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RISLA Reviews: Student Loan Refinancing and Private Student Loans

RISLA offers income-based repayment, making it a good choice for borrowers who may require flexibility in the future.
Sept. 21, 2018
Loans, Student Loans
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The Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, known as RISLA, is a nonprofit state-based agency that refinances student loans and makes loans to undergrads, graduate students and parents.

Refinancing and variable-rate in-school loans are available nationwide. Fixed-rate in-school loans are available only to Rhode Island residents and those who go to school there.

Here we review RISLA’s refinance loan; you’ll find a review of its private student loan below.

Review of RISLA’s private student loan

RISLA student loan refinancing

4.5 NerdWallet rating

RISLA offers refinancing customers a rare option: an income-based repayment plan if they experience extended financial hardship. Loans are available at fixed interest rates only, not variable. Borrowers cannot release their co-signers from the loan after a period of time.

RISLA student loan refinancing at a glance:

  • Generous repayment flexibility for struggling borrowers.
  • Borrowers without a degree can refinance.
  • No option to get personalized rate estimates via a soft credit check.
RISLA
Reviewed loanStudent loan refinancing
Interest ratesFixed: 3.49% - 7.64%

Includes autopay discount of 0.25%
Loan terms5, 10 or 15 years
Loan amounts$7,500 to $250,000, depending on the highest degree earned
Co-signer release availableNo
Can transfer a parent loan to the childNo

How RISLA student loan refinancing scores

NerdWallet student loan experts evaluated more than 50 data points across five categories to see whether RISLA ranks below average, average or above average compared with other student loan refinance lenders.

Enables faster repayment:
Above average
Lenders score highly if they offer a variety of term lengths and make extra payments easy.

Discloses requirements, limits costs:
Average
Lenders score highly if they limit fees and interest rates, are transparent about their underwriting criteria and allow borrowers to get personalized rate estimates before applying.

Serves range of borrowers:
Average
Lenders score highly if they cater to customers in varying locations, in different financial situations, and with varying citizenship statuses.

Offers payment flexibility:
Average
Lenders score highly if they offer longer than 12-month forbearance periods, in-school and military deferment, and any other flexible policies that help borrowers during tough times.

Supports customers:
Average
Lenders score highly if they assign borrowers an advisor, offer multiple ways to get in touch, and have in-house customer service. Websites should display full APR ranges, fees and forbearance policies.

How RISLA could improve

RISLA could improve its student loan refinance product by:

  • Conducting soft credit checks to give personalized rate estimates.
  • Offering more than 12 months of forbearance.
  • Offering a co-signer release program.

RISLA student loan refinancing details

  • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: No.
  • Application or origination fee: No.
  • Prepayment penalty: No.
  • Late fees: No.

Compare RISLA’s range of interest rates with other student loan refinance lenders. Your actual rate will depend on factors including your — or your co-signer’s — credit history and financial situation. To see what rate RISLA will offer you, apply on its website.

Financial

  • Minimum credit score: 680.
  • Minimum income: $40,000.
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 748.
  • Typical income of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 50%.
  • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes, after five years.

Other

  • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Location: Available to borrowers in all 50 U.S. states.
  • Must have graduated: No.
  • Must have attended a Title IV-accredited school: Yes.
  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: 61%.

  • Academic deferment: Postpone payments if you attend graduate school at least half-time. Not available for borrowers who return to school to finish undergraduate degrees.
  • Military deferment: Postpone payments if you’re on active military duty.
  • Forbearance: Postpone payments for up to 12 months if you’re experiencing economic hardship.
  • Income-based repayment: Pay a maximum of 15% of income per month if you’re unable to afford your bill. The remaining balance will be forgiven after 25 years, though the forgiven amount will be taxed.
  • Are loans discharged in the event of death/disability of borrower? Yes.
  • Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.
  • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: No, but borrowers can make weekly payments.

  • Loan servicer: RISLA.
  • In-house customer service team: Yes.
  • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.
  • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: No.

How to refinance with RISLA

Before deciding on a student loan refinance lender, compare multiple student loan refinance options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, compare lenders’ repayment options and the flexibility they offer borrowers who are struggling to make payments.

If you’re ready to refinance, you can apply on RISLA’s website.

RISLA private student loan

5.0 NerdWallet rating

RISLA’s private student loan is a good option for borrowers who may need wiggle room in the future. RISLA is the rare private lender that offers income-based repayment, a similar program to what the federal government offers: payments capped at 15% of income for 25 years.

RISLA private student loan at a glance:

  • Generous repayment flexibility for struggling borrowers.
  • Personalized rate estimates via a soft credit check.
  • Co-signer release after 24 on-time payments.
RISLA
Type of loanPrivate student loan
Loan terms5 years for variable-rate loan; 10 or 15 years for fixed-rate loan
Loan amounts$1,500 to $40,000
Grace period6 months for undergraduates
Co-signer release availableYes, after 24 on-time payments
Related productsGraduate student loansparent loans

How RISLA private student loan scores

NerdWallet student loan experts evaluated more than 50 data points across five categories to see whether RISLA ranks below average, average or above average compared with other private student loan lenders.

Enables faster repayment:
Above average
Lenders score highly if they offer a variety of term lengths and make extra payments easy.

Discloses requirements, limits costs:
Above average
Lenders score highly if they limit fees and interest rates, are transparent about their underwriting criteria and allow borrowers to get personalized rate estimates before applying for the loan.

Serves range of borrowers:
Average
Lenders score highly if they cater to customers in varying locations, in different financial situations, and with varying citizenship statuses.

Offers payment flexibility:
Below average
Lenders score highly if they offer longer than 12-month forbearance periods, in-school and military deferment, and any other flexible repayment policies that help borrowers during tough times.

Supports customers:
Above average
Lenders score highly if they assign borrowers an advisor, offer multiple ways to get in touch, and have in-house customer service. Websites should display full APR ranges, fees and forbearance policies.

How RISLA could improve

Like other five-star lenders, RISLA isn’t perfect. RISLA could improve its private student loans by:

  • Offering more than 12 months of forbearance.
  • Allowing students with a visa to take out loans.

RISLA private student loan details

  • Get a personalized rate before applying: Yes.
  • Application or origination fee: No.
  • Prepayment penalty: No.
  • Late fees: Yes.

Compare RISLA’s range of interest rates with other private student loan lenders. Your actual rate will depend on factors including your — or your co-signer’s — credit history and financial situation. To see what rate RISLA will offer you, apply on its website.

Financial

  • Minimum credit score: None with a co-signer; 680 without a co-signer.
  • Minimum income: None with a co-signer; $40,000 per year without a co-signer.
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 692 for primary borrowers; 768 for co-signers.
  • Typical income of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: None with a co-signer; 50% without a co-signer.
  • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes, after five years.

Other

  • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Location: Variable-rate loans are available to borrowers in all 50 U.S. states. Fixed-rate loans are available only to Rhode Island residents or those who attend school there.
  • Must be enrolled half-time or more: No.
  • Must attend a Title IV-accredited school: Yes.
  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: 90%+.

In-school repayment options

  • Immediate: Begin making full monthly payments as soon as the loan is disbursed. This option will save you the most in interest.
  • Deferred: You won’t be required to make any payments until your six-month grace period ends, but you can choose to make payments if you’d like. Interest will accrue while you’re in school and will capitalize, or get added to your principal balance, at the end of your grace period.

Post-school repayment options

  • Academic deferment: Postpone payments if you return to school. Graduate students must attend at least half-time.
  • Military deferment: Postpone payments if you’re on active military duty.
  • Forbearance: Postpone payments for up to 12 months if you’re experiencing economic hardship.
  • Forgiveness for interns: Get $2,000 in loan forgiveness if you complete a three-credit internship and apply for forgiveness within one year of graduation. The forgiven amount is taxable as income.
  • Interest forgiveness for nurses: Licensed registered nurses in Rhode Island can make 48 months of payments interest-free.
  • Income-based repayment: Pay a maximum of 15% of income per month if you’re unable to afford your bill. The remaining balance will be forgiven after 25 years, though the forgiven amount will be taxed.
  • Are loans discharged in the event of death/disability of borrower? Yes.

Repayment preferences

  • Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.
  • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: No, but borrowers can make weekly payments.

  • Loan servicer: RISLA.
  • In-house customer service team: Yes.
  • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.
  • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: No.

How to apply for a RISLA student loan

Before taking out a RISLA student loan or any other private student loan, exhaust your federal student loan options first. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to apply.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s FAFSA Guide

Compare your private student loan options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, look at lenders’ repayment alternatives and the flexibility they offer to borrowers who struggle to make payments.

If you’re ready to borrow with RISLA, you can apply on its website.

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 student loan 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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