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Student Loans for Community College: Compare Options for 2019

Brianna McGurranMay 29, 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.

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

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan
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on NerdWallet's secure website

Fixed APR

5.05-6.60%

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.

MPOWER Private Student Loan
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Fixed APR

7.52-13.63%

Pros

  • Offers a hard-to-find option: non-co-signed student loans for international and DACA students.
  • Above-average customer support compared with other lenders.
  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders offer, and borrowers can access national disaster forbearance as well.

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.
  • Offers only one repayment term: 10 years.
Read full review

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

RISLA Private Student Loan
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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

Discover Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Discover's website

Check Rate

on Discover's website

Fixed APR

5.49-12.99%

Variable APR

4.24-11.99%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.
  • Above-average customer support compared with other lenders.
  • No late fees.

Cons

  • Only one repayment term: 15 years.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 660+.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to your total cost of attendance, minus other financial aid.

Available Term Lengths

15 years

Disclaimer: Includes rates for undergraduate and graduate loans. Lowest rates shown include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including Undergraduate, Graduate, Health Professions, Law and MBA Loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable Margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 2.63% as of April 1, 2019. Discover Student Loans will adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the "interest rate change date"), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Please click here for more information about interest rates.

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.

Earnest Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Fixed APR

5.09-12.78%

Variable APR

3.99-11.44%

Min. Credit Score

650

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, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Nevada, Virginia, Delaware, Ohio or Texas.
Read full review

Qualifications

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

SoFi Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on SoFi's website

Check Rate

on SoFi's website

Fixed APR

5.99-12.49%

Variable APR

4.99-12.24%

Min. Credit Score

700

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, flat-fee and deferred.
  • Additional perks like career planning, job search assistance and entrepreneurship support available.

Cons

  • Must be a U.S. citizen.
Read full review

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

Summary of Student Loans for Community College: Compare Options for 2019

LenderFixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

5.05-6.60%

N/AN/ASee my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

MPOWER Private Student Loan

MPOWER Private Student Loan

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

7.52-13.63%

N/AN/ASee my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

RISLA Private Student Loan

RISLA Private Student Loan

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

3.64-5.59%

N/A

680

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

Discover Private Student Loan

Discover Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Discover's website

5.49-12.99%

4.24-11.99%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Discover'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

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on NerdWallet's secure website

5.94-11.96%

5.04-10.93%

Does not disclose

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

LendKey Private Student Loan

LendKey Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on LendKey's website

5.36-9.07%

4.46-9.43%

660

Check Rate

on LendKey's website

Navy Federal Private Student Loan

Navy Federal Private Student Loan

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6.49-12.84%

5.32-11.72%

Does not disclose

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PNC Private Student Loan

PNC Private Student Loan

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on NerdWallet's secure website

5.61-11.79%

5.15-11.30%

730

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

Earnest Private Student Loan

Earnest Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

5.09-12.78%

3.99-11.44%

650

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

SoFi Private Student Loan

SoFi Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on SoFi's website

5.99-12.49%

4.99-12.24%

700

Check Rate

on SoFi's website

LenderFixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

5.05-6.60%

N/AN/ASee my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

MPOWER Private Student Loan

MPOWER Private Student Loan

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

7.52-13.63%

N/AN/ASee my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

RISLA Private Student Loan

RISLA Private Student Loan

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

3.64-5.59%

N/A

680

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

Discover Private Student Loan

Discover Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Discover's website

5.49-12.99%

4.24-11.99%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Discover'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

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

5.94-11.96%

5.04-10.93%

Does not disclose

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

LendKey Private Student Loan

LendKey Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on LendKey's website

5.36-9.07%

4.46-9.43%

660

Check Rate

on LendKey's website

Navy Federal Private Student Loan

Navy Federal Private Student Loan

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

6.49-12.84%

5.32-11.72%

Does not disclose

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

PNC Private Student Loan

PNC Private Student Loan

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

5.61-11.79%

5.15-11.30%

730

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

Earnest Private Student Loan

Earnest Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

5.09-12.78%

3.99-11.44%

650

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

SoFi Private Student Loan

SoFi Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on SoFi's website

5.99-12.49%

4.99-12.24%

700

Check Rate

on SoFi's website

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.

» MORE:  States that offer residents tuition-free college

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 May 29, 2019