Advertiser Disclosure

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. 13, 2019
Loans, Student Loans
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.

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 is available nationwide, but 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

Bottom line: Best for borrowers who want payment flexibility should they run into financial trouble.

RISLA
Reviewed loanStudent loan refinancing
Interest ratesFixed: 3.49% - 8.14%

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

Pros & Cons

PROS

  • Income-based repayment plan available, with forgiveness after 25 years.

CONS

  • No co-signer release available.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • Students cannot refinance a parent PLUS loan in their name.

Full Review

RISLA offers refinancing customers a rare option: an income-based repayment plan if they experience extended financial hardship. Other aspects of the product are less flexible: Loans are available at fixed interest rates only, and borrowers cannot release 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.
  • Does not offer personalized rate estimates via a soft credit check.

How RISLA could improve

RISLA could improve its student loan refinance product by offering:

  • Personalized rate estimates via a soft credit check.
  • More than 12 months of forbearance.
  • A co-signer release program.

How much can refinancing save?

RISLA student loan refinancing details

  • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: No.
  • Loan terms: 5, 10 or 15 years.
  • Loan amounts: $7,500 to $250,000, depending on the highest degree earned.
  • Can transfer a parent loan to a child: No.
  • Application or origination fee: No.
  • Prepayment penalty: No.
  • Late fees: Yes, 6% of late payment amount.

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 school authorized to receive federal aid: 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.
  • Co-signer release available: No.
  • Death or disability discharge: 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.
  • Average time from application to payoff: 6 days.

How to refinance with RISLA

You can apply for a RISLA refinanced student loan on its website. 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.

RISLA private student loan

4.5 NerdWallet rating

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

RISLA
Type of loanPrivate student loan
Loan terms10 years for immediate repayment plan
15 years for deferred repayment plan
Loan amounts$1,500 to $45,000
Grace period6 months for undergraduates
Co-signer release availableYes, after 24 on-time payments
Related productsGraduate student loansparent loans

Pros & Cons

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.

Full Review

RISLA’s private student loan is available only to Rhode Island residents or those who attend school there, but it’s a good option for those borrowers — especially if they value payment flexibility. RISLA offers an income-based repayment plan that caps payments at 15% of income and forgives any remaining balance after 25 years, similar to the federal government’s income-driven repayment plans. RISLA also forgives up to $2,000 for borrowers who complete eligible internships and covers interest costs for up to 48 months for qualifying nurses.

RISLA private student loan at a glance

  • Rare repayment flexibility and forgiveness options.
  • Personalized rate estimates via a soft credit check.
  • Co-signer release after 24 on-time payments.

How RISLA could improve

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

  • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: Yes.
  • Loan terms: 10 years for immediate repayment plan; 15 years for deferred repayment plan.
  • Loan amounts: $1,500 to $45,000.
  • Application or origination fee: No.
  • Prepayment penalty: No.
  • Late fees: Yes, 6% of late payment amount.

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: Loans are available only to Rhode Island residents or those who attend school there.
  • Must be enrolled half-time or more: No.
  • Types of schools served: Any school authorized to receive federal aid.
  • 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

  • Grace period: 6 months, but only for the deferred repayment plan.
  • 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.
  • Co-signer release: Yes, if the borrower makes the first 24 monthly payments on-time and meets additional eligibility criteria.
  • 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.
  • Death or disability discharge: 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.
  • Average time to approval: Typically one business day.

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.

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

About the authors