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9 Best Student Loans for Community College of October 2019

Brianna McGurranOctober 15, 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.

Summary of Best Student Loans for Community College of October 2019

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

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Check Rate

on Department of Education's website

4.53-6.08%

N/A

N/A

Check Rate

on Department of Education's website

MPOWER Private Student Loan

MPOWER Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on MPOWER's website

7.52-13.63%

N/A

N/A

Check Rate

on MPOWER's website

RISLA Private Student Loan

RISLA Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on RISLA's website

3.64-5.59%

N/A

680

Check Rate

on RISLA's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

4.74-11.35%

3.12-10.54%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

5.94-11.96%

5.04-10.93%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

LendKey Private Student Loan

LendKey Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on LendKey's website

5.36-10.49%

4.05-10.56%

660

Check Rate

on LendKey's website

Navy Federal Private Student Loan

Navy Federal Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Navy Federal's website

6.49-12.84%

5.32-11.72%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Navy Federal's website

PNC Private Student Loan

PNC Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on PNC's website

5.61-11.79%

5.15-11.30%

670

Check Rate

on PNC's website

Earnest Private Student Loan

Earnest Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

4.69-12.78%

3.35-11.44%

650

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

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

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Check Rate

on Department of Education's website

4.53-6.08%

N/A

N/A

Check Rate

on Department of Education's website

MPOWER Private Student Loan

MPOWER Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on MPOWER's website

7.52-13.63%

N/A

N/A

Check Rate

on MPOWER's website

RISLA Private Student Loan

RISLA Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on RISLA's website

3.64-5.59%

N/A

680

Check Rate

on RISLA's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

4.74-11.35%

3.12-10.54%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

5.94-11.96%

5.04-10.93%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

LendKey Private Student Loan

LendKey Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on LendKey's website

5.36-10.49%

4.05-10.56%

660

Check Rate

on LendKey's website

Navy Federal Private Student Loan

Navy Federal Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Navy Federal's website

6.49-12.84%

5.32-11.72%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Navy Federal's website

PNC Private Student Loan

PNC Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on PNC's website

5.61-11.79%

5.15-11.30%

670

Check Rate

on PNC's website

Earnest Private Student Loan

Earnest Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

4.69-12.78%

3.35-11.44%

650

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan
Check Rate

on Department of Education's website

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan
Fixed APR 
4.53-6.08% 

Variable APR 
 

Min. Credit Score 
 

Check Rate

on Department of Education's website


Key facts

Best first option for all student loan borrowers.

Rating and Review

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.

Available Term Lengths

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

Disclaimer

Read Full Review
MPOWER Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on MPOWER's website

MPOWER Private Student Loan

MPOWER Private Student Loan
Fixed APR 
7.52-13.63% 

Variable APR 
 

Min. Credit Score 
 

Check Rate

on MPOWER's website


Key facts

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

Rating and Review

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

Disclaimer

Read Full Review
RISLA Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on RISLA's website

RISLA Private Student Loan

RISLA Private Student Loan
Fixed APR 
3.64-5.59% 

Variable APR 
 

Min. Credit Score 
680 

Check Rate

on RISLA's website


Key facts

Best for Rhode Island students who may need wiggle room on payments in the future.

Rating and Review

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

  • Loans available only to Rhode Island residents or those who attend school there.

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
Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Fixed APR 
4.74-11.35% 

Variable APR 
3.12-10.54% 

Min. Credit Score 
Does not disclose 

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website


Key facts

Best for part-time students and those who want flexibility with repayment.

Rating and Review

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 co-signer.

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.

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

5 to 15 years

Disclaimer

Lowest rates shown include the auto debit discount: Fixed 4.74% - 11.35% APR and Variable 3.12% - 10.54% APR. 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 09/25/2019 and assume a $10,000 loan to a freshman with no other Sallie Mae loans. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: 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 and may be suspended during periods of forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. Loan amounts: $1000 up to 100% of the school certified expenses: 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. Repayment term of 5 to 15 years: 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 8.44% fixed APR. It works out to 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $156.04 and one payment of $118.97, for a Total Loan Cost of $19,962.73.

Read Full Review
Earnest Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Earnest Private Student Loan

Earnest Private Student Loan
Fixed APR 
4.69-12.78% 

Variable APR 
3.35-11.44% 

Min. Credit Score 
650 

Check Rate

on Earnest's website


Key facts

An option for borrowers who want flexible repayment.

Rating and Review

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: 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

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.

» 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 October 15, 2019