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RISLA Reviews: Refinancing and Borrowing Student Loans

March 30, 2018
Loans, Student Loans
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The Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, known as RISLA, is a nonprofit state-based agency that makes loans to students who are from Rhode Island or go to school there. Undergraduates, graduate students and parents can take out student loans.

Anyone — whether or not they have a connection to Rhode Island — can refinance loans through RISLA if they qualify. Here we’ll review the agency’s refinancing and undergraduate student loan options.

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RISLA student loan refinancing review

RISLA private student loans review

RISLA student loan refinancing review

Refinancing means a private lender replaces multiple student loans with a single new loan at a lower interest rate. RISLA offers unique repayment benefits, like income-based repayment, which may be helpful for borrowers in lower-paying fields or those who have concerns about their future job stability. Consider refinancing with RISLA if you:

  • Have private student loans
  • Have federal student loans and won’t qualify for public service loan forgiveness. Your loans will no longer be eligible for the program if you refinance.
  • Have good credit, a stable income and a history of making on-time debt payments
  • Didn’t graduate from college. RISLA is one of a handful of lenders that allow borrowers who don’t have a degree to refinance their student loans.
  • Want the flexibility of an income-based repayment option. RISLA is one of the only private lenders to offer it.

Opt for the shortest repayment term possible when you refinance. If you choose a longer term than you previously had, you likely won’t enjoy the savings from a lower interest rate.

» MORE:  Compare student loan refinance lenders

RISLA
Type of loanStudent loan refinancing
NerdWallet rating4.5 stars out of 5
4.5 out of 5.0 stars
Interest ratesFixed: 3.49% - 7.64%
Loan terms5 10 and 15 years
Loan amounts$7,500 to $250,000, depending on the highest degree earned
Check Rates at RISLA

Can you qualify?

Almost three-quarters of borrowers who refinance with RISLA use a co-signer. If you’re not eligible on your own, a co-signer who meets the requirements can help you get a loan or a lower interest rate than you’d otherwise receive. RISLA doesn’t offer a co-signer release program on refinanced loans, so your co-signer will be responsible for repaying the loan if you can’t.

To qualify, you or your co-signer must:

  • Have a credit score of 680 or higher. The average borrower approved without a co-signer has a credit score of 748. The average approved co-signer has a credit score of 768.
  • Earn annual income of $40,000 or higher.
  • Have a maximum debt-to-income ratio of 50%. That means your or your co-signer’s monthly income must be at least double your minimum debt payments.
  • Have attended an eligible school. You do not have to have graduated to refinance your loans with RISLA. But the school you went to must participate in the federal government’s Title IV financial aid programs.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Both the borrower and co-signer must meet these citizenship requirements to refinance.
  • Have not applied for bankruptcy in the past.

RISLA student loan refinancing details

  • Soft credit check available: No. To see the interest rate you qualify for, you must fill out a full loan application. This takes about 10 to 15 minutes, according to RISLA.
  • Loan servicer: RISLA services all loans.
  • Application or origination fee: No
  • Prepayment penalty: No
  • Late fees: 6% of the late payment amount
  • Co-signer release option: No
Check Rates at RISLA

Repayment options for struggling borrowers

RISLA doesn’t offer in-school deferment, meaning refinance borrowers cannot put their loan payments on hold if they go back to undergrad or to grad school. But the agency does offer standard forbearance terms and a unique income-based repayment option.

  • Deferment: Borrowers may defer their loans during active duty military service. Interest will continue to accrue.
  • Forbearance: Borrowers may take up to 12 months of hardship forbearance, which postpones payments. RISLA provides forbearance in three-month increments.
  • Income-based repayment: Similar to the federal version of income-based repayment, RISLA offers borrowers the option to extend their loan term to 25 years and pay a maximum of 15% of their income toward their RISLA loan. The remaining balance will be forgiven after 25 years, though the forgiven amount will be taxed. Since participating means taking longer to pay off the loan, increasing the amount of interest you owe, it’s meant as a last resort. But borrowers may like knowing this program is an option if difficult circumstances make a refinanced loan unaffordable.

Contact RISLA

For refinancing-specific questions, call 866-268-9419.

RISLA private student loans review

Undergraduates, graduate students and parents can take out student loans through RISLA. This review focuses on RISLA’s undergraduate student loans.

RISLA’s relatively low interest rates and borrower-friendly features like income-based repayment make its student loans a strong option for those who qualify. Its interest rates are based only on the repayment term you choose, not your credit. So as long as you qualify for a loan, you’ll know exactly what rate you’ll get. Consider a private loan through RISLA if you:

  • Are a resident of Rhode Island or go to college there
  • Need to fill a gap in the financial aid you received for college after filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA
  • Have good or excellent credit, or access to a co-signer who does

» COMPARE:  Private student loans

RISLA
Type of loanPrivate student loan
NerdWallet rating4.0 stars out of 5
4.0 out of 5.0 stars
Loan terms10 and 15 years
Loan amounts$1,500 minimum. Maximum: $40,000 per year or $150,000 total per borrower.
Check Rates at RISLA

Can you qualify?

A full 95% of undergraduates use co-signers on their RISLA loans, which is in line with the rest of the private loan market. You can release the co-signer after 24 on-time monthly loan payments, as long as the student borrower meets minimum credit and income requirements. You’re in the best position to qualify for a RISLA loan if you:

  • Have access to a creditworthy co-signer. Since most borrowers can’t qualify without one, consider adding a co-signer to your application. He or she must have a credit score of 680 or higher, minimum income of $40,000 per year and a maximum debt-to-income ratio of 50%. The average approved co-signer has a credit score of 768.
  • Attend an eligible school. Your college must participate in the federal government’s Title IV financial aid programs. It must be located in Rhode Island if you weren’t a resident of the state before attending college. It can be anywhere if you’re already a Rhode Island resident.
  • Are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

General repayment options

Making payments while in school is the cheapest option over time: RISLA offers substantially lower interest rates to those who begin repayment right away. If that’s not possible, you can wait until after graduation to start paying off the loan. Here are the plans available:

  • Immediate repayment: Starting 15 days after the loan is disbursed, you’ll have 10 years to repay it.
  • Deferred repayment: Starting six months after you graduate or leave school, you’ll have 15 years to repay the loan. Accrued interest will be added to your total loan balance, and you’ll pay interest on that larger balance throughout the loan term.

Repayment options for struggling borrowers

Borrowers can get standard protections through RISLA if they need to pause payments, plus access to income-based repayment, which is rare among private lenders.

  • Deferment: You can postpone payments if you return to school or perform military service.  Interest will accrue when you’re not making payments, which could increase your loan balance overall.
  • Forbearance: Borrowers get up to 12 months of forbearance in the event of a hardship like job loss or a medical emergency.
  • Income-based repayment: Similar to the federal version of income-based repayment, RISLA offers borrowers the option to extend their loan term to 25 years and pay a maximum of 15% of their income toward their RISLA loan. The remaining balance will be forgiven after 25 years, though the forgiven amount will be taxed. Since participating means taking longer to pay off the loan, increasing the amount of interest you owe, it’s meant as a last resort. But borrowers may like knowing this program is an option if difficult circumstances make repayment unaffordable.

RISLA extras

RISLA, like Citizens Bank, offers borrowers the option to renew student loans for future years of school. That means you’ll request more funding when you need it without going through the full application process.

RISLA undergraduate student loan details

  • Soft credit check available: No, but you can view the rate you’ll get based on the repayment term you choose.
  • Origination fee: None
  • Grace period: 6 months for deferred repayment option only
  • Loan servicer: RISLA services all loans
  • Prepayment penalty: None
  • Late fees: 6% of the late payment amount
  • Co-signer release available: Yes, after 24 on-time payments
Check Rates at RISLA

Contact RISLA

Call 401-468-1700 or 800-758-7562. Email customerservice@risla.com.

STUDENT LOANS RATINGS METHODOLOGY

NerdWallet believes the best student loan is one you can repay at the lowest interest rate you can get. That’s why NerdWallet’s private student loans ratings reward lenders that offer a variety of loan terms, limit their fees and penalties, and extend borrowers multiple options to avoid default. Points are also awarded for soft credit checks, underwriting transparency and other consumer-friendly features. Use these ratings as a guide, but we encourage you to shop around for the lowest interest rate you can qualify for. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for its reviews. Read our editorial guidelines.

5 stars out of 5 — Among the very best for consumer-friendly features

4.5 stars out of 5 — Excellent; offers most consumer-friendly features

4 stars out of 5 — Very good; offers many consumer-friendly features

3.5 stars out of 5 — Good; may not offer something important to you

3 stars out of 5 — Fair; missing important consumer-friendly features

2.5 stars out of 5 — Poor; proceed with great caution

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