 or more.
- Loan amounts: $2,000 minimum to $120,000 for undergraduates, or $160,000 for graduate students.
- In-person support and counseling are available.
- Deferment/forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders.
- You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
- Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 787.
- Minimum income: $30,000.
- Loan amounts: $1,000 up to your total cost of attendance.
Our pick for
Income-share Private Student Loan
- Periods of unemployment count toward your payment total.
- Lending decisions are not based on your credit score.
- You receive a discount for paying off your ISA early.
- Funding is available only to nursing students.
- Nursing certificate programs currently aren’t eligible.
- You must be within 12 months of graduation to qualify.
- Eligibility is based on factors like your GPA and potential cost of living, not credit score.
- Loan amounts: $1,000 to $15,000.
- Income share percentages: Typically range from 1.5% to 7.5%; average is 3.99%.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Opt for a fixed interest rate. Fixed interest rates are a safer bet than variable interest rates because they won’t increase over time.
Watch the bottom line. Use a student loan calculator to see how much you’ll owe per month after borrowing for multiple years.
STUDENT LOAN RATINGS METHODOLOGY
Our survey of more than 29 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing includes the top 10 lenders by market share and top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.
We consider 40 features and data points for each financial institution. Depending on the category, these include the availability of biweekly payments through autopay, minimum credit score and income requirement disclosures, availability to borrowers in all states, extended grace periods and in-house customer service.
The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.
Read more about our ratings methodologies for student loans and our editorial guidelines.
Last updated on February 17, 2023
NerdWallet's Best Student Loans for Community College of March 2023
- Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan
- College Ave Private Student Loan
- Advantage Education Private Student Loan
- Navy Federal Private Student Loan: Best for Private Student Loan
- Avenify Income Share Agreement: Best for Income-share Private Student Loan
- EDvestinU Private Student Loan: Best for Private Student Loan