Best State-Based Private Student Loan

How we picked the student loans to evaluate:

NerdWallet reviewed 26 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing. We included the top 10 lenders by market share and the top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets. Some lenders are NerdWallet partners, but this did not influence our selection of the winner.

How we chose the winner:

NerdWallet scored non-profit and not-for-profit lenders that offer a student loan for the presence of 40 features across multiple categories. Categories were scored and weighted as follows:

  • Features that enable faster repayment, such as availability of extra payments or biweekly payments via autopay — 15%.
  • Disclosure of rates, fees and underwriting requirements, such as minimum credit scores and income standards — 20%.
  • Availability to a wide range of borrowers, such as part-time and independent students — 15%.
  • Flexible payment options, such as grace periods and available forbearance that are longer than standard — 30%.
  • Customer support, such as a detailed website FAQ and in-house customer service — 20%.

The lender with the highest overall weighted score that is widely available to borrowers in all 50 states is selected as the winner.

How we verified our data:

NerdWallet writers and editors sent a comprehensive list of more than 50 questions to all lenders we reviewed. We cross-checked fees, rates, policies and other key features on each financial institution’s website. If a lender’s website was missing information, we contacted a representative directly for confirmation.

Why this lender made the list:

RISLA earns top marks among state-based lenders due to its payment flexibility features, including an income-driven repayment plan that mirrors the federal government IBR plan, and nationwide availability.