BEST OF

8 Best Student Loans for Community College of August 2022

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

Jun 16, 2022

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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

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

4.99-6.54%

Variable APR

N/A

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 3.73%, while grad students get higher 5.28% rate

Available Term Lengths

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

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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

3.22-13.95%

Variable APR

1.29-12.99%
Check rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

1.29-12.99%

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 Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community 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 08/01/2022. 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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SoFi Private Student Loan
Check rate

on SoFi's website

SoFi Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
SoFi Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

3.50-13.60%

Variable APR

2.39-12.13%
Check rate

on SoFi's website


Variable APR

2.39-12.13%

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

  • Does not offer bi-weekly payments via autopay.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 700+.

  • Minimum income: No minimum.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 minimum.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 3.50% to 13.35% annual percentage rate ("APR") (with autopay), variable rates from 2.59% to 12.13% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.50% to 13.35% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 2.99% to 12.13% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 13.60% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 2.39% to 12.13% APR (with autopay). For theSoFivariable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. 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. TheSoFi0.25% 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 08/01/2022.

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Ascent Credit-based Student Loan
Check rate

on Ascent's website

Ascent Credit-based Student Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Ascent Credit-based Student Loan

Min. credit score

Varies

Fixed APR

3.22-13.09%

Variable APR

1.75-10.54%
Check rate

on Ascent's website


Variable APR

1.75-10.54%

Key facts

Best for students with a creditworthy co-signer.

Pros

  • Among the best for payment flexibility.

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

  • Stands out for features that enable faster loan repayment.

Cons

  • Students enrolled less than half-time are not eligible.

  • Co-signer release not available to international students.

Qualifications

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

  • Minimum income: $0 for primary borrower. $24,000 for current and previous year for co-signer.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $200,000 per year with an aggregate loan limit of $200,000.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, 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.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 08/01/2022 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-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: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner.  Lowest APRs are available for the most creditworthy applicants and may require a cosigner.

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RISLA Private Student Loan

5.0

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

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

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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

Best for nontraditional or part-time students.

Pros

  • 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.

  • 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: 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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LendKey Private Student Loan
Check rate

on LendKey's website

LendKey Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
LendKey Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

660

Fixed APR

3.99-8.49%

Variable APR

2.60-8.69%
Check rate

on LendKey's website


Variable APR

2.60-8.69%

Key facts

Best for students who value working with a community bank or credit union.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 18 months is longer than many lenders offer.

Cons

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

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

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 748.

  • Minimum income: $24,000 per year.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to cost of attendance, minus other aid received.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years.

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Discover Undergraduate and Graduate Student Loans
Check rate

on Discover's website

Discover Undergraduate and Graduate Student Loans

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Discover Undergraduate and Graduate Student Loans

Min. credit score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

5.49-14.99%

Variable APR

2.99-13.99%
Check rate

on Discover's website


Variable APR

2.99-13.99%

Key facts

Best for students who may need wiggle room on payments.

Pros

  • Among the best for payment flexibility.

  • No late fees.

Cons

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

Qualifications

  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 minimum. Borrow up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance — including tuition, housing, book and more — minus financial aid. Aggregate loan limits apply.

Available Term Lengths

Visit Lender Website

Disclaimer

The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan unless you are no longer eligible for one or more discounts. The variable interest rate and corresponding APR may increase over the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month CME Term SOFR index plus the applicable margin percentage less any applicable discounts. The 3-Month CME Term SOFR index value for variable interest rate loans is 2.00% as of July 1st, 2022. 3-Month CME Term SOFR is administered by CME Group and is published by CME Group on its website (cmegroup.com/termsofr). Discover Student Loans may adjust the variable interest rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (each an “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month CME Term SOFR rate available for the day that is 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125), or 0%, whichever is greater. This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. If the 3-Month CME Term SOFR rate is less than zero percent, then the index will be deemed to be zero percent (as stated in the promissory note) for purposes of calculating your interest rate. Your variable interest rate (index + margin – applicable discounts) will not exceed 18%. Our lowest APRs are only available to applicants with the best credit. The APR will be determined after an application is submitted. It will be based on credit history, the selected repayment option and other factors, including a cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). If a student does not have an established credit history, the student may find it difficult to qualify for a private student loan on their own or receive the lowest advertised rate. Learn more about Discover Student Loan rates at DiscoverStudentLoans.com.

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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.

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.

Last updated on June 16, 2022

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